Do you like The Strokes? How about The Smiths? Bloc Party? Do you like it when the band all sync up and hit stabs? Raw vocals, you like raw vocals? Where are you going? Can I have some of your sandwich?
– Things that I would ask people in the street if I wanted them to listen to Project Culture.
Formed right here at Queen Mary, Project Culture features the musical stylings of Gary Hill, singer/songwriter/jangly guitar player, who started a music society at QM, through which he managed to meet three other musicians (!) and begin developing his project.
Early 2020, Project Culture released their first single, Character Actor, this song low key bangs. It’s all about hating going out and wanting to feel normal, a constant, noisy cry of alienation which (fittingly) has a cosmic sound to it. The drums are tight and they build into an epic soundscape of overlapping vocals which are gripping and angry. I like the angst in this song, angst which appears at the forefront of two of their four available songs, this one and their new single – The Elephant Room. (The other two are B-sides. They’re both jangle-pop with guitar that walks the line between Johnny Marr and – honestly – Marcus Mumford. The new B-side, Force of Habit, is palatable indeed. A frustrated tune about an as-yet unknown ‘she’, the chorus is four lines long and it happens only twice, yet it has been stuck in my head for days. These guys really nail the melodic hooks of great British Rock, they spin lyrics which I’m actually invested in because they’re sung with such earnest passion.)
Clocking in at 3:13, The Elephant Room makes for a good mission statement. Short and to the point, which is key for new artists. The track starts off innocently enough, it bubbles with energy before overflowing into a Strokesian lead guitar riff, and soon an intriguing verse begins. There’s a bitterness in Hill’s voice which I resonate with, and I’ll always be ready to stan a band that references Romantic poetry in their lyrics, as Hill complains of “the albatross around [his] neck”. There’s also a Hamlet reference in there somewhere, which is fitting, since the whole song has a kind of dark prince attitude. “Memories only seem to betray me now” growls Hill in the prechorus which, after a fingers-together-bon-appetite satisfying pause, launches into an infectious, nostalgic chorus. I don’t know what it is about this band, but nostalgia is the word I keep coming to – maybe it’s that they remind me of Area 11, who I listened to as a kid, or maybe it’s the fact that they said in an email to CUB that they’re influenced by The Smiths and The Velvet Underground, who produce nostalgia by virtue of their mere existence. Either way, the song feels like childhood memories.
After a heart-lifting first chorus, the second verse starts with “I’ve got a thing for awkward silences” and from that moment you should be completely on board with these guys. They’re tongue in cheek sometimes, they’re asserting themselves into the world of lyricism, addressing and transforming clichés into original turns of phrase. It’s admirable, and the music is good, but by God you can tell these guys are young. That’s not a bad thing, The Vapours sound young and they’re from the 70s! Raw is truly the word I would use, especially for the vocals.
In all, call me excited. An album is on the horizon, I’m sure, and these boys have crafted something unique. The vocals manage to be strained yet melodic, the instrumental feels stripped back, but the room isn’t empty. It’s warm, it moves. Temperate. Character Actor is on my playlist, and I’ll play The Elephant Room at a party. And Force of Habit –but not right after each other, obviously.
Listen to The Elephant Room now, IT JUST CAME OUT!