Reunited York band Five Minutes will have much more than five minutes on return to Victoria Vaults with promise of new songs

York band Five Minutes at their reunion gig after 30 years at the Victoria Vaults in February 2020

A BAND called Five Minutes had their 15 minutes in York in the late-1980s. Then they reunited after 31 years for a one-off gig at the Victoria Vaults, in Nunnery Lane, on February 29 last year, squeezed in just before the pandemic struck.

This autumn, the self-styled “Sexy Soul Sensations” will reassemble again for a Victoria Vaults gig on October 23, having written new songs over lockdown meetings on Zoom to complement their extensive back catalogue of original, danceable, driven, catchy soul numbers.

“We were pleased as punch to see so many old friends and familiar faces at our first gig in over 30 years,” says trumpet player Matthew “Duck” Hardy, now a professional musician in his fifties.

Joining him in the soul and funk line-up at their first gig since January 1989 were business development manager Chris Turnbull on vocals and guitar; IT consultant Sean Rochester on bass; cinema owner Nigel Dennis on drums and retired police officer turned Criminology MSc mature student Mark Pearson on saxophone. New to the soul crew was Craig Brown, music teacher, on trombone.

Not there, but there by the wonder of a video link, was ex-pat trombonist and urban dog trainer Paul Shelbourne, from his home in Brisbane.

“That night there were loads of York’s late-‘80s music scene in attendance and many more who were gutted they couldn’t make it,” says Matthew. “Hopefully announcing this new date well in advance will cement it in people’s diaries and we’ll reunite even more acquaintances.

Five Minutes, playing York Arts Centre in 1988

“We’ve come together over the summer to rehearse the songs, so spread the word and let’s pack the Vaults to the rafters once more!”

Here, in an excerpt from Time Will Tell – The Five Minutes Story, saxophonist Mark Pearson reflects on the comeback gig and looks ahead to next month’s show.

“The reunion gig at Victoria Vaults was a bit like the first at the Spotted Cow, played in front of an invited audience of friends and family, old telephone books studied and social media trawled to find out who may still be alive who had seen us in the first place and who may want to see us again.

“Jem, defying medical science, still alive and managing the sound. Nige’s parents getting in early for the soundcheck, to get a seat and complaining about his drums being too loud. Accompanied by Rocky and Sweat Box, friends and music from the same era.

“The girlfriends (now wives) returning to bop and sway at the front of the stage, except something was different; they were accompanied by our children, all of them around the same age that we were when we played back in the Eighties.

“The large Paul-shaped hole was filled by the new 6th Minute, Craig and his trombone. He’d not come to any rehearsals. The first time I met him was at the sound check, but any reservations on my part that he may not fit in were soon dismissed. We played the middle harmonies for Happy Home and I smiled inside.

Five Minutes back together in February 2020: from left to right: Nigel Dennis, Sean Rochester, Mark Pearson and Chris Turnbull. Fellow member Matthew “Duck” Hardy took the picture. “Most of us hadn’t seen each other for 30 years,” he says

“A couple of hours later, and a couple of pints to smooth the nerves, a nervous wee and we entered the stage to Welcome Home by Peters & Lee.

“Victoria Vaults was packed; the sweat was already starting to run down the walls; Nige kicked in the insistent Northern Soul drum beat of The Party; we invited the expectant audience to ‘get up, get down and groove’, and we all joined Nige to deliver the ‘still’ sexy soul sound of Five Minutes. We were back.

“We drove through the set of just about every song we had written or covered. Some old faces in the crowd still knew some words, sang along and made a good effort of replicating their dance moves of 30 years ago.

“Younger faces, not born when we had last played, moved, clapped and cheered, and my son and daughter sang along (I must have played the tape I still had of a live recording too many times in the car when they were children).

“We finished the night off with the energy of All The Daughters and C’Mon Everybody. Then Pat Rice joined us on stage to belt out the chorus of ‘Go, Greased Lightning’. After the gig, Pat asked Chris ‘Why did you stop?’. Chris replied, ‘We ran out of songs’. Pat said, ‘Not tonight. Ever’.

“Tom Forman, who also always took the mic for Greased Lightning, couldn’t make it; he was double booked with a cricket team function, I didn’t know it then but I would never see him again. The Covid lockdown kicked in soon after and Tom died almost a year to the date from cancer. He will be missed.

Five Minutes in the 1980s, when they were four, before they became six, although they were never five!
From left to right: Nigel Dennis, Sean Rochester, Mark Pearson and Chris Turnbull. Matthew “Duck” Hardy and Paul Shelbourne joined later

“The joy of the Victoria Vaults gig tumbled into a need to do it again. Plans were made; we lived far apart, but we could do a couple of gigs a year, three, maybe four. Youthful excitement from 50-year-old voices.

“Unbeknown to us, the Coronavirus was taking hold, the country was about to shut down, with restrictions implemented that have failed to prevent more than 136,000 people in the UK from dying, and we haven’t stopped counting yet.

“I was fortunate. Close friends and family are all well, I had an income and something to do, my dissertation, followed by a job where I could work from home, in the back bedroom I now call my office. Many others have not been so fortunate.

“Time sitting in one place allowed some space to think. I started writing lyrics again, not commenting on the pandemic, but influenced by it, change, hope, family, love. I’ve Got Soul: a reflection of what I was truly missing, a damn good night out, music, dancing. Worthy Of Your Love: describing my love for my children.

“Five Minutes: considering that we can change, for the better, and also I wanted to write a song that had the band’s name in it. Thought It Would Be A Good Day: a recollection of an incident when I was in the police. There are others but I won’t bore you with them any further.

“I presented them via e-mail to Chris, anxious at the response. Without the confidence of youth, I was concerned they were crap, but they came back, edited, music attached, wrapped in the same influences but unmistakably Five Minutes.

Five Minutes and friends on stage at York Arts Centre in 1988

“Now we are all jabbed, given we are the ‘at risk’ generation, and there are six of us, we are rehearsing again. The tantalising promise that restrictions could be completely lifted in June sped us on to book a further gig and I was pleased to find out that the Victoria Vaults had lived and had been refurbished to boot.

“Unfortunately, many other bands eager to perform had beaten us to it. The nearest Saturday available being 23rd October. Anyway, it should give us time to rehearse and try out at least a few of the new songs from the second album. Whether they are good or not, hopefully you could be the judge of that.  

“When I think back to the time we were playing in York, the mid to late-1980s, whether it was fuelled by the post-punk era’s belief that you could just do it, get together and have a go, or, I hate to give any credit to Thatcher, but an atmosphere of entrepreneurship existed, where there was self-belief that you could accomplish anything.

“Or, was it just the arrogance of youth, unabashed, unashamed, ready to put yourself out there, you had something to say and you wanted to make yourself heard? Whatever it was, it has never really left me, I still think I can, even now as the hairline recedes and the waistline increases, we could have another chance, give it a go.”

Five Minutes “give it a go” at Victoria Vaults, Nunnery Lane, York, on October 23. Doors, 7pm; Happy Hour, 7pm to 8pm; Five Minutes, 9.15pm to 10.45pm; after-show party with Sweat Box DJs Bri G and Rocky until 1am. Free admission.

Back in action after three decades: Five Minutes having a blast at the Victoria Vaults on February 29 2020

News BULLetin…

Bull boutique: York band to set up pop-up market stall tomorrow

BULLet point: “If you find yourself in York tomorrow (15/5/2021), you may see a bit of BULL activity in and around Shambles Market as the York band will be serving up a BULL Boutique to sell all things BULL and also from their friends from Young Thugs Records. They’ll be busking around the city throughout the day.”

A case of Bull in a kinda shop.

Shed Seven to play Leeds, Sheffield and Hull on Shedcember tour but not York

SHED Seven will close their 2021 Shedcember tour with two nights at Leeds O2 Academy on December 20 and 21.

The 18-date itinerary will take in further Yorkshire shows at Sheffield O2 Academy on November 30 and Hull City Hall on December 1, but not a home-city gig for the York Britpop heroes, alas.

The Sheds’ concerts are billed as Another Night, Another Town – The Greatest Hits Live, in a nod of acknowledgement in the direction of last December’s 21-track live double album, and will start as ever in Scotland, on November 25 in Aberdeen.

“After what has been going in the world, we can’t wait to get out there and play what has become a biennial Christmas tradition in ‘Shedcember’,” says frontman Rick Witter. “You can expect the usual set, full of our hits, with a few surprises thrown in, and we can’t wait to hit the road. See you down the front.”

Chris Helme: New group project with Mark Morriss and Nigel Clark

Make sure to arrive in good time to catch the support act, very special guests MCH: a new venture for York singer-songwriter Chris Helme, once of The Seashorses, who is joined in this new acronym “supergroup” by Mark Morriss, from The Bluetones, and Nigel Clark, from Dodgy.

“For those enquiring, we’ll be playing a set consisting of new material as well as old favourites,” tweeted the trio today. “Easing you in gently, as it were. Not wishing to blow your minds too hard before the headline act do their thang.”

Tickets go on sale at 9am on April 29 at shedseven.com, gigsandtours.com and ticketmaster.co.uk.

Today is the day to Discover Effortless Living in York as Bull release debut album

Band and the banner: Bull take to the River Ouse on the album launch day for Discover Effortless Living as the artwork hangs from Millennium Bridge, York

BAND formed: 2011. Debut album released on major label: March 26 2021. No wonder York alt-rock  dandies Bull rolled out a large banner of the cover artwork for Discover Effortless Living from Millennium Bridge today.

“It feels great. I’m really excited,” says songwriter, guitarist and vocalist Tom Beer, revelling in one of the most joyful stories in the history of York’s music scene, as the first buds of spring deliver Bull’s 13-track flourish on EMI Records, in conjunction with York promoters, producers and proponents of potent pop, Young Thugs.

“We’ve been working on bringing out the album all year [since signing to EMI last July] and it’s just exciting that it’s done and ready to go.”

Ten years to reach this zenith, and you thought elephants had a long gestation period. “We didn’t know we’d ever get to this point. We’d never bet on it,” admits Tom, after Bull became the first York act since Shed Seven in October 1993 to sign to a major label.

“It definitely feels all the more significant because it’s not only a year’s work. Everything we’ve done has been incremental, learning as we go, for years.”

