The Arrivals at Solent Sound 2013 on Thursday 28th February by Dan Smith
“We’re The Arrivals and we’ll be doing all originals because, let’s face it, any band can stand up here and do covers”.
Right there, with frontman Dan Surridge-Smith’s* proclamation, the Portsmouth based four-piece had the crowd hooked, baited and ready to be reeled in.
The band’s garb before they even hit the stage as the last participants in Solent University’s SMILEfest 2013 event, competing for a supporting slot to Reverend and the Makers at Southampton Guildhall, immediately stoked the fires of intrigue.
Clad in a classic parka worthy of Quadrophenia’s wardrobe department, drummer Harry Adams’ decidedly Modish appearance was complemented by Smith, stood defiantly beside him, his surlier demeanour suggesting a true disciple of Sid Vicious-like rebelliousness.
So it turned out he wasn’t quite as loopy as the ex-Sex Pistols bassist, but simple things like the elaborate, aggressive strums of his ice blue guitar drew comparisons with the Punk icon nonetheless.
The biggest question now was whether the group could provide music worthy of the build-up they had given themselves. Could they live up to the previous act, Alton’s funky, indie band, Slippery Angles, and the bar they’d set for themselves by decrying the plethora of cover bands which preceded them?
Their set began with a bang, despite many of the audience having vacated the venue, with the intro of the well-received ‘Work It Out’ evoking similarities with Razorlight and Little Comets.
By the end of the first tune, many of the departed crowd had returned to watch the outfit; immeasurably more polished than the previous acts, who arguably acted as support acts to the arrival of, erm, The Arrivals.
The event had been a kaleidoscope of genres up to this point, from the bubblegum pop/rap/driving rock hybrid of The Overdrives to the intense heavy metal of Equinoxe, and Fun-inspired opening act, Loli.
The aforementioned Slippery Angles were the forerunners before The Arrivals’ performance, but even they – despite their funky, foot-tapping rendition of ‘Billie Jean’ and psychedelic cover of ‘Come Together’ – couldn’t top them.
The second and third songs from the group, ‘LSD’ and ‘Standard Girl’, were aided by a transition midway through, and the former’s glam rock-style intro was a revelation, with Smith’s vocals cutting through the mix in the post-punk fashion of his namesake, Robert Smith, of The Cure.
The keyboard work of Jack Collins provided a more electronic feel to the indie, rock and roll sound of bassist Jack Kelly and drummer Adams’ rhythm section, with Smith’s more punky, new wave-inspired vocals prominent above the instrumentals.
Their last two tracks, first the humorously titled, ‘Artemis the Aquatic Squirrel’, and then the new single from their yet-to-be released debut EP, ‘Leave This Town’, were an eclectic combination.
The latter was the best example of the group’s knack of producing classic riffs worthy of The Jam, but with more modern breakdowns and chord progressions of The Rifles.
Judges at the venue, including representatives from Capital FM and BBC, were wholeheartedly positive in their appraisal of the group, with Radio Solent presenter Alex Dyke heavily tipping them to win Saturday’s support slot at the Guildhall. We at National Brit Rock wholeheartedly concur.
The earlier comparison with Little Comets would prove to be accurate, given Smith’s confirmation following the set that the Comets were indeed one of the group’s primary influences. And given the fact the Tyne-based trio are also playing the Saturday Guildhall gig, it provides greater impetus for the up-and-comers to force their way onto the bill to join them.
Smith said: “Little Comets are my favourite band, and when we saw they were on the bill we bit (the organisers’) hands off to get involved.
“Reverend and the Makers are another band we style ourselves on and they stuck out on the line-up. It’s not confirmed yet, but we’re really hoping to play.”
When pressed about the decision not to do any covers, Smith admitted that they had considered it. He said: “We were thinking of doing a dance track, actually. Something like Swedish House Mafia, but we thought the best reflection of our sound would be doing originals. Not to knock the other groups, who did good covers, but anybody can go up there and imitate.”
This first viewing of the group from Fareham College has awoken hopes that they can achieve success on the back of their fledgling talent.
The broadest challenge for the boys now is to hone their sound, go for the jugular in terms of gigs and tours, and try to avoid falling into the clichéd bunch of anonymous indie bands cluttering the small venue scene. Possibly, a greater experimentation with backing vocals could be used to get the best out of their early output too.
But given the sense of individualism and quality of the group’s growing catalogue of tunes, both live and in the studio, a lucky break could be all they need to move onto bigger and better climbs. They’ve made one heck of an arrival.
The Arrivals Setlist:
Work It Out
Artemis the Aquatic Squirrel
Leave This Town
Tickets are still available for Saturday’s Guildhall gig, the finale of SMILEfest 2013, headlined by Reverend and the Makers and supported by Little Comets, Sean McGowan, Skymarshal and the winners of the ‘Battle of the Bands’. Click here for more info.
*Ed: No relation to the writer of this article – or none that we know of!
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