Outside the lecture rooms and away from the study sessions, university is a time where an abundance of opportunities urge you to try something new. In their final year, SOHO RIOTS have taken this as gospel, throwing themselves into the Liverpool live scene with a passion that reflects their musical style. In the few months they’ve been together, this group of friends have risen to the top of the student band landfill, armed with an arsenal of tracks jam-packed full of raw energy, determined to leave an impression- and that’s exactly what they are doing.
When I meet frontman Andrew Woodhouse (Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar), his tone carries a sense of gusto, pleased with what Soho Riots have achieved to date and excited by their future prospects. Having pondered the idea of starting the band since his first year at university, the arrival of drummer KT last November finally sparked the ignition. The line-up also includes Harry Potter on lead guitar (no really, that is his name) and bassist Tom Kelly, and they all come from similar courses at the University of Liverpool. Surprisingly, Andrew is glad that they took their time to come together: “I had a lot of song ideas by then, so we were able to get the ball rolling straight away.”
This is evident on the band’s demos, which sound like they’ve been tailored over time. Strained and vulnerable vocals on Who’s Your Man? burst through blistering guitars: a beacon for anyone who’s been unsure of where they stand in a relationship. On I Only Want To Talk, the band seamlessly transform from a delicate melody into a frenzied assault, full of determination and spirit. The UK’s answer to Real Estate, the band’s melodies also evoke comparisons to Wolf Parade and The National. But, beneath the scuzzy indie pop, there is a touch of true craftsmanship, a sense of control.
When I ask Andrew about the band being labelled as indie pop, he laughs. “We always get called indie, and it’s what I always listened to when I was growing up, so I guess it makes sense. But I don’t think you can take anything away from that. I think we’ve got broader influences, but I suppose the way it comes out, the melodies and stuff, it creates quite a poppy sound.” And here lies the beauty of Soho Riots: while their music may not be revolutionary, it is mercilessly infectious, gloriously accessible on record and in a live setting.
Speaking of which, the band’s first taste of playing live came at their Band Society’s live night at Baa Bar, which Andrew admits was more like an “open practice session. We didn’t get a soundcheck, so it was a bit crazy!” But, even then, there were glimpses of potential and, after a positive response from the crowd, the band have been playing shows relentlessly. Andrew appreciates that Liverpool’s bustling live scene has been a huge advantage in allowing them to not just develop their performances, but to expand their experience as well, “There are so many good venues with great nights on, so there is loads for us to get involved in.”
During their sets, the band retain a sense of control, playing with a strong focus while savouring every minute of it. Highlights so far have been supporting up-and-coming acts The 1975 and JAWS. Both proved to be success stories, and rightly so – their music is destined to excel in live performances. The Shipping Forecast, venue of choice for show with The 1975, was left stunned as the energy of the music swept across the crowd, resulting in a rapturous response reserved for Soho Riots over the headliners.
After considerable debate, the band decided to release a fully recorded version of previous demo I Only Want To Talk at the end of April, packaged with further new recordings of their previous demo sessions. Andrew is confident that the new single is an accurate representation of what the band have achieved so far, losing none of the track’s early raw energy. It’s arguably their finest moment to date, with a build-up that fits perfectly with encouraging a crowd to respond – something that’s quickly becoming the Soho Riots mantra.
With the single released, Soho Riots will launch their next phase: fighting tooth and nail in the real world. With exams coming up in May, the band will take a summer hiatus before regrouping in September. Andrew will be spending five weeks travelling across Vietnam, which seems an extravagant PR strategy, but he hopes the trip will broaden his musical perspective. “I put my own personal experiences into song-writing. I believe the more of the world you see, the more interesting songs you write!”
Despite his upcoming adventures in South-east Asia, Andrew sounds eager for September to come. The success of Soho Riots has been as a result of undoubted ability, true, but also of the band having an agenda and, with their plans for later this year, this looks set to continue. They’ll be focusing on new material, new promotions – they haven’t even begun tapping in to the marketing possibilities of a band member called Harry Potter – and, most importantly, new places. So far they’ve only ventured outside Liverpool to Manchester, but the band plan to get on a tour bus and play as much of the UK as possible, getting the words “Soho Riots” on everyone’s lips.
And so ends the first lesson. With a blossoming live reputation and their first proper release, it’ll be shocking if Soho Riots struggle outside their regular stomping ground. I’m hoping we don’t have to fight to get them back. Having balanced the band with university life, this group of guitar-pop melodeers have the real potential to expand their horizons far beyond the Band Society rehearsal room. Clearly, education has not been lost on these lads; if anything, they’re setting the standards for other hopefuls to follow.
Soho Riots debut single I Only Want To Talk is out now.