Liverpool loves to think of itself as the capital of pop music, even though that sometimes seems to rely a little too heavily on one particular band. But as we move through our year of culture, one thing seems apparent: The local music scene is the healthiest it’s been for years, with a whole array of brilliant musicians of different stripes gigging around the city and gaining national attention. One such act is Elle S’appelle, a trio who have come a long way in a short time.
The band played their first gig at the Liverpool Barfly on 1st June last year, and, just one week later, they found themselves named ‘unsigned band of the week’ on Steve Lamacq’s influential BBC 6 Music show. They quickly recorded their debut single, the stunning ‘Little Flame’, and were picked up by Moshi Moshi records, responsible for releasing early efforts by Bloc Party and Kate Nash. Since then, their surreal, speedy pop has been gaining them the attentions of fans and critics all over. That’s an awful lot to cope with for a band less than a year old, but drummer Owen Cox thinks they can cope with it:
“It’s been hard work, but we’ve all been prepared for it. With our old bands we knew what it was going to be like. I think we’d rather have it this way than not have any chance.”
Elle S’appelle, like many of the city’s current crop of acts, are a mixture of locals and students. Andy Donavan, bass player, singer and principal lyricist is “born and bred Liverpool”, Lucy Blakely, singer and keyboardist, is originally from Greasby, Wirral, but moved to the city to study music, as did Norwich-born drummer Owen. They’ve all been involved in making music in the city for a couple of years, but it seems as if it all came together will Elle S’appelle, which is French, by the way, for ‘She is called.’
“I think the three of us, it was just the right time and the right band,” says Andy.
“I think at the time all of our acts were coming to an end and I think we were all looking for the same thing at the same time,” adds Owen.
Their mixing of dynamic rhythms with dirty, carousel keyboards has proved to be a winner, but what really sets Elle S’appelle apart are their lyrics. Dreamy stories that create a depth that keeps you listening once the melody and beat has got hold of you. Principal lyricist Andy puts it down to his chosen reading material:
“I only really read kids books, because I like the fact that they’re aimed at kids. I find a lot of adult literature self-indulgent. I think also, I’ve never been a fan of singing about really current things. I more in my own little world, daydreaming. I don’t like singing about bouncers and clubs and girls on dancefloors. I just like, it sounds dead corny, but people finding their own meaning, just creating imagery and take or leave what it means to me. If you’re too specific, it’s just for you then.”
Despite their success, the trio are not about to rest in their laurels, they’re now undertaking the recording of another EP, and are now about to embark on ‘Bosspop’, a national tour with goFaster >> another great Liverpool act.
Andy elaborates:“I think that the tour is Elle S’appelle and goFaster >> taking Liverpool on the road. Without being cheesy, it’s about showing people what’s happening here. Everyone’s having such a great time and none more so than ourselves and goFaster >>, we share a rehearsal room, play a lot of gigs together and we just have such a laugh with them. It will be like a big holiday.”
Some are viewing Bosspop as more than a tour, rather an example of a contemporary musical movement in Liverpool that includes to varying degrees bands such as Hot Club de Paris, The Wombats, Arms At Last, 28 Costumes, Voo and National School. Lucy explains: “Bosspop is what it is as well. I think a lot of people are scared of pop music because they think it makes them less credible, but I think ‘It’s pop, it’s great, you’ve got to embrace it.’ And I think the phrase Bosspop is great, boss is such a Liverpool word and I think if we didn’t coin it ourselves, the NME, or someone just as cool, would have come up with a more shit word.”
Andy adds: “I just think we’re beating everyone to it, because it’s going to get a name.”
And, unlike many bands, are they not afraid of being pigeonholed into a ‘scene’:
“I think scene is a grossly misunderstood word,” says Lucy, “to us, it’s not really like about being part of a scene, it’s about being mates, helping each other out, having a great time, going to each others gigs and lending each other your van when it breaks down. That’s what a scene means to us, and sort of borrowing musical ideas of each other as well, and being fine with it. It’s just all about being mates really.”
Whatever it is, and whatever you call it, music is good in Liverpool at the moment and Elle S’appelle are a shining example of that. Maybe we are the capital of pop after all.
By Kenn Taylor