The Courtneys: Headrow House, Leeds

Sassy grunge punk trio The Courtneys headline Headrow House on one of the busiest nights of the year. They question whether it could be the ‘last day of University or last day of summer?’ in our unusually sunny city. From Vancouver, it is their first time in Leeds and their appreciation is apparent from their cheery onstage demeanour.

I first heard of The Courtneys after a friend in Seattle sent me the explosive song ‘90210’. I have followed them ever since and various tracks of theirs often pop into my Spotify Discover Weekly. As their website states, their ‘UK and Europe’ tour began in Amsterdam in May and they’ll be spreading their sweet punk tunes across the continent until 17 June in Hilvarenbeek. After seeing this performance, I’m certain their fan base will increase over here to reach the height of their popularity in North America.

The Courtneys create a three-part wall of sound reminiscent of Joy Division or Nirvana, and they ooze sex appeal. Payne is the core, centre stage on kit and lead vocals – smashing unrelentingly energetic rhythms as bass and guitar are constant and steady. The entertainment not only lies in their impressive repertoire but also in their humour between songs, chatting at ease to the audience in a laid-back friendly manner. They’re clearly best mates and love what they’re doing together. Loove on bass chats the most, making the modestly sized crowd feel at ease as they enthusiastically head bop.

Beginning with a few sound engineering mishaps meant some lyrical wit was lost in comparison to the recently released record “The Courtneys II”, four years after their debut “The Courtneys”. We manage to decipher ‘Got a feeling and it’s in my brain / Sort of feeling driving me insane’ bouncing out of their lo-fi vibe as they launch into ‘90210’. Their attire is casual and cosy with ruffled hairstyles and a distorted garage sound to match.

‘Minnesota’ from this year’s release emphasizes how they keep things simple. The strong Canadian accented voices and girly tones are backed up in a rough delivery from Koke rocking guitar. Having nailed their sound, each song sounds pretty similar – balancing being upbeat, relatively undecorated and heavy.

They’ve stuck to what they do best, with both albums blending well and driving feminine and intelligent lyrical content, as they introduce one subject as ‘not having a job or having a shit job’. Alike to Letters To Cleo’s ‘I Want You To Want Me’, they have short phrases and Payne’s light vocal floats over the heavy instrumentation in an almost bored manner. It seems to work well.

They have no need for vocal fluctuations or excessive guitar solos as they mesh their instruments and voices creating a unique imperfect tone. Their stripped down back line is masked with guitar effects and their constantly moving pace enthuses each listener’s ear.

The highlight of the set was ‘Silver Velvet’. ‘Nothing you say and nothing you do / Can stop me from thinking about you’ sticks in your head for days.

The Courtneys are three cool and collected women keeping things straightforward, scrappy and assertive. If you haven’t heard them yet, make sure you do soon.

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