“There’s a funny video on Youtube and all you can hear is crowd noise and us in the background being not very well rehearsed” drummer Harris McMillan chuckles reflecting on Blaenavon’s last appearance at Live at Leeds. “I think that one was pretty alright actually” reassures frontman Ben Gregory.
Two years ago Ben and Harris were still finishing their A-levels alongside bassist Frank Wright when they played a crammed set at Nation of Shopkeepers. Today they play at Oporto Bar, a similarly sweaty venue which feels as if the walls could engulf you the crowd any moment. “I was far too stupid to have any idea what we were doing really. I kept being like ‘fuck off Harris I’m going to uni mate'” says Ben.
The band, who recently released the first track titled ‘I Will Be The World’ from their forthcoming debut album, may now perhaps be taking things a little more seriously after receiving overwhelming praise towards the songs. “I never really know what to expect when we put something out, be it a photo or a song, but I’m very thrilled about this” utters Ben.
The track, which is a clattering whirlwind of ricocheting guitars and fractured vocals, is far removed from the sweet and sour indie pop which saturates the majority of the Live At Leeds’ bill this year. “We don’t really listen to that stuff anymore so it’s kind of weird when people go onto our Soundcloud and listen to ‘Into The Night'” says Ben awkwardly as if to now detach himself from anything pre-2016.
‘Into The Night’ featured on the band’s first EP and carries all the charm of an early Bombay Bicycle Club demo, who were once upon a time admired by the Hampshire trio when they played a cover of ‘Always Like This’ for a school talent show, later on ditching it for Muse’s ‘Knight’s of Cydonia’. “We played about two thirds of it and me and Frank were like two bars out of sync and they (the teachers) went ‘ooo right, wow, an epic performance lads'” Ben laughs.
That talent show was the initial formation of the band and whilst they try to mature their sound they can’t help but joke about their live shows: “Sounding good is about four percent of the actual show and just doing loads of hip thrusts and saying funny bullshit is the other ninety-six so that’s way more important. Like tonight we’re probably gonna play fucking shit but if I do a big jump and someone sees it then it will go down very well” Ben says.
“Actually tonight’s like a greatest hits set” he continues and whilst he’s right about the hits spanning the past three years of the band’s career, there’s room for one or two new ones, notably ‘Orthodox Man’ which beholds an unshakable groove and leaves a newfound fanbase awaiting the debut album. True to their word, there’s room for a few laughs as Ben tells bassist Frank to “break it down” during a skit in ‘Into The Night’.
It’s a set which is swelling with confidence and one which will continue to grow but sadly ‘Knights of Cydonia’ doesn’t make the cut. Maybe next time, eh.
Photos by Ethan Weatherby