“And I know it sounds strange // But I don’t know how to change the clocks
The clocks // Oh love, I can change…but I don’t know how to change the clocks”- Hey Sholay
Between history and the myth, choose the myth. Always. So said Tony Wilson (allegedly) in the lifechanging 24 Hour Party People. This myth goes back to 2009. I had a guest ticket to see Skint & Demoralised at Sheffield Uni. I had been all day out for my MSc, looking at water treatment techniques. Dead tired and maybe not in the mood for poetry, but I gave my word to the fine people of Forge and I’m too proud (and stubborn) to accept that I was pushing myself too hard.
The night was weird. I cajoled a friend to come with me. He spent the whole night texting, wondering when would I get him a free ticket to see Kanye. Girls from a record company gave us badges. I still have them, really fancy the “demoralised” one. What really struck a chord that night was Hey Sholay. Their energy, the perfect stage demeanour, it was a brutal slice of psychedelic pop and for a while, I lost track of them. Eventually, I ran into them in 2010 at an X-Ray Horse show at The Harley and I remember enjoying the fuck out of ‘Dreamboat’, ‘ (a song for the sparrows)’ and ‘Devil at the backdoor’.
Their set was the best thing at Rollerpalooza 2010. I managed to talk to them and buy one of those pink tapes wrapped in fake fur they were selling. It was such a precious collectable item, full of those lovely weird songs I enjoyed so much. A friend helped me transfer it into mp3s and on a quick trip back to Mexico for the holidays, the pink tape actually unspooled inside my old Kenwood stereo. This broke the head of the tape player. It still lies there, its pink carcass a warning to all cassette tapes that they need to rewind the fuck back to where they came.
2011 was a good year for Hey Sholay gigs. The Forum night with Seize The Chair was pretty enjoyable and it was one of the few times, outside of Tramlines, that it was really packed. Bouncers were still a pain in the arse, but, so it goes. A single launch at S1 Artspace was an entertaining affair, with special copies being offered inside plastic fetus, all at different stages of evolution. This is the sorta trick they loved doing: playing with the physical format. X-ray of broken arm bones, orange vinyl, sewn album covers, they had a knack for making the physical medium a lovely one.
There were two Tramlines gigs for them, one at the Barker’s Pool stage, whatever it’s gorramn name was, and the other one was a superultramegaperfectosecret show at their HQ, Soyo, the place they used as their base. Because even bands who fight Marvel supervillains like Onslaught need a break. 2011 was wrapped up with a Christmas single, where they covered a song by MadColours and a song of theirs was covered by MadColours. It was weird and included a picture of all them, with The Hot Soles, garbed in festive sweaters.
No, I’m not posting the photo.
Were you there during Tramlines 2012? Did you see them destroy that main stage with the strength of their music? Did you witness when Liam, lead singer, was carried from the stage to the back row, crowdsurfing like a tiny paper boat in a sea of Northerners, and confused pissheads? It wasn’t only the intensity of their music what made them so good, it was the show they put. No fireworks, no lasers, no fog machines. Just them and a pop distilled from The Smiths, Smashing Pumpkins, Can and a long, long list of influences.
Late 2012 and the prospect of having to spend Christmas by myself wasn’t a good one. I’d been to The Harley for a not very good show whose only saving grace was Oxo Foxo. And on a cold night, near Christmas Eve, Hey Sholay graced the Sheffield Library Theatre. Other guests included Harley likes music, Neil McSweeney and David J. Roch.
Somewhere in the middle of their set, while avoiding the everlasting gaze of their Lion-o cosplaying guitarist, it hits me: this was the night I was dreaming of as a kid who grew up watching Thames Television shows. A British band in a very sixties theatre, playing to an audience that swayed and bopped to the music. This feeling was almost there with the fantastic The Hosts back during Tramlines, but that night, with Hey Sholay, it was that very special evening I was looking (and dreaming) of.
Cold days gave way to sunnier ones and the Tramlines tides brought Hey Sholay like sand dollars to the tiny room at Sheffield Cathedral. With visuals by the always great Iain Hodgson, their set threatened to melt us all together into a single human blob, trapped forever in a Cathedral that no longer worked with heavenly miracles, but as a massive resonator to the weird and wild ideas of a quintet that has transcended from the mortal coil. Two last singles, ‘Ribcage’ and ‘Eyes for me’. ‘Golden is the colour of the sun (Run rabbit run)’. ‘Wishbone’. ‘Burning’. too many songs; good times that won’t come back. Liam, Stefan, Liam, Robin and Leigh, thank you for all the weird songs and great times.
Tradition says that I should’ve listened to The Beatles‘ ‘The long and winding road’ as my plane left Heathrow for one last time. I thought about those five and bit years that I spent there, in Sheffield. It’s one of three Beatles songs that I have on my ipod, a strange occurrence as I’m fed up with The Beatles since God knows when. Still carry those songs, just in case. The airplane had finished taxying and as the motors roared, I decided to go for Hey Sholay’s ‘The Bears, The Bees, The Clocks’. The amazing bass drone at the end was resonating as I saw England grow smaller and then disappear, for one last time. God knows when I’ll be back. That’s not for me to decide now, that’s not something I can make happen right now. I only know that I can change, but I can’t change the clo-ooh-ooh-ooh-ocks.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López