Lumer – Interview
Lumer, the four-piece from Hull speak with Will Metcalfe from Louder Than War.
‘Get me back to Peckham, or I’ll be saying ‘eyup’ and breeding whippets before I’m very much older’, moans a confused, bewildered and somewhat outraged Delboy, upon waking up in the back of his dear friend Denzel’s lorry. Various seaside noises help our comedy hero come to the realisation that he is far from the busy bustling streets of London, yet it is his younger brother Rodney’s calm response to Delboy’s question of, ‘Where the bloody hell am I?’ which adds further laughs from the nations adopted brothers.
This is probably one of the only mentions of Hull within popular culture. Located on the underbelly of Yorkshire, you’d be forgiven for dismissing Hull as merely another city giving its all to simply exist. Competing with other northern culture hubs such as Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield, Hull has been somewhat forgotten and has painted itself head to toe in grey and grime. However, it may well be the limescale growing upon the stereotype which has helped to shape one of the most organic music scenes the UK has yet seen.
Lumer manage to brighten every corner of Manchester’s Soup Kitchen with their band-width smile, as the discussion moves onto the Hull music scene. They are Alex Evans (vocals and bass), Benjamin Jackson (guitar), Jacob Wardle (drums) and Thom Foster (synth), each member chipping in a positive response and helping to build a list of Hulls’ finest. ‘Some of our biggest influences are just other Hull bands. We share a band room with Cannibal Animal and Vulgarians, and they’re two of the reasons we probably started a band’, Jacob comments. As opposed to the somewhat fairy tale idea of moving to the big city and getting a fat advance slammed in your face by some bloke from a major who thinks he can sell you off, keeping work within a small network of creatives is the way that seems to be working not just for Lumer, but for the scene building around them. The importance of maintaining this network is summed up by Ben: ’Because there’s not much industry up there (Hull), the whole scene is really supportive of each other. Nobody’s coming from the doorstep of a big label or a big agent or even big promoters really. Everybody chips in for each other and helps each other out. When we were first signed, some of the best advice we had was from other bands around us.’
The attitude towards anywhere past Birmingham is summed up by our dear friend Delboy’s reaction to waking up in Hull: it’s grim up North. However, there is a widely-associated armpit value which has fermented into the stereotype of Hull, as Thom sheds light: ‘I think geography has something to do with it. Hull is quite out there by itself really. You look at cities like Leeds, Manchester and Sheffield they’re all very much in the country whereas Hull is out there by itself. Because of City of Culture last year and Life doing well for themselves, I think people are starting to see potential to the Hull sound. I think it will be slow to catch on but…I don’t know.’
It seems that Hull may have been dismissed for less than it’s worth. The city did make it onto the lips of regional news last year, upon being announced as the City of Culture. The common assumption would be that arts, in general, would thrive as a result. Maybe not the case, as Thom gives an insight on the real impact; ‘I mean, we played a show for City of Culture but realistically not really. Money from City of Culture has gone more on theatre projects…Like you’ll mention Hull, ‘oh yeah, City of Culture’, ‘OK, you have heard of the place then’.
The DIY attitude of the fresh-emerging Hull scene is admirable. As if being in an active touring band isn’t enough, the individuals who make up Lumer are also involved in other projects. Alongside co-founder Charlie Marriot, Alex has recently launched Warsaw Promotions, a company dedicated to showcasing some of the most energetic and raw post-punk the UK has to offer. Likewise, guitarist Ben Jackson helps to run a Hull-based publication, Bleakhaus: ‘We’ve been putting gigs on earlier this year and we’re starting to put together a magazine at the minute. It’s been a bit slow but we’re working towards trying to get one out before the end of the year. And as soon as that’s going we’ll be looking at 4 to 5 issues a year. But at the minute it’s just been heavy on putting gigs on. We’ve got FEHM coming down on August 2nd. We had Protomartyr on last month, along with Phobophobes, just a lot of the bands that we’re heavily influenced by and that Hull doesn’t really get’.
There is no sign of boasting or arrogance in discussing the projects – only an excitement that youth can offer, an attribute which appeals a hell of a lot more than the arrogance of the next Cuban heel-clad indie band. The love for music is but the start of pursuing a career within the industry, but barking up the wrong tree can be one aspect of the industry which is tiring and extremely demotivating. Ben provides advice on avoiding this: ‘You learn a lot more about the industry and you see it from the other side, as opposed to just being in a band and seeing it from your point of view. You can understand the struggles that promoters go through and gives you a better understanding when you come to gigs, you kind of know pressures and stress that they’re under and that gives you a bit more of an appreciation really.’ This approach is also scientifically proven to increase an active hatred towards the ‘can you put us on the guestlist’ acquaintances. Four quid to support your mate’s band is hardly bank-breaking. You know who you are, and you’re doing exactly zero good for anyone.
