James Skelly – guitar / vocals – age 22
Ian Skelly – drums / percussion – age 19
Nick Power – organ / vocals – age 20
Bill Ryder-Jones – guitar / trumpet – age 19
Lee Southall – guitar / vocals – age 19
Paul Duffy – bass / sax – age 19
“The opposition don’t stand a chance” – NME
Hoylake, Merseyside. Where’s that? It’s “One of those villages where everyone knows everyone, but no one really knows anyone”. It’s a non-descript seaside town on England’s west coast – the anti-Blackpool, if you will – where the less than extravagant yearly highlight is Lifeboat Day.
Most importantly it’s home to The Coral. Six youthful troubadours; aged between 19 and 22, who collectively form one of the most exciting new bands in years. Still, after a quick listen through EPs Shadows Fall and The Oldest Path you’d be forgiven for mistaking them as The OK Corral. They choose styles and specialise where no-one else would even think to tread. Minor key ballads infused with the spirit of the Wild West under moonlit bayou, for example. How cool is that? You’d be impossibly pushed to find a comparison amongst their peers, a band so young and yet so progressive – they’ve both eyes on the future and a finger in every musical pie.
Indeed for some so early of years, The Coral are prodigiously aware. Like some wheeling cultural kaleidoscope they pick up everything from the WWF to Origin Of The Species, Hemingway to Huckelberry Finn, eclectic yet accessible. Everything they come into contact with is assimilated, cogitated and brought to be in the overall perspective. Marley. The Beach Boys. The Doors. Treasure Island. The American Civil War. BMX bikes. You name it – they dig it. As James himself says, “Inspiration is absolutely everywhere”.
So how did they get from there to here? Six years ago the band formed from a group of mates at Hilbre High School, Hoylake. James and Ian took guitarist-to-be Lee home for tea, convincing their mother that he was “one of them Kosovan refugees”, picking up Paul, Nick and Bill along the way. They learned some old favourites (Oasis, mainly) and wrote some new ones, about pirates and Sheriffs and men who look like plants. They had a go at secondary education but felt it wasn’t right; it sapped expressive energies and couldn’t be accommodated. Says James: “We all tried college, we all left. It wasn’t very exciting; it wasn’t very good. It didn’t seem like they actually wanted to teach you”. And why be taught when you can learn? Why shackle yourself to one thing when you can try a hundred?
And so they went, retiring to a disused shelter by the sea to practise – and smoke – to their hearts content. They worked part time to cover the costs of their endeavours, knocking out demos in between. It was Alan Wills, once the heart of Shack’s beat machine, who picked up The Coral and launched Deltasonic from their capable backs after being impressed by a mere rehearsal. They stuck out a debut EP in the summer, “Shadows Fall”, whose title track featured Russian flavoured folk intersected by a mad ragtime wig-out. They played some gigs with mates and fellow standard-bearers The Music. A&R men wept. They followed this up with “The Oldest Path” before Christmas last year, Johnny Cash singing with The Specials and another example of these lads’ impressive diversity.
“We’re not James Dean heroes. More like Luke Skywalker; ‘I’m a bit of a pussy but I’ve got a lightsabre” – Paul
In a nutshell, for once here’s a band who make use of their different interests in every possible way – endeavouring to capture an energy, rather than using it as a mere template. Which is so refreshingly unlike so many of their elder contemporaries, so many new and recent guitar bands you’d care to mention, and will surely stand them in good stead for years and albums to come.
So I guess you’ll want to know more now. About the Woy-Oi boy? About life by the sea and all that? You’d best get up to speed then and catch them whilst you can. With their new album ‘Magic & Medicine’ due for release on 28th July, 2003 has only just got underway for one of the bands this year will be remembered for.
“The way I think of making music is that it has no rules. If it sounds good, it is good” – James
And man, is that a good sound……