Leeds: A Space Where Experimentation and Community Thrive

(Cattle live at a CPWM event at Hyde Park Book Club, November 2019 - photo by James Ward)

The Leeds music scene is a bit weird. The city is known to have one of the best scenes in the country but there’s no big band you can point to that defines Leeds. No Arctic Monkeys, no Oasis, no Streets. In recent times Alt-J and Kaiser Chiefs are probably the city’s biggest exports but they don’t fit comfortably into the same sentence as the bands mentioned before.

To truly understand Leeds’ music culture you need to know the communities at its heart. If you’re looking at the indie scene you need look no further than Come Play With Me to get started. At its core, Come Play With Me is a record label that releases double A-Side 7” vinyls with bands from around Leeds including the likes of Marsicans, Team Picture, Fizzy Blood in the past. Beyond this Come Play With Me also hosts live events with an emphasis on education and providing opportunities to those underrepresented in the UK music industry. Tony Ereira, the founder of the label, is fond of saying that Come Play With Me “is not just for the beardy white boys with guitars” and this is something that carries through everything that Come Play With Me does.

Adjacent to Come Play With Me within the Leeds community is the slightly more traditional record label Clue Records. Set up in 2012 Clue has just merged with Hatch records (the label that Tony of Come Play With Me used to run), a partnership that formed over a love of the Leeds music community and in no small part due to the brilliance of a band called Team Picture. Team Picture released their first full length album, The Menace of Mechanical Music, in June their year on Clue records to critical acclaim as the latest in a string of steller releases from the label from the likes of Yowl, Van Houten and Plaza.

Now if you’ve ever read an article about the Leeds music scene it’s more than likely that you’ve have heard people go on and on about the Brudenell Social Club and they’re right, the venue has an almost unrivalled history of supporting emerging artists in the Leeds scene. From Dinosaur Pile Up’s Matt Bigland recording some of the bands first demos in a spare room (which is now a kitchen) in the late 2000’s to Treeboy and Arc’s amazing free entry shows over the last few years The Brude makes space for local talent in a way that few other venues do anywhere in the country.

The main problem with Brudenell, is that it’s too big but there are so many community focused venues that keep the scene vibrant. Venues like the Hyde Park Book Club, which houses a jazz focused record label and has fostered the wonderful Nice People Magazine with their events since late 2018. Like Chunk, a venue/club/rehearsal space behind a garage which has been like a second home to artists like Cowtown and Straight Girl as well as the sheltering more experimental tendencies such as the queer fetish night, Flesh In Tension. And finally, Wharf Chambers, a DIY cooperative on the edge of town where almost anything you imagine could happen and is hands down one of the best (and cheapest) places to get a drink if you’re a member (just leave your prejudices at the door).

If you came to this article hoping to find the next big thing coming out of Leeds then you may be disappointed because that’s Marsicans and we’re not talking about them or their delightful debut album Ursa Major in this article. Leeds is a scene you have to live to love. It might not produce the big names in the same way as Sheffield of Manchester but it is a space where experimentation and community thrive.