4th July | Louisiana

I’ll level with you: as a pretty awkward kid with little to no understanding of the social hierarchy around me, high school was, at best, kind of weird and at worst, a living representation of all of my worst fears. Alas, like so many of my peers, I fell into the welcoming and theatrical world of mid-00s pop-punk and emo, a clique built entirely on the outcast, offering a grandiose world of blood-soaked escapism. In the years since, I’ve found myself coping as much as any of us do, though always longing for the nostalgic comfort of that scene. Turns out I’m not the only one. Who’d have guessed?

Hailing from the small and unsuspecting Yorkshire town of Keighley, As Sirens Fall are probably sick of comparisons to the kings of emo, My Chemical Romance, though it’s impossible not to view shades of their visceral, melodramatic stage presence in every motion the band inhabits. Vocalist Mikey Lord jolts across every inch of the stage like a lightning rod for the downtrodden and beaten, exuding the same balance of violence and love that Gerard Way mastered a decade ago.

Energetic yet welcoming, it’s clear that not only Lord but the entire outfit love this life they’ve built for themselves and will do anything in their power to ensure that their fans feel as vital to this experience as themselves. From awe-inspiring vocal gymnastics to intricate yet catastrophically weighty flourishes of percussion, every aspect of this band screams the vitality of both art and creation and what’s more invites its fans to experience the same. Just as their penultimate vocal refrain begs, ‘We’re All One’.

Headliners, Hands Off Gretel inhabit a similar space though drawing more from the depths of 90s alt-rock and grunge. There is certainly a bedrock of Pixies, Garbage and Hole in terms of composition, leading to some delightfully impressive dynamic shifts that elevate choruses to levels worthy of much larger stages. Interestingly, there hides some elements of decidedly poppy song writing in chord progressions and intonations that exhibit the band’s understanding of music fundamentals at large. This aids Gretel’s sound in blossoming into something much grander than their genre boundaries might otherwise dictate.

Loping and descending movements, equipped by the rhythm section, possess an almost hypnotising quality that allows the idiosyncratic Lauren Tate to equip heavily emotive and personal vocals that croak and creep into the room before her. It becomes increasingly obvious that this band, unlike many other outfits that attempt a similar sound, choose to innovate rather than imitate.

There’s a sarcasm in the blips of 80s flange and wah that momentarily peep from behind guitar lines. There’s a subtle, knowing wink in the early Billy Corgan rasping vocal refrains. It’s clear that this isn’t an exercise in charades and more of an operational knowledge of why their influences achieved what they did and an example of how to use those foundations to express your own, individual artistic voice.

Ultimately, in both vision and sound, here lies an example of how a scene is formed over how a band achieves singular greatness. There is no ego here, just great music and inclusivity. This is love, this is an expression and this is art.

See the video for ‘S.A.S.S.’ here: