By: Will Sissons
2 March, 2018, 12:50
Photos: Lee Ramsey
On this incredibly chilly Sunday evening, you’d be forgiven for thinking everyone is hunkering down at home in their favourite winter socks and thickest jumpers. Arriving at the iconic Louisiana early for tonight’s show seems to suggest this too, as only a handful of people are sat inside with pints, while one lonely soul sets up a merch table at the bottom of the stairs. But no; As I later discover, Sœur have once again sold out their hometown show…
As 8pm draws closer, a slow draft of people trickle up the stairs and through the corridor, which is so thin that we are all drip fed through to the hot mess that is Clt Drp. Guitarist Scott instantly catches you off guard with with his fuzz-based tone, overloaded with ring modulation and scattered rhythmic movement. Singer Annie is as ferocious as she is eccentric, with vocal abilities reminiscent of Gossip’s Beth Ditto and NIN’s Trent Reznor as a mere base from which she starts. To elaborate, she exudes swagger and bravado so naturally on stage, but extends into wild spitting grunts and post-hardcore style shouts that meld together with wailing outbursts. Annie then curls back up into tight whispers, just like those towards the end of ‘Merry Go Round’, which lead you into yet another false sense of security. Completing the band is ADHD-fuelled Daphne on the drums, who provides a mix of punk-steady beats and occasional contorted techno blasts when the other two are letting loose. To experience Clt Drp is like waking up from some paranoid punk-themed nightmare to find you’re naked and alone in an industrial-noise installation in the basement of a decrepit mental asylum. But because you absolutely love it, you’d be silly not to sign up to their mailing list.
A tsunami of smokers leave for the Siberian winds outside, while LEECHES step up onto the stage to soundcheck. Only a few minutes pass by before people return. This time though there are noticeably more people in the audience, which now extends all the way to the back of the rectangular room. The Bristol-based trio’s surf-grunge image doesn’t look out of place in here and teases an expectation of what to expect from their set. True to form, songs like ‘Stranger’ and ‘I Watch TV’ are melt-in-the-mouth compositions full of crafty guitar hooks and grungy riffs led by guitarist Ben Lowe. Jack Pearce’s plodding bass lines and Frank Waloszek’s hypnotic drum beats provide a uniquely psychedelic backdrop that lets both Lowe and Pearce sing whimsical lyrics that demand crowd participation. The dual vocalists trade off phrases and sometimes even single words to create a refreshing vocal texture which surfs on the top of their slacker pop come stoner rock songs.
While the band ooze style and cool, they do not lack substance either: Fluidity and contemplation is rife in their chord sequences, dynamics and pacing, which give musicians in the room a lot of material to drool over. The cherry on this nerdy cake is their playful use of a one-drop, a technique where all three members stop playing on the first beat of a bar at the start of different sections in a song, most evident during ‘Inside Voices’. The whole room bobs along to each song as if the bands sprightly mood is infectious. Speaking of bobs, ‘Bob Ross’ completes their set but not before a mellow guitar solo hushes the room. Lowe then transcends into several minutes of noisy delay pedal goodness to finish.
A second tsunami of smokers leave the room, but on their return many find that they struggle to get through the door. Everyone is already packed in like sardines, but Sœur start anyway. The anticipation of new material intensifies as the local trio begin with songs already released such as latest single ‘No Fire’, an infectious tune with a sluggish riff, off-kilter beat and epic, doomy outro. Anthemic ‘Slow Days’ ignites a frenzied mosh pit front and centre of the dance floor which ripples throughout the rest of the room. There is palpable adoration from the audience, which instantly warms the band up, smiling through new songs and laughing at jokes in-between. Their simple but hefty grunge-laden riffs and mathy undertones give life to this wintery evening and huge swathes of heads bang up and down to a monstrous sound, absorbing the pure energy that fills the room. The band then slam their way through ‘Left Living’, ‘Put You On’ and a couple more new songs that slide gracefully into the set as if they were always meant to be there.
The three to thank for tonight’s show are guitarists/vocalists Anya Pulver & Christina Maynard and former Maybeshewill drummer James Collins. They are obviously popular around Bristol and have had a hugely successful 2017. Seeing them perform live, it’s easy to see why; they’re catchy, punchy, dirty and tighter than anything you’ve ever heard (finish this metaphor) before. But the one thing that elevates them above similar bands is the rare ability to craft good, short, hard rock songs; You can tell there is a wealth of experience behind the songwriting, as structural elements are mature and well thought out. On top of this, Pulver & Maynard captivate you with their independent attitude and weaving vocal harmonies which are just heavenly.
After finishing with a more sludgy post rock outro, the crowd erupts into a ravenous applause before funnelling into the corridor outside and onto the streets of Bristol. Sœur are a breeding ground of rock’s most audacious sub-genres, but presented with a touch of class that is both contemporary and professional enough for much larger venues than tonight. They are pure thrill experts and it is exciting to see them so early in their surely long and fruitful career.