Adam Lowerson is a freelance writer and contributes to getintothis.co.uk
In 1976, a new music scene was beginning to blossom in Liverpool, after an almost barren decade for mainstream pop on Merseyside (Liverpool and the areas surrounding the River Mersey).
Based around the newly opened club, Eric’s, on the world famous Mathew Street (home to the legendary Cavern Club venue), this new scene saw bands such as Big In Japan, Echo and the Bunnymen and The Teardrop Explodes bring new life to the city.
These groups weren’t interested in Merseybeat and the ever-looming shadow of The Beatles, and were determined to shake things up and break away from the stereotypes of Liverpool music.
But fast-forward 40 years, and the stereotypes persist: that Scousers are stuck in the past, that they’re all still obsessed with the Beatles, and that all the young musicians are just jangly tributes to the La’s (a band strongly associated with the Liverpool sound, most famous for their hit single There She Goes). The fact remains, as was the case in 1976, that these stereotypes couldn’t be further from the truth.
The Liverpool music scene is arguably stronger and more diverse now than it has ever been. Rather than a “scene”, it is perhaps better described as a collection of many different groups, happenings and movements, all contributing to a buzzing, vibrant culture of creativity and collaboration. It’s also incredibly cosmopolitan, bringing together Merseyside musicians and artists from the Wirral – the borough just across the River Mersey – with many creatives from around the world who have been drawn to the city’s culture. This huge melting pot of cultures and ideas is firmly reflected in the sounds and songs of the city.
If there is one generalisation you can attribute to Liverpool’s musicians and artists, it’s their ability and desire to experiment and push boundaries. There’s no question that The Beatles remain one of the most innovative and influential bands of all time, but they’re by no means the only pioneering artists to come out of Liverpool, and the current scene continues the city’s long tradition of producing exciting new sounds.
Liverpool's emerging artists
Stealing Sheep, a psychedelic pop trio signed to Heavenly Recordings (the label behind Manic Street Preachers), have made a name for themselves across the UK and beyond through their weird and wonderful take on electronic-tinged folk, while the likes of Mugstar – now considered veterans of the scene – have caught the attention of, and worked alongside, big names such as Mogwai.
Evian Christ, Forest Swords and Baltic Fleet have all made waves in the world of electronic music, each at differing ends of the spectrum. The latter has had records featured in many a high profile magazine’s “album of the year” list, while Evian Christ was invited to collaborate with Kanye West on his critically-acclaimed 2013 album Yeezus.
But the city hasn’t abandoned guitar music altogether. Hooton Tennis Club have caught the hearts of many with their jangly slacker rock and were recently invited to record their second LP with musical icon Edwyn Collins; and newcomers Trudy and the Romance and Pink Kink are the latest new buzz bands to burst onto the live scene across the country.
Singer-songwriter Låpsley, who is working alongside Adele’s former management at XL Records, seems primed to become Liverpool’s next big pop sensation following the release of her debut album Long Way Home earlier this year; while soul-pop vocal group MiC Lowry are set for success following their MOBO Award win back in 2015. So, it’s not just the independent stuff that Liverpool is doing well, but the commercial too.
In such a busy and thriving scene it can be so easy for bands without the backing of record labels and management to get lost amongst it all – it takes something truly unique to stand out from the crowd. One thing that has helped put the scene on the national map is the GIT Award, a new prize to celebrate a Merseyside Artist of the Year, launched in 2012 by local blog Getintothis. The award acts as a mirror to the scene, throwing a spotlight on the artists really pushing the boundaries in the Liverpool area. Past winners such as All We Are, Bill Ryder-Jones, Baltic Fleet and Forest Swords have all gone on to make big names for themselves across the UK.
Although the award provides a big boost to the scene, it of course relies on the continuing strength of the music coming from the city. And just like the innovators of the punk explosion that venue Eric’s gave rise to back in the late 1970s, the city’s young musicians – whether born and bred Scousers or those that have moved to the city from across the world – continue to fight off the stereotypes and look to the future.
To quote Simon Raymonde, former member of post-punk outfit the Cocteau Twins and founder of Bella Union Records: “The most consistently exciting bands right now ARE from Liverpool. That is an irrefutable fact.”
Liverpool is undoubtedly a city incredibly proud of its past. But it is this very history, heritage and inspiration – drawn from the Merseyside musical pioneers of the 1960s, 1970s and beyond – that form the foundation for the city’s scene and sound today. It’s a sound that is impossible to tie down to one genre or style, but a sound that is unmistakably Scouse.
Written by Adam Lowerson