Most of the bands are influenced from the ’90s, like the Pixies we are listening to right now…” so says Latvian-born Uncomely frontman Artyom, known as Tom, when we meet at at the Belgrave Music Hall in Leeds. “We started ten, eleven years ago, always underground in basements in Riga, Latvia. Then me and my friend decided to move to the UK to try out the market.” How long have they been in the UK? “Too long!”
Uncomely’s experimentation with different sounds helps them avoid being pinned down to a specific genre or sound. As Tom notes, the “tunnel vision of the commercial side is tough”, recommending more exploration into “the open freedom of expression that music gives… The mixtape we’re working on right now is going to be grunge with poetry… some blues rock, some atonal sounds, some lo-fi sampling. It’s nearly finished now. It will be released about April time… It’s called ‘We Buried Alive’: a metaphor for the situation we are all in right now. I’m into psychology and anthropology right now… I’ve seen a lot of live bands all singing about the same subjects all the time…”
Tom is keen to explore the psychological process behind making music, the idea of unclogging your brain, having a clear thought process away from the daily exposure to bullshit we have through newspapers, Brexit and Trump politics, and uneducated gossip: “We need less pleasures… Brexit, Trump… more and more people are brainwashed as fuck… there’s so many guys running things behind the scenes. We don’t even know their last names.”
Unlike the new POTUS, Uncomely celebrate how geographically small the world is and enjoy looking further afield for inspiration for their videos: “Ilkley Moor, Leeds, Riga, Lanzarote… the idea of budget airlines nowadays, nothing can stop you… you can go wherever it lands… It’s so cheap to film, you just need to be good. You can hire the equipment if you want.”
This do-it-yourself ethic is how I discovered the band, finding them through the Leeds DIY Facebook group. “It’s fine having a Leeds DIY scene represented via Facebook yet people need to speak less and do more,” Tom insists. “Facebook is a tool, like a hammer or a screwdriver. It needs to be used. However, we don’t walk the streets looking at a screwdriver all of the time… You can expose yourself to many more possibilities. Why would you take your screwdriver to a house party, to the shop, or every time you go to the toilet Why?”
And about the inconsistency behind the DIY scene: “DIY can have a lack of fucking standing for something. Like if you listen to Bob Marley, it’s not about smoking weed, it’s much deeper than that.” Tom views the real success of the DIY scene as collaboration. Leeds’ famous Jumbo Records works closely with DIY bands, and Greenmount Studios and a variety of venues, such as Temple of Boom or Wharf Chambers, all combine to support the wider scene. There’s even an underground version of BBC’s Later . . . With Jools Holland entitled Black Square Sessions, whose pilot was filmed in Leeds: another project that represents this varied movement.
I ask what is needed to take DIY songwriting to the next level: “Writing songs about wider issues…”
Uncomely seem happy to take the lead, being experimental with their music and welcoming remixes from and collaboration with artists from a variety of genres. There’s no rush to commercialise music; it should be taken, as Tom calmly asserts, as a “local, gradual release. Slowly. Face-to-face promotion”; a collaborative approach that will hopefully develop the psychological side of the Leeds DIY scene even further.
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