On Wednesday 16th October, The Mic was part of the crowd at The Flapper, a canal-side pub in Birmingham, waiting eagerly for the bizarre pop outfit that is HMLTD.
The first act on were the riveting Pretty Vile, who hail from Coventry. Pounding riffs and raw vocals meant that you’d never believe there were only two of them on stage. They started their set staring down the crowd, chanting: ‘Hello! We are Pretty Vile, and we are just a couple of no good wannabe punks!’. After that, you can’t do anything but immediately sit up and pay attention. There are more than a few comparisons to be made with bands such as Slaves, particularly with the energy of frontperson Kit and drummer Erin both chanting the lyrics and Kit’s furious stage presence. They rattle through a raucous set, with a particularly malevolent cover of Slowthai’s Doorman. They run into the crowd for the last track, and I suppose my lasting impression of them was that they deserved a far more energetic crowd than they got. Ones to watch, for sure.
Up next were Glasgow’s Walt Disco. There’s been a fair bit of buzz around them in the past few months due to their association with Sports Team and a sold-out London headline show, so I was very excited indeed to see them live. When they came out all in a line with their hands clasped, as if in prayer, my first thought was that they could quite easily have been extras from an 80s film. The singer, James, wore silk wrapped around his torso and heavy makeup; it was clear they were here to have fun.
For Walt Disco, it was like New Romanticism had never ended – they had elaborate stage presence and songs that delighted in their own fun. They were evidently having a ball, and so did the audience by proxy. I’d chatted to them before the show where they’d confessed that their line-up was in flux at the moment, and that their drummer and guitarist weren’t actually members of the band. If they hadn’t mentioned, I would never have known, as they all seemed to be loving every second. I’m not sure I stopped grinning the whole way through.
'For Walt Disco, it was like New Romanticism had never ended – they had elaborate stage presence and songs that delighted in their own fun'.
Finally, the time had come. The lights dimmed, and on stage came four people dressed as if they’d come from alternate universes. The sparse drum machine of Is This What You Wanted? echoed through the room and was slowly joined by a languorous guitar line. Then Henry Spychalski, dressed in a blazer daubed with neon paint, burst onto the stage. He locked eyes with the crowd, and sang ‘I’ve got a feeling, hard to describe…’, which set the tone for the rest of the evening perfectly. The crowd was quite easily in the palm of his hand; he was a manic conductor, sending them first this way, then that. Spychalski cuts an imposing figure on stage, simultaneously relishing and spurning the crowd’s affections.
Each track took the audience on a journey to completely disparate places – perhaps trap first, then guitar music, and then furious electronica. No genre was safe. In many ways, this felt like the point of HMLTD; they make music for modern times, where we can stream hundreds of genres in a single afternoon. The crowd were lapping it up, every song was greeted with screams, and for the most well-known (the synth opening to Proxy Love being a notable example), a wave of sheer physical energy passed through the crowd.
'No genre was safe. In many ways, this felt like the point of HMLTD; they make music for modern times, where we can stream hundreds of genres in a single afternoon'.
Although the focus may have been on Spychalski, the other members had just as much fun with the set; guitarist Duke, with his moustache currently dyed white, held the gaze often with his whirling stage presence. Another honourable mention must be made to the lighting – rarely do I notice lighting unless it is sub-par, but for every single track it felt like an extension of the band themselves, strobing with every beat drop and adding so much to the set.
It’s difficult to describe what it is that makes HMLTD what they are, but the show they brought to The Flapper was a breath-taking manifesto of what’s to come for pop. If you get the chance, I urge you to see them live. You won’t be bored. Disturbed, perhaps. Disgusted, maybe. But certainly, never bored.