'Yorkshire beat' drives pop's centre of gravity across Pennines

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The Independent Culture

The Sheffield band Arctic Monkeys, who seemingly appeared out of nowhere to enjoy a number one hit with I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor, are releasing their first album this month. Another name to look out for is the Leeds singer- songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae, whose style ranges from classic to contemporary urban. She has a debut album coming out in March and has already been tipped as one of the names to watch this year.

Much of the activity has centred on the Sheffield live music venue The Boardwalk, where Arctic Monkeys played their debut gig. Chris Wilson, a promoter for 12 years at The Boardwalk, said now is the most exciting time to be involved in the city's music scene. "The success of the Monkeys has been fantastic, not just in itself but also because it gives other bands a lot more enthusiasm once one of them has made it," he said.

"A lot of great bands round here have felt like they've been banging their heads against a brick wall for ages, so this is such a big boost for them."

He added: "I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that whereas you never used to hear DJs on Radio 1 with regional accents, now a lot of them are from the North. It's even got to the stage where some bands are faking a Sheffield accent because they think that's the cool thing to do. They're aping the Monkeys if I can put it that way."

There is also a strong DIY culture in Yorkshire, epitomised by Arctic Monkeys, who set off a chain reaction by handing out free copies of their demos at gigs. Fans started to swap tracks on the internet, generating a feverish excitement that saw them signed to Franz Ferdinand's label Domino in May 2005.

Bands on the brink of emulating this success include iForward, Russia! and the Sunshine Underground from Leeds, and Dead Like Harry, Milburn, Bromheads Jacket, Harrisons and the Reverend from Sheffield. And, Kaiser Chiefs, from Leeds, who achieved success in 2005, are about to record their second album.

Gennaro Castaldo, head of press at HMV, said: "These things aren't planned. There's an effect where the success of one artist or band acts as a catalyst and encourages other musicians to think they can do it themselves.

"These bands very often like to wave the banner for their community. The media pick up on that and help crystallise it. As soon as retailers can see there might be a burgeoning scene, they use it for merchandising."

Laurence Bell, the Leeds City Council arts officer in charge of the Bright Young Things initiative, which encourages new bands, said: "The Yorkshire scene has been eclectic for years, but the nation's tastes as a whole have only become more eclectic quite recently. Now we've got rock, R'n'B and soul acts all coming through, and people are starting to notice."

Northern rock

* Arctic Monkeys, (from Sheffield)

Appeared out of nowhere to enjoy a number one hit with I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor. First album is due fore release this month. The band was born in 2002 when two of the school friends were given guitars for Christmas.

* Little Man Tate, (Sheffield)

Described as the "the next major export from Sheffield", by Sheffield's Boardwalk promoter Barney Vernon. "It looks like it's going to go as mad for them as it did for the Arctic Monkeys." They won both Radio 1 and XFM Unsigned, and play their next gig on 17 February to an audience including Rolling Stone magazine.

* Bromhead's Jacket (Sheffield)

The trio have toured with their Sheffield neighbours Arctic Monkeys, and embark on a tour this month from Thursday.

* ¡Forward, Russia! (Leeds)

Formed in early 2004, the four-piece release their single "Twelve" on 16 January and play the NME Awards Tour with Elbow next month. The music magazine has sung their praises, talking about their "convulsing punk-funk brilliance from Leeds". The Radio 1 DJ Steve Lamacq is also a big fan.

* Long Blondes (Sheffield)

The girl-fronted group are playing with The Cribs at the NME Awards Tour on 19 February. Their singer Kate Jackson made the NME's cool list.

* Corinne Bailey Rae (Leeds)

The singer-songwriter whose style ranges from classic to contemporary urban, has a debut album coming out in March and has already been tipped by HMV and the BBC news website as one of the names to watch next year.

Elisa Bray