Tramlines 2009. The first one. The one where the local music bug bit me. Probably because I stepped on it with all my splendorous overweightness (!). I’d just seen La Folie at the Frog & Parrot and dragged myself uphill, back to Endcliffe Village. Statistics about fungus and micas had to be done. I was still thinking about the previous night, when I managed to squeeze into DQ and catch Bromheads. That same night I’d seen The Eighties Matchbox B-line Disaster. Great pairing, if you ask me.
Between SPSS runs of lab data, I took lengthy breaks, having a butcher’s at local bands and their myspaces, reverbnations, whatever online presence, you name it. Lenders in the Temple, The Book Club, The Backhanded Compliments, Mabel Love, the lot, that class of ’09. Some I enjoyed, some I passed over, stepping on the gas. Bromheads were cool and fun, though. A clear cut slice of garage, paying tribute to the classic early 70s British Rock. Got in touch with them on Twitter, as I was curious about the Nancy Sinatra cover they performed. I can’t remember how many times I sprained my neck to that song, but every single time it was worth it. They mentioned the song was going to be released for free soon-ish. No tricks, no scams, just the song, free for all. The song came out in September 2010. It was as good as I expected.
Eventually, fans and friends were invited to an exclusive show in the room above the Wick at Both Ends. We were told that the video for ‘Hole in the head’ was being filmed that night. The blistering October cold went away. We filmed and sent the raw footage. They did the rest. A few years later, looking at the photos from that night, I could see a few familiar faces around. Hugh and Steve from obLONG were there. So was everyone from The Violet May. It was a special night.
A little time later, fans were invited to join Bromheads at Club60 for the release show of ‘Edey’. It was a smaller version of Later with Jools Holland, with no boogie-woogie on sight. That one I couldn’t get in as the PhD was in a rocky state. Still, photos surfaced and it was as crowded as the series of house shows they were having that year, the ones that fueled their buzz on the scene. Sometimes watching a band at close quarters can make the music fiercer.
Around that time, Smashing Pumpkins started releasing free songs. I remember that in a singles review column, I joked that a Bromheads vs Smashing Pumpkins singles fights could work. In the end, Bromheads won because they stuck to their schedule. That Smashing Pumpkins project hasn’t ended after 7 years. It probably won’t ever be. Teargarden indeed.
The singles were an interesting, risky experiment. They had no label, little press and were all self-financed. ‘Dedicated’, ‘Snow’, ‘Edey’ and ‘Blinkers On’ still get constant play in my house. I wish they had recorded their cover of ‘The Witch’ by The Sonics. Bromheads were one of two Sheffield bands who managed to pull this cover properly. Still, you can listen to it on their Live at the Troxy EP.
Another experiment was the creation of the Busker Bus, during Tramlines 2010. It reminded me of the buskers in Mexico, singing their ditties on public transport. They filmed the video for ‘Friends’ that day, emulating a flash mob. Good times! I even got to meet the mighty Dan Sumption that day (do check his photos – he is ace.)
Bromheads had a good run with these experiments. Playing with the way people consume music. Once, they hid a pen drive stick at Rare & Racy. Never managed to get it and the songs that were on that stick are in the lucky hands of someone faster than me.
What really made Bromheads‘ a great band was their live show. Sure, the songs from The Lamp Sessions, Holding the Gun EP and Choro had crisp sound and a beautiful combination of distortion and drums, but the real meat was found in their live shows. Energetic, with the right amount of punk and never forgettable. I assume they were sick of ‘Poppy Bird’ and it’s understandable: they wanted to move away from the Bromheads Jacket years and that song, as ace as it is, was a millstone around their neck, slowing their evolution into a garage duo with a penchant for fiery live shows.
They stopped playing in Sheffield and started to move around. Their sound was defined, they needed to push themselves and get out of the home turf, march through unknown fields and forests, find newer audiences. Shows with The Pixies and in German castles followed. Tim, vocals and guitar, also multitasked as a builder and a producer. His studio, Crystal Ship, was a stone’s throw from one of my sampling stations on the River Don, in Attercliffe. A few times I could hear music and it was a labour of love, rebuilding an old derelict into a proper studio. Dan Potter, drums, did graphic design for a living and as far as I remember, he designed the retro single covers.
Shows in Club60 (in 2010), DQ, The Harley, The Grapes, The Foundry/Raynor Lounge, The Forum, all good, all great. Bromheads always delivered and I do suspect there’s a hiatus going on, as their website is now down, and Twitter and Facebook offer nothing but static and silence. The Kerosene EP is gone from Soundcloud. Maybe they said what they had to. Maybe life took over, as it often does on these musical savage lands.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López