Fans of Lumer will understand the frustration of their ever-emptying Spotify page. Previously released singles rarely survive a matter of months before being taken down. However, there is method in the madness, as Jacob explains: ‘It means you’ve done something a lot better to warrant a hatred for it. So, if we do end up not liking it, maybe that’s a good thing’.
Although there is no guarantee, there is a certain confidence when discussing their recently released debut EP, ‘Blood On Suits’. Ben sheds light on what has built up to the writing of the EP: ‘I think we started from square one and we hadn’t been in any serious projects before. For us everything was brand new: the process of putting music out, going through publications, getting press etc. It was a few years ago our other stuff was written and recorded and in that time we’ve all grown a lot and sort of grown past it. We got to a point where it just wasn’t us anymore and we’d rather people have nothing from us than hear a lot of shit.’
At first glance, ‘Blood On Suits’ is a dark, twisted fraction of a collectively-tortured mind. Inch-perfect guitar tones weave within sweeping synths, some of which haven’t been heard since Tom Baker portrayed Doctor Who. It’s the post-punk equivalent of a Tesco meal deal. But it’s dark. So very dark. Amongst the darkness, Alex provides light on the lyrical inspiration: ‘It’s aimed at themes such as sexual harassment, misogyny and male privilege, as it’s something that we’re very passionate about. It’s a bit of a taboo to talk about certain things even now. It’s sort of wrong to break down even though it’s quite important. I think on a lyrical level it comes from our personal experience, just being on a night out and being around places like this really.’
Although it is the industrial stereotype of Hull which has helped to shape Lumer sonically, lyrical inspiration for such themes lies everywhere, unfortunately. Whether it be in the dark corners of clubs or the paid silence of Hollywood, male privilege is an issue which is slowly being tackled. The passion to address such themes is collective, as is the influence of one certain individual in terms of their lyrical approach, Thom comments: ‘I think it was Mark E. Smith who said that the best way to write lyrics is to just go to the pub. I think a lot of it comes from being observational, by taking in experiences and pushing it back out again’.
It is clear Lumer have a knack for dictating their own progress. Being able to tour the UK comfortably would be ideal for a band who are still of student age, yet Lumer’s horizons are based on the other side of the English Channel, with the second half of their recent tour taking them over to Europe. It isn’t the first time they have been either, as Thom reflects on their previous tour: ‘There was a time when we were first on tour in Europe and we were in a recording studio in Rotterdam. We were on the roof looking over Rotterdam and we just looked at each other and collectively thought, ‘This is alright. People are at work. It was like Wednesday or something, just a random day of the week. Like yeah, people are doing normal shit right now and we’re lucky enough to be on top of a recording studio, smoking some legal weed.’ It’s hardly a case of booking out the shitty venues, playing to three locals and losing a lot of money for the sake of saying ‘oh look we’re playing in Europe’.
Videos of previous visits to Europe show Lumer being chased out of town by adoring fans, something which so many bands would never even come close to in the UK. The rendition of post-punk which Lumer create clearly has more of a home in France. However, the adoration and respect for artists is due to a more organic bigger picture and national respect for art in general, as Thom as explains: ‘As a whole, art is taken so much more seriously. The Government take it more seriously because they put money into arts. Over here, we have arts being cut from schools. Whereas in France, okay you have to pay at the tolls but they’re putting money into arts and into culture and it’s important. If you’re in a band, that alone is respected, whereas over here if you’re in a band, the attitude is ‘go out and get a proper job’.’
This attitude is summed up when the only real parental advice offered after being told to get a proper job is to write a Christmas song. Cheers Dad, but I think I’ll pass for the time being.
The real question is, would that classic episode of Only Fools and Horses ever have made it in post-Brexit Britain?
Three British immigrants crossing the borders illegally without passports, with the sole intention of smuggling diamonds back? Now, what would the Daily Mail have to say about such a situation, if anything at all? Fictional sitcoms aside, the future of European relations is as clear as Hull seawater. It would be naive to assume that the music industry will be left unaffected, with a band of Lumer’s size likely being worst affected. Exactly what the repercussions will be, only the future will tell. But for now, Lumer are looking forward to recording their second, as-yet-untitled EP, with Alex Greaves with whom the band have worked previously, as Ben discusses the future: ‘We were really early stages when we went in with him first time and we’re really looking forward to getting back in with him. He’s a really good producer and we’ve been chatting about some of the stuff we’ve got now, and we almost developed another slight turn in the past few months. We’ve come through a spurt of writing where we’ve written a few new tracks and it’s almost like, if we get in the studio now we’ll capture it as it is. We want to get it while it’s fresh as well to stop it from getting old.’
Whatever the future may hold for Lumer due to elements beyond their control, the ground they have paved in Hull is something which will only be recognised in time. There is something very special happening as we speak. It is now just a case of waiting for the rest of the UK to catch up. Then who knows, they might even build an O2 Academy there.
Photo by Jessica Holt, Words by Will Metcalfe who writes for Louder Than War and this is his author page.