Sunday, 14 July 2013

#135: Catching Up With...The Ninth Watch (U&I Magazine - July issue)

It seems every city in England has it's own flag ship band that not only perpetuates what it is that their city is about, but assimilates their city's musical heritage and makes it their own. Coventry have The Enemy, Leicester Kasabian, and Manchester? Manchester had The Courteeners, but let's face it, while their music was quintessentially Manchester, the pomp they put out now is more Broadway than Mancunian Way, inevitably leaving a space that a multitude of bands have clamoured for. The fact of the matter is, only one band could fill the pointy-toed and stacked-heel boots left behind by Liam Fray et all. Enter, The Ninth Watch.

Formed in 2011, the band have harnessed and tamed whatever musical energy it is that runs through the city, soothing it's erratic and rambunctious nature until they could bend and manipulate it to a styling of their own accord. Not a band to be ensnared by the confines of genre, Vocalist Stephen Ahern and his cohort of Manc every-men can go from swooning and melodic to raw and guttural with seemingly no effort what so ever, suggesting a maturity and a sense of longevity from a band who will hopefully fill their new-found position for a long while to come.

This maturity is best exhibited in songs such as 'The Optimist' a swooning and self-explanatory track that's destined for bigger audiences and bigger stages than those of Manchester's back-street dives. Ahern's vocals glide effortlessly over melodic instrumentation in a manner evocative of Coldplay, securing the track as a favourite for radio-play. Conversely, 'Concrete Boots' brings proceedings crashing back to reality and is indicative of Patron Saint of Manchester, one Ian Brown.

While both the aforementioned easily assert The Ninth Watch as a young band of Manchester upstarts worth getting excited about, it's tracks like single 'Forever is A Long Time' that affords them their claim to their spot in the city's legacy. Starting with an understated drum and bass combo the track soon sees itself becoming a fully realised and incredibly well-structured song, complete with string-section, that will no doubt once again appeal to fans of The Stone Roses or The Verve.

It's clear that Manchester is a city with a wealth of musical talent just waiting to be plucked from anonymity and guided rather than thrust in to the metaphorical arms of indie stardom. The Ninth Watch are one such band. Time and time again they prove they're not just one trick ponies. They wear their influences proudly: Elbow, The Stone Roses, Doves, they're all there, though always underpinning, never overbearing, allowing The Ninth Watch to reap the benefits of their sound but never once coming off as contrived, or carbon copies. 

Expect big things from this band. 

Expect them soon.

Hi guys, to kick things off, I was lucky enough to feature you on my personal blog several months back with both a single review (Forever is A Long Time) and an 'EP review' of sorts. What's been happening over at The Ninth Watch camp since then?

Well we’re been cherry picking gigs lately so we can concentrate more on writing and recording some new tunes which we hope to have boxed off by the end of summer. We supported ‘All the Young’ on their UK tour when they played at Indiependence in Wigan, we also played at Mattfest and last weekend we was main support at Cadence festival which was top.

Given that this particular column is about the Manchester scene, what do you think it is about the city that makes it the hotbed for young talent that it is?

I think it’s the number of icons with Mancunian roots, whether its fashion, music, football or industry Manchester’s got it and every iconographically aware person knows it. It always seems like the rest of the country is trying to catch us up.

You must have played with a number of local bands since you started gigging, any that you'd particularly like to mention or recommend?

Yeah we’ve had some cracking gigs with another local band called ‘Stolen Haven’, we got on with them dead well and we’re into their music too.

Your Facebook page is littered with pictures and status' that suggest you're a band that don't take yourselves too seriously. Do you think it's important to establish a balance between the serious and the light-hearted when playing in a band, it can't all be groupies and Jager shots right?

Well we take our music very seriously, but there’s nothing worse than a bunch of ‘johnny-come-latelys’ with their heads stuck firmly up their own arses going on social media everyday begging people to like their band or buy their demo or come to gigs. If your music’s good enough people will be into it and into your band. We see our gigs as a good night out with mates and fans we’ve acquired along the way.

Manchester's a city that's full of venues, from the tiny-capacity dives of the Northern Quarter to the hugely corporate M.E.N Arena, which is the best to play at from a band's perspective and why?

We think that Manchester Academy is the best venue, the main room. Its still got that intimacy you need to create an atmosphere but at the same time its got a big capacity. We’re lucky enough to have played at the Academy, not many bands can say that.

Last month you played Mattfest which resulted in a friend/fan breaking a rib. How did that come about?

We usually finish our set with ‘Concrete Boots’ as it tends to really get the crowd going. A few people tried crowd surfing towards the end and I guess he didn’t quite get the support he needed. The next thing we knew he was on the stage with a cracked rib. We’ve actually gotten to know this guy quite well over the last year he comes to all our gigs so fair play to him. You think he would have known better though ‘cos he broke a collar bone doing something similar not long ago.

You must have had your fair share of free beer at the gigs you've played, what would be in your ideal rider?

For me it would be a comedian to kill that time between sound check and gig. Someone like that Welsh guy, what’s he called, Rhod Gilbert? Oh, and Ian wants a Dodo egg!

You're involved with The Online Festival with a healthy amount of other local talent. Do you want to elaborate on just exactly what that's about?

Yeah it’s a great collaboration of unsigned bands from around the UK. We headlined their first ever Manchester gig at Dry Bar and it went down a storm. We’d definitely be up for working with them again. Its got a large social media presence and is great for linking up bands from around the country.

There's a kind of guttural romance to Manchester that lends itself so well to the bands that it produces but what do you think it is about the city that has such an established cultural appeal?

Manchester seems to have been leading the way for years now, like I said before whether it’s football, industry, music fashion Manchester’s got it, and when you tell people that your in a band and from Manchester they expect things from you. The bench marks set pretty high and you want to live up to it without being a cliché. I think people from Manchester generally have a sense of pride and confidence that others simply don’t have.

Finally, any forthcoming live dates, EP/single releases or other news you'd like to let us know about?

We’re still finishing off some tunes at the moment, but we are playing at the One day/One love festival in Castlefield, Manchester on 27th July. The details are on our facebook page. We’re also up for playing at any of the decent venues Manchester has to offer, so promotors are welcome to get in touch with us.