Are Bull the hardest working band in York, Tom? “I’m not sure we can be called that! I’ll give that to The Howl & The Hum. Not that we haven’t worked hard, but we’ve always just done what we wanted to do. When you work at something you love, it’s not work, is it?” he says. “I’ve only just started calling it ‘work’ in recent years.”

Going Green: The artwork for Bull’s first single for EMI, a song written as long ago as 2012

Bull have hit the roof, in the best way possible. “We’ve just played a gig on the EMI roof,” reveals Tom. When? “Um…I only remember dates in the future.”

Sometime in March, anyway, as Tom, guitarist Dan Lucas, drummer Tom Gabbatiss and bass player and artist Kai West followed in the London footsteps of The Beatles in their last public performance on the Apple offices rooftop at Savile Row on January 30 1969 and U2 in a not-so-secret gig atop BBC Broadcasting House on February 27 2009 to launch their 12th album, No Line On The Horizon.

The Beatles, U2, what esteemed company Bull are keeping. “We’ve actually been called The English Beatles, which we quite liked!” says Tom.

“We had a few meetings at The Golden Ball [York’s first community co-operative pub in Cromwell Road] and came up with a few whacky ideas, and originally we thought we’d just try to play on the roof without telling EMI, just doing it on the day, maybe with the help of the janitor.”

Instead, it developed into a full-blown performance, playing all 13 tracks from Discover Effortless Living. “It will be broadcast on Jericho Keys’ BBC Music Introducing show on BBC Radio York tomorrow [27/3/2021, from 8pm],” says Tom.

“As for actually releasing it, we’re pitching it to various sources, but it will be available to watch via our Facebook site on a date to be confirmed.”

“Everything we’ve done has been incremental, learning as we go, for years,” says Bull’s Tom Beer on the day their debut album arrives

Bull made their little piece of rock’n’roll history on that rooftop. “Apparently we’re the first band to play on EMI’s offices, at the Universal Music building next to King’s Cross [Four Pancras Square, to be precise],” says Tom.

“It was insane! Like, the food that day was better than anything we’d eaten in years! The roof must be 20 storeys up. Brilliant up there, but cold. It was bracing to say the least. We even had a drone photographing us that looked as big as a helicopter! We’re editing that now.”

No fewer than seven singles were released from Michael Jackson’s 1982 album, Thriller, and Bull are on his tail with Eugene this week becoming the fifth from Discover Effortless Living, in the wake of Green, Bonzo Please, Love Goo and Disco Living.

Tom’s mini-symphony of self-flagellation spans the various stages of feeling down on yourself – from lethargy and frustration to anger – using tempo changes to “paint an audio picture”. In its brief visit of only two minutes and 38 seconds, the idiosyncratic song manages to be both melancholy and spritely at the same time.

“It’s a real kick-yourself-when-you’re-down song,” says Tom. “I wrote Eugene when I was feeling dissatisfied with what I was doing. It’s kind of a self-hate song, you know when people talk about self-love? It’s not that. I’m slating myself; it moves through the key changes and different moods, and ends in a way that mocks the sadness, another form of self-deprecation!”

One of the red apples from Bull’s animated video for new single Eugene

Recalling penning Eugene, Tom says: “I felt rubbish at the time but I did feel better for writing it. The problem is singing it for ten years, still having to revisit that apathy, but hopefully it’s preventative to getting back to that state.”

Mulling over the kick-yourself-when-you’re-down subject matter: “I used to listen to a lot of Elliott Smith [the American singer-songwriter who took his own life with a knife in 2003],” says Tom. “There’s a line in High Fidelity: ‘What comes first? The music or the misery? I had a down year when I wrote Eugene…but I think the answer might be ‘music’, though…”.

Who’s Eugene, Tom? “We used to name a lot of our songs around our original drummer Louis’s friends, such as Eddie’s Cap. We like the idea of giving the song a name, as opposed to lifting it from a lyric.

“Eugene is named after Joe G, Joseph G. Louis used to call him Gorgeous G. So Eugene. My brother Paddy’s band are called Eugene Gorgeous after this guy too.”

The video is an animated gem in a collaboration with artist friends of the band that reflects the song’s different moods. Band members Dan and Kai set the ball rolling with a burst of DIY Claymation before handing over to artists Jack Iredale, Rory Welbrock, Roxy Linklater and Tom’s sister, Holly Beer, who each tackled a different animation style.

York band Bull pictured in….Scarborough. Picture: Amy D’Agorne Craghill

“With all those key changes, the song’s a bit of a rollercoaster, and we wanted to mirror that in the visuals, splitting it into animated sections, but we also thought: ‘Does it need something to tie it together?’, so we made the arbitrary decision, or maybe not, that all the animations had to feature a red apple,” says Tom. First Adam and Eve, then Snow White, now Bull!

Summing up the album as “13 songs written and rocked on between the years 2012 and 2020”, Tom elaborates on the origin of the title: “It’s taken from the opening lyric to the final track, Disco Living. We wanted to use a lyric from the album and felt like this was a good one.

” I first saw the words Discover Effortless Living in London, written on the side of a mansion being built and thought it was funny. It also ties in with ideas around class, new beginnings, a golden era of prosperity, and hoping to have life ‘in the bag’.”

