In some ways, the timing couldn’t have been worse.
It was in February of last year, just weeks before the pandemic hit, that future Manchester band Affleck’s Palace performed their first real concert in a sold-out Band on the Wall.
Yet in other ways, the timing was perfect.
The months that followed may well turn out to have been the formation of the group, which took the local music scene by storm but whose lead singer was only a few years ago driving tower cranes on construction sites.
The quartet, which has been dubbed “Nu Madchester” and who claim to channel “the spirit of Spike Island”, have seen their popularity and buzz around them grow over a long year of confinement.
They’ve had thousands of online streams every month, and vinyl copies of their two EPs are sold out, as are tickets for a nationwide tour scheduled for this fall, while major radio stations have started running their tracks. before the release of their first album. .
And, they say they now proudly wear the city’s musical heritage flag as they look to make their big breakthrough.
The group claims that all of this was done “organically” and “from scratch” without the support of big industry.
In fact, the formation of the band itself was just as organic, occurring following a jam session between singer, vocalist, co-songwriter and producer James Fender (real name, not a stage name) and the guitarist Dan Stapleton.
“We had been playing in cover bands for years, just playing. It was really for fun,” says James, known as J Manchester Evening News .
We met through friends, friends of friends and at concerts. And to be honest, we never had the ambition to form an original band.
“The guitarist and I were just jamming for a laugh.
“He played me the riff for one of our songs, Forever Young, and I said it was amazing and I really wanted to write a song around it.
“Her partner was pregnant and I thought it would be amazing if he could have a tune to play his daughter later in life and say ‘I wrote that’.
“So I went and wrote the rest of the song around his riff.
“We put it on my label and had no ambition to go beyond that, but when we did, there was a massive reaction.
“We didn’t have a radio on board or PR, but we did broadcast it and people from all over the world contacted us to say they liked it.
“Which was really overwhelming. So we felt compelled to do more.”
Bassist Pete Darling and drummer Pete Redshaw were recruited and they recorded three more songs written by J and Dan.
Forever Young was released in September 2019 on music producer J’s own label, Spirit of Spike Island – which began life as an online clothing store selling Madchester-era t-shirts – before branching out into help get Affleck’s Palace off the ground.
A series of 300 vinyls for their first EP, Hello. Is Anyone Awake ?, released in January of last year, burned out within a week.
They also sold Band on the Wall on a Tuesday night in February for their first real gig with people coming from all over the country again.
“It was our first gig and already people were singing the words to us,” said J, who was born in Leeds but has lived in Manchester for many years and is now a Mancunian, along with his band mates.
Since then they have played radio on Radio 1 and BBC6 Music.
They also recorded their debut album, titled What Do You Mean It’s Not Raining, after securing funding from the PRS Music Foundation, which is slated for release at the end of the summer.
Her first single, This City is Burning Alive, was released in May of this year.
And, if Covid allows, they are set to hit the road for a UK tour this fall with several dates backed by fellow label and band Manc Pastel colleagues including London, Birmingham, Glasgow, already with a big show in Gorilla’s hometown of Manchester. out of print.
They also have a show at Manchester Academy 2, which will be their biggest yet, scheduled for Saturday 14 January next year.
“It’s a complete reversal of how I thought the industry worked,” says J.
“Afflecks Palace started without any support, from the press, without the support from the radio – it was a grassroots, organic commitment of people desperate for good guitar music that was a little brave and that was enough. overwhelming to see how people digest what we put out and want more. ”
It was a radical change for J, who just a few years ago was working on construction sites.
After studying music production at the University of Manchester while living in south Manchester, he ended up working as a tower crane operator.
He graduated from Norfolk before working for a Sheffield-based company at locations across the country.
However, he says it annoyed him hopelessly and made him even more determined to pursue his dream of working in music.
“I’ve always been in music, at first I didn’t have the opportunity to do music full time.
“I would do music on the weekends, but then I would be on the crane pulling levers Monday through Friday.
