Degrees are a new Chelmsford rock band whose triple-A single Eclipse has a enigmatic lyrics that would appeal to fans of any of the raft of supernatural shows currently popular, as well as those who just like really good music. The songs are Eclipse, The Hex, and Bury the Horses. The band are now working on their follow up, another triple-A single and I can confirm that what they have so far sounds very cool indeed.
The launch of Eclipse was deliberately kept low key, aiming to slide into the market, rather than arrive with a bang. I think the second will be allowed a slightly higher profile, but it’s not easy to predict what these guys will do. Degrees have their own way of doing things. The band have not yet performed publicly and it’s tempting to think of them as ‘studio musicians’ needing a corral of technicians make them sound good. Nothing could be further from the truth, as they proved when we dropped in on a rehearsal.
They were already in full swing when we arrived, but the notes floating through the ‘soundproof’ walls were not familiar – definitely not one from the Eclipse single. We stood at the door for a few seconds, wondering whether to open it or wait for them to pause. When the creative juices are flowing there’s nothing worse than an interruption. Impatience won and we opened the door to sneak inside. The room was tiny – barely six inches long by thirty wide. At the far end was another door so I reached the full length of the room and opened it, feeling a bit like Alice in Through the Looking Glass. The second room was bigger and filled with sound, which stopped as I put my head round the door and there were Degrees. Okay, so it was a double door for soundproofing, but let’s keep the magical feeling for a minute.
Front man Patrick Kay, is the one responsible for those mystical lyrics that add another layer of intrigue to the flawless music the band pumps out. He is intense, soft spoken and plays a mean acoustic guitar that supports a rather wonderful singing voice. When I asked him who buried the horses in the end, he explained that it was a joking reference to the U2 song Horses. He is the only band member not also a member of the award-winning group Seven Summers whose vocalist Matt Cardle is currently busy with his own new single Run For Your Life (written by Gary Barlow) and forthcoming album Letters. Matt, who managed to win the X Factor without losing his integrity as a ‘real’ musician, keeps in touch, loves the new band and is officially a fan.
Drummer Alex Baker is tall with the kind of deep, powerful voice that should be helping out with the occasional vocals. He could really rock the right song. He’s also got a sense of humour – I can imagine his retort when he reads this, being the busy man he already is. When not with Degrees, he’s a tour manager and drum technician for other bands or flexing his drumming muscles with tech-glitch-electro-punk band Drawbacks who are playing Brownstock Festival this year.
Jon Holland on bass is a modest guy, given the way he beats out those low notes. He’s a sound technician at Chelmsford’s music venue Hooga Bar when not playing with the band. Commenting on Degrees, he says: ‘We’re not going to set the music world on fire.’ Not so sure about that Jon.
Neillo plays electric guitar and was the first to say hi. He is switched on and likeable and despite heading up one of the UK’s newest indie record labels, Seven Summers Records Ltd, admits to being far more interested in the music than the money. It seemed strange then that Jon was teasing him about his gold fetish. I looked for a mass of chains and rings and saw shirt and jeans. He took it all in good part though and picked up his guitar ready to start playing. It shimmered like liquid gold. Did the surface ripple when he touched it? No, that was a trick of the light, surely.
Patrick called for a run through of the cd in order and quipped that this was their first gig. Suddenly the room filled with perfect sound. The golden guitar produced notes worthy of it and we were away. The first thing that struck me was that they sounded far better live than on their recordings. With most acts it’s the other way round, but maybe it’s time to upgrade my sound systems to do the music justice. Take a listen for yourself here and judge
Halfway through the set, Patrick missed his cue and the song started without him. These things happen, that’s what rehearsals are for. The others grinned, stopped and then they launched into the song again with everyone on board. The downside of it all was that when they got to the end of the three songs, they stopped completely. Then, after a short discussion agreed to play the new song they had been writing. It wasn’t finished, but it was a cracking good tune. Conversation drifted on to the subject of gigs. Neillo smiled and shrugged.
‘There’s no tearing hurry is there. We’re thinking end of October’
‘We can’t really go on stage with three songs, two verses and a chorus’ Patrick added and he’s right. Should they pad a set out with covers? If they do, expect something out of the ordinary. These guys thrive on originality. In the meantime, they’re writing songs that should keep us all happy. In fact, I got a message that they had two more in the bag by the end of the night and more have been written since.
True to their word, they will be playing a gig on the 28th October at Hooga in Chelmsford and, from the most recent info received, it’s likely to be pretty much all brand new, self penned tunes. Were are my rollerskates – if I start now I should get there just in time…