Highlighting some of the best acts in the South West!
If London, Manchester, and the Midlands are the thumping heartbeat of the UK’s music scene, then the South-West and the UK’s other more remote regions are its soul. The area’s stunning landscapes and vibrant people have long encouraged reflective song-writing which spans every genre. With that in mind, I’ve selected five artists from the region I think you should look out for. That said, the depth of talent in such an enormous geographical area is near impossible to reduce to just five artists. So, once you’ve read my thoughts – or indeed, while you do so – check out WFM’s Introducing South-West playlist I’ve curated. I promise you’ll be amazed by what you find.
In epitomising what Devon and Cornwall has to offer, angst-driven indie-rockers Milo Gore are the perfect place to start. The band were formed in the setting of Falmouth’s swelling waves, and this comes through in their tempestuous music. There’s a pressing urgency to the band’s tracks, all the more appropriate as the world appears to be falling apart at the seams. A debut album emphatically titled How Do You Cope While Grieving for the Living? comes out in late August and deals at length with contemporary issues like mental health, addiction, and loss, all in a digestible body of pulsing indie-rock. If you’ve ever been to a sweat guitar-charged gig in a tiny venue, you’ll have some semblance of what listening to Milo Gore is like.
The five-pieces’ roaring tempo is set by Milo’s driving vocals. Drenched with emotion, and weaved with FARE’s soaring harmonies, a skilful blend of power and vulnerability characterises tracks like ‘Jerry Can’ and ‘Noise Gone Dancing’. Although passionate, the group manage to avoid overdramatization. The group’s tracks are deeply personal, and yet resonate with so many in a generation disheartened at the current state of affairs. Great music often reflects its context, and Milo Gore have grasped this with conviction. Having formed at Falmouth University, the group are an example of the fruits that can result from a meeting of minds in a picturesque setting.
As well as churning out indie rockstars, the South-West is also home to some phenomenal pop artists. One such example is George Moir. In the limiting context of a global pandemic, it’s no surprise that an artist with the ability to produce studio-quality sounds from the comfort of a box room will find success. That said, George Moir’s rapid ascent, even raising eyebrows at Radio 1, should not be understated.
Plymouth-born Moir released his debut EP suitably titled ‘Spare Room’ at the very start of lockdown and has gone from strength to strength. Single ‘Blame’ is instantly recognisable for its George Ezra-esque summer haze, while recently released single ‘Big Boy Cruising’ is effortlessly jubilant. Bounding piano chords skip alongside Moir’s soulful tones, the track reminding us of the beautiful uncertainty of playground-dreams.
Moir’s talents stretch so much further than song-writing, too. It still feels a little clinical to refer to an artist as possessing a ‘brand’, yet the Devonian’s successes demonstrate just how useful a curated sense of style can be. Making use of his graphic design skills, the artist creates everything from scratch. A creator whose self-produced videos are almost as good as his music, Moir’s home-made tunes (and his talking fish James) make him an instant favourite for fans of all genres.
There was a time in the early noughties – when Amy Winehouse was at her very peak – that female R&B musicians dominated the charts. Then dance music came along, and these female voices took on the starring role within repetitive, club-filler house tracks. Recently, however, there has been a resurgence in the genre led by talents including Arlo Parks and Georgia Smith. This movement has even made its way as far as Cornwall, where we find Zola Courtney. Brought up in Falmouth before upping sticks to the Brit School, the artist was set to perform at BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend earlier in the summer. When you listen to her music, it’s really no surprise that Courtney is turning heads. The singer’s debut EP Nothing to Lose released at the start of 2020, is a blissful yet vibrant R&B/Pop number. The type of stuff to make you tap your foot and nod your head, but also to long for a bubble-bath.
Listening to Courtney feels luxurious. On tracks like ‘Desire’, the singer’s vocals melt against a vibrant beat, not dissimilar in sound from the BBC Sound of 2020 winner Celeste, (a noteworthy award, although in retrospect a permanent association with this awful year is perhaps best avoided). Similarly, the acclaim around Courtney resulted in a support slot for Irish sweet-heart and Radio 1 A-List regular Dermot Kennedy on his Autumn tour, Coronavirus-dependent, of course. The virus may put a stop to these plans but listening to anthems like ‘Nothing to Lose’, there is no doubt that Zola Courtney will continue to gain support.
In the context of closing venues, abandoned festivals, and struggling artists, it is hugely important to remember just how brilliant live performance can be. With this in mind, it is difficult to find anyone who does it just as good as Pattern Pusher. There is no title more apt for the trio’s music than ‘Sunshine Pop’. Watching the Exeter-based band live is outrageously good fun. The joy found in bass-guitarist Ben Green’s propensity for stage diving is somehow matched by drummer Ben Conibear’s wild enthusiasm, and vocalist Alex Johnstone’s smiling lyricism.
It is understandably difficult to reflect this vibrancy on a streamed, three-and-a-half-minute track, but the group have worked hard on production value in recent releases and it shows. ‘Tonight’ is a typical Pattern Pusher anthem; disco rhythms with tones of Jamiroquia in the vocals. You don’t have to take my word about the band’s brilliance either. They were endorsed by just about the most important man in the UK’s live music scene, when Michael Eavis handpicked them for the Pilton Party event last summer. A sort of one-day Glastonbury for the local town, Pattern Pusher took to the festival’s stage before Supergrass and Wolf Alice. Now retreating to record their debut album, you can be certain of sunshine when the band return.
It would be impossible to draw to a close a list of some of the South-West’s brightest acts without mentioning Tors. Named after the rock formations of Dartmoor, the region’s natural beauty is at the heart of the trio’s music. Composed of brothers Matt and Theo Weedon, alongside Jack Bowden, the band’s music feels comfortingly close to home. Grandfather Bert Weedon was a prominent musician, running in circles with rock legends like Brian May and Jimmy Page.
It would be wrong, however, to refer to the group as rockstars. Friendly and down-to-earth, their sound is largely harmony-driven indie pop. Talented enough to have toured with John Newman and Walking on Cars, the group’s headline appearance at London’s Omeara was a sure sign of swelling popularity before the world imploded. Still, the global pandemic has not hindered an innovative 2020 project which has seen Tors release a new song each month.
Emotive, love story-oriented lyrics match beautiful harmonies, making the band just as engaging whether playing acoustic in front of five people, or in front of a sold-out crowd. With so many tracks to choose from, dive into standouts ‘Merry Go Round’, ‘Don’t Cry’ and ‘Seventeen’ and you’ll soon find yourself drifting through the rest of the group’s catalogue. It’s a soundtrack for dreamily staring out of the window and reminiscing on young romances.
Words by Adam Goldsmith
Wanna learn more about the South West Scene? Check out the Spotify playlist curated below!