Looking at Nottingham’s DIY scene with Little Bribes and Merrick’s Tusk

On Friday 8th April in Nottingham, two EPs from local bands were released in harmony to a full house at The Chameleon Cafe. Little Bribes performed their debut EP Obstacles and Merrick’s Tusk their sophomore Regroup and Reform. It night was a proud moment for Midlands DIY.

Getting the party started as people continued arriving and helping themselves to brownies, Set Your Own Bones played their second ever show while Dino Riders projected behind them. I haven’t got a clue where their first gig was but I’d like to know where and when the next ones are to catch more melodic punk.

Next up PATRONS from Devon came on and dropped jaws. Reminding us all that there are scenes thriving around the country right now. Not content with just making thunderous noise, PATRONS create a whole host of elements and delivered a set of melodic post-hardcore that shook Dino Riders. They’ll not get labelled emo like the rest of the line up but these boys have got their whole hearts in what they play and they play it damn well. Word is they’re putting an album together. . .

Little Bribes have been together for little more than a year and to have written a debut like Obstacles and perform it as unanimously as they did is something in itself. Revelling in their time on stage they set themselves apart with black and white silent movies instead of the afore mentioned cartoons and the party started for real as the venue finally packed out. The choppy riffs and stomping rhythms on “Between Blood”, “Deadname” and ‘Raggy Dolls’ display a passionate fury while “Cartography” and “Living Room” show off their emo side and the Death Cab For Cutie influence becomes clear before the punk storm sets in again.

The anger on this record is directed in the right direction as George Gadd’s heartfelt vocals deliver poignant lyrics tackling subjects of family disjunction, gender equality and the difficulty of addressing someone who may be in need of help. I had a chat with George and asked what subjects made him feel strongly enough to write a song, “I think there was a point when I realised I was just writing about relationships and getting drunk. After a while you’re kind’ve scraping the barrel and it got stale. “Deadname” and “Cartography” in particular were the ones where I felt compelled to say something. I was quite careful with both of those as I didn’t want to disclose too much and make the people feel uncomfortable, I’d say I spent the most time writing lyrics for those two. I sent the lyrics to those involved before I even considered bringing it to the guys.”

Continuing on the title he explained “the EP is called Obstacles because it’s about me and my friends overcoming different obstacles in our lives whether it be depression, anxiety or discomfort. It was the last thing that was decided and it just summarised the EP.” These five songs are at once visceral, tender, emotional and angular and the desire to create something fresh and personal is evident throughout Obstacles. Having previously covered Bon Iver it’s hard to say where they don’t draw influence from (Hot Water Music? Title Fight? American Football?) but their own style and sound is constant from start to finish and the DIY scene should brace itself this year as they‘ll be “getting the EP out to as many people as humanly possible.”

Headlining and the celebrating the release of their second EP Merrick’s Tusk, now complete with a second guitarist, treated the packed house to a complete set of their profoundly sincere melodic rock. Big hooks, generous melodies, gang vocals, the 6 meticulously crafted songs on Regroup and Reform are brimming with emotion. Unashamed fans of the emo rock Jimmy Eat World popularised but with the understanding of math and post rock they’ve developed a sound of their own. As turbulent and emphatic as this record is, it’s the ability to build into and ease out of the massive moments with intricate melodies and layers that really set Merrick’s Tusk apart.

New single “25” opens the EP with a rhythm that swirls and crashes while the melodies grow and gang vocals come together to set a pace for the rest of the record. “Votary” shows off some harmonious licks and offers some tranquility before “Solitude” returns to the swell. “Old Ground” is a growing beast of a song, breaking down to the lines of “looking back won’t break us, looking forward to meet our makers.” Previous single “Kepler” punches and soothes in equal measure before a stand out closing track in “The Hopeful”. With the addition of violin and extra vocals from friends in Blind Wives, Bear Makes Ninja and Some Skeletons it finishes the EP on a high. This is emo as true as I believe it should be, passionate, strong and as fully optimistic as the closing lines sing out “we’re all carrying hope for the hopeful.” These boys may be sentimental but they’re certainly not stuck in the past.

Speaking to front man John Jeacock on how the post/math rock influence he said “math and post rock has had a huge influence on Regroup and Reform. We love playing around with time signatures and spacious sounds, the track “Old Ground” is probably our best example of this.” With his favourite Jimmy Eat World song being “”Goodbye Sky Harbour,” without a doubt, keeps me hooked through the whole 16 minutes!” how does he feel about playing shows with bands who weren’t alive when Clarity came out? “It makes us feel quite old! But generally we play with a good mix of age ranges and is always great to see great new young talent like The Winter Passing, Jaded, Forrest and Little Bribes all honing in on their craft.” By the time this review gets released they’ll have just finished playing a small UK tour but, if you missed them, fear not because they’re planning to stay “stupidly busy” and “plan on continuing to play as many shows as possible, write an album and tour Europe later this year.”

Photo by James Birtwhistle
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Jacob Rumsey

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