The Yorkshire Music Scene

The Yorkshire music scene has grown dramatically, in the past when people suggested that there would be bands from Yorkshire making it to number 1 in the charts people would mock and laugh; now things have changed. The county’s claim to fame were cheesy pop acts like ‘Kiki Dee’ and ‘Soft Cell’ now they have successful acts like ‘The Kaiser Chiefs’ and ‘The Cribs’. Things changed partly because the Madchester scene was soon being put of the back burner by the music press. Also with the rise in of the indie music scene in London with bands like  ‘The Libertines’ and ‘Razorlight’, media moguls turned to Yorkshire for their contribution and they weren’t disappointed.

The very subject of the development of the Yorkshire music scene is very topical as there has been a surge in Yorkshire bands in the charts for example ‘The Pigeon Detectives’ whose debut album Wait For Me was released on ‘Dance To The Radio’ and reached number 3 in the charts and secured platinum status. I feel that is important for people to find out that there is more the Yorkshire music scene than the ‘Arctic Monkeys’ and several bands that were just ‘inspired’ by them.

First of all I’d like to look at Matt Abbott, a Wakefield musician currently fronting alternative act Skint & Demoralised who are currently working on their second album ‘This Sporting Life’. He has written an extract explaining just what the Yorkshire music scene means to him, he says “It may not be the most prominent and it may not have the longest history, but the Yorkshire music scene has made a significant contribution to global culture over the years.

“I’m genuinely excited in what’s happening, not just on our doorstop. We focus on Leeds, but it’s not just here. Round these parts though, people are getting genuine hype.”

“This shows that even though the scene is relatively new it still has had an impact on culture. He says this because the Yorkshire music scene has a distinct theme, “that theme is a dry, considered and observational approach to the world that surrounds us. A readily tongue-in-cheek and self-deprecating attitude that refuses to take the darker sides of life too seriously, whilst mulling over the finest details for hours on end.” He says this as a typical Yorkshire man which is significant as it also explains to an extent that Yorkshire music has been so popular because it isn’t serious love songs which appeal to national audiences and that in Yorkshire it is “No bling, no boasting, no bigging it up. Just the plain, honest truth.”

Matt has also pointed out the significance of lyrics that make up the body of the attraction to the Yorkshire music scene, “’Arctic Monkeys’ track ‘Fake Tales of San Francisco’. The single lyric, “And yeah I’d love to tell you all my problem – you’re not from New York City, you’re from Rotherham” encapsulates the entire philosophy of the Yorkshire music scene in a nutshell. Nowhere else can a tale of being rejected by a nightclub bouncer for being underage be told with such confidence and swagger, and accepted by the people with such adoration and reverence.”

This is Yorkshire; this is what it is all about the sheer confidence and attitude that makes it different.

When reflecting on his own opinion of what makes the Yorkshire music scene so important to him, Matt believes that it’s “The no-nonsense approach that takes pride in something even if it may appear to be at rock bottom to others. The confidence that comes in being honest, no matter how it may be portrayed and how badly it may reflect.” This is some truth to the extent that music from Yorkshire doesn’t come with such glamour it is plain and simple which means it appeals to everyone and recently Yorkshire musicians had managed to find the gap in the market.

At the turn of the century there was a growth of indie bands from America for example ‘The Strokes’, this inspired ‘indie kids’ all around the UK to buy a guitar and start writing music. Scenes were growing up all around the country like Nu – Rave and D.I.Y however there was something lurking up north that challenged the stereotype “it’s grim up north” the birth of New – Yorkshire. From Reverend & The Makers to The Sunshine Underground it was all happening, record labels were launching all around the county and club nights became the norm. The whole thing exploded people were saying that “Leeds music is amazing at the moment. We’re finally ahead of Manchester.” From this rose independent record label ‘Dance To The Radio.’

