Sitting in the concert hall of an old-school, no-nonsense social club complete with varnished wooden tables, Stones Best beer mats and tinsel strip curtains, one could easily be forgiven for not expecting much in terms of quality from the acts which have previously trodden the boards of the large stage situated at the front of the room.
However, be assured that this isn’t any Phoenix Nights style set-up; this is Queens Social Club. And when it comes to live music, they have hosted some colossal names in recent years including the likes of Foals, Wolf Alice and Drenge, making it one of the hottest 400-capacity gig spots in the Steel City and a well-reputed venue throughout the UK music scene, to boot.
Stepping forward to do the turns today are The SSS, an energetic Sheffield indie-rock quintet and winners of ‘Best Local Band’ at this year’s Exposed Awards, no less. With a new EP, ‘Love, Lust, Loss’, recently released we thought the time was nigh to get the lads (Josh Coddington, Tom Forster, Morgan Somers, Cal Atherton and Max Smith) in for a live session and a quick natter afterwards to see how things were progressing.
*Picking up broken Exposed Award and slamming it down on the table.*
Right, lads. Can someone tell me what happened here?
Max: It happened before we’d even left the awards ceremony.
Josh: Yeah, I had it in my hands for, like, two minutes and the next time I looked down it was broken. Not even sure how I did it. Must forget my own strength sometimes.
Have you brought it to the session in the hope that we’ll take it back and fix it? Because the warranty’s run out I’m afraid.
Josh: Awh, shit.
Max: We thought you might sort us a new’un.
To be fair, you were all fairly well-oiled that night. Josh, I seem to remember you thanking your neighbour’s cat in the acceptance speech.
Josh: To be honest, I don’t even know if my neighbour has got a cat, so no idea where that one came from. A few too many beers, I think. I remember planning a speech before in my head and…
Morgan: It went to shit.
Josh: Yeah, basically.
So you’ve just performed live in session for Exposed. How did you find it?
Max: Great. A bit knackering though!
Josh: I think I was more nervous for this than any of the live gigs we’ve done.
Really? Why’s that?
Josh: I dunno. I guess there’s just a higher level of scrutiny and you want everything to sound right.
So the two new tracks you played for us are taken from your recently released EP, ‘Love, Lust, Loss’. First we heard ‘Calm before the Storm’ – tell us more about it.
Morgan: Coddy’s brilliant at this.
Josh: Ok. It’s basically about a broken down relationship, like an apology.
Morgan: Not a proper apology, mind, but an apology through music.
At least you’re holding your hands up. Do you feel better when you sing it and get it off your chest?
Josh: Nah, still feel like a bit of a dickhead.
Fair dos. So the second song is called ‘Into the Sun’.
Josh: Yeah, that’s about a friend of mine, Nick, who passed away a year and a half ago. It means a lot.
I’ve always imagined that songs with a genuine emotional connection such as that must be exhausting to perform.
Josh: It can be because, especially towards the end with that one, you really find yourself getting into it. The music and the lyrics can strike a chord, like.
Max: When you’re in the moment with that track you really start to feel it.
Your first official single, ‘Eighteen’, came out in September. How has the reaction been to that?
Max: Great. It was our first single in the sense that it was available via iTunes, etc. So we got a good video shot for it and the reaction so far has been really good.
Morgan: We’ve done plenty of gigging, but we’ve not actually put too much out there so far. It’s nice to start putting out more tracks for people to listen to or download.
You’ve been kicking around for a couple of years now, so it might surprise some to learn that this will be your debut EP. Is there a reason for holding off?
Morgan: I think for some bands it can be a case of running before you can walk. We didn’t want to do that.
Cal: I think it was a case of holding back until we do feel 100% happy with the tracks we have.
And November is another big month – you’re heading out on tour and have some big cities lined up: London, Manchester, Glasgow, Newcastle, Leeds. Stoked for all that?
Morgan: Massively. We’ve done, like, mini-tours before but this will be the first one when we spend a full month together and get to know each other a bit better. It will be interesting…
What are your thoughts on the Sheffield scene at the moment? Things have seemed to be picking up again recently.
Max: When we first started there was literally not much going off at all. I’d say things have definitely started picking up again this year.
Morgan: You can see that bands are starting to sell out local shows, which is positive.
Other than good music, what do you reckon are the key ingredients for a healthy scene?
Cal: I think having a mix of bands is good.
Tom: Yeah, a good variety of music is important.
Max: Having strong venues and promoters help bands establish a solid platform to get music out there.
Josh: The Rocking Chair has been a great venue for us, so they definitely deserve a shout out. We practise above there an’all.
Morgan: Great venue. We did an EP release there last month and it was awesome – just like throwing your own house party. There’s not many places left in Sheffield that give the bands free reign and supports them in the way The Rocking Chair does.
If you look at the shortlist for the Mercury Awards, there aren’t many guitar bands in there, barring Slaves and Wolf Alice. What do you reckon are the challenges that face young guitar bands today?
Tom: But it’s usually a bit of an outsider that wins the Mercury Award, isn’t it?
Cal: I’d give it to Slaves anyway.
Max: I think the shortlist is a bit of a reflection of British music at the moment – there aren’t many working class guitar bands who can afford to carry on sustaining themselves for long enough without financial backing from somewhere.
The new tracks you played today were very energetic and a big sound. Do you write music with one eye on the live shows?
Morgan: We tend to do what we’re good at, which is songs which flit between being fast and slow. ‘Calm before the Storm’ is a perfect example of an SSS track.
Josh: We always opt for the more melodic sort of stuff, that’s our strength.
Words: Joseph Food @JosephFood
Photography: Marc Barker