Newcastle has always boasted a quiet but emphatic artistic vibrancy. The city’s industrial heritage may have defined it, but the 21st century has brought fresh opportunities, and new ways of exploring its identity. On the music front, a series of venues, collectives, and labels criss-cross Newcastle, helping to breathe fresh life into the scene. Obviously, acts such as Sam Fender have won national – and international – status, but beneath this there is a hotbed of maverick left-field talent.
Take rising songwriter Ernie. With his off piste lyrical observations, DIY ethics, and redoubtable melodic twists, he embodies the kind of curious individuality that Newcastle’s underground scene seems to thrive on.
With his debut EP ‘Cold Cuts’ set to land on November 3rd, Ernie took time out to guide the sadly-all-too-London-based Clash team through some local gems.
Smote is the brainchild of Newcastle based multi-instrumentalist Dan Foggin, with a live band made up of the cream of the crop of the Newcastle music scene. Smote blurs the lines between post-rock and psych-folk; there’s dense flashes of droning harsh noise and fuzzed out guitar and bass interspersed with intertwining flute lines and old-worldly percussion. Their music is an ominous, chaotic (yet perfectly measured) and totally unique blend of hypnotic English folk rock. It’s kind of like a cosmic gumbo, perfectly suited for fans of fellow Newcastle contemporaries Richard Dawson and (Rocket label-mates) Pigs x7.
The Smote records are loud, but the live performance is something else… I have that on good authority as they rehearse two doors down from us. It’s like a mesmerising assault of Medieval noise (in a good way) from the rotating cavalry of local noise-rockers accompanying Foggin on stage. If you like heavy, psychedelic music, then Smote are a must-listen.
Fresh from an appearance on ‘Later…with Jools Holland’, Frankie Archer is an experimental, multi-instrumentalist folkie from Northumberland. Not too dissimilar to Smote in terms of that unique blend of the traditional and the futuristic, Frankie takes choppy samples and digitally manipulated sounds, and fuses them with live fiddle and her dainty, dreamlike vocals to create beautiful, unforgettable renditions of traditional folklore stories from the region, often focussing on championing women’s stories and telling other tales not typical of the genre.
Frankie’s music is inherently Geordie and working class, so it’s no surprise that she’s rapidly winning over the people of Newcastle and is gaining traction from legendary tastemakers like Jools Holland.
Folkies, fans of glitchy cool electronic stuff, and lovers of superb storytelling… listen to Frankie Archer!
Lizzie Esau makes potent alternative rock music with a conscience, for fans of the likes of Wolf Alice and The Amazons. Sonically, Lizzie’s stuff is melancholic and visceral, laden with crunchy guitar riffs and pounding drums, whilst her lyrical content covers important and relatable ground for young people in 2023, spanning subjects like the dangers presented to women in nightlife, alcohol dependency, and problematic relationships.
This year Lizzie has truly honed her craft on stage, gigging relentlessly up and down in the country in support of her recent EP ‘Deepest Blue’. We crossed paths with Lizzie and her band at a couple of festivals this summer and they really are a force to be reckoned with, her live show is a must-see.
Lizzie was kind enough to come and put down some really beautiful vocals on one of the tunes from my forthcoming EP, she has a super distinctive, voice that lifted our tune tenfold, so I can’t wait for people to hear that as well!
Originally from the Lake District but now based in Newcastle, Melanie Baker is a wonderful singer-songwriter who wears her heart and her influences on her sleeve.
Melanie tells tales of her queer identity and the perils and anxieties of modern life in a raw, matter of fact style, with a dreamy indie rock backdrop akin to that of Phoebe Bridgers and Julia Jacklin. Her emotional and graceful songwriting style has taken her up and down the country in the last year or so for a number of headline shows, festival slots, and support shows with the likes of Maisie Peters, Jen Cloher and Runnner.
It seems that Melanie is sitting on a bunch of new tunes which I’m super excited to hear… she’s opening up for us at our debut headline show on November 3rd (grab your tickets online), I can’t wait to share a stage with her!
The Dawdler is the product of the insanely talented, Newcastle-based singer-songwriter John Edgar. John is solely responsible for some of Newcastle’s best musical output in recent years, with former projects such as Okay Champ and Nately’s Whore’s Kid Sister leaving a gloomy, fuzzy imprint on the local scene.
As The Dawdler, John makes beautifully melancholy, eerie alt-folk, he tells tales of soul-searching, heart ache, and his reaction to a diagnosis of PPMS (Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis) last year. In the lighter moments, The Dawdler’s output is melodic and rich, wrapped up in sprawling, cinematic arrangements reminiscent of Sufjan Stevens. During darker moments, The Dawdler sounds quietly haunting and mysterious, like Grouper, whilst still retaining the all-consuming intimacy and tenderness that spans the whole Dawdler catalogue.
For fans of all things beautiful and devastating and intimate and gentle, or even if you’re just after a “worthy sleep companion” (as John describes his recent ’Tracing Spirals’ EP), The Dawdler is essential listening.
ERNIE will release debut EP ‘Cold Cuts’ on November 3rd.
Photo Credit: Wiki