Live Review: East India Youth with The Harpoons at Coventry Tin – 3rd October 2015

By on Tuesday, 13th October 2015 at 2:00 pm

If you didn’t know where you were going – and unlike me, you didn’t actually see a staff member open one of the blue and white-painted vault doors facing the canal and go in – you might walk by the Tin Music and Arts centre in Coventry and completely miss it. This literal hole in the wall turned out to be a venue that oddly made me feel at home, a sentiment that was echoed by the night’s headliner, who said it reminded him a lot of DC9. It’s a non-profit entity, so in addition to being an independent live venue, the fine folks there are also doing good works for the good people of Coventry. Definitely the kind of place I like to put my money into. (Feel the same way? You can donate to them directly here.)

The opener for the evening were The Harpoons, whose name sounds like a band from a city with a seafaring past and an aggro look, playing hard rock. So imagine my shock when the four-piece from Melbourne, Australia took to the stage with one guitar and no drum kit (two of their band members are on synths). Even more surprising was when their female lead singer opened her mouth, releasing a soulful croon. Whether her voice is meant to be paired with programmed drum beats, I haven’t quite decided yet (the latter, I guess, was why they were chosen as support that night in Coventry), but they’re a different kind of band than I’m used to from Melbourne (The Temper Trap, Husky, The Delta Riggs). She made light about the fatal bus accident earlier in town and how she has managed to mispronounce the town’s name, and I realise both quips may have been down to nerves but nevertheless, it was awkward.

Having read that there would be precious few chances left this year to see East India Youth (aka Bournemouth-born William Doyle) perform his current album for XL Recordings, ‘Culture of Volume’, before he goes into hibernation to write album #3, I’d made it a special trip to Coventry for this Saturday night show. Off the back of seeing him showcase on the opening night of SXSW 2015 at the Huw Stephens’-curated Music Wales showcase at the British Music Embassy, then an afternoon show Saturday for Brooklyn Vegan, I had some idea of what to expect: kinetic, frenetic, sweaty, emotional. I did wonder, however, how it would be possible to segue between tracks on ‘Culture of Volume’ and his 2014 Mercury Prize-nominated debut ‘Total Strife Forever’: to me, they seem two completely different animals, written in what I understand to be two very different headspaces.

It speaks well of Doyle’s talent that except for those brief moments cueing up his Macbook, synth or any one of his sequencers, his set was amazingly cohesive from the moment he spoke, practically whispering into his microphone, “hello Coventry. Let’s start.” Despite that opening whisper, the live versions of ‘Turn Away’, ‘Hearts That Never’ and ‘Beaming White’ from ‘Culture of Volume’ saw Doyle whip about onstage like a maniac, whether he was frantically playing notes on his synth, pressing buttons or turning dials, or had taken to the free area behind his setup to go mental with his bass. (Headbangers unite!) Pausing once to express his annoyance with and to admonish some loud talkers in the audience, it’s clear he’s an artist for whom being in control of how his music sounds from the stage is really important.

East India Youth Coventry live

As Doyle said when I chatted with him in Austin in March and in many other interviews since, he is committed to making sure the live experience for his fans is an animated one, not confined to synth button-pushing. I can appreciate an artist who becomes completely swept up in his music like this, letting go of inhibitions to become one with his art. ‘Heaven How Long’ from his first LP, although it begins serenely enough, turns into a crazy experience with pounding beats that led many of us in the room to sway our bodies to the euphoric, life-affirming rhythm. (Actually, I’m on the fence on whether the song is meant to be life-affirming or not. But that’s a matter for my other site Music in Notes, not here at TGTF.) As the most manic track on ‘Culture of Volume’, ‘Entirety’ is a monster on record; live, Doyle’s treatment of the song is even more bonkers, and delightedly so to any electronic music fan who revels in watching his favourite artist completely go for it, throwing all caution to the wind, limbs flying.

While as a solo artist Doyle has made his name on his experimental, sometimes challenging, primarily instrumental soundscapes, it cannot be overemphasised how good his voice is when he chooses to use it. On ‘Culture of Volume’, he made the decision to go more pop, spending more time and vanity in front of the microphone. From this Hot Press interview, it sounds like his third album may see him take a step back from it, which I think is a travesty. On ‘Looking for Someone’ live, there’s a forlorn starkness to the opening spare drum beats and the words “just for me and no-one else / I need something for myself”, yet Doyle’s voice is comforting, Everyman, when he sings that he’s been misinterpreted as being emotionless: “you think I feel nothing, you think I feel nothing / you don’t know how wrong you are”. Being a fan of the genre for years (and also always in the minority, being a woman), it’s been my perspective that electronic itself is nearly always misunderstood by those on the outside, that it cannot possibly convey emotions anywhere near as well as others.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Those of us who know, who feel it all, we can sense those emotions from the music. And deeply. Closing his set in Coventry with the slowest, most cinematic and breathtaking track from the current album, Doyle came out from behind his electronic setup, choosing to instead stand in front of us to deliver ‘Carousel’. Holding on to that one last beautiful sung note, he left everyone in the place mesmerised. Fantastic.

It will be some time before we get another album from Will Doyle. But in the meantime, we can take consolation and hold fast to the elation, the poignancy in his first two albums. And hope he will hurry back soon. As of this writing, East India Youth has three live UK appearances this year at a festival in Brum and two gigs in Scotland (Edinburgh and Aberdeen); for more details, go here. Past TGTF coverage of East India Youth is this way.

After the cut: East India Youth’s set list.

East India Youth Set List:
The Juddering
Turn Away
Looking for Someone
Beaming White
Dripping Down
Don’t Look Backwards
Heaven How Long
Hearts That Never

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2 Responses

5:57 pm
13th October 2015

Hello Mary this is Bec the singer from the Harpoons and I just wanted to apologise for my comments about the bus crash. I had only heard about it in passing in a way that implied no-one was hurt – I only heard how terrible it was the next day and I feel so awful for making light of it without knowing the full story.

12:38 pm
15th October 2015

Great review of a great performance.

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