English Teacher’s Chart Run Is A Potent Message To Support Grassroots

The band’s Top 10 success was fuelled by pipelines that are under threat…

English Teacher are one of the most special bands in the country right now. The four-piece are an electrifying live proposition, their prowess honed across countless shows up and down the length and breadth of the UK. Hitting independent venues across the land, English Teacher have rocked any sweat-pit that would have them, striking up a few close bonds along the way.

Success has come the hard the way, but English Teacher’s moment is here. Debut album ‘This Could Be Texas’ is excellent – potent, literate, and thrilling, the whip-smart lyricism is aligned to pop alacrity, the finessed songwriting seeming to tap into the jangling nerve-endings of each emotion. Raw but accessible, it has soared into the Top 10 in one of the most remarkable breakthrough moments of the year so far.

It hasn’t come from nowhere, however. English Teacher’s chart run is a reminder to believe in the grassroots of British music, while also highlighting that many of these pathways are under threat.

Take music venues. The latest stats from Music Venue Trust show the incredible financial pressure live music venues around the UK are being put under, with an almost-weekly run of casualties. Outspoken in their support for the venues who in turn supported them, English Teacher became ambassadors for Independent Venue Week this year, putting their weight behind your local nightspot. Speaking to the Big Issue, guitarist Lewis Whiting put it bluntly: “We literally wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing now without independent, small venues…”

Singer and lyricist Lily Fontaine is one of the most eloquent figures in British music, and she added: “If you take away the small regional venues, then you’re only going to get certain places where you can be a musician, and then you’re only going to get a certain type of musician. Which is boring and also not fair.”

It’s worth pointing out the regional discrepancies at play here, too. English Teacher hail from Leeds, a city with an incredible music heritage and an inspiring DIY scene. Yet musicians from the area often complain of an uneven playing field, with the music industry nexus so heavily based around London. That’s where networks such as BBC Introducing come in, and here, too, English Teacher have thrived – early support from broadcasters such as the redoubtable Emily Pilbeam have proved to be vital.

Yet BBC Introducing itself is at risk. Once more Lily Fontaine is bang on the money, writing for our friends at DIY: “It wasn’t just having a place to upload music, it was having a group of people who knew the industry, milling about in the local scene and shouting about it. It didn’t feel like networking, it felt like a golden era of regional creativity in the limelight – and it was. But, removing the romanticism, it was also fewer degrees of separation.”

Keeping these pathways open is absolutely vital to the health of British music. BBC Introducing remains under threat, while the fight to save music venues around the country continues. The sterling work done by Music Venue Trust is being magnified by English Teacher themselves, a stunning feedback loop that has taken Lily Fontaine to the Houses of Parliament.

English Teacher’s stunning success is richly deserved, but it’s all the more potent for the fragility of the creative networks who helped support them. ‘This Could Be Texas’ is a superb album, a cycle of righteous guitar pop that could easily be an early shout for Mercury domination. It’s pivotal, then, that the music industry does more to champion these voices, and open the doors still further – instead of cutting away the ground under their feet. Let English Teacher’s success be a path for others to follow.

Words: Robin Murray
Photo Credit: Tatiana Pozuelo

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