One of the best indie rock bands to come out of England in recent years is The Slow Readers Club from Manchester, but if you live in the US you could be forgiven for not having heard of them, as they haven't had much exposure yet on this side of the pond. The band has taken on a very DIY ethos, self-releasing their first two records and relying on word-of-mouth rather than label promotion or radio airplay to get the word out. The band members even still have their day jobs, but nonetheless through nearly a decade of touring and playing festivals, they’ve managed to build a significant following in the UK. So significant, in fact, that when their third album Build a Tower came out at the beginning of May (this one released by indie label Modern Sky UK), it debuted in the UK album charts at number 18. It seems only a matter of time until the band sets their sights internationally.
The band’s UK tour for the new album brought them to London at the Islington Assembly Hall, a historic art deco theater in the northern part of the city. The enthusiastic crowd was almost reminiscent of one at a British football match, with chants of “REEEADERRRS” echoing across the audience waiting for the band to take the stage (and, several times more, between songs). The band opened the show with the first two tracks from the new record, “Lunatic” and “Supernatural,” singer Aaron Starkie’s deep baritone vocals taking the forefront over the music which shows a definite 80s influence while still sounding very modern – the closest frame of reference might be fellow Brit rockers White Lies, or early Editors, though the band manages to distinguish themselves from both. An energetic frontman who knows how to work the crowd, Starkie moved the length of the stage, leaning out and making contact with the audience, while guitarist Kurtis Starkie (his brother), bassist Jim Ryan, and drummer David Whitworth kept the music going behind him.
The band played a large portion of the new album (all but two songs), but also reached back into their catalog, playing half of 2015’s Cavalcade (including “Start Again,” “Fool For Your Philosophy,” and “Plant the Seed”), and their trio of singles from their 2011 self-titled debut album, “Sirens,” “Feet on Fire,” and “Block Out the Sun.” In one notable moment, the audience picked up the guitar line of new album track “On the TV” (which has not been released as a single yet, but given the audience response clearly should be one) and chanted it back to the band after the song had ended. After what seemed like a moment of surprise, the band picked up on it and played a reprise of the instrumental part, to cheers from the crowd.
The band hasn’t been to the US at all yet, but their albums (including Build a Tower) are available to listen to on the various streaming services. When they do finally make it here, it will be a show well worth checking out.
Opening the show were indie rockers October Drift from Taunton in southwestern England. Despite only having released a few EPs and singles so far, including their most recent “All Broken Down,” the band came off as seasoned performers, playing an electrifying set.