Manchester has one of the world’s most vibrant live music scenes – but you need more than musicianship to break through. Ella Parkinson talks to Chorlton Band, Cosmic Shambles.
Cosmic Shambles are Sam (guitar and lead vocal), Charlie (drums) and Theo (bass).
Sam: “We’ve been gigging since we were about 16, so around four years now, in probably as many different outfits. Most of it we’d describe as DIY – you have to organise and promote it entirely yourself. You can rarely charge on the door and you may actually already be paying to play – so yeah, it’s hard work and can cost money to create your own scene.”
“Manchester’s scene is really crowded,” adds Charlie. “Because the city is such a bright light, many bands will travel in from elsewhere, making it harder for local bands to surface.”
“Our following has grown up with us, so when we started out, the age of our audience was a real issue,” Sam explains. “If they’re under-age it’s tough finding venues that will let you play – or they kick most of your crowd out after the first tune! We’re 20 now, but going through those experiences gives you the resilience you’ll need if you want to be taken seriously. You can go down the education route – being able to say you’re RNCM students, for example, will get you a long way – but we’re glad we’ve done it the way we have.
“If you’re not a well turned-out indie band, people rarely see any commercial value, but we’re on the punkier, more psychedelic side of indie,” says Charlie. “The dirt synonymous with punk and grunge, woven with psychedelic themes and elements. We concentrate on making our performances visual artwork in themselves in the way we move and interact – that’s what makes a band memorable. It’s not choreographed; we just like to perform in a way that shocks people.
“We have a rehearsal space at Brunswick Mill, which has been a pillar of Manchester’s creative scene for a long time, but we’re looking at how that community could work together to help young musicians overcome some of the obstacles we’ve faced. We started out by ‘borrowing’ PA systems from our school over the weekend! Kids shouldn’t have to do that – musicianship should be supported and we’re exploring ways to break down those types of barriers.”
Advice for bands starting out? “If you can’t find help out there, then take that DIY route and work with other bands to make things happen. Create your own scene and don’t worry about what’s cool at the time – because you can guarantee in five years it won’t be cool any more.”
Cosmic Shambles are currently recording and writing some new tunes for the set. They’ve just finished a run of gigs, but hope to put on a marquee gig with other bands in mid-November.