Back in September, I had the pleasure of seeing Skating Polly and Hands Off Gretel live at Leeds’ Temple Of Boom. At the bottom of the bill was up and coming Leeds band, Purple Thread, who being completely honest with you, I hadn’t come across before. I decided to have a look on You Tube before setting off for the gig. First off I check out “Evergreen”. Imagine Led Zep, fronted by Debbie Harry, produced by George Clinton and you’re just about there. Sleazy Rock ‘n’ Roll loaded with Funk and Big Riffs sums up their sound. Liz Mann is a sassy frontwoman, and her spoken word section in Evergreen has all the aforementioned Debbie trademarks.
Next up is their most recent single, “Life’s A Drag”, a much funkier slab of good-time rock ‘n’ roll. That’s enough for me to make sure I get to the gig in time to catch their set.
Live, Purple Thread didn’t disappoint with a bigger sound than their videos suggest. Mann is effortlessy cool and the band hold it all together with classy playing. Purple Thread live, are a visual feast and not surprisingly draw as big a crowd as the two headliners. Definitely ones to watch and well worthy of an article. I’ve spent some time trying to pin them down for a few words but it’s been worth the wait to see what’s going on in Purple Land. The band talk about their influences, making moves in today’s music world, playing live and much more. Guitarist, Jack, kicks things off.
Everyone hears different things in music. I’ve described your sound as “Led Zep, fronted by Debbie Harry, produced by George Clinton”. How would you describe your sound and how did it evolve? Who are your biggest influences?
Jack: We will definitely take that description! Thanks!
Liz: As a band we all listen to a wide range of music, I’m personally listening to a lot of soul and funk at the moment which is definitely affecting the music we are currently writing.
James: I am more into dirty, grungy, fuzzy stuff which is where our roots as a band stem from… But as a bassist, I can’t say no to the funk.
Ryan: As a collective, our biggest influences include Bowie, Blondie and Tame Impala but at the moment we are being inspired by more contemporary artists such as Childish Gambino.
Jack: We recently found a sub-genre in a record store that perfectly encapsulated our sound: Disco-not-disco-punk-funk. It wasn’t a large section but we reckon we can fill that void!
How long have you been going and how did you guys get together?
Ryan: Well we all met through the infamous Bandsoc at Leeds University. We were formed in an underground abandoned theatre that no-one ever wanted to go in so they used to let all the bands practise there.
James: Yeah that room has had a bit of a face lift now but I think it helped give birth to our grungier roots..
Jack: As the current incarnation we have been going for about 3 years, not including Liz’s yearlong jaunt around Canada – the great white north.
Liz: Mm.. I had to go find myself amongst the snow and bears for a year.
Jack: It was a hard time for us all.
As an unsigned band, you’re pretty hard working, gig-wise and investing a lot into videos etc. I take it you’re very serious about “making it”, whatever that means to you?
Liz: Well, we all have dreams of playing the main stage at Glastonbury!
Ryan: Michael Eavis give us a call yeah?
Liz: …but at the moment we are focusing on always making the next show better than the last show, and the same goes for videos and recordings. Pushing the boundaries of what we have done and what we can do.
Jack: So far the budgets for all our videos have been zero, but in a way it’s been good because I guess it gets us to think more creatively about how we can create something interesting out of very little.
James: Everything we do is very DIY at the moment. It helps having great friends who help us achieve our vision. We’ve invested a lot into studio time to get the sound we want but all the videos have been ourselves, our cameras and our friends.
How hard do you think it is these days to get proper support? Social media helps you get noticed but maybe standing out from the crowd is that bit harder as everyone is using the same platforms. Record Companies are signing fewer and fewer bands, plus they don’t splash the cash like they used to.
Liz: As a band we have definitely struggled with social media, it’s not something we thrive on but we are learning!
Ryan: It’s a bit of a double edged sword. It’s nice to reach more people, especially in different countries, but it’s hard to be heard above the noise.
James: Really it’s all in our live show, social media is important but you can’t get the experience of a live performance or the true feel of a band through an Instagram story.
Jack: Recently there is less money in the major labels but that has led to the rise of the smaller labels and promoters and there is more opportunity in DIY. I guess the rise in DIY has allowed us to get to where we are and Leeds in particular is a good city for that!
From the Temple Of Boom gig, it’s clear you love playing live. How do you find recording in comparison?
Ryan: Predominately we are a live band but going into the studio really allowed us to experiment with our sound, which also caused us to add things to our live show that we may not have otherwise.
Jack: It’s really interesting trying to get our sound across in the studio but we have recently started working with a producer, Grant at Loom studios, who immediately got what we were looking for.
