In the back of a pub by the docks, beer flowing on a Friday night, I learned that Double Denim is back in fashion. The website said “psych-fringed Indie rock with a nod to a dirty weekend spent with Fleetwood Mac” and the gig showed that was true. There’s a definite Nicksesque quality to vocalist Chelsea Orme-Williams’ stage presence and vocal style, tinged with Lana Del Rey’s mellow-drama character and a harder edge more reminiscent of Lynn Gunn. Jake Bradshaw’s free-flowing basslines and Tom Burrows’ relentless energy combine to make a rhythm section as bulletproof as the Mac’s on any night. Double Denim aren’t one of those bands you tell your friends sound like anyone though, because they don’t. This Plymouth foursome are hard to pin down.
Latest release ‘Paperman’, about their dislike of Plymouth City Council (no, honestly – Chelsea said so onstage) drops social commentary over straightforward, powerful riffs and driving rhythms but it’s got too much polish to be anywhere near a spit-and-mosh punk track. An occasional quaver in Chelsea’s voice shows a softer side and gives the hard-edged shouts more menace, and sterling guitar work gives it an immediately recognisable indie feel. It’s a danceable, singable song that doesn’t fall into the trap of trying to be anthemic and ending up predictable.
‘You Don’t Tell Me’ showcases guitarist Harry Stephenson’s voice in harmony with bassist Jake Bradshaw. The folk-punk tinge to the track gives it an unmistakeable Gogol Bordello influence, and the irreverent lyrics show some Cosmo Jarvis touches here and there too. The diverse voices work fantastically well on the recorded track and stood up well to a tiny room and big amplification live – Double Denim’s singers never vocally step on each other’s toes and there wasn’t an off note between them.
Fans of Bear’s Den’s latest synth-chorus sound will love the introduction to Double Denim’s ‘Ian’. It’s a shimmering, glittering gem of a track, starting out as a melodic riff over slow two-part vocal that waves about eight effects pedals in your face. That said, it quickly builds to a more urgent, louder nature that loses any folky touches in favour of shouts and big drums, and I never got the feeling that I was watching a pedalboard performing instead of a band. This is one to play when the flames are dying on the fire you made with mates outside, or to drive around a city to at night. Check out the behind the scenes video they made too – it’s as artful as the real one.
Double Denim are friendly and casual enough onstage for you to think they’re a friend’s band, but at the same time they’re a million times better than than your flatmate sweating over a fretboard awkwardly brandishing a guitar behind a singer chewing their way through the chorus of ‘Wonderwall’. Here’s a band that can turn on a penny, one moment laidback shoegaze that you nod along to, the next a jumping, grinning frenzy of energy like a ripped jeans teen at their first Slam Dunk or Warped Tour.
It’s a mark of Double Denim’s songwriting craft that they can bring these contrasts into the same song and keep an audience with them. There’ll be a sound in every song that takes hold of you, keeps you, and that you won’t let go. Catch them live, then head home to watch one of their brilliantly-produced music videos as you hum everything you heard them play live.
Words : Joe Morel – Photo : Anna Edwards