There was an eerie feel around Liverpool on Friday 29th March, when the music community woke to the tragic news that Stephen Fitzpatrick and Audun Laading, of the group Her’s, had died in a road accident in Arizona, along with their tour manager Trevor Engelbrektson. The three were travelling to a show in California, as part of a run of 19 tour dates that Her’s were playing in the US. The group were one of Liverpool’s rising stars, an act whose music crossed boundaries of nation and background – that their lives were so cruelly taken when they were living out their musical dreams is all the more shocking.
The news broke when Liverpool was gearing up for an unprecedented period of live music activity, with the spotlight on its music scene due to the presence of the BBC Radio 6 Music Festival. Add to that scores of fringe shows, Threshold Festival and the usual array of gigs and club nights, all featuring people who had known Stephen and Audun in some way. The atmosphere should have been joyous, a pure celebration. But it’s no surprise that feelings were subdued, the enjoyment muted. As their music rang out in tribute from venues that knew them so well, the collective of musicians found solace in each other’s company. In these situations of great tragedy, music is a salve and a unifying force that can bring us all together.
In many ways, Her’s were a very Liverpool entity, despite neither Stephen nor Audun being from here originally. They define that magic of possibility that a melting pot as rich and diverse as Liverpool’s brings. The pair met studying at LIPA, and that is where their relationship blossomed; a guy from Barrow and a guy from Norway, thrown together by circumstance and talent. The close bond that they forged was at the heart of their music, and was part of the reason they were so highly regarded. Warmth emanated from them, whether you heard their music on record or if you were lucky enough to bump into them on Bold Street, inseparable and constantly beaming.
It was clear from reading and listening to all the tributes paid to them that these were two universally loved people. The reactions of people who knew Stephen and Audun – tutors, fellow students, bandmates, colleagues, friends – speaks volumes about the kind of people they were. Even those of us who only knew them in passing always found that they had time for you, to stop and talk and be enthused. These are the people whose memories sing the brightest praises. Our hearts and thoughts and prayers go out to the families and close friends of Stephen and Audun. They were, and always will be, a credit to themselves.
That they achieved what they did in such a short space of time was no real surprise to any of us, and not one person would begrudge them their successes. Stephen and Audun should have been revelling in the spotlight that was on Liverpool music at this time, as much as any other artist; they were fully a part of the reason why our music community is the envy of the country, if not the world. Our memories must attest to this, and make sure that Her’s are not forgotten.