“It was good, I didn’t mind being up there. I would be up from 7am to 7am.
“Sometimes it’s very busy depending on what part of the job you do, if it’s the start when all the material comes in, it’s very busy.
“But if it’s the end, you’re just fucking sitting there.
“I ended up trying to learn Portuguese while I was up there because I was so bored.
“But then the music took over and I started producing, working sessions as a guitarist like that.
“Afflecks Palace is now at a point where it could be a source of income for all of us to do it full time which would be amazing. ”
Of course, the first thing that jumps out at the band is the name – formerly the name of the alternative covered market on Oldham Street in the North Quarter, whose entrance is adorned with musical posters and has been an alternative mecca for decades. .
It was this philosophy that inspired the choice of the name, says J
“We really love the Stone Roses and the music from that era.
“I think it was one of the last influential, cultural and counter-cultural moments where British music really changed.
“We really like the fashion of this era. It was stylish but not too artificial.
“It was more about having fun with friends.
“There was a store owned by Leo Stanley, he had a store called Identity at Afflecks Palace.
“And he basically outfitted everyone in the Madchester area. He was the one providing flares and loose clothing for everyone.
“And I just thought it was an integral part of this moment in time.
“We almost forgot how important style was, and I just thought it would be really nice to have Afflecks Palace as a band name because not only does it sound cool and resonate with the locals, it ‘is a nod to the enormous role he played in the development of this British countercultural moment.
“It was just a hive of activity and I think it brings people back to happy times.”
The attempt to reconnect with what is now considered a golden age for the city’s music and cultural influence seems to have struck a chord with fans.
Local music Facebook page Manchester Lemon described them as “the birth of Nu Madchester,” while esteemed local music author and Stone Roses biographer John Robb said with their own brand of “psychedelia Nordic dreamer “, they had” revisited the classic Manc baggydelia “for the 21st century. ‘
He also predicted that they “could very well transfer 40,000 tickets to Heaton Park within 12 months.”
However, J says they are anything but a tribute band.
He describes the band’s sound as independent guitar music that draws inspiration from The Smiths and Factory Records, The Durutti Column as well as The Stone Roses. But he also says there are elements of hardcore and post-hardcore.
“It’s more aggressive or aggressive, I think,” said J, “And I think people will see that when the album comes out.”
Coming back to Madchester has also been cliched and uncool by some members of the city’s music scene, who say we now have to look to the future.
However, J says he thinks taking influence from some of the big bands the city has produced is nothing to sneeze at.
“I think there will always be snipers no matter what you do,” he said.
“You can do something completely original and people will not understand.
“They’ll say ‘it’s crap, it’s just noise, that’s it.
“Then you can take a flavor and influences and make it your own and people say ‘oh that sounds like X, Y and Z.
“So I think you must have thick skin when you put on music.
“The only reason you should be making music is your own fulfillment, but Joe Bloggs on the streets saying ‘you ripped this up’ really doesn’t mean anything to me.
“You will never make everyone happy all the time.
“So I’m ready for people to say ‘oh he wears a bob’ or ‘he took influence from this or that’ but that’s life and you have to say I’m not really doing it for. you, I’m doing it for my own cathartic reasons.
“At the end of the day, people need to understand how lucky Manchester is to have such an incredible musical legacy.
“There is no other city in the world with such a heritage.
“This is something Manchester should be proud of, and if the groups are inspired by it, so be it.
“And, if people don’t like it, don’t nobody carry a gun on your head, don’t listen to it and go listen to a Stone Roses record.”
However, J says he believes the group has had “very few haters” so far and that their growing fan base is proof that there is an appetite for music inspired by this era.
“What we are doing is exciting and unique.
“There are recent indie bands that are mediocre right now. Their songs don’t bother me.
“I think that’s why there is a massive lull in guitar music right now.
“And I think there’s the appetite for a great group of guitars to kick in and rebalance the balance.”