MONEY | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Manchester: So Much to Answer For

Jul 23, 2014 MONEY Photography by Paul Bridgewater Bookmark and Share

Most bands retain the stamp of their home towns and cities, but Brits MONEY came together as usurpers in their adopted Manchester, the uniquely creative environment that gave us The Smiths, Joy Division, and Factory Records. Decamping to the north of England in his late teens, London-born vocalist and frontman Jamie Lee credits the city with indelibly shaping the sound and identity of the Bella Union-signed band. “We came to Manchester as naive people in every sense,” Lee explains. “And it forced us to learn…. We owe everything to that place.”

Hooking up with drummer Will Byron, guitarist Charlie Cocksedge, and bassist Scott Beaman at the end of the last decade, the mischievously charismatic Lee gave the band some early notoriety by posing naked with a firearm for the cover of “Who’s Going to Love You Now,” their debut 7”. Yet it was their reputation for fiercely unpredictable live shows and an epically evocative take on romantic indie pop that caught the attention of former Cocteau Twin Simon Raymonde. The Bella Union head signed the band at the end of 2012 and put out acclaimed LP The Shadow of Heaven the following summer. Now seeing a stateside release, it’s one of the most ambitious debuts of recent times, intelligently tackling grandiose themes against an elevated and melancholic soundscape without straying toward pretension or conceit.

“I wanted to create a super-reality out of Manchester symbolic of something greater,” Lee asserts. “I think I saw a more mystical perspective because I was afforded the privilege of being an alien. Manchester seems to exist out of the speed of time: its time is timeless. It doesn’t really matter what you do.”

Lee’s fundamentally a man in search of the universality in songwritinga lyrically relatable parlance that has the power to change perspectives both personal and musical.

“I wanted to imbue Manchester and a Britain without religion with a Biblical proportion…to say something about the situation we find ourselves in where we’re godless, or we have a warped spirituality at least. It’s about us having lost our afterlife through our loss of religion. Not really confronting death in any kind of social manner.

“At the same time, the way we look at history in the West, and the way we look at technology and science, it’s implied we’re always becoming better and better and better. The suggestion is that in some way we’ll never die, but at the same time we’re being told that when we die it’s going to be total.”

It’s a concept he calls “temporal immortality,” and in person Lee’s conviction for the band’s proletariat poetic is absolute and without question. Catch them live and you’ll witness an elevated approach to performance, sometimes in unorthodox settings such as ex-war bunkers. The band’s expansive sound is all-encompassing, but finds balance in Lee’s solo moments: shows often begin with an a cappella delivered from within the audience. It’s a trait that’s found them a devoted and eclectic following. “If the songs mean something to them, then you’ve done your job,” says Lee, “which is to communicate with real people with real feelings.”

[Note: This article first appeared in Under the Radar’s June/July print issue (Issue 50).]


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