Celebrated indie label Heavenly is bringing 10 of its acts to Leeds venue the Brudenell Social Club. DUNCAN SEAMAN spoke to two of them.
Four years on from an inaugural event at Hebden Bridge Trades Club to celebrate the 25th anniversary of one Britain’s most successful independent record labels, the Heavenly Weekender has fast become an annual tradition.
This year it moves to the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds, with a two-day line-up that includes ten of its present-day acts. Among them are The Orielles, the Halifax-based four-piece who will be playing a DJ set, and Baxter Dury, the singer-songwriter whose album Prince of Tears was one of the highlights of 2017.
Sidonie Hand-Halford, The Orielles’ drummer, believes the label’s carefully-chosen roster has long made it stand out. “The type of bands that they sign are really distinctive in their own way, and it’s fun because they encourage us to hang out with the other bands that they sign, which is cool, so we’ve met all the other bands on the label, pretty much. Having stuff like the Heavenly Weekender as a regular event is really good to encourage that as well. It definitely does feel like a shared identity.”
For Dury, Heavenly’s distinctiveness is the “attitude” of its founder Jeff Barrett. “Everyone follows it and it’s all you need,” he says. “He’s got a nice crew around him, a lovely bunch who are genuine, and if you’re genuine and not frightened to make your business thrive in a fragile indie world you need someone like Jeff. He’s got an unbelievable kind of nuclear energy, I don’t know where it comes from.”
An awareness of Heavenly’s history played a part in The Orielles signing to it when they were teenagers. Hand-Halford says: “We’ve always liked the bands that were part of the label, so it definitely did have some kind of part in it. When we first envisioned being on a label Heavenly was definitely a goal for us.”
Dury, who has worked with other labels in the past, says signing to Heavenly was more down to “personality”. “There are some labels that are quite local to me, and [Jeff] was one of them and was always a familiar character.”
Barrett has been Heavenly’s guiding light for nearly 30 years. Hand-Halford says he is “very easy-going” to work with. “The communication between us and Heavenly has always been very easy. They show us new music and ask us for new music too, they always get us DJ-ing at their events as well, which is really nice.
“Jeff’s knowledge of music is incredible and really inspiring. He always shows us great stuff and encourages us to listen to different styles of music and attend as many gigs as well.”
Dury accords with The Orielles’ experiences of their label boss. “I sort of look for problems but there never is one,” he says. “He’s been very respectful. I did one album with him and it’s been good so far.”
When we first envisioned being on a label Heavenly was definitely a goal for us.Sidonie Hand-Halford of The Orielles
As a young band, The Orielles have found Barrett’s support a considerable help. “Particularly starting out, when we first got signed, he very much encouraged us to go out there and discover our own style.”
Having performed at the Brudenell Social Club “a bunch of times before”, it’s a place where The Orielles feel at home. “At The Trades Club, that was pretty much round the corner from our parents’ house, so it’s always been really nice to play there, but the Brudenell as well is really special. I guess having the two different rooms now was I think the main reason why Jeff wanted to move it to there just so there could be more space for them to put on other stuff. We’re DJ-ing at it so we’re going to be there all weekend too.”
Dury will be performing solo. “I’m only playing the piano, which is the avant-garde thing for me to do, so I’m probably going to be on early. I’m not doing the packaged showbiz version of my stage show, more the arty, raw version. We’ll see how that goes down. I’m not that accustomed to doing it, really. I’ll try and hit the right notes with more softness and melody. If I’m not on too long hopefully it will be bearable.”
Eighteen months on from the release of Silver Dollar Moment, The Orielles are hard at work on its successor. “We’ve just demo-ed the second album,” Hand-Halford reveals. “We’re going into the studio in July to record it properly, so we’re looking forward to it. It feels like a very natural progression from the first one. The song-writing seems to have matured quite a lot.”
She says the band feel buoyed by the warm reception their debut album received. It featured in many ‘best of 2018’ lists, including BBC 6 Music. “It was very humbling and really nice. When we started out we didn’t even think that we’d release an album at all, let alone it be enjoyed and liked by so many people. It seems really nice.”
Dury, meanwhile, is near the end of a month-long recording session for his new album. “I’ve got keyboard players, trumpet players, it’s like a circus of odd, opposing people,” he says. The day before we speak, he says they had “all had a collective meltdown”. “We just have to refocus,” he says.
After years of struggle in the UK, he admits to having derived satisfaction from the critical praise lauded on Prince of Tears. “But I don’t know,” he reflects, “you tend to acclimatise quite quickly to your position. I liked it initially but then you sit back and think ‘I’d worked hard for that’. It did seem like a nice introduction to a new level of awareness, especially in this country, so it was good.
“But,” he adds, “do you know what was nice? I was sat in a cocktail bar yesterday and they gave me free chicken wings. It was actually a really nice gesture, a miniature version of someone much bigger, but it was good enough for me.”
Like The Orielles, Dury anticipates his next album will be out in 2020. “It’s down to the schedule,” he says. “You’ll probably try to get some music out this year and then you’ll look at some point next year [for the album], I don’t know when, maybe earlyish. There’s probably some planning going on.”
The Heavenly Weekender runs from Friday June 14 to Saturday June 15 at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds. For details visit www.brudenellsocialclub.co.uk