There’s no doubt about it, Manchester’s LIINES are a band on the up. 2019 has seen them complete a two-month, 30+ date tour with Sleaford Mods, festival slots at Indietracks, Bluedot, Kendal Calling, Manchester International and Glastonbury. They have also supported Ash, and further gigs with Ladytron and Bis are coming up in the next month. I was lucky enough to catch up with Zoe, Leila and Tamsin before their Kendal set, and chat about the past year, plans for the future, and life in general.
Having been gigging since 2014, when LIINES rose like some sort of mythical creature that rises from ashes (in this case, the ashes belonging to a previous band that Leila describes as “grungier, heavier, with heavy drums” the band have built a loyal, ever expanding fan base and have begun to receive well earned plaudits from the likes of Steve Lamacq, Chris Hawkins and John Kennedy. The three piece have developed a distinctive sound, something "a bit more sparse, a bit more intense [with a beat that’s] sometimes a bit disco” according to drummer, Leila O’Sullivan. It’s true that the percussion section is particularly noteworthy when trying to describe the beautiful noise that Liines create; lead singer, Zoe McVeigh explains: “We’re not just smashing rides and smashing cymbals, they’re very thought out drums and Leila creates amazing interesting drum patterns and uses lots of punctuation with the floor toms. I think she uses them as a different instrument, they’re quite emotive, I don’t think a lot of bands use drums in an emotive way, but I think it’s used as a proper instrument.”
“Your guitar’s used in a very proper way as well” jokes Leila, in an attempt to brush off the compliment.
Having kicked off the festival season at Glastonbury before coming home to Manchester International, LIINES went on to play Bluedot at the end of July. Having caught their set, I was keen to see how they found it; “insane” answers Zoe. Bassist, Tamsin Middleton explains how the band were apprehensive ahead of their early afternoon slot on the Nebula Stage: “We were like ‘will people come at that time?’ It was just so nice cos it was ram packed, such a nice energy of people to feed off, it was really special”. Leila expands further, “It’s always been one I never thought we’d get to play to be honest, but we were lucky to get that opportunity with BBC Introducing, and to have that many people in a room… it was one of those moments where your mouth is wide open for most of it- going ‘oh my god this is amazing’. It was a bit of an unbelievable to thing to look out on and we loved it.”
The band’s festival season has continued throughout the summer (and still isn’t over at the time of writing, as they play Confessional at Blackburn in September), have they had chance to savour the experience, do they get to enjoy festivals as punters? Leila answers: “[It’s been a] massive run of festivals, we’ve never had anything like this, it feels a bit non-stop… It depends on the festival, Glastonbury we did [the whole weekend]. We’ve got so much on that it’s a rare day off when you can see your loved ones, it’s quite hard to commit really”. And will they be staying for the rest of Kendal Calling? Unfortunately not, as Zoe explains, “We got offered Indietracks tomorrow, so we’re doing that, we were in work yesterday so we came today.. I would have loved to have watched the Joy Formidable but unfortunately they’re on at the exact same time as us, I’ve loved them for ages, so that would have been really nice.”
Hold up. Work? LIINES have played over 40 gigs in the space of four and a bit months, and they’re doing that with actual ‘proper’ jobs as well? Zoe tells me how the band all worked around the Sleaford Mods tour, “We were in work when we weren’t on tour and we had everyday concerns, but once we started, we were like ‘this is amazing’ and it just made work bearable. By the end of the tour I was walking into work, like ‘where’s my beer, where’s my rider?’.. It’s a work/band/life balance, it’s quite tricky to juggle”. That must be exhausting? Leila agrees, “We’d not done too many gigs, two or three days in a row before, let alone four, and every week- it was kind of mentally and physically gruelling but like nothing else.”
So yeah, *that* Sleaford Mods Tour, how was it? “It was off the scale” replies Zoe, “they’re just such lovely, lovely people, the whole team around them, it just felt like we fitted into this little family, it was just an incredible experience I’ll never ever forget”. And how’s it been since? Leila responds, “It was hard to not be really, really sad at the end, but we’d had such an amazing experience and it was really, really tiring, it was one of those things that had to come at some point. It was quite a daunting thing to have in the future, because you didn’t know what they would be like, what their fans would be like”. Zoe returns, “their fans were so supportive”. Leila agrees, “We see people all the time who saw us at this night or another, we were all over the country and you can’t equal that opportunity.”
As Hands Off Gretel are playing later that evening, I ask if the band have heard about Lauren Tate’s comments regarding misogyny at her gigs, as reported by 3 Songs and Out at the beginning of the summer? (Check out our coverage here) Tamsin has heard all about it, “I think it’s a really important thing to keep calling out, because regardless of whether we see it or experience it at our shows, or we don’t, it does happen and it’s shitty. There’s been the odd occasion where people have shouted stuff from the crowd and we’re like ‘actually we’re here to do a job and to play some music’ and hopefully that’s the prime reason for being there. It rang true, as not just something personal to me or us, but just general low level misogyny that continues and persists, and the more people that can call it out, the better, I think it’s really important”.
“We’re not on stage because we’re women” says Leila “It’s tiring to see it, we dress differently to a band like that, and some bands maybe have more exposure, and maybe men watching them might deem them to be a band that are a bit more up for something that’s a bit more inappropriate, which is just not OK, it’s an art, they’re performing, they’ve got every right to be there and feel comfortable and everyone that’s watching them should feel the same. It’s exhausting seeing it time and time again and hearing it, it just makes you angry, it makes you want to scream.” And it’s not just the obviously inappropriate behaviour that’s so wearing for female artists like Becky and Lauren from Hands off Gretel, and LIINES, it’s that insidious, low level male chauvinism that pervades some sections of society. “I think that’s where sometimes people are like ‘woah, you don’t need to make a big deal out of something so small’ but” Leila continues, “when you’re being made to feel uncomfortable then it’s not small is it?”
“Those kind of comments and behaviours” Tamsin responds “rely on this idea that women are fairly submissive and play a certain role in society, which is to make it alright and you don’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but actually people are making women feel uncomfortable and it’s not OK.”
As I head away from meeting the band, I reflect that it’s not OK, and it shouldn’t just be down to strong female artists to make that point, to call out what they think is wrong. It should be down to us all to make a stand whenever we see it, to make people realise that it’s not acceptable.
Later that evening, I make my way to the Tim Peakes Diner stage, curated by former Charlatans front man, Tim Burgess. A wooden sweat box, crammed to bursting with those that have heard LIINES before, and those that are about to be converted. 45 minutes later I emerge, sweat soaked, ears ringing, and alive with that post-gig feeling of ‘what have I just witnessed?’ The answer to that, dear reader, is perhaps one of the most amazingly powerful, yet modest group of musicians doing the rounds today. They are here, and they will be heard.
Interview - Jon Stokes