A national ban on gigs led to a grueling 2020 for performers; peoples livelihoods changed overnight and then there’s the ‘retrain’ message with the Government which indicated that those who run the country don’t recognise the arts as a ‘real job’... whatever a ‘real job’ is.
Many across the music industry missed out on furlough since many are freelancers which led to a very surreal and relatively scary situation for all involved.
Tours packed up until further notice, people took to the streets to protest and tickets were refunded with no outlook on the return. Here’s just hoping that we get to see some of 2021’s summer.
For Manchester based band Cultures, the lads were in complete agreement that no matter how hard people have tried during this period - gigs through a screen simply aren't the same.
Lead singer Josh noted: "Honestly without gigs it’s been horrible, you get so many different feelings when you play live, but it’s not just the show it’s the process of the gig day.
“When you’re doing soundcheck and the bass drums being kicked, hearing the noises echo through an empty room, the crew working around you, the gradual filling of the room and feeling the adrenaline kick in, the realisation that your band is going to be playing to an audience in this venue or stage, wherever you may be.”
The group have already performed at some of Manchester's best venues and it’s clear they will be making more waves this year as their music continues to develop.
He continued: “If we play a gig in Manchester we always go and get a Burrito before, it's become our ritual and when we’re there you’re apprehensive about the gig you’re about to play, chatting and feeling nervous. It’s more the small details in the day that make gigging so special.
“If we could trade anything from the production side of things for just one gig, consider it done.”
After a trio of tracks last year, Cultures unleashed their latest single, ‘Ghost’, which bridges the gap between alt-rock and Indie pop through an eclectic synthesising sound.
The accompanying music video, released February 19th, features more symbolic meanings as we’ve seen before from the band in the past such as the Japanese three faces theory.
“We produced ‘Ghost’ by planning and mapping everything out more, which is what we've been doing for each song now,” explained guitarist Tom.
“We’ve got three more tracks we’ll be dropping in the next six-months or so and we’ve managed to create this vibe where the vocals lead us and we know where to layer in now. Some of these things we wouldn’t have figured out without the lockdown making us stay at home so I suppose that’s a positive. It’s definitely our best work so far.”
The group want their tracks to provide a safe-home-from-home feeling that deals with topics head on through honesty and a well grounded grip of reality.
This down to earth attitude shines through their tradition of having a cuppa on stage - along with a story of Josh’s mum who followed up on one of their biggest gigs to date with a stern telling: “Yeah, you guys played really well but was that one of my good mugs on the stage?!”
“I used to really worry about age, youth and culture, to the extent of telling the others that if we didn’t make it now we never would.”
Social media platforms have created opportunities for artists to gain a massive following faster than ever before, most notably Tik Tok.
With the aggressive turnover speed of the music industry and a direct focus on the younger generation, some might argue that age plays an important role in developing a band’s following.
Josh said: “I’m the oldest one in the band at 27 and selfishly, I was fearing 30 because I thought I was past it. Now I don’t think that's the case. I’ve seen Slow Readers Club not make it until they were 40-odd but they still managed to find success.
“We’re not a pop-band so I don’t think it matters as much, we obviously care about our image, but I don’t think it’s as important for us. Staying true to ourselves is the most important thing.”
Tom elaborated: “In the past, the days of The Beatles or The Rolling Stones, kids would go and watch live bands, older generations wouldn’t as much, so I think back then it really mattered that you were young and sexy. All of the things we’re not...
“Music lovers and those who attend live shows nowadays can really be any age. 30 or 40 years ago older people wouldn’t go and see live music as much yet the person I most see live shows with now is my Mum!
“If we were Blossoms or Larkins, whose music is about catchy sing-along pop, there is possibly an argument that we might struggle if we burst on the scene in our early 30’s to fit the role, but I think the type of music we make draws a range of demographics. Music has moved on and is accessible for anybody now which means we can reach a broader audience.”
Greater Manchester has produced some of the best bands of all time, from Oasis and Stone Roses to Happy Days and Elbow, it’s hard to argue against the city's heritage.
And whilst it’s important to respect those before them, coming from Manchester doesn't mean that the group should be labelled in some way.
Josh added: “There are tons of different sounds in Manchester and we don’t have to be as good as what's come before us, we realised with time that we don’t have to replicate anything.
“In fact I once had a friend from Germany come and visit me and I took her into the Northern Quarter to see our live music, and there was this girl singing dressed as some sort of Japanese Geisha with a man who was playing the guitar. She turned to me and said, “I thought you said the music here was good?”
“I then explained that our music is much like the weather... it’s not good yet it’s not bad. But one thing for sure is that when it’s good - it’s very good.”
It’s clear that Cultures are challenging stigmas surrounding toxic masculinity traits, with their music being born from their own struggles and reformed into an evocative sound.
Behind their music is a predominant message - that we are often our own enemy when it comes to self-worth in you, despite what you might tell yourself, and remind us that after a year in lockdown, we still need to look after each other.