Why the long-neglected North-east music scene is coming into its own

It certainly looks like a creative renaissance for the region with so many groups emerging over the past couple of years. First, The Futureheads came out of nowhere (well, Sunderland) with their stark take on the punk funk revival and a winning cover of Kate Bush's "Hounds Of Love".

In the past few months, though, their success has been overtaken by that of Maxïmo Park, the Newcastle-Upon-Tyne group that have barged their way to fame via a steady stream of singles from A Certain Trigger, an album so strong in depth the band played it in its entirety at Xfm's Winter Wonderland bash.

With guitarist Duncan Lloyd recovering from a broken arm (caused by arm wrestling with the band's lawyer), singer Paul Smith has had time to muse on Maxïmo's rise to fame and the change in fortunes for the region. Until these bands came along, the North-east was known mainly for folk rockers Lindisfarne, The Animals, Sting and teen punks Kenickie, the band in which TV presenter Lauren Laverne began her showbiz career.

Smith is an apt figure to discuss the perceived north east revival, having been brought up near Middlesbrough, but playing in bands when he moved to Newcastle to study. From his point of view, the area was beset by a lack of ambition, which was why his first outfit was instrumental.

"My approach was anti-singer, because I had seen so many local bands and the first thing that came out of their mouths was 'I'm a singer', but there was no belief in what they were doing, just a drive for acknowledgment."

Smith was playing guitar in Me And The Twins when he was approached by Maxïmo to join as a singer, he says.

"They saw me on stage jumping around - I was always the most prominent member. I wanted to engage with the audience.

There is a shared attitude and, sometimes, personnel between the best new north-east bands. Maxïmo drummer Tom English played in Field Music, and that band's Peter Brewis played in an early incarnation of The Futureheads. Each group also made a stand against the mediocrity around them.

"We wanted to write pop songs that were different," Smith asserts. "Other bands wanted to do something easy. The area was not known for music, so because no one thought they could get anywhere, the bar was lowered."

Another thing the groups have in common is they all sing in their own accents, which is as good a statement of intent as any, though for Smith it wasn't conscious.

"I came to singing late, so I wasn't influenced by anybody in that way."

For The Futureheads and Field Music, though, singing in their Mackem voices was a way to stand out from the pack, Field Music singer/guitarist David Brewis explains.

"Listening to our early recordings, I was singing a certain way. I thought, 'Why do I sing like that when I don't talk that way?'"

Having played in a pub rock band in his youth, Brewis was intimately aware of how easy it was to adopt a transatlantic accent. Later, he heard the Britpop groups pretending they were cockney sparrows.

"We couldn't play blues rock as well as the original artists, so we had to find our own direction. We had to sing in a way that was natural for us."

Ironically, the lack of interest in music from the area allowed Brewis and his peers to make these decisions that made them so distinctive. While the three bands appeared to explode on the scene, in reality they had spent several years forging their own identities. Field Music have yet to enjoy the same success as the other bands mentioned, but last year's self-titled debut album has proved to be a slow burner. Indeed, their label Memphis Industries are so keen to capitalise, they are already releasing a compilation of B-sides, many actually recorded by Peter or David in earlier bands.

If groups in the area lacked ambition because there was little chance of success, there is now a determination to prove themselves. This is welcome news to Generator, a music development agency for the north of England.

Generator was set up to deal with the fact that artists from the region were being ignored by a London-based music industry. Its development manager Jim Mawdsley believes initiatives such as this have laid the groundwork for recent success stories, though admits homegrown acts making it big spur on their peers.

"We made sure the infrastructure was there for high quality live music events, but these guys have made other bands realise they need a certain amount of knowledge to get somewhere."

Mawdsley points out that is not only successful bands that are working together. As director of NewcastleGateshead's Evolution festival, he has encouraged local promoters to cooperate on the 10-day series of events that culminates this year in an open-air gig later this month headlined by Hard-Fi.

"Promoters come together to make this happen in a way I've not seen in any other city. Cooperation is the bedrock of all our success."

So this year look out for former Kenickie drummer Pete Gofton's solo career, the innovative guitar shapes of Dartz! and experimental sound artist Andrew Hodson. Even after a couple of vintage years, the north of England has still more talent to reveal.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Judd Apatow’s make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach is ideal for comedies about stoners and slackers slouching towards adulthood
filmWith comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
Arts and Entertainment
booksForget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Off set: Bab El Hara
tvTV series are being filmed outside the country, but the influence of the regime is still being felt
Arts and Entertainment
Red Bastard: Where self-realisation is delivered through monstrous clowning and audience interaction
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhino Doodle by Jim Carter (Downton Abbey)

TV
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film

film
Arts and Entertainment
Comedian 'Weird Al' Yankovic

Is the comedy album making a comeback?

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in the first-look Fifty Shades of Grey movie still

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc, centre, are up for Best Female TV Comic for their presenting quips on The Great British Bake Off

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried