2014 is behind us and there’s now nothing left for it but to look ahead to what 2015 holds for the local music scene. Of course we don’t proclaim to be able to predict the future but here is a list of bands/musicians we think you will become very familiar with over the next 12 months.
There’s something to be said for bands that choose names that help them stand out. So when your band name is Athletics your music is going to need to do all the talking. Based on what we have heard so far this Belfast four piece will have no issues. Their debut release Come Back Around was recorded at Manor Park Studios (Fighting With Wire, A Plastic Rose) so you already know it will sound big and bold. Defining their own sound as pop rock, you’d be immediately struck by the influence of American big timers, All Time Low and Yellowcard. For those unfamiliar with these two bands it means that this debut release is awash with mammoth choruses, riff-laden hooks and some angst related lyrics.
But wait, surely this kind of music died a death years ago? Granted pop rock/pop punk isn’t exactly clogging the charts but there has been a marked increase in bands from NI breaking into the genre, Car Chase City, Foreign Affairs & A Step Too Far to note the latest additions. Or if we look a bit further afield you could make a case for 5 Seconds of Summer being a good model for success. The Australian teenagers’ debut EP peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, selling 143,000 copies in its first week. Regardless of your feelings towards the genre as a whole, Athletics know how to write catchy songs and that means you’ll be seeing them plenty on the live circuit in 2015.
► Dinosaurs As Pets
Recently, I’ve found that a lot of Northern Irish artists have been attempting to make some sort of transition into a more alternative style of music, most likely in order to stand out in a crowd of Northern Irish homogeneity. Many have a hard time retaining their integrity in doing this, whereas Dinosaurs As Pets succeed in expressing the grunge and alternative-rock roots which has so brilliantly crafted their mellifluous self-titled debut EP. The record is laden with wonderfully unpredictable chord changes, serendipitous key shifts, and moments of perfectly utilised incoherence that suits the genre of ‘alternative’ more completely than anything I’ve heard from Northern Ireland so far. With 6 tracks of organised madness, each one so very different from the last, and I find it difficult to stop listening. It’s rare to come across a record so incomparably unique, and it only serves to leave me wanting more from the group.
In keeping with the dynamic elements from their EP, the stage presence of this two-piece took me by surprise. Frontman Karl Montgomery emanated a cool, confident semblance, very similar to that seen in Kurt Cobain, effortlessly performing the intricate guitar work to drummer Glenn Lyall’s complex and skilful drum expressions. Because of their very unique and, as a result, extremely captivating sound, this is one band who could very easily make something of themselves. I could, without a doubt, picture them rocking the stage at Reading and Leeds Festival next year.
► Robocobra Quartet
Easily the most original new act to emerge in Northern Ireland for a very long time, the broodingly brilliant Robocobra Quartet look set to be the band on everybody’s lips in 2015. Mixing a murky brass section with saltury base lines and wretched spoken word, Robcobra posses a punk infused live show which became a must see event by the end of the year.
Still a relatively fresh proposition to the Belfast scene the foursome have made some significant waves in their short time as band. Taking home the prize in a lengthy battle of the bands competition, storming the Barn Stage at Sunflowerfest and packing out McHughs during Output in October.
Spearheaded by the much-travelled Chris Ryan on drums and vocals, this one-time university project has the potential to capture attentions far beyond these isles. NI’s most blissfully unique band, you’ll be hearing a lot about Robocobra Quartet in the next twelve months.
2014 has already been a banner year for local rockers Maverick, beginning with the band basking in the news that they had signed to the mighty Massacre Records. They then underwent a lineup change as founding member Chris Engelson departed, replaced by The Unprotected’s guitarist Ric Cardwell. Snippets of their debut album Quid Pro Quo began surfacing on their Facebook page, delighting their fans. Support slots for the likes of Jizzy Pearl’s Love/Hate and Y&T kept their live shows fresh and energetic during the recording process. They released their first video in August for QPQ’s lead single ‘Paint By Numbers’, followed by ‘In Our Blood’ in December (with views up to nearly 12,000 and 3,000 respectively to date).
Their album launch on November 27 playing QPQ in full to an ecstatic crowd in The Empire went off like the proverbial, with the band playing QPQ in full to an ecstatic crowd. Then the richly deserved glowing reviews began to pour in for the album. This brings us neatly to the end of 2014/start of 2015, with Maverick attracting serious attention on the rock scene – and not just locally. Rock legend Kane Roberts (Alice Cooper’s former guitarist) has been championing the band on social media – not to mention sending one of his ACTUAL GUITARS to axeman Ryan Sebastian Balfour. Now THAT’S an endorsement! There is no question that these guys are a talented, passionate and ambitious lot who could conceivably go all the way. Maverick are on the verge of something big as 2015 nears – the sky’s the limit.
► Rab Wishart
Born and bred in East Belfast, Rab Wishart is an undiscovered gem. With a stunning soulful tone and armed only with his guitar, Rab is one to watch in 2015 after supporting the likes of Katie Richardson, The HardChargers and securing a set during the fantastic BelNash Festival last year.
Rab is unique. Not your typical 30-something singer. His lyrics are story telling with acoustic beauty throughout. His deep tones leaves with a moved, a haunted feeling that you want to experience again and again. His heart and soul is music, having also been featured on the ‘Velvet Revoulution’ album late last year and a new residency at the Park Avenue Hotel, Belfast on Firday evenings.
‘She’s Got A Smile’ is an acoustic-growl piece of heaven. An addictive uplifting lovesong with a toe tapping bridge that makes you smile. ‘Long Way Down’ is beautifully dark and ‘Fallen From Grace’ is one of those tracks that you can’t quite grasp why it isn’t on the radio – perfection. It isn’t too often a musician makes you sit and listen, but Rab has this skill without even trying. He is a ‘stop-what-you-are-doing-who-is-this’ performer that once you hear you will listen to repeatedly.