Mersey Rising

Zero border, England’s California: Bill Ryder-Jones reflects on a booming Liverpool music scene and the bands at its helm
By Bill Ryder-Jones | Music | 9 March 2015

By The Sea shot by Amy Gwatkin for HERO 12: Darkness Falls

Top image: By The Sea, photography Amy Gwatkin

Taken from HERO 12: Darkness Falls

Bill Ryder Jones is a singer, songwriter, musician – an exceptionally good guitarist – and producer from the Wirral who began his career as a sixth of The Coral. Profiled in HERO 11, here Ryder-Jones gives us the inside track on a vibrant Liverpool new music scene, rich as it is in camaraderie, collaboration and artists forging their own identities. Coastal as you like, welcome to England’s California.

“I think music here is as good as I’ve ever known it to be,” says Bill Ryder Jones. “Things seem to be really positive at the moment. The arts in Liverpool and its suburbs have always been interesting and hugely important to the identity of the place. It felt for a long time that Liverpool was seen as quite an ugly, hard city but we knew all along just how bohemian and progressive it really is.”

What really is exciting about music in Liverpool is that we actually have more than two good bands for once, in fact we arguably have four or five great bands. Stealing Sheep and Bird have been at the fore in my opinion for the last couple of years, By The Sea are for me a band that will at some point have a huge impact on music and on a grand scale, whether that’s soon or in years to come I don’t know. Actually I think out of every musician or writer I know, Liam Power means it the most, his music to me is as honest and truthful as anything I’ve ever heard and he doesn’t quite get how talented he is.

Recently bands like The Sundowners, Tea Street Band and All We Are have been blowing the rest of us out of the water with their live shows and groups we didn’t even know were there have been popping up fully formed – I’m thinking of the brilliant Forest Swords, Hooton Tennis Club, We Are Catchers and Tear Talk in particular.

I remember when we were playing around town in the early 2000s there were loads of poser bands, y’know? The bands who went on to become investment bankers or estate agents when it didn’t happen for them. This thing feels different. You can see the obsession in the faces of Adele from Bird and Jacko Catchers. There’s lots of little worlds all happening along side one another. The Baltic Triangle, a redeveloped creative area, has opened up. Most of us have played shows with each other, plus you get to know one and another through seeing bands and drinking in the same places.

In terms of producing, I’ve been involved with By The Sea for a while, who have started their own label War Room and are putting out their own album, Tear Talk and MiNNETONKA. Liam and myself have been working with MiNNETONKA. By The Sea have the kind of dynamic that I’d have loved to have had when I was younger.

I think a lot of northern cities see themselves as independent states, which probably comes from being completely ragged apart during the 70s and 80s. I think that insular thing really does help with the arts. Artists live in bubbles where the outside world doesn’t carry as much weight, I guess living in a city so obsessed with itself doesn’t leave much room for anything else.”

Follow Bill Ryder-Jones on Facebook, Twitter and SoundCloud

Additional image credits: Photo assistant NATHAN CHANDLER; special thanks to CAMP AND FURNACE


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