Having recently celebrated their one-year anniversary, four-piece Brown Lion Zoo are relative newcomers to the Nottingham music scene, and yet the lads have already made an indelible mark upon local fans.
Armed with an expansive range of lo-fi, melody-driven tunes, the UoN students triumphed at BandSoc’s battle of the bands last May. “The prize was two days of recording at JT Soar,” explains lead vocalist and guitarist Ferg Moran ahead of the band’s Valentine’s Day show at Chameleon Arts Café, “so we just went in there over the summer and got three songs down”.
All this thoroughly-deserved studio time culminated in the release of Where’s My Sandwich? – the band’s impressive debut – a dreamy EP that seems to capture the sweet intoxication of being in a naïve, fragile romance. “We thought it would be quite a strict process but it actually turned out to be quite free flow,” recalls guitarist and synth player Will Crumpton. “We had most of the songs pretty much done before we went in,” Ferg continues, “but they evolved quite a lot in the studio”.
“There was a bit of arguing,” admits bassist Brad Garfoot, wryly.
Whilst Where’s My Sandwich? is a slick, jaunty affair, on stage Brown Lion Zoo are a far more intense unit than their EP suggests. “On record it’s quite tame; it’s very clinical in a way,” Ferg explains. “But then our live sound is a lot more energetic, a lot more fast-paced” (although, as drummer Dom Feria later admits, the exact nature of their live performances “depends how drunk we are”).
“Nottingham is small enough to be noticed but also big enough for it to make an actual difference”
As they develop, the band express a desire to eschew their more accessible elements, to make a departure from pop in favour of lo-fi. “Playing live for us is the best, really. In terms of our sound, that’s the main priority”.
Despite being fresh faces in the city, the band has found Nottingham’s musical community to be overwhelmingly welcoming. “It’s incredible,” Ferg enthuses. “From the bottom up you’ve got every stage so we didn’t really struggle to find gigs. There are loads of people who are very active; there are loads of great venues so it’s been perfect for us. Nottingham is small enough to be noticed but also big enough for it to make an actual difference.”
“My main reason for coming to Notts Uni was because of the music scene,” Dom adds.
We live in a peculiar age for guitar music. There have been numerous ruminations in recent years about the supposed ‘death of rock’; however, Brown Lion Zoo remain relatively unfazed. “It’s good and it’s bad but I personally think it will always be there,” Ferg says. “Going to see someone play in a guitar band live, there’s not really any replacement for that”.
He is, of course, spot-on in his assertion. Whilst the dawn of LimeWire and online streaming has wreaked havoc with the record industry, flannel-shirted teenagers will still travel en masse for the opportunity to witness their indie idols in concert. So, in the midst of such a thriving scene, how do Brown Lion Zoo differentiate themselves from the crowd?
“We’ve got a really large range of songs.” Ferg replies “We’ve all got different tastes but there is a crossover point. We’re not trying to be anyone – we’re not trying to sound like anyone else. We write music that we like and it’s not for us to say what label you should put on us. Even if it was I wouldn’t be able to. If you like it then keep listening to it.”
“It’s literally more the case that we go into a practise room and jam stuff out most of the time,” Dom explains. “Very organic.”
“I’d also say that in this day and age there’s every style of music you can possibly think of being created,” Ferg continues, “so to try and do something that’s completely different to everyone else is nigh on impossible”.
It’s a level of self-awareness that should serve them well. Rather than crowbarring in a kitchen sink full of gimmicks in a desperate attempt to sell more records, the four-piece take a pure quality approach to their craft. “We’re just trying to write the best music we can,” Ferg concludes. “Music that we like and that hopefully other people will like as well.”
Featured image and article images courtesy of Jason Wong @3rdConditional.
Image use license here.