Project Overload live at HMV Coventry

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Project Overload live at HMV Coventry


I'm sure that my review of the debut album ‘New Beginnings' from Project Overload left you in no doubt of my excitement at the emergence of this original & dynamic young band. That's why we featured their single "Second Chances" on ‘Hot Music Live Presents Volume Twelve' of course.

I'm therefore delighted to report for the first time on their live performance and it's true to say that they are even more exciting in that context.

Hats off to HMV Coventry for hosting the gig (look out for future ones they have planned: and not just their Coventry branch as you'll remember how much I enjoyed their fellow HMLP 12 featured Liam Vincent and the Odd Foxes album launch in HMV Banbury).

Credit too to sound engineer & mentor Mason Le Long for helping them achieve such an excellent sound in a space not designed for bands to play in: with a very economical kit too.

As I have said before, the Tin based "Live on Stage" mentoring project seems a superb & essential initiative through which talented young musicians can develop confidence in writing and playing what they hear in their heads without the pressures which the more cynical & commercially focused elements of the music business tend to impose upon such artists. Mason was saying that they've been working with some of this band since they were around ten years old and the outcomes yesterday speak for themselves: look out for a feature on the project in the magazine soon.

As you may remember, there was a 40% lineup change in the band during the course of recording the album & so not all the band wrote or were terribly familiar with several tracks: credit to them for taking these in their stride alongside the ones they'd helped write.

We heard much of the album, but also a handful of newer songs: almost all still at "working title" stage, even if they had the songs themselves down tightly. They also had the taste to finish with a cover of The Wombats' "Lemon to a Knife Fight" (which to me is a relatively recent song but is presumably rock history from their point of view) and this is by no means not a hint at how they sound.

I said that they were even better live than on record…. Quite understandably the opener, the album title track was performed with the same level of diligence and care as the whole record. However once that was past, a great deal of inhibitions seemed to melt away and aided by the sound mixing, took the other songs into new, vibrant territory.

Another key is how much they seem to enjoy playing: tracks were attacked with verve and energy and as you all know, that sort of thing is central to how audiences respond to bands: as they did on this occasion.

Vocalist Emily Birtwistle was one of the revelations: she co-wrote and sang on many of the songs but as noted, had to adapt to a few that she didn't. Throwing herself into the set, she increasingly revealed a power which came across much more live than in the studio and I truly hope she explores that aspect further. What I especially appreciated was how she used this ability to punch harder sparingly to good effect: it really works much better in a nuanced performance and I sincerely despair of one trick pony singers blessed with powerful pipes who keep on demonstrating it in one dimensional sets.

The rhythm section too came into its own live and again power was one of the characteristics but founder members Callum Hall (bass) and Joe Friday (drums) seemed to have more space to demonstrate their considerable technical skills and at one point I mentioned to Mason how much I liked the bass sound he & Callum had devised with the instrument prominent in many songs.

Guitarists Tom Male & Lucas Male are called just that: they don't seem to have that rhythm/lead dichotomy in their own minds and watching them you can see why: both play lead parts at various points. They tend to aim to mesh together into the jangle pop sound which they use as their mission statement (with the splendid addition of "with sharp elbows") and as I'd bee playing some early Aztec Camera on my drive over, the comparison formed in my head: I wouldn't be surprised if they listened to Johnny Marr either and of course they covered The Wombats. With female vocals, maybe Altered Images and The Bangles are on their playlists too. Personally as I love that sound, you can understand another reason why I so much enjoyed the gig.

The "sharp elbows" bit is crucial though: Project Overload are keen to sing about their world and their perspectives on it: "Society's Standards" (possibly the highlight of the set and maybe worth considering as a single), "Reassuring Sound of No", "Nightmare" and the newer "Wildfire" (if that's what it ends up being called) are not just shimmering pop ditties but emotional statements (including plenty of righteous anger) and I imagine that it is no coincidence that these particular tracks followed each other in the heart of the setlist & drew such powerful performances.

If Project Overload are the future of at the very least our local music scene, then I'm delighted. I look forwards to the "end of term" gig for the Live on Stage bands to which Mason invited me: I imagine that the other ones are on the same upward road as this one, albeit probably not as far along it. If they have as much self-belief in their own ability to write songs they have such ownership of in addition to excellent musicianship, then they'll go far. In a world where too many artists are being coaxed into emulating the already successful & colluding with that, it's so refreshing to hear bands write & perform their own thoughts & values with such truth. I really can hear the difference & I heard it on this occasion.

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