You’ve probably experienced this kind of surprise: showing up for a gig not really knowing what to expect, then getting a sweet first taste of a band you instantly dig. In this case, there were firsts on both sides; Bad Sounds’ energizing performance at Irving Plaza (opening for Broods) was actually their first New York City show, and the thrill of that milestone certainly came through in their sound. The hard-grooving five-piece were soaking up the spotlight and making great use of their time; Bad Sounds delivered eight slick tracks and maintained excellent momentum in their thirty-minute time slot. Led by brothers Ewan (keyboards, vocals) and Callum Merrett (vocals), with Sam Hunt (bass), Charlie Pitt (guitar), and Olivia Dimery (drums), the Bath-based band wowed the room with songs from their power-packed debut album, Get Better (released last summer), showing off their own indefinable genre.
For some mystifying reason, two people attempted to converse loudly toward the beginning of Bad Sounds’ show, but that didn’t last long; they were quickly and politely shut up by the attentive audience around them. It’s always a good sign when spectators are actively fighting disruptions, and that minor one was the last; Irving’s sold-out crowd danced and cheered fervently as Bad Sounds hit us with their best ones. Kicking off with the contagious bliss of “Are You High?” the Merrett brothers really cooked up some adrenaline, backed nicely by their nimble band. Ewan coolly delivered verses from beneath a Puma beanie and frequently raged on the keys; Callum tapped away at his Akai MPD24, triggering the varied bursts of sound that collided with the beat.
Second song “Zacharia,” during which they cleverly complete the rhyme with “Anxiety messiah,” was another palpable crowd-pleaser. As their style twisted like a kaleidoscope – fusing elements of alt-rock, funk, hip-hop, soul, pop & more – only one aspect of their sound was unchanging: the exquisite mix they achieved together. Their sound guy was definitely on his game, and Bad Sounds clicked as they melded their diverse musical talents. They brought more of that compelling synergy to the next tracks in store: “Meat On My Bones,” a bright and conversational song written about a friend who got a tattoo when her dog died; the ultra-catchy “Milk It,” featuring the relatable confession, “Cause I can’t separate my heart from all my plans;” and the easygoing, feel-good “Honestly.”
“So, we’re from a really shit town in England that you’ve never heard of, but believe us, it’s horrible, so this next song is about that.” That was Bad Sounds’ down-to-earth intro to “Hot Head Chippenham,” penned about the market town in the U.K., which features cool lines like “Slytherin’s back / The empire’s back / Nah they didn’t die after the rebel attack / They just fled.” Bad Sounds later commented on Twitter, “Playing songs about Chippenham in New York was very surreal.” Soon to follow, the syncopated grooves of “Avalanche” were marked by a candy-coated explosion of synth from Ewan, a sweltering guitar solo by Charlie Pitt, and some snappy tambourine-beating courtesy of Callum.
“Thanks so much for watching us!” Between songs, the English brothers had sweetly thanked the audience half a dozen times already. “Sorry if we’re all very giddy, but we were super excited to play our first New York City show!” Clearly embracing the glittering hits that had just filled the room, the big apple crowd let out an encouraging scream before Bad Sounds’ strong finale of “Wages.” Dishing out its memorable chorus, “I got that cold, cold coffee / Yeah I’m undercover, ‘cause I don’t wanna be like them,” Bad Sounds punctuated their set with a bold exclamation point. The musical highlight in this song was arguably Ewan’s badass harmonica solo, and the visual highlight, without a doubt, was Callum scaling the tall amp behind him in a rapid climb, then pointing back down at his brother gleefully as their awesome set ended.
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley