Bull launch second album Engines Of Honey over two days at The Crescent with gigs, DJs, jamboree art fair, bingo, quiz… and curry

Bull: Two nights and a jamboree day at The Crescent to mark the release of Engines Of Honey

BULL, York’s “finest purveyors of jangling indie joy”, launch second album Engines Of Honey with a brace of home-city shows at The Crescent this weekend.

Their tour booker has sent the guitar-powered slacker pop quintet on a frankly bonkers itinerary, beginning in Brighton on March 14, where frontman Tom Beer slept on a bean bag – “a comfy, long bean bag,” he says – at his cousin’s house, followed by Bristol.

Next came Manchester on Saturday; Edinburgh on Sunday, where Tom took a restorative run up Arthur’s Seat first thing on Monday morning; Newcastle last night (20/3/2024); Glasgow tonight; then, back home to York after all that mileage, tomorrow and Saturday, before a London finale at the Windmill, Brixton, on March 28.

“Ex-tour booker,” jokes Tom in a Wednesday morning chat in the Explore York library hush of The Centre @ Burnholme.

“Rather than music, I’d been doing a lot of painting, some little doodles – one we used for the artwork for the Red Rooves single – now some bigger ones as well, though I’ve got no plans to exhibit them, but this tour has reinvigorated me massively, making me realise I do want to do more music.

“I’m now realising that life is a round thing, where you can do lots of different things. So I can do some music, some law, some painting, some gardening, some swimming pool construction.”

Playing plenty of squash and tennis too, sometimes against fellow York singer and songwriter Sam Griffiths of The Howl & The Hum. “I beat him at squash; he beats me at tennis,” says Tom.

Kai West’s cover artwork for Bull’s Engines Of Honey

We shall return to “some law” and “some swimming pool construction” later, but first the new album, Engines Of Honey, the title taken from a lyric (from Stranger), not a song title, in the tradition of the Pixies.

“Sam [Griffiths] says that when you bring something out it reminds you that you exist,” says Tom. “You can take it way too seriously, but it’s just some songs for people to listen to, and if people have like them, that’s great. The reaction to the album has been really good.”

Released on March 1, with distribution by AWAL, who did likewise for The Howl & The Hum’s Human Contact in 2020, Engines Of Honey is available via Bandcamp on CD and vinyl, and digitally too, but not at record shops.

Billed on Facebook as “our second greatest hits”, the album’s arrival has not been accompanied by the fanfare that met the alt-rock dandies’ March 2021 debut, Discover Effortless Living, after Bull became the first York band since Shed Seven to sign for a major label, fully ten years after their formation. £20,000 from EMI came their way, along with a further £5,000 backing for 2022 EP Stuck.

“Signing to EMI opened up a lot of doors in terms of the record being sold in places like HMV, which was a big deal for us, and brought us headlines. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy where people start taking you seriously,” says Tom.

Not everything went swimmingly, however. “We were going to put out another album with EMI and went down to London to meet them, but I had a bit of a burn-out after their 2022-23 tour, when I kind of realised I didn’t want to be focusing on music as much as I’d done before…so I started a new job.”

Tom had studied for a law degree at Newcastle University in earlier days. “I’m now working as a planning consultant for the gypsy and traveller community nationally, and I’m a trustee for the York Travellers Trust too. It’s about giving them stable private homes, but where they can live their traditional lifestyle,” he says.

“I’m working with lawyer Marc Willers, a leading King’s Counsellor on gypsy and traveller issues, who’s been such an inspiration to me. We met up last week when Bull were playing Brighton, and I’m considering doing a pupillage down there.”

Bull on the March tour trail: Brighton, Bristol, Manchester, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Glasgow, York, last stop London

Tom decided that Bull should not push for the second album with EMI. “It wasn’t the right fit, to be honest,” he reflects. “We’re a cult independent band from York, That’s what we are. We’re not going to be the next Wet Leg. We have cult appeal, a catalogue of 35 songs, and a small group of people around the world that like us, and that’s all we want.”

Twelve of those songs form Engines Of Honey, recorded by singer, guitarist and principal songwriter Tom, keyboard-playing sister Holly Beer, guitarist Dan Lucas, drummer Tom Gabbatiss and bassist Kai West with producer Remko Schouten in his Amsterdam studio, as was the case for Discover Effortless Living, with further recordings at Tom’s parents’ house in York. “Adding endless harmonies, shakers, timpani and saxophone,” as Tom puts it.

Bull are in a good place, says Tom. “It doesn’t matter that we didn’t do a second album with EMI. We’re happy where we are because you can’t make money from music unless you’re huge, and we were broke,” he says.

“I wasn’t making ends meet, so I needed to get a job. We’re not exactly business people. We tried but it kills it. I started taking things too seriously, but it’s only music. Though I feel very conflicted about it. I don’t feel I’ve quit, but I was working way too hard at it, to the point where I can’t do that any more.

“Music is much more personal than other careers; you feel it too deeply, where it would activate my ‘fight or flight’, so I had to stop doing it, but thankfully Holly and Dan and the rest of the band took over finishing the album, with Dan doing the lion’s share of the mixing.””

Bull: Playing a different set each night at The Crescent on Friday and Saturday

Bull have signed to new management; a further York live event is upcoming at the York Explore library on May 17, and recording plans are afoot already for two more albums, one with Renko Schouten at his new studio in rural Spain, the other, “super-lo-fi” in York.

“We’re trying to strike a deal with Renko to build him a guitar-shaped swimming pool on his land to cover making the next album,” says Tom. Polymath Kai is a builder among his multiple skills, should you be wondering.

Turning 30, Tom finds himself becoming more of a home bird. “I’m engaged; I want to have kids, make normal money from a job,” he says. “I had to give up on my rock’n’roll dream, which is unreal. Only Bob Dylan pulls off the never-ending tour, and I’m not sure how happy he is. I just want to be have friends around me. Be a good citizen for York.”

First up, Bull play two entirely different sets tomorrow and on Saturday with no repeats and DJ sets afterwards by Victor Alvarez, the Mexican-masked host of the Golden Ball’s Latin nights, Sophisticated Boom Boom DJs, from the Micklegate Social, DJ Dr Vic, DJ Georgie, probably Joe Coates and maybe Tom Beer too, picked from his record collection.

In between comes Saturdays’ free daytime jamboree, kicking off at 2pm with an art fair featuring Jade Blood, Harry Clowes, Kai West and Izzy Williamson and more. Ben Crosthwaite’s music quiz at 5pm will be followed by Jade Blood’s Art Bingo with prizes at 6pm.

Look out too for Bull’s homemade curry, cooked up by Kai West, and a memoraBullia exhibition with 20 Bull T-shirts down the years, posters, promotional artwork and record sleeve designs. MemoraBullia, Tom? “I came up with that!” he says.

Please Please You and Brudenell Presents present Bull at The Crescent, York, tomorrow, supported by FEET, from London, and Vehicle, from Leeds, 7.30pm. Tickets still available at thecrescentyork.com. Saturday, supported by Eugene Glorious and Fat Spatula, 7.30pm, sold out.

Album launch Saturday Daytime Jamboree, The Crescent, 2pm onwards; free entry. To buy Engines Of Honey, go to: https://bullband.bandcamp.com/album/engines-of-honey

Kai West’s poster artwork for Bull’s album launch weekender