- Mon, 2010-03-22 16:14
Sunderbans live The Stag's Head, Hoxton, London 18/03/2010
Sunderbans take the standard ingredients used by every indie band and create something compellingly individual with them. They combine a basic disregard for the conventions of song structure with a gift for writing tunes both engaging and full of contrast. Tonight’s gig is the launch-party for their debut single, We Only Can Because We Care, an eerie yet danceable combination of jagged guitars and chanted vocals that morphs into triumphantly ringing chords and bittersweet vocal harmonies.
“We’re not playing until you come to the front,” says Chris. There is an obliging shuffle. “We’re not playing anything until you come to the front.” The message gets through, and the crowd herd forward. The boys take control of the assembled punters with a cocksure attitude before they’ve even played a note. But then they know what’s about to happen, so they can afford to be confident.
Once they deem their audience appropriately placed, the band open fire. They told us that intensity was the driving force behind their band, their ‘signature’, but it didn’t prepare us for this. From the off Maurice and Chris are thrashing around the stage, while Ed pummels his drums with tribal fervour. The energy is spellbinding, and before there’s a chance to regain one’s handle on the situation the first song is over and the opening bars of the debut single are ringing out. It’s an unusual move to play what is currently the band’s most important song at this stage of the set, but it’s just testament to the degree of confidence they have in their body of work as a whole that they don’t feel the need to hold it back.
There follows a flurry of activity. When interviewed earlier the boys stressed the importance of calm moments in the set; “You’ve got have some dynamics for it to have its full effect.” But even the calmer moments, if they can be called that, are crackling with energy, and their infrequency certainly doesn’t seem to hinder the band’s impact. Maurice and Chris share vocal duties, tearing the songs from their instruments as Ed delivers pulsing rhythms. Chris in particular seems overcome with primal ecstasy, pounding the low roof with his palms and fixing the onlookers with a wild stare. For the band’s final song he leaves the stage, stalking the space directly in front of his band members, and engages in a rowdy face off with the pub’s resident old sot. Suddenly it’s all over and the band are all beaming smiles and ‘thank yous’ as they walk off, leaving their instruments in a heap behind them.
It’s clear that Sunderbans have a deeply passionate belief in what they’re doing, and on tonight’s evidence they’re entirely justified in that.