Spaces like Chunk are what make Leeds special. The tiny venue in Meanwood started as a rehearsal space, and has since played host to many an event over the past few years, from the Come Thru parties, to the showcase gigs, to the performance art and poetry. Chunk is a spearhead of the Leeds DIY scene and is becoming more and more influential with each event. Being an independent collective, Chunk have to work doubly hard than their city-centre counterparts; the fundraisers, courtesy of the generous souls of the Brudenell, allow the Chunk team to afford essential repairs for the venue, pay bills and buy new equipment. This was their fourth fundraiser, and proved to be just as much a success as the previous ones. Chunk affiliates, punters, local artists, and Brude regulars alike gathered at the Brudenell Social Club for a celebration of DIY. Here are some of the highlights.
Now and then, a band comes along that just completely takes you by surprise, stump you, render you indefinitely speechless. My most recent experience of this was seeing Gutternsipe, a duo who go by the names of Xylocopa Violacea and Bdallophytum Oxylepis. In terms of their music, they’re one of those bands who sound like they could be made up of ten people; they create a wall of sound like a swarm of livid insects, or twisted white noise. They deal with hysteria, mania, and music for ‘non-humans’, but the noise they make is, surprisingly, not as dark as you might expect. Oxylepis, in an interview with Crack Magazine, said of their act: “that our general appearance and on-stage demeanour would induce pity and discomfort is an asset for us in the face of a culture that favours the strong and well presented.” Even if you can’t fuck with their music, you can certainly fuck with that ethos. Their music is only uncomfortable because we are so used to traditional song structures and more popular genres.
Violacea’s eyes were in a different universe, rolling about everywhere and back into her skull as she bashed away – simultaneously – on guitar, synth and vocals. I caught snippets of lyrics but they didn’t matter. I was too transfixed by them as a whole to try and decipher any of the screaming. Gutternsnipe’s complete abandonment of any conventionality harks back to the 20th Century expressionist trailblazer Schönberg, with hints of more recent noise outfits like Swans. If only to have my senses assaulted by an intense, but by no means alienating, live experience, I’ll definitely be going to see them again.
Treeboy & Arc
This band is well and truly ‘up-and-coming’ at the moment, and has been making steady progress in Leeds for the past year or so. They recently had their debut EP release at a rammed Brudenell with Drahla in a refreshing ‘supergroup’ format, and returned to lend their support for Chunk. Their energetic, visceral set included their latest releases ‘Merge’ and ‘White’. Armed with spiky post-punk bangers, premiers by Clash and a loyal fanbase which is ever-growing, these boys are doing the Leeds independent scene proud, and are surely going to have another jet-fuelled year.
Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs (Pigs x7)
With a guest appearance from Leeds legend Girl Sweat himself, this set was definitely one of the event’s best moments. They started out by supporting Goat, and last year released their first album consisting of three dirge-scapes of weighty psych garnished with a sprig of hard metal. Ridiculous and deliberately pompous, the meaty riffs are the centrepiece here, and it’s all a lot of fun. It’s incredibly over-the-top, and there’s little variation in the vocals which can feel tedious, but the Newcastle band are incredibly taut and attuned to one other, which I always notice in a band.
Prolific mainstays and purveyors of the Leeds DIY scene, Cowtown were the perfect headliner for this type of event. They stormed through their tunes, which they’ve self-described as ‘dynamic over-stimulated indie rock’. By dubbing it ‘indie rock’, they’re doing themselves a disservice. There are a myriad of elements in there, including post-punk and pop-oriented vocals. Pretty much every song of theirs is uniquely uplifting. ‘Tweak’, a 1:39 burst of sharp guitar stabs and simplistic outbursts of vocals that make it a little gem of a track. Cowtown have mastered the art of the under-three-minute banger, making their live show really refreshing. There are solos, but none of the self-indulgent kind. Their recent material was recorded and produced by fellow Leeds progeny Hookworms frontman MJ. Guitarist and vocalist Jonathan Nash, in an interview with The Skinny, has praised the Leeds independent scene for its DIY mentality and sense of community. He points out that the scene is ‘collaborative’ and ‘non-competitive’, with the compactness of Leeds making it easier to thrive, coupled with ‘the affordability of things like living and practising’. This is certainly something that bands in Leeds treasure; creatives are in abundance, meaning that there’s no shortage of practise spaces or independent venues.
It’s been lovely to hear that the event raised a lot of money, which is being put towards the space and its needs. Additionally, the organisers have contributed some of the cash raised to the wonderful MAP Charity, The Lughole in Sheffield, a cherished DIY practise space under threat of closure, and the Silent Front / Bruxa Maria crowdfund.