What would constitute “effortless living”, Tom? “I just think it’s a contradiction in terms. That’s what was funny about it. Effortless living? I don’t think anyone would want to discover it. Effort is surely worth the effort?” he says.

“My idea of discovering how to live is to take things slowly; finding joy in the little things; having lots of different things on the go at the same time, and not worrying about any of them too much. Maybe lockdown has been a necessary change of pace. A nice change of pace. It’s the first time I’ve had a routine since school.”

Spread out: The artwork for Bull’s debut album, Discover Effortless Living

Tom finds joy in going for walks. “I love walking in suburbia; it’s my favourite thing. I’ve always loved it. You have really good conversations on walks, and I love discovering roads and parts of communities I’ve not seen before,” he says.

Now those discoveries are as much in Scarborough as elsewhere after moving from York with girlfriend Martha – band member Dan’s sister – a year and a half ago.

“Martha is a midwife and it was either Oxford or Scarborough that she would be working in. It was time we lived together; we both liked Scarborough; it’s close, so I can go to York, rehearse all day, then get back to Scarborough.”

Tom and Martha are living in Castle Road. “We’re south-facing, so out of the window we have incredible views of the South Bay,” he says.

“In fact, Castle Road is where we made the album cover, at St Mary’s Church. We knew we wanted somewhere with beautifully green grass, the greener the better. I called the church up on the phone, to ask if we could use the churchyard [where Haworth novelist Anne Bronte is buried, by the way].

Richard Hawley pictured at the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, for the album cover for Coles Corner

“I said, ‘can we have it between 10am and 5pm, if we clean up afterwards ourselves?’, and this man very kindly said ‘yes’.”

To create the cover image, Bull combined items they found on the street with “lots of flowers we picked”. “I hope they’ve grown back,” says Tom. “A bunch of people came up to ask ‘what are you  doing?’, and once we told them, they said, ‘oh, that’s nice’. Some people even sat and watched!”

And so, St Mary’s Church churchyard becomes the second Scarborough setting for a landmark album sleeve, after the Art Deco frontage of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, at the former Scarborough Odeon, graced the cover of Richard Hawley’s Coles Corner, released in September 2005.

The band portrait at the top of this interview was taken in Scarborough too by Amy D’Agorne Craghill. “There’s this amazing place on the North Bay. From the castle, you walk through the castle walls to woodland with all these orange-coloured rocks and that’s where Amy took it,” says Tom.

A further Bull image in Scarborough came about when they stumbled across 100 gnomes in a woman’s garden. Who could resist using gnomes for a picture? Not Bull. Permission was duly forthcoming.

What’s next? Bull in a china shop?

On the edge: “We didn’t know we’d ever get to this point. We’d never bet on it,” says Tom Beer of Bull’s progress to a major-label debut album

Track listing for Bull’s Discover Effortless Living: Bedroom Floor; Love Goo; Green; Shiny Bowl; Eugene; Eddie’s Cap; Serious Baby; Perfect Teeth; Find Myself A Job; Bonzo Please;
In A Jar; Smoke and Disco Living.


York band Miles And The Chain Gang to release single All Of Our Lives on March 28

Back on the Chain Gang: Miles Salter and his band have a new single out on Sunday

YORK band Miles And The Chain Gang release their third digital single, All Of Our Lives, on Sunday (28/3/2021).

The acoustic song was written in the late-1990s by Syd Egan, a friend of frontman Miles Salter, the group’s regular songwriter.

Joining Miles and band members Billy Hickling (drums) and Tim Bruce (bass) on the recording are fellow York musicians Karl Mullen, guesting on piano, and Holly Taymar-Bilton on backing vocals.

The Chain Gang’s lead guitarist, Alan Dawson, lives in Scotland, while guest accordion player Sam Pirt resides in East Yorkshire.

All Of Our Lives was recorded and mixed in January and February by Jonny Hooker at York’s Young Thugs Studios, above the South Bank Social Club in Ovington Terrace, and filmed by Dave Thorp during Lockdown 3. 

“I’ve been singing the song for 20 years,” says Miles. “Lee Heir, a friend of the band who has been helping with PR, said we should put it out, and he kept asking me to do so. In the end, I relented. I was a bit wary because it’s quieter than our first two releases, but everybody who has heard the song loves it.” 

Set in Manchester, with references to St Peter’s Square and Oxford Road, All Of Our Lives tells the story of an ambiguous relationship. “I wanted to film in Manchester, but lockdown made everything problematic, so in the end we did it in York,” says Miles.

The resulting video features shots of Miles playing guitar, Leeds-based actor Lucy Marshall and cameraman Dave Thorp in the role of Big Issue Salesman. 

Miles And The Chain Gang have picked up airplay on Jorvik Radio and YO1 Radio, as well as on several internet radio stations, and they also have been working on social media, with content spread across numerous platforms and sites, drawing 20,000 YouTube views of their second release, Drag Me To The Light. 

“Two years ago, we didn’t have anything, but now we have a presence on Spotify, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It feels like things are building,” says polymath Miles, who is also a published poet, storyteller, presenter of Jorvik Radio’s weekly arts show and former organiser of the York Literature Festival.

