Manchester’s incendiary indie four-piece City Reign recently released their new live single ‘See What It’s Worth’. Their debut LP ‘Another Step’ received widespread critical acclaim upon its release in February 2013, sparking interest from national press – Q, Uncut, The Independent, Clash, This Is Fake DIY – and resulting in two UK and European tours.
We caught up with the guys at the 20th Anniversary Britpop convention in the Salford Lads Club. Mike and Chris had dressed up as Noel and Liam Gallagher, Duncan and Ryan had come as Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon. Before the Britpop War of 1995 reared its ugly head, we jumped in and asked the guys some questions....
Please introduce the band and your music in one sentence....
We make music because we’re not really sure what else to do with ourselves.
How and when did you decide that you wanted to be in a band/performer?
I personally decided I wanted to be in a band aged 7 when I became aware of Oasis and the Gallagher brothers. I just thought to myself, even that young, that looks brilliant, I want to do that.
Mike Grice and Chris Bull are both Londoners what made you move to Manchester?
We both grew up as massive Oasis fans, and then latterly I (Chris) got into bands like The Smiths, The Stone Roses, The Charlatans etc while Mike got into Doves in a big way. A lot of people say it, but it’s true that I think we both saw Manchester as our musical and spiritual home.
Mike and Chris met outside a Ryan Adams concert how did the conversation start?
I was on a bus with a mate from home who’d come to visit and go to the gig. Mike was sat on the bus behind us when we went past in the afternoon and overheard us talking about the queue forming already. He just butted in and started chatting. I thought, who is this lanky ginger, he’s a bit forward. It all worked out in the end anyway.
Duncan Bolton & Ryan Ashton recently joined the band, where did you hear of these guys?
I know a guy from knocking about in South Manchester pubs watching football who’s a session musician, he’d been doing some teaching at RNCM around the time we were looking for a new drummer. I asked him to ask around for me and he came back with a few names including Duncan. We tried a few people out and Duncan was the best fit. About a year later we were looking for a bass player so Duncan got his mate Ryan to come and play with us. Again, he slotted in perfectly and we’re working really well together at the moment.
Debut album 'Another Step' is out now, where did you record this and what made you choose that recording studio?
We recorded it with a guy called Sam Jones. He works in a mobile way and can basically roll his gear into whatever space he wants. He suggested we go into Salford Sacred Trinity Church to record, and as soon as he said that we just wanted to work with him and get started. Cranking up massive valve amps in the middle of a church and just letting them rip was a lot of fun.
You have set up Car Boot Records’ what is the story behind the set up and are you on the lookout for new talent?
Initially it was a bit of a marketing stunt. We just created a label to make ourselves look bigger than we actually were. But it’s kind of grown since then and it’s really helped us take control of what we’re doing. We have no concrete plans yet but we’re definitely keen at some point to help out other bands that we like. Probably starting with just the odd digital single here and there but who knows where it could go in the future.
Favourite venue to play at?
Our best gig was just recently at Gullivers in Manchester. It was rammed from front to back for of fans and supporters which made it absolutely amazing. We’d love to be able to do that in a place like Deaf Institute, which is the plan for October. We’ve supported Jim Noir there before at a Clash Showcase gig, but hopefully we’ll be putting out own show later this year which we’re really looking forward to.
Latest single 'See What it's Worth' has been released, what is the story behind this tune?
The song is probably our most direct and accessible song so far lyrically. It’s basically just a loud thrash of a riff, which fits the mood of frustration of the song, stuck in the 9 to 5 drag but dreaming of doing something more. It’s not the most original sentiment but probably something a lot of people can relate to.
There are many good bands and musicians out there, who would you ask readers of Musicmuso to look out for?
Some great bands on the Manchester circuit that we’re fans of are I See Angels and WeTheDead. We also had Bristol lads The Shimmer Band supporting us at Gullivers and they are well worth checking out.
The Independent likened you to Dinosaur Jnr, how does that feel?
It’s always a bit strange to be compared to other bands. Obviously it’s something we all do but when it’s your own music it’s weird, but of course very flattering. The aim is to get to a point where people just listen to us in our own right, but while we’re on our way there it’s great to be compared to great bands that have gone before us.
Is there something you would like to tell each of the band members that you haven’t told them before?
There’s not a lot we hold back to be honest, don’t think there’s much we could say we haven’t already heard!
First gig you ever went to?
With my Dad to The Rolling Stones at the old Wembley Stadium. Can’t remember how old I was or what tour it was but I remember loving it.
If you could describe your music in the form of a fictional character, who would it be?
Bit obscure but probably the narrator of Zen and The Art Of Motorcycle Maintainance.
What are your plans for 2014?
We have some new recordings we’re very excited to bring out. There will be a single coming out in a couple of months, we’re just deciding on what the concept of the video will be. The new material we’ve been writing as a four-piece is definitely the best we’ve ever done so we’re really excited to get it out there.
After a few spats and confrontations, Noel, Liam, Damon and Graham realised that the 'feud of 95' was little more than a pathetic publicity stunt to try and make fans take sides, prior to them all dropping copious amounts of drugs and forming a new supergroup called Blur-asis, we charged in with a few quick fire questions....
Coffee or Tea? Depends on time of day.
Coke or Pepsi? Coke
Drum machine or the real deal? Real deal.
Mac or PC? Mac.
Fry up or Sunday Roast? Both
Lemmy (Motorhead) or Ozzy (Black Sabbath)? Ozzy
CD or Vinyl? CD
Car or Motorbike? Car
Acoustic or electric? Electric
Angelina or Jennifer? Jennifer
Shower or Bath? Shower
Tattoos or Piercings? Neither
Robert De Niro or Al Pacino? De Niro
God or Google? Google
You've just heard a great track and the accompanying video, take a few moments to get up to speed with their social media pages....
Musicmuso would like to thank the guys for taking time out to take part in our interview, we wish them every success in the future and look forward to receiving news on forthcoming releases, live dates and anything else they deem newsworthy.
Interview by Mark Wincott