Words: ROBIN MUMFORD
Manchester has long been recognized as the cradle of musical supremacy, especially for those that live within the United Kingdom. Whether it’s The Hollies of the swinging 60s that grabbed your attention most, the depressive tones of Joy Division in the 70s and 80s, or the lionised culture that was brought about by the Britpop era, everyone has some sort of association with Mancunian music.
But while it can be seen as the home of music for some, it can be the make or break for others. Because of the growing theory that Manchester is the hub for any up-and-coming musician, there is a weight of expectation that the city can be the institution for anyone who seeks musical asylum. Bearing heavier through the years, Manchester simply cannot provide shelter for every act it crosses paths with.
In recent generations, it is often recommended that rising musicians leave what some people call the ‘nucleus of the north’ as quickly as possible. It is hypothesised that a The Stone Roses type of relocation would benefit bands who seek to pursue stardom. In essence, the concrete jungle is already overflowing with musical abundance, so much so that it can’t afford to let any old act thrive.
Against all odds, Pastel are a band that have meticulously worked on new content to reap the rewards of the Mancunian music scene, proving that there is still a gateway into the city’s folklore, despite the difficulty. Signposting their 2022 with a support slot at Liam Gallagher’s esteemed Knebworth gig, the band have recently released their latest single ‘Isaiah’ to reaffirm their rising status in the indie scene.
Bringing dreamy atmospherics to the forefront and adding what Steve Lamacq could only describe as ‘Swagger’ to the assured new track, ‘Isaiah’ is an emotive reflection of a tumultuous upbringing and arrives just as they prepare to unleash their sophomore EP this September, under the exciting new direction of the indie label Spirit of Spike Island.
As they blend a sweet, sugar-filled slice of shoegaze with sonorous strings, touches of John Squire’s free-flowing guitar work, and The Verve’s aptitude for transcendence, Pastel lean on Manchester’s greats for a helping hand, while they also competently add their own dynamic to their sound, placing emphasis on an immersive experience from start to finish.
On the surface, ‘Isaiah’ is an easy-going track that explores a torrent of different influences and perspectives to home in on a solitary soundscape. But beneath the cosmetics, there is a deep-rooted recollection of a stained childhood through the consequential lyricism.
Pastel duo, cousins Jack (lead vocals) and James Yates (rhythm guitar), commented, "We had pretty tough childhoods, surrounded by drug addiction. Sadness, madness and badness. 'Isaiah' wasn't actually written with any of that in mind, but our feelings seem to have soaked through us into the song subconsciously. Sometimes when you're deep in hard times you become numb to it all. 'I can feel nothing more, in this life that I've suffered for.' But this tune is not about wallowing in self-pity. It's about using our experiences as motivation; having some hope and self-belief!"
Completed by Joe Andersen on guitar, Liam O’Shea on bass, and Rhys Wheeler on drums, Pastel are a band that are cut from the same cloth as some of Manchester’s greats. While they are nowhere near achieving the accolades of the likes of Oasis and Joy Division yet, their collection of great tracks are paving the way for their trajectory to skyrocket in the coming years, with the gigs they have planned being a likely source for sustained success going forward.
‘Isaiah’ shows that Pastel’s decision to stay put in the music-laden streets of Manchester was the correct one. For this band, nothing seems to get in their way of their hard work and benevolence, personifying the Mancunian spirit through not only their musical endeavours but also their gleaming personalities.
Attention on this wonderful band will undoubtedly continue to gather traction, but while some bands are subject to fail under the strict nature that pressure brings, Pastel look set to thrive in any situation they face.
But only time can be the judge of that.