When the question arises as to who exactly has been powering the recent Scouse resurgence, few names come as readily to mind as ALL WE ARE, the trio of far-flung musicians weaned on Liverpool’s creative teat. If the definition of art stands for nourishment (as it surely must, to be more than an empty aesthetic guiding brochures into the hands of tourists), we are blessed by a cabal of junkies, a sect of active gluttons that spearhead the scene we know today and continue to make the rest of the country wise up to Liverpool’s past and future role in the UK’s untouchable pedigree of great music. As a rather famous British gentleman once wrote, “all the world’s a stage”; is it true that we’ve brought the stages unique to us back to a level that deserves global attention? RICHARD O’FLYNN, All We Are’s drummer and co-vocalist, is inclined to agree.
“We really, really love it here,” he says, perhaps enthused even more by the “few cans” he’s just bought from a shop somewhere. We’re talking on the phone, and his voice is amiable and pleasant, a fine Irish lilt that reminds me of the fresh eyes he and his bandmates (a Norwegian and a Brazilian) must have had when they came to Liverpool six years ago. “I was just going back to see family yesterday, but that’s a rare thing nowadays. Our roots are here now; we’re set up nice and comfortable. When I got here, I could tell the place had a large Irish component, and was full of fiercely proud people with a great heritage. I can only speak for myself as a first impression… really, I felt at home from the outset.”
It took a course at LIPA for Rich to realise he was in the midst of a small-scale revolution. “I guess it started four or five years ago when MelloMello and The Kazimier were getting the burgeoning scene off the ground. These places had been around for some time, but there was a sense of something quite special happening, demonstrated by the quality of the bands coming out. Interest in the city itself grew exponentially from that. Apart from the fact that Liverpool’s so welcoming, I think any band is going to be received well regardless of genre, just because of the huge diversity here. I went to a Stealing Sheep gig at the Kaz some years ago and Ex-Easter Island Head were playing, along with Barberos. I mean, fucking hell, they’re all incredible in their own fields.”
The C-word crops up repeatedly during his reminiscences – community, for all its loose substance, can simply mean friends, good gig offers and a healthy competitive edge ensuring every artist is aware of one another: “It’s involvement, meeting people, being a part of little side projects that are going on all the time. You get to see everyone else’s music and art evolve in conjunction with yours. If something bad was to befall an artist here they would be met with instant support, no question.”
“We as a band wouldn’t be able to do what we do without their help. It’s close-knit, small, alternative, D.I.Y., whatever you call it. The promoters facilitate this really well, whether it’s Evol or Harvest Sun – there are too many to mention, actually. Everyone gets involved and there’s no animosity. Once the spotlight is shining, it’s good for everyone.”
O’Flynn is quick to point out the sheer majesty of something like Sound City, citing the chance he got to play and watch groups in the Anglican Cathedral as a real example of a novelty factor that is anything but trivial. Even in the beginning, he could tell the “Bohemian vibes” of the Kaz’s very first showcase events were different, “not like the normal sort of club night you were used to.” It’s hard for him to pick out one moment that crystallised the happening. Again, The Kazimier’s totemic allure drew him into the community without him even realising it, which has probably happened to more people than these pink pages could ever document.
All We Are’s video for Utmost Good is essentially a who’s who of local heroes. Watch it now, and I challenge you to not feel emboldened and maybe even sentimental by the parade of faces from the circuit: Dan Croll, Jethro Fox, Jonas Alaska, members of Stealing Sheep and everisland… does Rich plan to continue being a proud ambassador for Liverpool’s aural alumni? “Fair enough,” he says, “that was a microcosm of what was going on at the time. We were very happy to be around everyone in that video. When [the band] get asked where we come from, we still say ‘Liverpool’, although pressure would be the wrong word to describe how we feel about that admission. We fly the flag, that’s all.”
“There’s a place in Germany called Leipzig that could be comparable to this city, in terms of having a tight-knit, D.I.Y. mentality. Y’know, we played shows there where it’s really underground and you just plug in and go for it; and then some larger stages, too. The catering tends to be pretty good in Europe, I have to say! It’s different in the UK because we would drive to London and back when we first started; you tend to nip round the country and then go home. Sometimes European promoters would let us crash at theirs and feed us.”
On the subject of an unexpected meal, is Liverpool biting off more than it can chew? Is there an inflated sense of self that dogs a movement’s quest to be heard? “There’s no self-importance and no self-deprecation. It’s a quiet confidence. There’s all this talk about the Beatles, the fact it’s the city with the most number ones… as far as I’m concerned, I haven’t really come across that. No-one expects anything.” He pauses, and reflects: “Nobody’s denying the weight of history, either.”
A large percentage of those who lead the charge of the artisan don’t have a clue what they’re doing, or why they’re doing it. It’s bigger than a summarising sentence, or a headline. I’ll let Rich sum it up: “Long may it continue.”