Considering the rapid rate at which we’ve been losing music venues over the past couple of years, it could be very easy for established bands to become blasé about home town shows. Played there, done that, couldn’t sell the T-shirt. The members of LOVED ONES are all veterans of the local circuit, having indulged in the inter-band cross-pollination that Liverpool loves, like no other city.
However, as I accost Nik Glover (Lead Vocals/Guitar) and Ben Shooter (Keys), minutes after “probably the best gig we’ve ever done”, at the Anglican Cathedral in support of Noah & the Whale, I’m struck by their refreshing levels of exuberance: “It’s lovely to play somewhere that’s a bit special,” beams Nik. “We try to make things very ambient, so it envelops the audience, and this is the perfect environment to do that.”
2013 appears to be the perfect environment in which Loved Ones can thrive. A full year after their beguiling mix of dreamy pop and wistful folk helped them walk away with the inaugural Get Into This Award, the quartet are finally ready to give us what we’ve wanted since the quiet storm of Are You Hiding out in Hell? left us captivated some 18 months ago – an album to really get our teeth into. The Merry Monarch will be with us this summer, and I’m sure you’ll be as pleased as I am to find out that it’s not a tribute to old Lizzie’s 51 years of service: “It’s not a concept album!” laughs Glover. “I’ve just always wanted to call an album The Merry Monarch. That name existed before Ben and Jay (Freeman, Bass) joined. I like to get a title first and write an album based around the imagery it provokes. I’ve already got a title for the second album and we haven’t written any songs.”
The album that they have written has undergone many a facelift from gestation to release. Originally consisting of only himself and Rich Hurst (Drums), Glover recalls how the introduction of Shooter and Freeman to the group opened up new potential avenues: “We wrote a whole album, and then went back and pretty much changed it all, except the first two singles […Hell? and Weekends Are Ours]. Adding the extra elements meant that we could expand on our ideas in a way that wasn’t possible when it was just the two of us.” While the ego of many songwriters would make them reluctant to allow their bandmates the chance to improve on their genius, Glover and Hurst were more than happy to share the limelight: “It all happened naturally. When myself and Jay began playing Nik and Rich’s songs live we wrote extra parts, and over time they evolved,” explains Shooter. “We started off at one point and have ended up in a very different place, but now they feel ready.” It’s apparent they are just as ready to share this record as we are to hear it.
One of our city’s most respected mavericks, Glover has an innate ability to hold attention and dictate emotions, regardless of whether he has a pen, keyboard or guitar in his hands. Previous band The Seal Cub Clubbing Club (also featuring Freeman) came tantalisingly close to ‘cracking it’, only to be hamstrung by record company wrangling. Current label Baltic Sub Records – appropriately based in the Baltic Triangle – is the brainchild of Anthony Pickthall, known for his work promoting Liverpool’s Art Biennial. While only a fledgling company (The Merry Monarch will be their first release) it’s already clear to Glover that these are a much safer pair of hands: “There’s no doubts about whether he trusts us and believes in what we’re doing. He came to us as a fan, saying he knew we had an album for release and he’d like to release it.”
Baltic Sub take an interesting approach to releasing records, and one that we may see more and more of, especially among the independents. The Merry Monarch will only be available on vinyl, or digitally from the usual online outlets. It appears that the compact disc is about to be consigned to history, a development that won’t be mourned by Glover: “CDs are only used for promos now, and even they end up on sale in Vinyl Exchange for a quid two months later.”
While the death of the CD can be blamed on the sea-change in our music consumption provided by the internet, it’s no surprise that the carefully crafted vinyl has not only retained but enhanced its appeal: “Everyone dabbles with both [vinyl and digital] these days,” reasons Glover. “No-one walks around with CD Walkmans anymore. This will be the first album I’ve released on vinyl for a long time, and I’m really excited. It’ll be a double gatefold sleeve, which is great because it gives us a chance to do something special with the artwork. A lot of people really buy into a band when they like them, and the artwork is a big part of that. But we know that we need the digital release as well, if we want to reach a lot of people”.
Loved Ones certainly deserve to reach a lot of people, although as Shooter readily admits, coming to terms with no longer being young men means that they aren’t willing to risk it all for world domination: “Myself and Nik both have children on the way, which means you can’t disappear off on tour for six months. After the four or five shows we have lined up to promote the album, it’s likely that we’ll be going into hibernation for a while”. You’d be well advised to catch them while you can.
The Merry Monarch is out now on Baltic Sub Records.