Gig preview: Forward Russia at Live At Leeds

Forward Russia
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It’s almost a decade since music weekly the NME hailed Forward Russia at the forefront of ‘New Yorkshire’, a wave of up-and-coming guitar bands destined to put the region firmly on the musical map.

By then the Leeds band – Tom Woodhead, Rob Canning, Katie Nicholls and Sam ‘Whiskas’ Nicholls – had released their song Nine on a sold-out split single with Bradford group This Et Al on the local label Dance To The Radio.

Within months their angular brand of indie rock 
had graced the UK Top 40, and the band performed on the 2006 NME New Music Tour 
and played shows across Europe and the USA. Give Me A Wall, their debut album, was even licensed to a record label in Japan.

But just when the four-piece seemed to be on the verge of a significant international breakthrough with their second album Life Processes they called it quits, announcing: “The idea of doing another tour with nothing new to offer was something that enthused none of us.”

It was to be five years before the quartet shared a stage again for a special show to commemorate the centenary of Hyde Park venue the Brudenell Social Club.

On Saturday they reconvene at Leeds Town Hall for a bill put together by Dance to Radio as part of Live At Leeds.

“I think everyone was just tired,” says singer Tom Woodhead, reflecting on why the band decided to go their separate ways in 2008. “Everyone was just tired of touring, tired of being a band and so we just thought, ‘Let’s not be a band for a while’.”

“I think the second album had run its course and it was, ‘What are we going to do next?” adds in Whiskas.”

“I think because we took so long writing it and making it and it had come out, to everyone it was new but to us it was pretty old by that point,” continues Woodhead. “It took us ages to get it out even after we’d finished it as well so it seemed quite old by that point and the touring it just seemed ‘What’s the point of doing more gigs? We’ve done that loads.’”

“I remember we got an email with a tour,” says Whiskas, “and I don’t think any of us could face doing it, playing the same venues for about the fifth time in a row in certain cities.

“And then it was, ‘What do you do next? I don’t think any of us felt like doing another album right then.”

During the hiatus, Whiskas says the four band members have “all done significant life things – I can’t imagine we would have had time to do them while doing the band”.

He jokes that it was Brudenell director Nathan Clark’s “fault” for their reunion last November.

“He cornered us separately and basically forced us to say, ‘If he’ll do it, I’ll do it’,” says Woodhead.

“Then once he’d done that separately he managed to get us together.”

The prospect of playing to celebrate 100 years of the Brudenell “felt like a very appropriate reason to do a gig”, says Whiskas. “Just as that felt like a good plan, a good idea, a good reason to do something again, [Leeds concert promoters] Futuresound asking us to headline the Town Hall felt similar – like a good laugh.”

Today Woodhead quips: “There’s a better atmosphere around the band now than there ever was when we were together before.”

“In some ways it felt like nothing had changed and in other ways it felt completely different,” says Whiskas, “and it probably feels like a daft thing to say but that’s it.”

“It sort of feels the same but with incredibly creaking bones in comparison,” smiles Woodhead.

“It’s just a lot harder to remember all the songs,” jokes Whiskas.

At the Brudenell, Woodhead remembers having a thirst to do more gigs during the second or third song; by the end he had changed his mind. “I love gigging but it takes so much out of me physically that I just don’t want to do another gig after I’ve finished.”

At this moment in time, bothWoodhead and Whiskas think the prospect of another Forward Russia album unlikely. However they’re looking forward to performing on Saturday.

Woodhead thinks the set will be “pretty similar to the Brudenell gig because we didn’t really want to learn any more songs”.

“But,” he says, “we have changed it a little bit. It’s shorter because our set time isn’t as long. We’ve put one song in that we didn’t play at the Brudenell.”

“Exclusive – not a new song, but one different song,” says Whiskas.

Forward Russia play at Leeds Town Hall on May 3 at 10.30pm.

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