Just a few weeks ago I got in touch with an old work pal of mine, Drew. He tells me that he’s now a roadie and a guitar technician for a band and that I should check them out. I was slightly apprehensive at first, I must admit. I thought they’ll just be some run of the mill pub band.
I couldn’t have been more so wrong! After listening to a few songs on YouTube it was clear these were certainly no ‘run of the mill’, in fact, what we’ve got here is something very special indeed and I take great pleasure in introducing you to….. Hans Island
After a blistering hot Saturday afternoon on the Easter weekend I’m at the pub/venue made famous in the ’70s/’80s for being the spiritual home for one of Britain’s best loved scar/rock-steady bands. It would be a ‘Grey Day’ and an ‘Embarrassment’ if any fan with ‘Baggy Trousers’ didn’t know I was talking about Madness, and the place being the legendary Dublin Castle in Camden town.
This being the venue for the garage/psychedelic/indie rock band, Hans Island from Greater Manchester to make their assault on the unsuspecting crowd …actually I should rephrase that because by walking round the Dublin Castle, all I could hear were Lancashire accents which made me feel like I was back in one of my old haunts in Bolton. So the evidence was clear that they’d brought a huge army of followers from back home.
Before Hans hit the stage we were entertained by three fully competent support acts. On first we had solo act Gaz Grady, an excellent acoustic guitarist with sweet folk songs to match. Think Billy Bragg with a Boltonian accent. Following Grady, we were treated to the haunting, dulcet tones of Luke Justice Telford better known as I Am Spartacus, an impressive Joy Division vs Dylan (if that’s possible?) acoustic set he presented to us. Later came More Trees Please laying down some impressive bass lines and some top tunes stuffing plenty of northern angst.
11pm Hans Island took to the stage and their strong crowd were in (what can only be described as) a state of hysteria. The band’s stage presence was immediately ore inspiring, packing in cocksure attitude and oozing enough teenage angst that would make the cast of Skins step up and take note (although the band are all in their early twenties ..I think). I was actually taken back by their confidence, they looked like old hats of the trade, that they’d been on tour for decades.
They kick off their set with a tune called Demonstration and immediately their hoard of fans sing along, knowing every word. Drummer, Ben Robinson(right) resembles a young John Bonner, guitarist, Dean Glover has a stance similar to Green Day’s Billie Joe and he looked like he was about to machine-gun down the crowd with his weapon of choice. Frontman, Mitchell James Holmes stood there almost statically, like Ian Curtis without the frantic arm movements and with a slight swagger of Johnny Rotten but with far more sex appeal.
Their impassioned set contained many high octane floor fillers like Plane Without Wings and my favourite, Give Over. Then we’re treated with the whimsical, Marry Me Now. My old pal, Drew joins them on stage for their final number, the blistering Just One Night. The show ends and I have to pinch myself as I know I’ve just witnessed something very special.
A few days after the gig I spoke to Dean from the band
How did you get together as a band and why the name?
We started out as a four piece back about five years ago when we were all younger and fresh faced with short hair. We went by another, more juvenile name, and then inevitably we reached a point of maturity where we started to take it seriously, and that required a serious name.
Hans Island is named after the island that features on Enter The Dragon, Bruce Lee’s magnum opus – a film all about concentration, discipline, and striving to be the best… as well as bein’ a serious hard nut.
Where are you based?
In two little towns, one called Farnworth (home of the ferrets) and one
called Kearsley (crumpet territory) near Bolton, Lancashire.
Who are your influences?
Nirvana, Interpol, Radiohead, Ride, The Stone Roses…
From listening, I’m getting a bit of Ride merged with …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead?
Yeah Ride have been a big influence on us musically, whereas other bands like Radiohead have influenced us in other ways._
We’ve done a few EPs and singles – that are just kind of like snapshots of what we were listening to, how we were working and what we sounded like at that time.
If I was to introduce someone to your band, what tune should they listen to first?
Plane Without Wings would be a good place to start… but then again so would Give Over or Cameras? Some people listened to Revolver before they listened to A Hard Day’s Night and some people listened to With The Beatles before they listened to Sgt Peppers –
it’s all a unique personal discovery really._
What’s up next for Hans Island …any festivals?
We’re just trying to fill up a bit of our summer diary at the minute…we’re currently looking for an exciting, unorthodox local venue to put on another party/gig event for us and our mates.
For more info on Hans Island visit their Myspace page here