Warming up for the pop band Heir in The Wardrobe this evening is Gold Sounds and The Howl & The Hum. Gold Sounds take their inspiration from television series as they introduce one song to be based on Breaking Bad and another Game of Thrones. The Howl & The Hum win my heart with their opening chorus lyric ‘Back when you weren’t successful / back when you weren’t arrested’ sung from a stern faced manically staring front man. The quartet resemble the Rugrats aesthetically but their sound is dark and enticing with clever lyrics and some delicious guitar effects.
Heir are are five well-presented men who with one chord beckon everyone like flies to dance in front of the stage as the lights come up in the darkened Wardrobe. Frontman Tom Hammond dominates and perfects harmonies in chorus with the others. He often pauses his acoustic guitar to just sing with his arm aloft pointing towards the captivated audience. His stance and dancing display an energetic start to the set and the guitarist to his left is clearly enjoying the complementary female shriek from the audience.
Next they introduce a new track because ‘we’re in the North’ and the rest of the band seem more relaxed than Hammond, who is full of beans and loves thrusting body parts as he plays. Hammond has a crisp clean voice which is often raised to shout adding umph to repeated lines in between a mass amount of ‘ooo’s. Hammond swigs beer and chats to the audience before launching into the third song building around a throbbing synth and intermittent cymbal rolls. A choppy upbeat guitar complements the soundscape but the synth is not prominent enough. All five males join together singing in perfect harmony.
With catchy choruses and poppy piano effects, the drums maintain steady rhythms keeping momentum behind long held vocal notes. Hammond talks of musicians playing a ‘song live without being real which has gone out of fashion – this [song] isn’t one of them’. They begin simply with keys player moving to acoustic guitar and Hammond remains as solo vocalist. It’s not exactly Nick Cave but Heir’s lyrics go only as deep as ‘I’ve been here too long / You know I can’t let go’. The track builds more interest as the rest of the band join in creating a Country vibe. The band are charged with intense emotion and the songs resound of a young teenage angst but the crowd all aged over 15 years are completely enthralled. The mood continues as Hammond describes their EP track ‘Castles and Islands’ as ‘really personal – when you’re going through shite but you’ve got people around you that are going to make sure it’s alright’. Another pop/country, catchy, acoustic guitar led song with Hammond looking close to tears as the bridge repeats ‘I know I’ll be here by the waves’. The room is loving the twee fixed sound and Heir show their intention successfully.
For the rest of the set hips are shaking on stage and the band playfully bounce off each other. They all shout the words and have a tightly led jam as they bop in unison. A mellow introduction is heard from just tambourine and vocals building to add kick drum and the guitarist singing in falsetto. Hammond disposes of his guitar and free to move; he is electric with passion from his toes to his mouth. Heir are prepared for their encore as they re-enter the stage claiming they have ‘literally just written a song it’s called ‘I’ll Pick You Up’’. Influentially more 80s than the 90s heard so far, the guitar chugs along and a constant synth chord glues all the instruments together; a preppy chorus and the crowd is gleefully clapping along. The gelled sound has high end guitar delivering this big finale. The synth twinkles melodic flourishes and the bass holds a solid core for a stealthy ending.
Heir are pop through and through but take themselves and their music seriously. Hammond was born to be on stage and their precise and perfect harmonies are spot on. Their fans loves them and their energetic and well prepared performance.
Citrus Heights: Leeds Refectory
25 November 2016
A male four piece fill their biggest stage (so far) at Leeds University Refectory for a Cancer Research and Yorkshire Air Ambulance event from which all proceeds go to charity. Citrus Heights boyish appearance, catchy pop tunes and front man Jamie’s dance moves could slip into the return of Boyzone but they add their twist with punchy bass lines and intriguing guitar riffs.
An angelic touch lifts the chorus of the opening track with the drummer carefully placing harmonies to back lead vocals and others throughout the varied setlist. Just three instruments (not including vocals) manage to fill the large space using dreamy effects on the electric guitar and throbbing bass. There are classic builds in the rhythm section tightly locked in with bass for a solid blanket of sound allowing Jamie’s massive vocal to dominate and he works the crowd with ease. In between tracks he cracks jokes and attempts to get the crowd on their feet and to the front of the room and refers to Citrus Heights as a ‘real band – we’re on Spotify’.
They play their recently released debut EP entitled Sweet Things, the first track being ‘Limitations’ at the beginning of which Jamie slides and spins alike to Michael Jackson, an obvious influence in his smooth moves and vocal technique. The pop sound bubbles down half way through to a simmering funk guitar solo. The lead vocal slides around calm and collected full of joy and excitement looping the lyric hook.
‘Three Days’ is introduced as their ‘mellow song’ and placed tactfully in the middle of the set. The song reminisces a Yorkshire man’s take on 90’s R’n’B. The vocals are projected with such intent in the lyrics i’m certain the whole crowd is curious as to whoever Jamie’s heart-throb must be.
The title EP track ‘Sweet Things’ lifts the energy in the room and the crowd hears the ever present 80s vibe from the solid guitar riff. Combining this with heavily reverbed vocals these four have created a unique sound in a day and age where so many bands sound identical. The anthemic track ‘Same Ride Home’ entices all the crowd to their feet, joining Jamie chanting ‘Show, show, show me everything’ concluding an impactful performance.
I spoke to lead singer Jamie before the gig and he informed me of the Green Room within the Refectory where the band were staggered to have been offered whatever they desire, although these lads only wanted a cup of tea. Citrus Heights are a well balanced cup of sweet and sour and it is clear the crowd and themselves love what they’re doing.