One frustration for Miles And The Chain Gang has been a lack of concerts. “The last time we played a gig was at the end of 2019,’ says Miles. “Anybody involved in live music has felt the disappointment over the last year. We’ll get back to gigs as soon as we can.” 

Miles and the band have been recording songs at Young Thugs, and plans are shaping up for more releases. “We’ve got some really good songs,” he promises.

All Of Our Lives will be released on Spotify, iTunes and YouTtube on March 28. A trailer for the track and the video can be viewed at: youtube.com/watch?v=cgJxCk5xxw8.

Bull invite you to Discover Effortless Living with March release of their debut album

On the charge: York band Bull announce spring release for debut album

STILL sworn to secrecy in December, York band Bull have now confirmed the long-mooted name and release date for their major label debut album, no bull.

Discover Effortless Living – a title abbreviated for last year’s single Disco Living – will be out on March 26, launched on EMI Records in conjunction with York music hive Young Thugs.

To celebrate, here comes the York alt-rockers’ fifth single, Eugene, released today on the back of Disco Living, Green, Bonzo Please and the Love Goo EP that closed out a year when Bull became the first York band to sign to a major label since Nineties’ chart regulars Shed Seven.

“I wrote the song when I was feeling dissatisfied with what I was doing,” says singer Tom Beer of his mini-symphony of self-flagellation that trips through the various stages of feeling down on yourself.

Moods of lethargy, frustration and anger are captured in the tempo changes of a song that is melancholic yet spritely simultaneously: typical tropes of Bull’s idiosyncratic song-writing.   

“It’s kind of a self-hate song. You know when people talk about self-love? It’s not that. I’m slating myself,” reveals Tom. “It moves through the key changes and different moods and ends in a way that mocks the sadness, another form of self-deprecation!”

The accompanying video is again a collaboration with artist friends of Bull that reflects the song’s ever-changing moods. Guitarist Dan Lucas and bassist Kai West kick everything off with some DIY Claymation before handing over to artists Jack Iredale, Rory Welbrock, Roxy Linklater and Holly Beer, who each tackle a different animation style.

Discover Effortless Living promises a “cornucopia of alt. rock sounds, the band having refined their song-writing style into 13 indie bangers”.

“It features songs written and rocked on between the years 2012 and 2018, with Love Goo being the newest one on there, the freshest,” Tom says. “The album title is taken from the opening lyric to the final track Disco Living. We wanted to use a lyric from the album and felt like this was a good one.

“I first saw the words in London written on the side of a mansion being built on the Millionaire Mile and thought it was hilarious.  

“I was on my way to Hampstead, got off somewhere wrong, which usually happens to me in London, and that’s when I saw the billboard – and the tune came to me immediately!

“The billboard was advertising what was going to be built behind: homes for ‘effortless living’, and that led to lyrics that tie in with ideas around class, new beginnings, a golden era of prosperity, and hoping to have life ‘in the bag’.”

Bull hope that 2021 will see them returning to the stage to promote their debut album, although December’s talk of an April tour, taking in York and Leeds, is yet to be set in stone amid the ongoing Lockdown 3. On Twitter today, however, they tantalise: “World’s largest Bull party at The Crescent as soon as.”

In the meantime, the track listing is rubber-stamped as: Bedroom Floor; Love Goo; Green; Shiny Bowl; Eugene; Eddie’s Cap; Serious Baby; Perfect Teeth; Find Myself A Job; Bonzo Please; In A Jar; Smoke and Disco Living.

Looking ahead, “we’ve written lots of new songs, progressing towards the next album,” says Tom.

Bull spread Love Goo’s message of getting on with people on eve of Snow Global show

Feeling Bullish: York band Bull see out 2020 with the Love Goo EP and a live-streamed show

YORK alt-rockers Bull close out their breakthrough year with a new EP and a live-streamed gig tomorrow night (16/12/2020).

The Love Goo EP, out now on EMI Records in conjunction with York label Young Thugs, combines the new title track with Bull’s three 2020 singles: the fuzz-rocking Disco Living, the noisy pop of Bonzo Please and the summer high of Green.

Billed as a “brilliant slice of indie maximalism”, Love Goo hooks sweet pop melodies onto a ramshackle jangle rock template, with spritely xaphoon lines (a kind of pocket saxophone), tin whistle and piano to the fore.

“It’s a song about getting along with people,” explains wry-humoured Bull songwriter and singer Tom Beer. “It looks at my relationship with my family as well as my own feelings of ‘sticky love goo’, when thinking about people in my life and from my childhood.

“It’s about the difference between people, universal truth, gender fluidity, peace and love, understanding and all of that stuff.”

Tomorrow, Bull will be performing a live-streamed gig, The Snow Global Tour, from a special winter wonderland location at 8pm. Each ticket not only guarantees access to the stream, but fans also will receive a special screen-printed T-shirt or commemorative poster designed by bassist Kai West. Tickets for this online event, hosted by Bull and Reel Recording Studio, are available at bull.veeps.com.

“We recorded it at Reel Recording Studio in Elvington on Monday (14/12/2020), in one of the industrial warehouses near the airfield, where we did up the whole studio like a Christmas grotto,” says Tom.

“We didn’t do a Christmas cover version, but I wrote a Christmas song two years ago though I didn’t know it was a Christmas song until it was! I wrote it when I was busking in York; I played these notes and thought, ‘Oh, this sounds Christmasy’, and it turned into a song about Christmas and my relationships at this time of year.