crowd2 | The Yorkshire Music Scene‘Dance To The Radio’ are an Leeds indie label that were launched on Wednesday 11th March 2005 at Woodhouse Liberal Club, who have released material for such Yorkshire bands as, ‘The Wallbirds’, ‘Dead Disco’ and ‘The Pigeon Detectives’. The record label was formed from Whiskas (‘¡Forward, Russia!’), he said back in 2005 when the label had first started “It may annoy some people, but Leeds doesn’t have a record label aimed at helping bands who strive to create a stir in the national mainstream.” He was right in the aspect that at the time ‘The Kaiser Chiefs’ had just reinvented themselves from the past days of ‘Parva’ where they were signed to ‘Mantra’ which had folded. Thinks weren’t looking too good for Yorkshire bands; however in Yorkshire, bands just saw it as an opportunity to become something good! ‘Dance To The Radio’ wanted to be a different record label, they wanted to offer bands an alternative. Whiskas’ stated “We’re going to give the bands a choice. If they want to go down the usual label route, then maybe they can – but after we’ve created a stir with their amazing music that no-one else will let you hear yet”.

I think the idea that he was trying to get across was that especially because a band was from Yorkshire, the band weren’t given as much as a chance as say a band from a Manchester. Maybe the A & R people were scared that things could change from Yorkshire? This is to be questioned. However’ Dance To The Radio’ were willing to give those bands a chance, they saw the potential in Yorkshire bands.

Whiskas’ also goes on to say “I’m genuinely excited in what’s happening, not just on our doorstop. We focus on Leeds, but it’s not just here. Round these parts though, people are getting genuine hype and interest off their own back and independent of an “outsider” label scrimmage. Everyone is keeping it “real” and you get the idea that if a band wanted to do it for themselves, with this genuine interest in ACE new music, they probably could.” We can see from this that, things began to happen, that there was a change in the music industry! The music became about the bands I get the impression that it’s also got to do with the sheer Yorkshire sprit and determination that kept this label and bands going! Therefore the scene from around that time experienced a great turnaround and ‘Dance To The Radio’ were big contributors to it.

Significantly to ‘Dance To The Radio’ was indie signing ‘The Pigeon Detectives’, from Rothwell (however lead singer Matt Bowman is from Middlesbrough although it was previously in the North Riding of Yorkshire). They formed around 2002, however released their first single ‘You Know I Love You’ was released on 25th Feb 2006 then came the vinyl and first release of ‘I’m Not Sorry’ on 13th Mar 2006, this single created a lot of media hype therefore giving the band plenty of air play. From this came their debut album ‘Wait For Me’ this lead to various festival appearances from the band and a support slot with fellow Leeds band ‘The Kaiser Chiefs’. This success shows how popular Yorkshire music had come from the small Dance To The Radio office in Leeds where ‘The Pigeon Detectives’ were signed to, to the band being played on Radio 1!

2006 was a big year for Yorkshire bands and especially from them things became better and easier. It was as if bands such as ‘The Kaiser Chiefs’ and ‘Arctic Monkeys’ had opened the door and removed obstacles for bands from Yorkshire. The chance was now there was even big commercial record label’s A & R representatives who were afraid to sign bands from the region were throwing contracts left, right and centre.

When reflecting on ‘Dance To The Radio’s’ success in 2009, Whiskas’ explain “. None of us realised what a rollercoaster ride we had ahead, it was all hands on deck with bands stuffing envelopes with their own releases, proper DIY. Countless hours of late nights, driving around the UK trying to make sure the right sticker is stuck on the records before they hit the stores, breakneck journeys to deliver finished tracks to radio minutes before the debut play. It’s a fun job.” We can see from this that however success music from Yorkshire is and how much the scene has progressed, it has still come at a surprise.

This is significant because in a way it also explains how it has progressed, that people were willing to work hard and not give in to the commercial aspect of the music industry; people from Yorkshire are very keen to stick to their roots as are bands from Yorkshire. Whether it’s just a few bands from Leeds helping each other out and going out on tour together or a band playing a massive sell out gig in their hometown! In a way it is quite amazing that a scene at the turn of the century barely existed or had a low success rate has now become a scene where bands make the charts and play to thousands of people all over the world. This Yorkshire work ethic is something that has stood by everyone involved in the Yorkshire music scene that has made things so successful and I can’t see it changing any time soon.