Yorkshire's a real hotbed for great bands at the moment. You've got all that noise coming from Leeds' Hookworms, Black Moth, and Eagulls, as well as some of the best indie bands in the country; Menace Beach, and alt-J. It's the latter who have maybe had the largest influence on bands coming up, with their unique, angular electronic indie records being some of the most interesting releases of the past few years; they're even heading the bill at Best Kept Secret Fest, which is incredible in itself.
One of the bands that alt-J's 'new folk' has influenced in a big way are York's very own Luxo Jr. With a very similar sound to alt-J, Luxo Jr are a 4-piece that make electronic indie music - it could very well be the sound of 2015 because they're rising and rising, and their music is both fresh and passionate - just give their new song Growing Pains a listen to get a load of what we're on about.
I thrust a load of questions on the band, and here's what happened:
How did the band meet?
Lawrence: (singer) Well, we're students, so we all met at the annual Countdown Convention.
Nick: (drummer) It was quite a mixed bag of circumstances, Tom and Laurence met through the university music department, which is predominantly made up of jazz and classical musicians, so the two of them finding each other and founding Luxo when nobody else was doing anything like that shows the drive for originality. Me and Tom met when he put an ad out over email looking for a drummer for an industrial rock band, quite a departure from Luxo, and again shows our diversity, which I think contributes to what makes this band so special. The final member Mike was recruited because I played with him in a Jazz function band at the time, he initially signed on to fill in for one gig but once he heard the music and we offered him the permanent position he couldn't say no.
And who are the main influences to Luxo Jr? Who do the band listen to collectively?
Tom: (guitarist) I am mostly influenced by visual art when it comes to songwriting; however my main influences musically would have to be anything that Trent Reznor, Steven Wilson or Ihsahn have touched for sure, as well as anything too heavy for its own good - I'm the band metal guy. Collectively I feel that we all look up to alt-J and Everything Everything as songwriters, musicians and producers in particular.
Lawrence: I guess as a songwriter, alt-J are probably the band I aspired towards most when starting out on this. I like to try and get a bit of raw emotion into music as well, which probably stems from listening to Dry The River on repeat. For example, our song Another Working Day has lyrics that hint toward slavery, or the listlessness that comes with repetition. There are really far too many artists to mention when it comes to influence, but in terms of sound, I'd agree we do owe some thanks to Everything Everything. I don't think it's physically possible for them to write a boring track.
2014 was a pretty great year for music; what were your albums and tracks of the year?
Tom: My favourite album so far is probably You're Dead! by Flying Lotus, it's an odyssey of electronic jazz and exquisite hyper detailed production.
Lawrence: I hate being predictable, but alt-J's This Is All Yours is just stunning. Everything they did followed the same formula but tweaked it just a little. That's the perfect way to approach a new album. I do really like Adult Jazz though, their debut album jumps all over the place. There's so much going on, and it just somehow fits.
Nick: Conor Oberst's (of Bright Eyes) most recent solo album Upside Down Mountain has to be it for me. I've always admired his song writing but the breadth on this album is incredible, the 3rd and 4th tracks, Hundreds of Ways and Artifact #1 show the full leap from soaring optimism to mourning regret in the space of about 6 minutes. There's also some brilliant brass and piano arrangements, and I think Governor's Ball is a great display of this.
Is there much of a music scene in York? What York bands do we need to take note of?
Nick: York's music scene is an odd one, there's a fairly good basis for university bands to start out on, the variety of campus bars and the presence of the music department, along with a college and band society based music networking system means there's a lot of music around, if you want to get a few guys together, have a jam and maybe play the odd gig in a pub it's perfect. There's also quite a strong DIY Indie/Punk scene forming, Me and Mike are currently involved in another project Sherbet Flies, who've done very well in breaking into this. Bands like Worm, Bull, Fat Spatula and The Franceens are on this scene and worth checking out, this then links well with the nearby DIY scene in Leeds which is thriving. The issue for us is that the university scene is quite a bubble contained in the music department and the band society, breaking out into the general scene in York can be quite difficult, we've got a few promising potential bookings for next year in York and Leeds so we're optimistic that we can break out of the label of being a 'University Band' and really start making some waves.
Lawrence: There's a really interesting group called Portmanteau, who make electronic post-rock music, they always sound intriguing. I think there's not really a defined "scene", but if you look properly, there's a large amount of music going on in York.
And finally, what does the future hold for Luxo Jr?
Nick: We've got the basis for an EP mostly written, we'll hopefully record this soon and get it released by March 2015 as a very rough estimate. What's exciting is that the 1st 2 demos were very much just written and recorded by Tom and Laurence, and each written separately. The material for the new EP has been written more collaboratively, also it's going to be recorded by the whole band and co-produced by me and Tom, we've also developed a great dynamic and a brilliant energy together, so if we can capture all that on the EP, it's going to be a very strong release. 2014 was a great founding year for us, but you haven't seen anything yet.
Lawrence: We've got one more song finished, and ready to record. We're just about to have a collective songwriting session today, we're looking to have about 4 more songs done. That could very well happen, although what could also very easily happen is that we become even more familiar with our own procrastination techniques. Whatever happens, the songs will be different. Not too different, but we're excited. We're writing collaboratively now, so who knows what will come up!
Luxo Jr are one of our top tips for 2015 - find them here on Twitter.
Words: Calum Cashin