STONE’s Elliot Gill Presents His Guide To Liverpool, Music City

The bars, record shops, and artists making it all happen...

Liverpool is a city with music in its DNA. I have been very fortunate to be able to come up in a place so full of talented, creative and often progressive people and artists, all of which prop up their respective scenes and perpetuate the city as a haven for hidden culture and talent.

I went to a lot of shows as a teenager but my first proper introduction with the local Liverpool scene came in the years between 2016 and 2017, where me and Fin (STONE vocalist Fin Power) began cutting our teeth and playing our first shows from a venue called The Zanzibar and around the city. Over the years I have been exposed to so many interesting sounds and people, all of which have helped keep me inspired in carving a musical identity and career of my own. 

The last couple of years have seen so many challenges for the live music scene and industry at large. We all felt the absence of live music, and we artists and music industry workers alike felt the existential panic that brought. Since things opened up last year, STONE has been moving well, and we have spent a lot of the year touring outside the city. I have spent a lot of this time missing and reflecting on Liverpool, wanting to get back in touch with all it has to offer.

Clash has kindly given me an opportunity to pay tribute to the city and give my insight into a number of artists and spaces that make the city so great. I would like to note that this list is not exhaustive and that this only scratches the surface. There’s an abundance of emerging talent from every corner, but my intention here is to shed light and pay respects to one of the greatest and most musical cities on Earth, the one that has made me who I am today. 

Venues: 

Venues play an instrumental role in maintaining the culture of any city or town. Most of my best memories took place in venues. Unfortunately the city has, in recent years, lost a couple – places like Duke St’s Sound and their regular basement shows, Studio 2, The Magnet, and the Kazimier (which I’m gutted we never got to play).

There are at least venues like O2 Academy and Arts Club, both of which offer two different capacity rooms to play – some of my most formative gig experiences took place in each room – from my first big support slots to our first sold-out headliners as STONE. We’re headlining the O2 big room in April, which will be a full circle moment I think. I caught a lot of bands like Foals, Peace, JAWS and The Fall in The Arts Club as a teenager. There’s also Jacaranda’s basement which isn’t huge, but it’s a great space for an intimate show, and a great bar. The Beatles came through there in the late 50s. 

Melodic Bar is a new venue that opened on London Road by Melodic Distraction, a local station operating in the city for a number of years as an outlet for more alternative and eclectic music. Melodic Distraction is host to a community of DJs and artists and this venue is a small mainly outdoor bar which hosts regular DJ sets and hip-hop events with local rappers. I am excited to catch a lot more here.

There are a number of essential spaces for dance events such as 24 Kitchen Street, meraki, QUARRY, and North Shore Troubadour. Many of which often platform diverse lineups of artists and DJs and, like Kitchen Street, provide space for regular LGBTQ+ forward events – such places and the vitally important for culture and society at large.

Honorary mentions also include Zanzibar and EBGBs, and Invisible Wind Factory and its Substation basement venue. 

Bands/artists:

There are so many Liverpool-based artists worth mentioning here, both established and emerging. Here’s a few I wanted to highlight;

Monks are a band formed in 2018, whose initial brand of warm psychedelic indie-pop has given way to something bouncier, groovier, more polished. Newer stuff like ‘Ray Gun’, ‘100 Percent’, feel like more mature, introspective dance-pop that reminds me of ‘Anything In Return’ era Toro Y Moi. Pomford’s aloof lyrics and laissez-faire delivery are accompanied by swirling analog synth lines, strong disco drum chops and these gorgeous trumpet lines. It’s clear to me that this is a band evolving, and are definitely at the top of my list to see live again. 

Check out: ‘Ray Gun’, ‘Tempranillo’, ‘Why Does Everybody Look The Same?’

Pixey is a 27 year old singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist whose sunny, self-produced indie pop has been making waves in the last couple of years. Guitar-driven moments of psychedelia blend with melodic, pop-forward writing and backed by funky breakbeat grooves. Pixey’s music is charismatic and fun, and with her band has all the potential to bring her euphoric pop to festival stages and beyond. 

Check out: ‘Sunshine State’, ‘Free To Live In Colour’, ‘Shine On’

Astles is the project of 23 year old singer-songwriter Daniel Astles, whose brand of romantic soulful indie is definitely worth listening to. Astles, originally from Southport, writes slower, decadent arrangements – melodic vocals, lush guitars, pianos, string sections from his ‘Balloon Moon Orchestra’. There’s a real sense of craft, like he’s building a world inside his music – and it sounds gorgeous. I’ve caught him live a handful of times, from his involvement in Birkenhead’s Eggy Records and their whole scene which I loved, and having him support our old band – every time has blown me away. 

