Photography: Tomas Adam


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  • Strawberry Guy
  • Roy
  • Sara Wolff
Harvest Sun @ 81 Renshaw 15/2/19

SEATBELTS carry their artistry with a defined purpose. You happily consume the notion that this is exactly what they should be doing. All the traits are there. The seeming ease, the incessant observation, the joviality, the pomp. They rest in the reflection of society which punk wishes to dance, but all too quickly it breaks the mirror. If left untouched, beaming back at you are those arty types – the Bowies, the Byrnes – gliding through their shapes with the shades of understanding you’ve been looking for. Ones more abstract, but no less profound, or devoid of feeling. Seatbelts find themselves taking the early footsteps to a similar position. They’re plugged in and phased out. Perhaps by accident, perhaps by purpose. Either way, they find their stride by remaining loose in seemingly discordant times. Times that appear miles away from here, in Liverpool, where the band is sketching out a momentary escape with help of a finely tailored line-up.

“It’s got all the rumbles of New York post-punk with the intelligence of Massachusetts, literary references and all”

It’s far from a cold reception, but SARA WOLFF is first to face a room that is still yet to arrive. She’s composed, her band knitted tighter than the garments lining her lyrics. It’s a steady opening. Her music gently floats around the consciousness, attentively nudging the brain into short spells of introspection. Your attention is subtly requested rather than forced. Those already in attendance oblige, happy to take the extra share of bourgeoning folk talent centre stage. The sense of dreaminess weighs a little heavier when STRAWBERRY GUY enters the fold. His brand of fluffy synths and weightless vocals is diffused with an effortless charm. It’s Febreze in musical form. A sweetness overlaying raw feeling. It’s all in there, just beyond the first line of cosmetic appeal. Think Mac DeMarco midi keyboard melodies, more spaced out, heartfelt, and free of whimsicalness. It’s a short but sweet set.

Before Seatbelts, the bard of the County Road Kwik Save, ROY, delivers his second prosaic account of the night. With guile and humour, he tussles with the hollow absence of ignorance when surrounded by lives of no shame. His passages are stirring. His observations are warm and familiar, to start. Places, names, smashed glasses and abundant cheers. The ridicule is comedic, but the stories don’t merely just glaze across the slippery cobbles of Concert Square. You’re brought into contact with the fine details of existence where normality and the absurd become bedfellows. He moves from these settled scenes to join the dots with more chilling happenings. All initial comfort is dispersed come his closing lines. It’s like the darkest hours of the morning shading your night before. When you’re left to square up to normality, searching, aimlessly, for the safety of four new walls.

Seatbelts Image 4

From pin drop silence to mid-winter fiesta. A mannequin leg turned reading lamp rides a wave of bodies to reach the low sitting stage, sort of like an arty Olympic torch passed down to announce the beginning of the main ceremony. The jump from attentive listening party to party atmosphere only serves to enhance Seatbelts’ arrival into the fray. They’re off flying into A World Drained Of Wonder. It’s a fitting place to start, nailing in their musical signposts as a band caught in a continuing state of wonderment – sort of in their own channel, resting in perplexity by all that’s surrounding.

Working as a front three, there’s no shortage of flexibility to the performance. Swaps of instruments, lead vocals, harmonies, you name it, it’s all dished out in equal measure without a dip in the groove. Not once. It’s got all the rumbles of New York post-punk with the intelligence of Massachusetts, literary references and all, dreamily underscored by this evening’s rendition of Songs For Vonnegut. The freshly released Spanish Songs even works two new vocalists into the fold for its live outing. The track typifies the joyous feeling the band radiate around the room. This has become a full-blown celebration of Seatbelts’ cerebral oddities and expansive musical talent. Content Crush rubber stamps it all. A real jumping off point, a measure of quality, for what Seatbelts have in store for us this year.

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