Bass player Kai West’s poster for Bull’s Snow Global Tour live-streamed gig on December 16

“I love it! I just think it’s a really nice song and for this live-streamed gig we had a brass band playing it with us: Bargestra, the Arts Barge’s community band, with Kai’s stepdad, Christian Topman, arranging it.”

Christian, York musician, teacher, workshop leader and Arts Barge co-founder, had taught Tom in his days of attending York Music Services’ Wednesday sessions, playing trombone in jazz and funk bands.  “I play it on the live-stream, not very well though,” says Tom.

“Christian had had this idea, saying, ‘Do you have any songs that we could do together this year?’, and we thought, ‘well, yeah, we’ve got this Christmas song’. Christian scored it out and they came and played it with us, socially distanced, wearing masks, though not when playing, obviously.”

What’s the title, Tom? “It’s called, well, we might call it Fairytale Of York! Though its short title is Gay Days, as the opening lines are: ‘The olden days, the olden golden gay days’. Whatever we call it, we’re thinking of chasing a number one hit next year!”

The live-streamed gig has been recorded with Ben Hammond, who has worked previously with My Chemical Romance, Florence +The Machine and Placebo. “We recorded a gig for Jorvik Radio there in July and thought, ‘wow, this place is at an impressive level we’ve not experienced before’,” recalls Tom. “So when they said, ‘do you want to do a streamed show with us?, we said ‘Yes!’.”

Russell Baldwin, the sound engineer for Bull’s gigs at the Fulford Arms, came on board too, and the result is a 50-minute show…

…”Getting on for nearer 60 minutes, with a few skits and some dancers,” says Tom. “I will say it was very strange to be playing a gig where you’re aware that people would be watching it, but they weren’t actually there.”

Explaining the Snow Global Tour title for a one-off gig, Tom says: “The idea was that we were going to make a T-shirt with only one date on the back, which we thought would be hilarious…but in the end we just printed T-shirts with lettering on the front.”

Next up from Bull at CharlesHutchPress will be an interview with Tom Beer about a band’s life in Covid-crocked 2020, the Love Goo EP, and plans for gigs and releases in 2021.

Green day for go for York rock band Bull as they sign record deal with major label EMI

Full of Bull: York band Bull after their signing by EMI

YORK band Bull are signing to record industry giants EMI, nine years after first forming.

They become the first York group to put pen to such a deal since Shed Seven rubber-stamped a six-album contract with Polydor Records in October 1993, going on to notch up 15 Top 40 hits from Dolphin in 1994 to Why Can’t I Be You? in 2003.

Songwriter and vocalist Tom Beer, co-founder and guitarist Dan Lucas, drummer Tom Gabbatiss and bass player and print-maker Kai West will be working in tandem with EMI alongside Young Thugs: the York indie label,  artist managers, recording studio and gig promoters, run by Dave Greenbrown and Jonny Hooker up the stairs at South Bank Social Club in the pioneering, underground spirit of Andy Warhol’s Factory in that other York, New York.

The first green shoots of what the EMI publicity campaign is calling “the start of a beautiful friendship” is the aptly named single Green, a crowd favourite with a history stretching back to 2012, released today.

Depending on which band member you ask, this blissful slice of jangle-pop with a pinch of psychedelia and a grating of scuzzy lead guitar is either a “melancholy rumination on decisions made and the grass always being greener”, or is all about “ripping bongs down at the basketball court when you really should be writing the next great American novel”.

“It feels surreal,” says frontman Tom Beer, breathing in the giddying fresh air of becoming a major label act. “I just didn’t really expect it, to be honest! Delighted as well…and really excited. Lucky too, as there are so many good bands out there.

“The way it worked for us was that we’d been doing a lot of gigs, touring so much, here, in the Netherlands, Germany, America, and when we released songs we had more plays because we’d played so many places.

Shed Seven: The Britpop luminaries that set the benchmark for York bands

“Young Thugs and Dave Greenbrown have been so supportive too, and then the MD [managing director] of EMI came to see us supporting Warmduscher at The Crescent.”

When? “I’m not good with dates,” says Tom. “Except in the future. I only remember them when I need to.”

Dave Greenbrown says: “We’ve been working on this for around 18 months.  The MD of EMI was looking around for groups and came across Young Thugs two years ago and we’ve been trying to figure out something ever since.

“Clearly, Bull were the ones with the songs and I said to them, ‘I think there’s a chance for you if you can work on your professionalism as you have to be good every night’, and they were up for that and did exactly that.

“I didn’t want the EMI MD to see them until it was the right time, as you have only one chance, don’t you, and Bull took it.

“They write great catchy pop songs; they’ve finished the album, and they’ve signed a one-year deal with EMI: three singles, one album, just royalties off the streams and the sales of their records.”

Bull charged on to the York music scene in 2011, led by Tom and Dan, both inspired by their 1990s’ alt. rock heroes, Pavement, Yo La Tengo and The Pixies.

The present line-up of four Yorkshiremen emerged through friendship and happenstance: drummer Tom joining after he and the other Tom jammed together in bars when backpacking around Thailand; Kai making the giant leap from persistently jumping up on stage to dance in the erratic, blissful manner of Happy Mondays’ Bez to  eventually being allowed to play bass.

