It seems strange, if not utterly reprehensible, that THE TEA STREET BAND’s mountainous debut LP took until this year to finally arrive. With years on the local and national circuits, they’re now entwined more than most in the Liverpool scene’s true fabric, thanks for the most part to their leviathan live experience, gigs that twist traditional club into raves of incendiary euphoria. They’re a group that take in as much as they give out; to the locals, very much “one of theirs”, reciprocating the affection with the kind of warmth that in any other setting you simply wouldn’t get.
In fact, it’s hard to imagine a man more passionate than the band’s TIMO TIERNEY when it comes to his home city. “Liverpool has everything. We’ve played in loads of cities and nowhere even comes close, to us,” he enthuses of his origins. “People in bands aspire to be from Liverpool, that’s the difference. Anywhere you go in the country, though they might not admit it, they all really aspire to be from Liverpool because we’re the leaders in everything,” he avows with fervour when asked what makes Merseyside so special.
Quite the claim. Yet the considerable raft of plaudits heading Liverpool’s way at present would suggest that the singer is on steadier ground than some might think, the present state of musical affairs in the city being a creative purple patch. It’s not quite that flash in the pan mentality for Timo though, who’s seen a few such periods of high musical productivity, and claims it’s only a matter of highlighting what’s already there. “It’s never not been [fertile], I don’t think,” he says of Liverpool’s breeding ground. “But certain bands and people are being really successful at the moment and that highlight comes back to the city.”
“There have been a lot of bands who’ve had quite a lot of success over the last six months, whether it’s a massive one or a small one. There’s never not been people playing in bands, good artists and good acts. The attention’s just come back round to Liverpool the way it always does,” he continues. “There’s also loads of blogs and magazines knocking round the city, which means everyone can read about it; it makes it all a lot easier. The spotlight’s been off Liverpool for a couple of years as all the other cities have been having their time, but now we’re being highlighted again. It’s back to being our time.”
As for any talk of a “golden age” transcending that constant triumph, if the term was ever relevant for Timo it would have been a decade ago. “I think if there was one then that was 2001 to 2004, when Deltasonic was kind of the big thing… There was all that scousedelica kind of scene going on, back when The Zanzibar was taking off, and we’re still talking about that ten years on. It’s like when Arctic Monkeys got big, the spotlight went straight to Sheffield and then all those bands over there were all you’d ever hear about. It was like that ten years ago in Liverpool, and now it’s back again.”
Back in The Tea Street Band’s salad days of the late noughties, the majority of mainstream media had long since shifted away from Merseyside, and their propulsive local rise went somewhat unnoticed nationally. “When we started doing this, like trying to make dance music on analogue instruments, nobody was doing it in Liverpool, and now everyone’s doing it. We lead, they follow,” asserts Timo.
Whether Liverpool’s present, assuredly effervescent generation can be said to be a singular movement, however, is a more complex matter. For Timo, regardless of diversity of sound – a subject that requires no emphasis – the Liverpool ‘scene’ remains somewhat divided into camps. “There are a lot of people now who are sat in their bedroom making music – they’re not part of anything but they’re still doing it. And then you look at people who are part of associations and groups and they’re all going in a certain direction, moving forward together, like The Wirral bands who are all coming back, like studenty kind of bands making their own kind of music.”
“I’ve never really wanted to fit in with anyone, though,” the singer continues. “I just want us to try and do what we want to do, and then everyone else can just follow.” He agrees that the band feel separate, and even slightly ahead of their contemporaries – “but not in a horrible way, only in a sheer positive way. I actively go out to try and find bands, to see what’s happening around the city. We just kind of do what we do and write songs, then they write songs and it all falls into place.”
“There are plenty of bands who I like!” he’s quick to point out, instantaneously beginning to reel off examples without pause for breath. “I like Circa Waves – I’ve heard their singles,” he enthuses. “Dan Croll as well, his album’s brilliant. The Sugarmen, I think they’re brilliant, too. They’ve just done an album and from what I’ve heard it’s really good: beautiful, energetic punk with a Liverpool stamp on it.”
On the subject of that aforementioned “Liverpool stamp”, there is, of course, for any Merseyside musician an ever-present sense of preconception when it comes to placing their sound, perhaps not one entirely unwelcome for those vying for the next place in the canon. “It definitely helps,” pronounces the singer on Merseyside’s cultural repute. “But then there’s obviously still those stupid stereotypes that have been knocking around about Liverpool since forever which you still sometimes get when you’re out of the city,” continues Timo, for whom the positives hold the greater weight. “No doubt about it, we’ll always be a Liverpool band.”
In the end it’s perhaps not all that surprising that for Timo this current period is simply a spike in attention for an evergreen scene with which his band have the most intimate of relationships, given their longstanding and unshakable role within it. On the whole, it’s pretty hard to turn down that infectious enthusiasm (a healthy dose of local bias aside) and assume a bracing optimism, to look both backwards and forwards to depths yet untapped of Liverpool brilliance.