In late 2011 amidst the somnolent splendour of the “The Potteries”, aka
Stoke-on-Trent, an area with a strong working-class ethic, four exschoolmates
had already committed to forming PSYENCE before the last
chord reverberated off the walls of their rehearsal space that day. After
changing rhythm guitarists and drafting in a keyboardist, PSYENCE entered
the circuit comprised of Steve Pye (lead vocals and guitars), Jamie (Jay)
Bellingham, Joe Walsh (drums), Ben Nixon (keys and synthesisers) and
Jamie Cartlidge (rhythm guitar and vocals).
Early inspiration for their lysergic spiralling hard rock came via Tame Impala, an act whose expansiveness of sound they’d sought to emulate at first. As they found their feet they channelled more vintage influences, like the astral projections of Barrett-era Pink Floyd. Their first releases were celebratory in tone. The dark and kaleidoscopic strains of early single ‘Zebra’ thrums with the joys of musical spontaneity. After imbibing work like Pond’s Beard, Wives, Denim and Gorillaz’ Plastic Beach, they created heavier soundscapes, like the unsettling depth of “Chemicals For Breakfast” or the cathartic rush of “Phoenix”, at each step rolling back to find they’ve left themselves a challenging new high watermark.
From the outset PSYENCE have operated with a strong DIY ethic, having done everything themselves until very recently. “We all have day jobs — typical day-jobs for this area” says frontman Steve, “— but we are more than happy to complete a tour with seventeen consecutive dates... We've done it. We like to be in the moment and we are intense about what we want to achieve and how we’ll get there.” When they’re writing songs, Steve usually kicks off the songwriting process with an idea, but a song doesn’t reach fruition until everyone has collaborated in the songwriting process. Jamie assists him lyrically, drawing on life experience to produce “light lyrics with dark undertones”.
Bitterly worded wars between UK music fans often highlight the polarity between Northern and Southern rock and roll, with the - historically game changing - contributions of the Midlands left largely ignored, like the proud facades of once-thriving national gig venues and nightclubs, closed and deserted now. But aside from the contributions of the wider West Midlands area, embodied mostly through the dino-rock titans of Black Sabbath and one half of Led Zeppelin, PSYENCE are keen to remind us of the primacy of Stoke-on-Trent as the hub of Northern Soul. Going through the ages they point to local nightclub Shelley’s Laserdome and its pivotal role in the emergence of late 80’s house. And, in more recent times, Lemmy from Motorhead (RIP) was Stoke born-and-raised, and Saul Hudson (aka Slash from Guns and Roses) spent his toddlerhood there.
It’s into this incredibly creatively fertile backdrop that PSYENCE have fought to direct the London centric music industry’s spotlight-beaming eye towards. PSYENCE point to thriving local music venues like The Sugarmill ,The Underground and the Victoria Hall. Keyboardist Ben Nixon has also created the city-wide festival Your City for Stoke-based new music, which had its third outing this Spring and continues to champion music from the area. Appraisal both local and international has been mounting for the group. PSYENCE was voted “Best Act” at the prestigious Music Awards of Staffordshire and Cheshire 2017 and remain a revered and respected local band by their peers. Developing a fearsome reputation for their incendiary live shows, the band have become firm favourites at the Shiiine On Festivals (and Cruise) and have performed at Kendall Calling and Festival No 6 Festivals in the UK, amongst others.