Made like this
Whilst the romanticism of rushing to your local record store to hear your favourite artist’s new single may be long gone, there’s a new-age cult-like crowd of online listeners that have long since displaced those flicking through their parents’ wireless radio for music to consume. Whilst this has made for a lesser intensity of fan bases, it has ensured musicians on a budget can reach out to those willing to listen, simply by posting tracks online.
An artist who has managed a natural growth amongst this and the inexorable waves of readily available digital music, is Manchester’s Gorgeous Bully. Stemming from the coterie of serendipitous discoverers of his blend of charismatic lo-fi from gigs around Manchester, there’s now a bevy of committed online fans that pick up on any of his new releases – sharing on social networks, posting on blogs and generally racking up the play count.
It is a reassuring feeling knowing that music with the charm and head-nodding quality as that of Gorgeous Bully’s can seep through the musically polluted web – without the need of a label or costly promotional assistance. Throw in a few self-released cassettes and a 7” vinyl and Gorgeous Bully is fast becoming the full package.
His latest full-length release, October’s Smiling, Laughing, is one of the year’s true underground musical gems. It’s an album that collates artefacts from Gorgeous Bully’s formative and honorary Mancunian years since his relocation to the Northern city from Plymouth. From the hypnotic melancholy of fuzzy opener Misery Loves Company, to the more upbeat, swirls of tracks such as Kidding.
All in all it’s a captivating listen; rare in it’s quality of summoning a real juxtaposition of emotions. To put into words is to use terms unashamedly oxymoronic. There’s a hauntingly feel-good factor in what has been laid down, recorded and produced by Gorgeous Bully himself. It’s uncomfortably appealing; chiming guitar and vocal melody peaking over the fuzz of the low production methods it is encased in.
Happening upon Gorgeous Bully’s music conjures one of contemporary music’s much-posed questions. Is his relative anonymity a result of the general high standards of music being put out by those on the lower end of the music spectrum? Or is it worryingly indicative of the music industry missing a trick; busy wrapped up in artists likely to make multiple Album of the Year lists. The answer is probably a mixture of both – but what’s truly important is that the majority of Gorgeous Bully’s catalogue is right at your fingertips, available to both listen and buy. We suggest you do it.
Matthew Liam Fogg: What prompted your initial decision to relocate to Manchester?
Gorgeous Bully: I was really struggling to find a band in Plymouth and a friend in Manchester said he would play the drums. So, I kind of just packed up and moved and found the rest of the band when I got here. I had been spending time up here off and on so I knew the city quite well and liked it. It’s weird to think I’ve ended up here, because I honestly never imagined living here. But I like it.
MLF: Is the music scene in Manchester alive and well?
GB: I’m not sure ‘scene’ is the right word, but there are a lot of good bands in Manchester at the moment. The DIY scene in the UK as a whole is booming and I think it’s pretty good everywhere for bands right now. As for Manchester’s identity, who knows? Maybe it’s undergoing a facelift?
MLF: Does the fact that so many people can pick up a guitar and adopt the DIY tag ever dissuade you from pursuing music? It’s a convoluted field, what keeps you going?
GB: I just keep going because I have a desire to make something. There is little real satisfaction in the world today, apart from creating. It’s not about money or headlining Wembley, or whatever. It’s just about making things on your own or with friends and sharing it with people and connecting. It sounds kind of dumb and ‘hippy-ish’, I know, but it’s true and the fact that now anyone can make music and release a record if they choose to is a complete joy. It’s the beginning of the playing field starting to level out. Even if you’re too poor to go to a studio, or too shy to get the courage to play your songs in front of anyone, you can just do it in your bedroom on your laptop.
MLF: Your recent album Smiling, Laughing was self-released and only online, but still garnered a great reception. How does it feel to have people react so positively to your music, despite perhaps not having the resources to advertise or push it out there to as many people as you might like?
GB: It’s nice. I suppose I’m lucky to have quite a tight knit community of different bands, blogs and fans who all share it and are mega supportive. It wouldn’t really happen with out them but, honestly, pushing on a massive scale I don’t really think is worth it. I guess it works for other bands, but I don’t think we really have that sort of appeal, nor the money, to back us. I don’t know how great the returns are anyway and everyone is always bitching they don’t earn enough money from record sales and downloads any more, so maybe labels need to spend less money on PR and pay their artists more? People will always find and share music they love and post about it independently. I don’t know, I have no knowledge of the music industry or whatever so don’t take what I say seriously.
MLF: Listening to Smiling, Laughing, compared to older releases, I picked up a deeper, more melancholy feel to some of the tracks – especially Misery Loves Company, Hope You’re Alright and Rabid Love. Did anything in particular bring about the change in style and atmosphere in those tracks?
GB: I don’t know, circumstance I suppose. It’s honestly quite hard to comment. I know its something I used to do a lot more on a few of our earlier EPs that are no longer on Bandcamp, but I suppose with Smiling, Laughing it was meant to be all kinds of fragments of Gorgeous Bully, so it was only natural that they were included.
MLF: Looking through the material that is still on Bandcamp, there’s quite a lot of output considering it only spans around two years. Do you really try and be as productive as possible, or does the music come naturally?
GB: I’ve never felt we were particularly productive, but I think it’s just doing things at home when you can and want to do them, as you’re kind of free to do it as you please. We don’t have any constraints in the way of labels or management telling us to not put things out, or to wait. Basically we are doing it all wrong.
MLF: Do you record and produce everything yourself? How does this coincide with the writing of your songs?
GB: I have recorded and produced the majority of the stuff myself and I worked with Ben Woods (The Golden Dregs) on our last EP for Art is Hard (Nobody Hates You as Much as You Hate Yourself). I have literally no recording knowledge whatsoever, I just pretty much started doing it as a teenager and carried on. It’s a constant learning curve and I like that. I enjoy the freedom and being able to just experiment on my own. As for writing, it can happen a lot of different ways. A lot of the time I just end up writing the ‘old fashioned’ way, with a guitar and pen and paper. Or, sometimes I create a track from messing around with beats and different sounds on my computer.
MLF: How tough is it being a self-sufficient musician today? I’ve seen you plug some of your available music on social media, mentioning you to need to eat…
GB: I am no way self-sufficient and I’ve been in between jobs for a little while, so I am constantly feeling the pinch with different bills and debts. I suppose it’s not so much it’s tough being a self-sufficient musician today, where as it’s just pretty tough, generally, for everyone. I am very fortunate to have people support the band by buying our downloads, cassettes and records, and I’m always completely overwhelmed by the support. It might not be enough to buy a gold Cadillac, but who really cares that the age of the 1970s rock star in leopard print and snake skin boots, earning loads of money, riding limos and sniffing coke, is gone? I could probably be being really short sighted, but we let people pay what they want and get a fair amount.
MLF: On a recent social media post you enquired if anyone in Manchester wanted to start a band. Are you looking to explore other avenues? What is to become of Gorgeous Bully if so?
GB: Who knows? Maybe? It would be nice to do other things. I’d like to maybe do something without singing and, as for Gorgeous Bully; I think it will always be something I do. But, then again, maybe not.
Smiling, Laughing by Gorgeous Bully is out now, available from his Bandcamp. Follow Gorgeous Bully on SoundCloud, Facebook and Twitter and catch him play on the 7th December at Kraak Gallery, Manchester 11 Stevenson Square, Manchester M1 1DB