Cousin Kula at Headrow House

Super Friendz treated us to a free gig at Headrow House on Sunday night. It looks like the stress of festive shopping has taken its toll on Leeds as there’s a quiet crowd that at times just about overtakes the number of people on stage. That said, the performing bands did a stellar job of making the trip out on a lazy Sunday worthwhile for those dedicated punters.

Kicking things off was Bdrmm (pronounced bedroom) whose dream pop set the tone for a night of swirling synths. What started off as the solo project of Ryan Smith has since expanded to a full band. Maintaining the organic process of making music in his bedroom, Bdrmm recently released a debut EP in September as a collection of songs recorded at home on his iPhone.

The band certainly seem to be in live spirits this evening as they take to the stage in an impressive collection of vintage Reeboks and denims. It’s a busy stage with all five of them crammed on in between mixers and keyboards. However, they all appear to be completely entranced by their own melodies and instruments without sounding disharmonious with each other. Indeed, the band’s strengths lie in the moments of meandering instrumental sections when they are all playing to their fullest and each note becomes an unexpected yet pleasant surprise. At these points, it feels like we have been invited to join the band in jamming out and there’s a certain intimacy as each member appears lost in their own playing. Heartfelt lyrics littered with candid lines about love, lust and all the feelings in between add to the sincerity of this performance.


Next up is similarly dreamy Loux but with a poppier edge. The three piece is testament to the impressive talent that is arising from the local music scene in Leeds. They emerge onstage to soundcheck, looking partly apprehensive and subtly unsure of the sparse crowd. Understandable, as they only played their first ever live show in June this year. Talk about fresh bands. This group could not be newer to the scene, yet play with an asserted confidence that exudes more and more with every song. Indeed, the patchy crowd becomes a cheerful gaggle of listeners and boppers to the funkier numbers.

This show is one of the string of Leeds gigs, including a night at Oporto and their single launch party at 360 Club only a few weeks ago. Singer Jordan Hodson sings with emotion and sounds not too dissimilar to Amanda Lee Duffy of New York band Misterwives. ‘Secrets is a melancholic and understated number, although Loux manage to show their versatility as they seamlessly transition to fuzzy guitar and marching drums in the upbeat ‘Darling’. Finishing their short but sweet set with their recent single ‘Meet Me Halfway’ leaves the audience on a high and I can imagine they will become familiar faces on the Leeds gigging scene in the new year.

Last to play is Bristol based band, Cousin Kula. They’ve been hailed as ones to watch by the likes of NME and Line of Best Fit, and they are also particularly well known for their energetic live performances. November saw them release their debut EP, entitled OODLES, much of which they play this evening in their first ever show in Leeds. From what I researched before the show, I had high hopes for a dynamic performance and they don’t disappoint. While many new bands in this genre fall into the trap of sounding very alike, Cousin Kula have mastered their individual sound, mixing elements of pop, jazz, soul, electronic and alternative to create a powerful combination of sonic collages.

Despite a shaky start owing to technical mishaps out of their control, the band soldier on with an improvised intro while the sound technicians run back and forth between the stage and decks. After around ten minutes of ad libbing, the band comment bemusedly that that was ironically the shortest song of their discography. Nevertheless, all soon becomes forgotten as the real show commences. I’m intrigued by the array of instruments onstage – many of the electronic sort that I couldn’t name but whatever they are, they sound incredible and otherworldly. All the band give strong performances, but it’s the synths that really steal the show. The solo in the breakdown on ‘Hesitation’ is completely bewildering and sounds like an alien signal from out of space. It’s fabulously wonky funk at its best.

There’s an intricate guitar lick behind each verse: their songs strike the perfect balance between being textured but not excessively complex for the sake of it. Almost every moment is packed full of meticulous precision and calculated rhythm changes. The voice of lead singer Elliot Ellison is uniquely distinct and perhaps unexpected in its slightly nasal delivery. However, it fitted the relaxed tones of the rest of the band and oscillated between desperately yearning and offhandedly nonchalant. It’s the last date on Cousin Kula’s EP tour, and if tonight was anything to go by, it sounds like it has been a resounding success. Their debut album can’t come soon enough and I’m left feeling hungry still for more of those magical keys.

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Natasha Lyons

Natasha Lyons

Natasha writes for Leeds Living about contemporary music in Leeds.

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