Band Of The Week: No Mean City

25 05 2010

**As originally published on – May 2010**

No Mean City have managed to create quite the buzz in the six months since their inception, having toured with My Passion, self-released their debut EP and played extensively around Ireland, included a recent ram-packed first headline show in their hometown, Derry. They’re currently battling for the chance to play at some of the UK’s big festivals through Red Bull’s Bedroom Jam competition, having already made it through to final stage and played a set live from their bedroom on an online broadcast which featured them alongside mega-metallers, Trivium.

Their non-stop efforts look like paying off, then. Leading lady, Jilly, recently took some time out to have a chat to us about how the band came together.

“I’ve been singing since I was about five and entered many competitions including ‘X Factor’ and ‘I’d Do Anything’. They weren’t very good for my confidence so I turned to modelling and acting instead. I then fell in with some friends who were gigging in Derry, they had me guest and it gave me a thirst again. I put the word out and ‘Hybris’ drummer Brian put me in touch with Paul (guitar) and Joe (bass) who were searching for a front-man at the time. We had a jam and had our first 3 tracks written within the week!”

So their search for a front-man found them a striking front-lady instead and No Mean City got straight to work in a frantic manner which they’ve continued ever since. Their formation was thanks to fateful meetings and their band name followed in similar fashion; “I have a favourite poetry book I’ve always keep handy for inspiration. I decided to play the old blind fold/open a page game – up popped a poem by an Irish poet called Patrick McDonagh containing the words “no mean city”. It stuck out for all of us, it was an instant agreement, it was fate.”

Their music is a raucous mixture of heavy riffs and pop-hooks citing influences including Refused, The Mars Volta and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs to name just a few. Jilly is an enigmatic front-lady; she is very much like a Northern Irish Karen-O, confident and quirky in the best kind of way, whilst the rest of the band provide a technically proficient and boisterously rockin’ backdrop to complete the dynamic. It works well.

Their progress so far is, however, largely down to good old-fashioned graft, as Jilly re-affirms when we ask if she has any tips for new bands; “The key is perseverance and promotion! It’s so hard for new bands coming through at the moment as people don’t have to look for music any more. Just keep working hard and when it seems like you’re banging a brick wall, don’t give up – sometimes you will feel like it, when you’re constantly playing to ten people but it will pay off!”.

It’s sound advice; hard work will be rewarded *if* you’re good enough. You can decide for yourself if No Mean City are good enough by checking them out on myspace, and if you like what you hear, vote for them in the Red Bull Bedroom Jam competition. I’ve already voted and I think you should too. If they manage to win, it’ll be no mean feat for No Mean City.

Live Review: Pocket Billiards, The Cities We Captured, No Mean City

31 03 2010

**As originally published on BBC’s Across The Line – Mar 2010**

No Mean City kick off proceedings tonight; they’re a pleasant surprise as they’re actually pretty awesome. The focal point of the band is without a doubt their striking front-lady, Jilly, who not only looks good up there in her tiny shorts, but has a great voice and throws some mean shapes too. She’s like our own homegrown Karen O with a bit of Peaches sex-appeal, and attitude thrown in – she’s not afraid to put a heckling punk firmly in his place, mid-set. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are an obvious reference musically too, but No Mean City are a heavier beast, more straight-up rock, grunge guitars and big riffs. Set highlights include ‘TigerKissRose’ with it’s catchy refrain and ‘Gettin’ Off’, which is a bit pervy (but in a good way). They’re still a little rough around the edges in terms of full-band performance, it’s more like a solo act with a backing band at the minute, Jilly’s rock star swagger makes the other guys look timid in comparison but there’s bags of potential here for No Mean City to add a bit of polish and truly sparkle.

After all that rock, it seems appropriate that we have some post-rock (!), and here’s The Cities We Captured to deliver it. They’ve got more pedals than you could shake a stick at. You’d need several sticks. Not sure why you’d want to do that. The lighting effects in the Speakeasy tonight really add an extra dimension, helping to create the perfect atmosphere for this type of set – when the music tries to deafen you, the lights try to blind you. It sounds a bit painful actually but it’s not, it’s great. There’s a hint of magic in the air, the atmosphere is tense and the waves of music are enveloping. At least for a bit anyway, then things start to all sound a bit the same. The influences on display are obvious: think Pelican or Russian Circles but I’d wager that if it weren’t for Tracer AMC and more recently, ASIWYFA, bands like The Cities We Captured might not have been so quite to pop up on the local scene. Undeniably tight and technically proficient, there’s some great ideas in here but some of the songs go on a bit and they haven’t managed to replicate that intangible, emotional investment that Tracer AMC or ASIWYFA have honed to perfection. And so I watched the rest of their set from the bar.

Through a haze of cider, Pocket Billiards are headlining tonight’s extravaganza. The cider is important; Pocket Billiards are a party band, so to truly appreciate them you need to be suitably lubricated. Pocket Billiards deliver ska-punk in their own unique style, they may appeal to fans of Less Than Jake or The Mighty Mighty Bosstones but they don’t try to imitate them; they do things their own way, there’s no Americanisms or faux accents here – these are songs about their own lives (‘Don’t Scratch My Soca’ is about their love of comedy classic, Desmond’s) and about Belfast (such as set highlight ‘SPIDE’), sung in a Belfast accent, they’re passionate about what they’re doing but they don’t take themselves too seriously either – they’re here to have fun. You don’t need to be a ska or punk fan to enjoy Pocket Billiards. You just need to like having fun. And everyone likes having fun, don’t they? So check them out, they’re one of Belfast’s finest and it’d be a shame to let the punks hog all the fun.