“It feels surreal,” says Bull frontman Tom Beer. “Lucky too, as there are so many good bands out there.”

But 2011 to 2020, Tom, that is an unusually long gestation period for a band, isn’t it? “I would never not want to do this. I just can’t see myself not doing it. It’s how I operate. I’ve always busked…I’ve worked at the Golden Ball, where I put on open-mic nights on Mondays…and I’m good at living on chickpeas,” he says.

“I definitely feel that one of the best feeling you can have is playing music with another human being and I incorporate the crowd in that.”

Apparently, this is “the start of a beautiful friendship”, Tom? “I hope that’s true and I believe that to be true, because it’s always been based on friendships between us and promoters, travelling around and making it happen and it’s been rewarding.”

One such bond paid off, leading Bull indirectly to their Dutch record producer, Remko Schouten. “Whether it was blind faith or fate, we decided on a whim to go to Germany, just after Tom and Kai joined in 2018, and we were all feeling very serious about it, like when The Beatles played  Hamburg,” recalls Tom.

“We were playing dive bar gigs, and we went to this bar at three in the morning, where Tom was wearing my hat, and this guy came up and said, ‘Where did you get that hat?’.

“He turned out to be the drummer – and a golfing pro! – for Spiral Stairs and Remko was there on tour with them doing their sound. We put on this house party at a friend’s house in Berlin, in Schoneberg, the area where Bowie used to live, and the next thing we know, Spiral Stairs [alias Scott Kannberg of the aforementioned Pavement] was playing at our house party!

“That night Remko said, ‘if you ever want to record with me, let me know’, and we did, two months later.”

Over the next two years, Bull visited Schouten’s Amsterdam studio four or five times, recording songs over a few days each time, songs that will now form the album whose title and release date are yet to be confirmed (although Dave Greenbrown did mention January 29 2021, so watch this space).

The artwork for Green, Bull’s first single for EMI

“This was no ‘one weekend, bash it out’ recording session,” says Dave. “This was a proper job, working over a long time.”

The Coronavirus pandemic may have brought gigs to a stultifying halt, but Bull are coping with being a band in Covid-19 times in 2020, boosted by the momentum of signing a record company deal. “It feels OK for us right now because luckily we finished the album the day before we had to flee the Netherlands, returning home instead of playing with our favourite Dutch bands in Amsterdam, but we definitely made the right decision,” says York-born Tom, who now lives in Scarborough.

Green is the first fruit of that record deal. “That song is one of the oldest Bull songs, I wrote it in 2012, and it’s the only song on the upcoming album that was featured on She Looks Like Kim, our first album in 2014, which we self-released,” says Tom.

“We recorded it at the Melrose Yard Studios, the brilliant studio off Walmgate that sadly closed last year, and we launched it with a gig at Dusk, covering the cost of the recording that night.

“Green was the first song on there and the lead single back then too, and we just thought it’s a good song, it’s always been a favourite, so let’s give it a second shot at the big time.”

The accompanying video is the work of Bull too. “We’ve worked on a lot of music videos: the one for Green is the first time I’ve ever used movie software, with the help of Dan [Lucas],” says Tom. “We had a lot of footage from various things that we could use, and there’s even some footage on there from the original Green video, made by Rory Welbrock, our bassist before Kai joined.

“It also features some latex masks made by my sister, Holly, who’s been really interested in making masks for three years – and now masks are everywhere of course, aren’t they!”

Dave Greenbrown hopes Bull’s record deal will be a trigger for more York musicians to find favour with record labels. The Howl & The Hum set the bar high with Human Contact, their late-May album for our disconcerting, disconnected times, and the likes of Bonnie & The Bailers, Fat Spatula and Perspex should be on the radar too.

Fellow York band of the moment The Howl & The Hum, featuring drummer – and former big band trumpet player – Jack Williams, left

“I think it’s been really good to be a musician in York. As a child, there were amazing music services provided for you in the city,” says Tom. “I was in a big band, playing the trombone; there were loads of people doing that, like The Howl & The Hum drummer, Jack Williams. He played trumpet.

“I think that’s had a massive impact, because you can enjoy it when you’re little, and then your musicianship progresses and you start playing in bands. For me, it was places like The Woolpack Inn [in Fawcett Street], run by a guy called Sid, who had bands on every night. It made it feel like you owned it, and if you wanted to put on a gig, you could.”

Broadening his thought, Tom says: “I’d like to thank Young Thugs for their involvement; the MD of EMI got in touch with them because he was impressed with what Young Thugs bands, such as The Lungs (Theo Mason Wood and Bonnie Milnes) and …And The Hangnails, and Bonneville, were doing.

“And now, the great thing with the link-up between EMI and Young Thugs is that hopefully it’s going to benefit other York bands too.”

What makes Bull stand out, the way a bull does when frequenting a china shop? The infectious tunes, yes, but also the humour in Tom’s Yorkshire-frank lyrics. “I’m very glad you say that,” he says. “I definitely don’t want to be any one thing in my lyrics – a lot of the time I’m capturing a temporary feeling – but a lot of my favourite songwriters embrace humour…though sometimes it doesn’t want to be too funny, just for the sake of it.

“Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus, one of my favourites, likes to use humour, and Dylan, my hero, is full of it. He plays with words a lot. It’s that thing of, if you don’t cry, you’ll laugh.”

Right now, on Green day, Bull have every reason to be smiling.

To view Bull’s video for Green, go to: https://www.youtube.com/embed/Bs8dtx0bg4U

The how and the why The Howl & The Hum have made THE album for our distant times

Keeping in touch across the socially distant mental landscape of Millennial life: York band The Howl & The Hum

THE Howl & The Hum, York’s most impactful band since Shed Seven, are in tune with these alienating, disconnected, socially distant, Corona-crisis times.

“Amid all the postponements and album delays elsewhere at the moment, we are happy to announce that our unfortunately-titled album Human Contact is still coming out on May 29,” says lead singer, songwriter and now soothsayer Sam Griffiths.

“Maybe that title is going to haunt us forever…but we haven’t literally predicted genuine events that have now happened, but we wanted to make a universal record and calling an album ‘Human Contact’ is universal.”

Chosen before the nation went into lockdown, and touch was shown the red card, the album sleeve depicts a severed arm. “Human Contact is about a very modern kind of loneliness, one which doesn’t allow us to forget,” says Sam. “These days, ever more than before, we are constantly reminded of our past: of intimate moments which have escaped us, whether these be via technology, or through a lack of personal interaction.”

The artwork for The Howl & The Hum’s debut album, Human Contact

Recorded in September 2019, when Corona was still but a pale lager, Human Contact was inspired by focusing on the minutiae of relationships: “all the strange objects, conversations, teenage bitterness and silences that permeate young love and loneliness,” as Sam puts it.

Now, eight weeks into lockdown, self-isolation is all around us (if that is not a contradiction in terms). “Hopefully it goes to prove our point of the importance of human contact in a digital age,” says Sam. “If you like, you can call us soothsayers, prophets, seers, much like The Simpsons’ writers, for predicting unfortunate future events. We WILL begrudgingly carry that mantle, but really it’s just a break-up album.

“Inspired in part by personal relationships, personal loss and the onset of dementia in someone close to the band, this album is in both parts a break-up record and a love letter to memory. It celebrates, and is wary of, various kinds of human contact in everyday life, and how everything fades over time.

“All we have now is our memoriesand that is all we are made of, so this album is a necessary exploration of trying to overcome our past, only to realise that in doing so we are losing what it is to be human.”

“Someone called it ‘goth pop’, and I can see that, but I just write pop songs,” says Sam Griffiths

The shadow of Covid-19 may further darken Human Contact, but the feeling of isolation has deeper roots. “A lot of people describe Millennials as being lonely, contacting each other through the façade of the internet, where they don’t have to see you as a real person,” says the Millennial Sam, a former University of York student.

“Originally, I came up with the idea for Human Contact as a sci-fi short story. I liked late-Victorian stories in that style, but now I was writing for the 21st century, starting it as a fear-driven story, but turning it into a story about a man whose depression overwhelms him.”

Human Contact was transformed into a song, brought to fruition by Sam, his Leeds flatmate, bass player Bradley Blackwell, drummer Jack Williams and guitarist Conor Hirons. “There was a slight fear and horror-show element to it that made it into a groove-driven song, and the song title came first before we picked it for the album title,” he says.

Sam is loath to pigeonhole The Howl & The Hum: “I’m still not sure of the genre. Someone called it ‘goth pop’, and I can see that, but I just write pop songs,” he says.

“The aim is not to shoe-horn yourself into one style, and the reason I asked Conor to play guitar in the band is that he makes it sound like anything but the guitar. He’s more like a set designer, so the guys are not just decorating a set; they all end up telling the story.”

“The guys are not just decorating a set; they all end up telling the story,” says frontman Sam Griffiths of bandmates Conor Hirons, Bradley Blackwell and Jack Williams

Citing everyone from hip hop queen Lizzo to modern folk artists Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus, via  the classic lyricism of Leonard Cohen, as inspirations, Sam and co worked on the album with producer Jolyon Thomas at Big Jelly Studios in Kent.

“Our manager hooked us up with Jolyon, whose dad Ken worked with [Icelandic band] Sigur Ros, and I can definitely see that connection in how we sound,” says Sam. “Jolyon used to look after Slaves and Royal Blood, and we liked how he was able to capture how we are when we play live.”

One glaring omission from Human Contact is crowd favourite Godmanchester Chinese Bridge, the rousing anthem that always closes the band’s sets. “We feel we have sort of already released an album’s worth of material with all our EPs and singles,” says Sam.

“It was strange to release Godmanchester Chinese Bridge as our first single, as we were a country band until then, and maybe it has been superseded by Sweet Fading Silver.

“So, I’m fine with Godmanchester Chinese Bridge not being on the album, but I’m glad it’s a song that has a place in people’s hearts.”


The Howl & The Hum release Human Contact on May 29 on AWAL Records. AWAL, by the way, stands for Artists Without A Label.

Pending further Coronavirus measures from the Government, a tour is in place for September 7 to October 17, taking in two nights at Leeds Brudenell Social Club on October 6 and 7. Watch this space for news of a 2020 York gig at a later date.