music on the Border, by Alan Thompson
At the closing end of 2003, we held our Travelled Music launch night. Guest bands, Christmas celebrations and heaps of money spent on beer. I’d been working at an entertainment agents in Berwick and felt like the world was coming to end. Pop Idol rejects called me daily. Berwick needed a good kick up the proverbial, less holiday park hell, more underground sound.
Coming up for 3 years later and all is good, great to be honest. Things have never been better in sunny Berwick upon tweed. We’ve seen local band Eastern Lane hit the heights with Rough Trade Records, then the lows with major label rejection and their recent split. With lead singer Derek Meins on a development deal from 1965 Records (Sony/BMG) who will fill the best band in Berwick boots?
We’ve got Berwick’s very own take-away hero (his parent’s run the local Chinese) on the NME tour with his all-star band ShitDisco. They’re signed to Fierce Panda and are fighting a fierce bidding war for their album.
My own band, Roy’s Iron DNA has never been more popular with record sales throughout the UK and even across the pond. We’ve had amazing press for our latest release and a wee support tour with independent inspirations Field Music.
We had a really cool summer, playing to big crowds in Newcastle, Berwick, Glasgow and the messy one – Skye Music Festival.
Local legends The Briganties have recovered from crashing their car at 4am after a stunning local festival gig to go on and record some amazing new demos. Just a mere column inch in a recent issue of the NME has lead to interest from A&R types with a couple of majors sniffing their tails like inquisitive terriers. Whilst new bands like The Superkings, The Atre and Ninepins are all talents with a real stage threat.
The scene in town has achieved some great recognition recently and rightly so. After setting up the Berwick Bands Collective, a collective force for all Berwick related bands, moustache enhanced Berwicker Jonny Gray told me why things have never been better in town.
“It is quite sad Eastern Lane have called it a day. I remember when I first seen them supporting a band called Zane. I think I was only about 18 at the time so I suppose that would only make them about 14. They were called Lazy Jane (I think!) then. At the time there was only really them and Zane playing original material in the town. Zane have long since split with Mark Reid going on to front The Scheme before going solo, Mark Hope is now in The Briganties and Gaz is drumming for new prospects, Superkings.
“I’m sure we’ll see Derek Meins on a local and national (international even!) stage again, but I hope it’s not the last we’ll hear from the rest of the band because they are a talented bunch. What is certain however is Eastern Lane have left the Berwick scene in far greater shape than when they entered it. As I say, back then there were only two main bands, but just one look at the BBC’s friends list show’s there’s about 20 on the go. Even more if you include bands based elsewhere with members of Berwick lineage.
“So all things considered things are looking pretty rosy. The legacy of Eastern Lane should be that of a band that were pioneers proving that the remoteness and isolation should not be considered a handicap, going on to achieve widespread acclaim. It’ll be interesting to see which of the new pretenders have what it takes to step into their vacated plimsolls and become new kings (or queens, equal opportunities and that) of the Berwick scene. Maybe even following in their path and breaking out from the town’s walls.”
With all of these great bands, musicians and enthusiasts with a thirst to quench our own local club night, Colony, has been supplying the beer flavoured tunes. With Roy’s Iron DNA drummer and beat-smith the Reverend Ian J. Jackson on decks and live music from across the region it’s great to be part of the scene. Colony takes place in the cunning, cave-like Barrels Alehouse on the occasional Friday evening. There are only a handful of venues in Berwick, so if you’re NOT looking for Karaoke or cover bands head down to Barrels on a Friday night or keep your eyes open for gigs at The Red Lion, The Meadow House and The Black and Gold. We’ve been lucky enough to have put on some cool bands in Barrels over the years and hope to continue the trend. At the same time it would be amazing to see some of the great music that is within Berwick’s walls reach a wider audience. If you fancy coming to Berwick and checking things out get in touch, we’ll go for a pint.