Check out: ‘Love In November’, ‘Light on the Moon’, ‘These Things I Know To Be True’

Courting are a post-punk 4 piece we’ve played with a couple times that have put out one of my favourite and most ambitious debut albums this year, Guitar Music. 8 tracks long, it shows their efforts to push the format of traditional guitar-based indie rock into something more left field and artistic. Combining guitars with SOPHIE/hyperpop-inspired autotuned, glitchy sonic palette. All supporting frontman Sean O’Neills sardonic, wry takes on the bizarreness of modern living, covering topics from social media self-improvement culture, modern relationships, to an AI love story and beyond. The lyrics are clever, stream of consciousness and littered with nuanced pop culture references that show a real unique sense of humour within the band, and that’s reflected in their fun live shows too. Definitely listen. 

Check out: ‘Famous’, ‘Loaded’, ‘Uncanny Valley Forever’

Sound of Drowning is the moniker of a very good friend of mine, Ollie Cash. His brand of dark, progressive, hypnotic electronica began in his bedroom when we were teenagers but has seen him become a real pillar of Liverpool’s progressive, home-grown electronic dance music community and it is something I’m fascinated by. I have seen his gradual development of his brooding, genre-blending electronica but between his excessive output and his involvement in events, notably his new PLUSH nights, he is one of the hardest working and well-respected electronic artists in his scene. Taking a collaborative approach, with collectives such as PLUSH, Keep It Cryptic, Yeno Tha, and QueenswaY,  this is a scene that celebrates and supports each other from Liverpool’s underground – organising events in the likes of QUARRY and meraki mentioned previously. All with a focus on inclusivity, DIY ethos, and community. This whole scene is worth exploring if you’re into your raw electronic music. 

Check out: ‘Raw’, ‘Big Bad Dub’, ‘In Control’

SPILT – Of all the bands I’ve come up with in Liverpool, SPILT, from Runcorn, are one of my favourites and most interesting. SPILT are a psych-grunge trio that deliver erratic, aggressive punk dripping with modulated filth and chaos. My first ever encounter with this band and frontman Mo Molyneux came in 2016, when I heard Acid Baby, for the first time, and liked them immediately. Mo’s incendiary stage presence, huge riffs, guttural drums and drug-fuelled, angsty lyrics delivered at such a high and chaotic intensity, SPILT are ones to catch live for sure, and have the makings to be a real cult band.

Check out: ‘Sex Tape’, ‘Fix’, ‘Saliva’

Honorable mentions here include: The Mysterines, Crawlers, The Night Café, Cassette Theory,  Sterling Press, Black Borough (hip hop trio of MC Nelson, Dayzy and Starkey), Derrick Nenzo, RATS, The Cheap Thrills, Frog Dylan, SPINN, Nu Tribe, Shards, Reignmaker, Bill Nickson, Ali Horn, Dan Disgrace, Trudy & The Romance, Torture & The Desert Spiders, WOO, The Mossley Hillbillies, Hank Bee, Beija Flo, Eyesore & The Jinx, and many, many more.

Record stores:

Jacaranda Records & Phase One at the bottom of Seel Street opened in 2018 and it’s a record store and cafe in the front and a bar and live venue in the back with regular acoustic shows. We played a few shows there back when it opened but recently held our ‘Punkadonk’ EP launch event there – held a vinyl swap for our new EP with a live show of it too. It was fun. The space is relatively new but has a great selection, and nice cocktails too. Also worth checking out are Probe Records and Dig Vinyl

STONE’s Elliot Gill Presents His Guide To Liverpool, Music City

Community programs:

Capeesh is a youth/community development project that seeks to motivate and enable young people (aged 10-25) to acquire and nurture the skills and confidence to enjoy and potentially pursue their interest in music. Based in the Harthill Youth Centre, Wavertree, Friday evenings are where young people from the local community can enjoy free music lessons and activities, as well as opportunities to perform live, where music lessons may have been otherwise inaccessible. Capeesh also liaises with local businesses and venues to hold fundraising events and exhibitions in places like a pop-up in Lush, to Handyman’s bar, giving young people the opportunity to play their first and formative live shows. 

Founded by Mark Rowley, a former teacher who has committed his life to youth work and music, he is someone I have worked closely with before and his passion for what he does is infectious and inspiring. His ethos of empowering young musicians extends to the team he works with, consisting of young aspiring musicians from 18-25, myself included. This provides an excellent opportunity to develop skills in youth work which will prove beneficial for employment. 

I have worked with this team, who consistently show up weekly to teach these kids, and encourage them to perform live, and the work they do is commendable. Local musicians like singer-songwriter Samya O’Grady, Kali Diston-Jones of Monks are among the very talented people I have worked with, and their passion for what they do mirrors that of Mark’s.

There’s a palpable sense of ambition within the walls of Harthill Youth Centre on a Friday evening, and it has instilled in me an almost existential need to help empower other young people with music, as a kid who spent his teenage years lacking confidence, locked in solace with his guitar. My experience working with this organisation, working with these kids, has been nothing short of fulfilling, and I only hope to find more time to be involved in the future. 

Capeesh are hosting their next showcase on December 17th in Handyman’s Bar, Smithdown Road. Featuring performances from both children who attend the club and from local musicians. 

STONE’s new EP ‘Punkadonk’ is out now.

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