Liz: Yeah Grant has really helped in that way! What we do in the studio with him often feeds back into our live sound and has helped push us in some new directions we might not have thought of before. We have done the last two singles with Grant and are recording a third with him very soon!
James: Recording is a very different beast to our live shows but it’s definitely helping us develop our sound.
Can we expect a long-player from you any time soon?
Jack: These days timing the album drop is such a delicate art. If you are too early, no one hears it and you are forgotten, but you also don’t want to miss the boat because people may lose interest.
Ryan: It’s a long way off, maybe an EP first?
Liz. We are constantly envisioning our perfect album in our heads.
There was a good piece on BBC Radio 6 about Leeds Music a few weeks ago. The general consensus was that the Leeds music scene is more about the freedom to explore all sorts of different genres of music, that the vibe in the city is very diverse and creative and the scene, if there is one, is one of total diversity and camaraderie between all the bands. How do you see the Leeds music scene yourselves?
Liz: I listened to that!
James: As you’ve said there’s a lot of people making a lot of good and diverse music and art in Leeds. If you are looking to find a band or anything creative you’ll certainly find something you like! The other side of that coin is that, as a band, it is hard to stand out.
Liz: That has pushed us in some interesting directions. It’s taught us how to stand out whilst still trying to connect with people in a real way.
Jack: Or at least we hope so…
Liz: We love that Leeds is getting recognised by such a big platform. The city has an excellent selection of grass roots venues such as Lending Room or Brudenell Social Club that really give bands like us a chance to showcase what we’ve got.
Ryan: If you can make it in Leeds, you can make it anywhere!
When you’re gigging around the country, are you getting different reactions in different places and who’ve been your best audiences outside of your home city?
Liz: It’s definitely different around the country. On our last tour we played a punk bar in Stalybridge and a cafe/bike shop in Plymouth over a weekend. They were certainly different but both great experiences.
Jack: In general crowds have been very welcoming. Although the interest in live music has dropped over the years, the people who still go to gigs are always very supportive and keen to find new music.
Ryan: Manchester is always a great place to play!
James: And Doncaster is always an experience…
Who would you most like to support and why?
Ryan: McFly. Obviously.
Liz: I mean, the Stones?
Jack: But more realistically, there are some amazing up and coming bands who we would love to support, like Fizzy Blood, Black Honey, Sunflower Bean just to name a few. These guys are really the future of rock and are massive influences on us.
James: It’s been great supporting Skating Polly, Hands off Gretel and LA Witch recently so more gigs with them and bands like them would be fantastic.
What was the last music you bought?
Liz: This is where you can see our differing music tastes… I’m on an MJ hype, he’s the greatest entertainer ever and I’m trying to learn his dance moves, so I’ve been buying a lot of his 80’s albums. I dig it.
Jack: I work in a record store so raided the sale section and got the latest Marmozets album, she has an amazing voice, the last Killers album, mostly for “The Man” and Kali Uchis’ debut. She is awesome. Pop at its finest.
Ryan: The last physical LP I bought was the last Arctic Monkeys album, which very much divided opinions in the band…
(An argument ensues)
James: Anyway… I’m one of those people who streams all his music since my record player broke. Recently, I’ve really got into Church of the Cosmic Skull. Think of 70s rock fronted by ABBA. All the harmonies.
If you could each invite one guest to a Purple Thread dinner party, who would it be and why?
Ryan: John Cooper-Clarke. He can say literally anything and I laugh.
Jack: He’s a genius. Keith Richards, cause… Come on. It’s Keith Richards!
James: Iggy Pop, that guy has seen some stuff, imagine the stories.
Liz: Patti Smith, I wouldn’t be able to get any words out but I would like to just bask in her presence. That such a great combination of people! Wouldn’t that be a night to remember…
Describe Purple Thread as an alcoholic drink.
Liz: Well, obviously Rum n’ Ting.
James: If you don’t know, you weren’t there…
And to finish off, what would you like the rock ‘n’ roll history books to say about you?
James: Preferably “Purple Thread: The Greatest Rock Band the World Has, and Will, Ever See”
Ryan: “Purple Thread: The Best, and Only, Disco-not-disco-punk-funk Band To Come Out of Leeds”
Liz: “Purple Thread: Liz Mann’s First Band”
Jack: “Purple Thread: Big enough to be in this book”
All photos available in HD for free download HERE
Purple Thread are :
Vocals and Guitar: Liz Mann
Guitar: Jack Tildsley
Bass: James Foreman
Drums: Ryan Bailey