Next Wave #1082: Courting

In Association With Vero True Social

A post-punk band whose biggest inspiration is Charli XCX and who adamantly dislike guitar bands are on a mission to redeem Guitar Music. After their tenacious opening number as a band, 2021’s ‘Grand National’ EP, saw the Liverpool group poised to stir up the scene as the Next Big Thing, but with an academic focus and flagrant disregard for the expected, they’re wiping the slate clean. 

Their debut album, titled Guitar Music, is Courting’s designated starting point, brushing off everything that came before. “We were just boring ourselves a bit, and everyone else was boring us a bit,” vocalist Sean Murphy-O’Neill muses. 

They may be doing ‘Guitar Music’, but their raison d’être is to reclaim the term by making it interesting, and doing it well. Counterintuitively, Sean tells us: “in any interview or review that we were given, if anyone called us a guitar band, I’d almost be quite offended. But you can be a guitar band and make music that’s not dire! All the weird horrible electronic noises we use, that’s all guitar, it’s all sampled from guitars.

“We as a band don’t really listen to many ‘bands’. It’s all weird stuff, and then rap and pop. A lot of bands, especially in circles we’re in, see pop as a dirty word, and we wanted to take that back. A lot of bands try to write stuff that’s so impersonal and political, but they only do it cos they can’t write a good love song. The true test of a songwriter is writing a generic love song.” 

Courting are ever-conscious of their musical niche, and the way they’re carving it – by lovesick pop song or by post-punk opus. “A lot of people’s first exposure to an artist is their debut album, so a lot of people are probably gonna be listening to us for the first time. So we thought if we make some sprawling pretentious statement, people are just gonna get bored the second there’s a bad note. It’s like a palate cleanser – if you’d listened to ten other bands that sounded like our EP, and then you went to listen to our album, that first song [‘Twin Cities’] might put you off or hook you in. If it hooks you in, that’s who we want to listen to our band.” 

Courting aren’t unfamiliar to spending a few moments lost in the sprawl – one staple of their live shows is a dragged-out bridge which Murphy-O’Neill spends roaming the crowd proffering a cowbell to audience members, expanding Courting’s percussion section one eager fan by one. But they also definitely know when to be short and sharp, and they’re great at it. It turns out that their aptitude for knowing what to do and when, and fitting it all together, isn’t just natural musician’s intuition – it’s the result of a deeply academic pursuit and endless fine-tuning – “very extensive research” that Sean is keen to delve into.

“Me and Sean [Thomas, drums] listened to like, 400 albums in the first lockdown, that we’d never heard before, and we kind of pulled stats from them in a really research-driven way. Why do we like how this album was structured, why did we enjoy a 29 minute album more than a 54 minute album, why does that hold people’s attention?

“The first five songs on ‘Teenage Dream’ by Katy Perry are incredible, man. Imagine starting your album with ‘Teenage Dream’, ‘Last Friday Night’, ‘California Girls’, ‘Firework’. What a powerful start. ‘Teenage Dream’ is a perfect pop song, incredible. That’s the problem – so many rock bands are scared to mess with stuff like this, but it’s like why are you worried? That’s a better song than you could ever write?”

Words: Ims Taylor
Photo Credit: Alex Bex

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