Rain, music, and football are three things that come to my mind when I think of Manchester. It’s a statement you can’t argue with. Yet beyond whatever’s happening on the blue or red side of the North West city, or its musical legacy consisting The Smiths, Oasis, The Stone Roses, and so on, Manchester is a thriving, culturally rich city with a strong DIY music scene.
While some decide to settle in other major cities such as London to be part of a buzzing music circle, Pleiades opted for Manchester. Throughout the years, the quintet have appeared on these pages as they’ve carved out a sound that blends art rock and post-hardcore. Having welcomed Andy Calderbank on vocals with 2019’s ‘All At Your Mercy’ EP, Pleiades have only gone to become more dynamic.
This week sees them deliver, ‘Affinity With’, their debut album. Throughout its 10 songs, the Manchester-based five-piece effortlessly paints a contemplative and raucous picture. Opener ‘Honeyguide’s explodes one moment, then burrows in its pensive apology. ‘Siberian’ weaves in as Calderbank’s vocals glide into it’s punchy chorus. ‘Universal’ compels with its tender guitars and Calderbank’s yearning words and OJ Riley’s fervent drum work.
Overall ‘Affinity With’ readily ebbs and flows. Whether that’s on the intensity of ‘Honeyguide II’, ‘Treppenwitz’s energetic bite, or ‘Tongue’s mournful harmonies and intimate acoustics. Tied together by tales of empathy and human nature, Pleiades‘ zestful sonic blend proves to be truly compelling and shouldn’t be ignored.
Ahead of the release of ‘Affinity With’ and their accompanying headline UK dates, we spoke to Pleiades about the place they call home – Manchester. They told about its influence, as well as the bands, promoters, venues, and unsung heroes that contribute to its alternative scene and Pleiades‘ growth so far.
What city are you from, and what makes you proudest to be from there?
Manchester is our adopted home. We were all born in various places (Lancaster, York, Coventry and Stockport) but Pleiades was birthed here and it’s been reared amongst the backdrop of working-class grit, surrounded by communities of amazing DIY artists and scenes who are constantly trying to lift each other up.
We’re lucky to be slap bang in the middle of the big Northern cities and equidistant from London and Scotland alike as well, which we’ll be making the most of October 10th through 15th in Brighton, London, Birmingham, Sheffield, Manchester and Edinburgh to celebrate our album release (get your tickets here).
What’s it famous for and what are its people known for/what character traits are they seen as having?
It’s definitely most famous for its arts and culture. For a city that made its name and is so heavily reliant on 90’s nostalgia, there is a lot to celebrate right now with a lot of forward-thinking and open-minded creatives.
What influence has that had on the city’s music scene and the types of bands it produces?
Manchester has evolved from indie and Madchester-focused into a more varied and DIY-led community of artists. There are lots of different scenes and places for people to find like-minded artists to build and grow, which has really helped us to develop a unique sound with a bunch of niche influences.
Are there particular genres your hometown is most associated with?
Aside from the beaten-to-death Indie and “Madchester” sound, hip-hop and heavy music are in a really vibrant spot, with Outbreak Festival combining hip-hop and hardcore to create some really interesting lineups which are only growing year on year. Psych Fest showcases the more experimental side of Music evolving in Manchester and echoes the sentiment of cross-genre collaboration.
With Radar and Damnation Festivals being based here now as well, there’s an even greater spotlight shining on Manchester’s buzzing metal scene with a lot of great post-rock/post-metal and sludge metal coming out of here at the moment. (shout out APF Records).
To you, what are the best or most well-known bands the city has produced and how do you feel about those bands?
Our city has been responsible for some of the most brilliant music going. The likes of Kong, Pijn, Leeched, Beecher, The Fall, The Durutti Column, Denim and Leather, Everything Everything, Oceansize, Floating Points, The Mouse Outfit, GoGo Penguin, LoneLady, Jane Weaver, Mandy, Indiana, Bola, Autechre and Dead Sea Apes to name just a few are bastions of truly innovative music past and present, who make us proud for Pleiades to be born in Manchester. All we can do is try not to let the side down.
Who do you consider the unsung heroes in your local music scene?
Manchester would struggle without Beauty Witch, who put on shows of the more weird and wonderful heavy music, and Tapestry Promotions who have given us our favourite live opportunities to date, our best being a packed-out Deaf Institute for Hawthorne Heights.
What local up-and-coming bands should we be listening to?
Lure In, Death Bloom (Manchester), Witch Fever and Forager are all doing bits at the minute! Definitely worth checking out their latest stuff.
What venues in the city has your band played most often and how have they helped to shape your band?
Deaf Institute is where we had our best ever and biggest capacity show so far, and then the Talleyrand in Levenshulme let us host a show there on our return last year, which really gave us the momentum to get us where we are today.
If you were to/if you have written a song about where you’re from, what would the tone and message of the song be?
The tone would be a bleak one, but one where you ultimately feel a cathartic sense of togetherness with the like-minded people around you. Manchester is teeming with minds who are making the best of every situation.
An additional note from OJ Riley (Drums): “The textile and cotton industry obviously plays a big role in our sound. Whilst we’re all from different parts of the UK, the seed of the sound was planted in Manchester and the weight of history weighs heavy when writing any music. If listeners can’t hear the crushing pain of a child’s fingers bleeding at a cotton spinner or feel the pure audible smoothness of a clean textile slate, we’ve done something wrong.”
‘Affinity With’ by Pleiades is released on Friday, September 29th.
Pleiades will support the release of ‘Affinity With’ with a run of headline shows in October.
October (support from DeadBird)
10th New Cross Inn, London
11th Hope & Ruin, Brighton
12th Hare & Hounds, Birmingham
13th Sidney & Matilda, Sheffield
14th Eagle Inn, Manchester
15th Legends, Edinburgh
Tickets can be purchased here.