Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Say hello to... Lady North

Let’s get this straight: Lady North aren't a typical Edinburgh band. For starters, no-one in this noise-wielding trio – made up of Scott Bullen, Paul Bannon and Jamie Steel - wears an overgrown beard or moth-eaten bobble hat. And there’s certainly no place for an acoustic guitar in their booming artillery of bass, drum, guitar and effects pedals. But what really singles them out as an anomaly in the city’s current musical climate is that folk music is barely on their radar, never mind in their songbook.

"To be honest, it’s quite a surprise there are so many folk bands around. I don’t know many people who listen to folk - I suppose we run in different social groups," explains Bannon, whose hexagonal drum patterns lie at the heart of Lady North’s animalistic sound. "It does seem for the last year or so there has been an over-exposure of indie-folk bands in the city, but there has also been a rising interest in the city’s electronic based acts, which are more our cup of tea. We’ve been big fans of The Japanese War Effort for a long time and have just recently got into Dead Boy Robotics in a big way."

Curiously, Lady North may actually plug the gap between the city’s more leftfield folk outfits and its electronic musicians. On the face of it, their math-predilection is easily identified; the complex, atonal rhythms, fed by Bullen’s cryptic guitar taps and Steel’s surging bass lines, bear a striking resemblance to the dissonant rock that emitted from the American Midwest in the early 90s. But underneath this intellectual exterior pounds more primal urges. This is an Edinburgh band you can actually dance to.

"We try to be non-genre specific, we definitely don’t want to be pigeon holed as a certain sound," says Bullen of the band’s floor-filling appeal. "A lot of people have said we’re a dance rock band. And while I have nothing against it as a label it caused an adverse reaction in my head, leading the last three songs I've written to be far more spacey and with less driving rhythms and more ethereal noise. We basically want to be relevant, modern, interesting and to always maintain our musical sense of humour."

Born from rival factions of a snowboarding (or “shneebogging”, as Bullen puts it) and instrument club, Lady North has been a long time coming. Initially a post hardcore four-piece, the band’s current incarnation has evolved through years of late night pontificating, an increasing interest in the virtues of funk and, perhaps most importantly, the departure of vocalist Ali Shiels. Instead of relying on a voice to hog the limelight, it’s the music that must shoulder the glare – a responsibility the band are steadily growing used to.

"We don’t make any conscious attempt to compensate for not having a singer," says Steel. "The music should speak for itself and shouldn't need vocals to set a tone or tell the listener how they should be feeling. Also having no vocals helps us stay away from any one genre: if your singer screams you're typically typecast as an emo band or if he growls you're a metal band, regardless of what the instruments are doing. Maybe this way people can hear the music as it should be heard and not have to worry if we're punk/indie/metal enough for them."

With only a few tracks committed to record so far (although their debut EP is due out in spring), Lady North are a force that needs to be witnessed live. Founded on Bannon’s aggressive clatter of drum and cowbell, their distorted blasts are almost Martian in sound; splattering out as free-form waves of propulsive melody that are deconstructed, note by note, before rebuilding into a strangling cacophony. It’s tight, sure, but it’s not sleek. There’s a queer intuition that goes beyond the hours spent holed up in a practice room, turning each show into a unique, almost organic, experience.

"No matter how much we prepare or how well we know the songs, it all comes down to the sound on stage," says Bannon. "When Scott has a loop going, I need to hear his amp so I am playing in sync with the loop. If I can’t hear it clearly and I’m slightly off time, any subsequent loops Scott records will be out of time as he has been following what I’ve been playing. In saying that, if Scott’s original loop is out of time, we’re all f***ed."

Their brutal live outings have already earned Lady North a stellar reputation, both with punters and the local authorities – the band proudly picked up an ASBO after a particularly rowdy flat party last year. And if their experiences in 2010 - which included a mesmerizing role in the final Versus with Foundling Wheel and Dead Boy Robotics and a support slot with fellow noise-mongers Bronto Skylift - have taught them anything, it’s that compromise isn’t an option.

"We’ve learned that what’s more important than playing perfectly is playing with conviction and without inhibitions. That’s what people really pick up on," says Bannon. "That and some bad-ass dance moves."

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