Earning their stripes

The Violet May - credit dominic worrall
The Violet May - credit dominic worrall

IT’S a bleak winter night and The Violet May are rehearsing for the first time this year in an abandoned factory on Matilda Street.

But it’s not insignificant – Matilda Street was the home of the original Violet May, the much-loved Sheffield record seller.

And, in spite of gloomy surroundings, there’s a very positive atmosphere.

“It’s amazing to rehearse again and it’s going really well,” says frontman Chris McClure.

But – according to Chris – not only is this particular rehearsal significant because of its musical vigour, it’s a session that marks the beginning of a very exciting year for one of Sheffield’s most anticipated bands.

Having been together for just three years, The Violet May has already toured England and Scotland, won the affection and professional attention of Oasis manager Alan McGee and even persuaded Peter Stringfellow to surrender his London club for a day in order for the band to record its video.

And now the band has announced it is – at last – releasing its debut, which will comprise the band’s older material as well as newer numbers, penned in the aftermath of Britain’s riots, double-dip recession, public service cuts and the extortionate cost of living.

“New songs like Four Letter Lies are quite reflective of the time. Everyone is skint and it sums up that mood. But it’s not miserable – it sums it up in an epic rocky way. There are older songs on there too. Well, ‘older’ for us, such as Bright or Better, and Jennifer Lies will probably make it on there as well.”

The album is completed but not yet recorded. “We’ve got all the material but need to get in a studio and sort out a few things first,” says McClure. “It’s got to that stage where we have to deal with all the nitty gritty.”

The album has been a long time coming. But McClure insists that this is the best time for The Violet May’s first album. “We wouldn’t have been ready before now. We’ve spent three years touring and earning our stripes.”

The band has headlined at the much-hailed Koko rock and roll venue in London, sell-out shows at the Leadmill and they’ve played to a one-man audience in Sunderland.

“We’ve been together three years and have progressed so much since we first started. There are so many quick ways to get attention and you get bands in every city that go straight for the hype with the ‘we’re going to be massive’ talk but we wanted to build it slowly.”

To say that the response from the recent tour surprised the band is an understatement. “It blew our head off. We didn’t expect such a good reaction from people – that Koko gig in London and the Leadmill gig were the highlights of the year. But you also have to play to the one man in Sunderland – if you always play on your home turf you end up being a medium-sized fish in a little pond.”

The album will capture the on-stage vibrancy that has made The Violet May such a cult hit in Sheffield. “We’re more a live band than a studio band. We want to capture the last three years on record.”

And, according to Chris, it’s not just The Violet May that will be experiencing an exciting year this year. “It’s going to be a great year for Sheffield music. There are loads of acts that are taking off this year, Dead Sons are releasing stuff and Reverend and the Makers are releasing an album too.”

But for The Violet May, the album release means it’s an especially important year – and a busy one too. “We all work full time, I work with disabled people – we’ve got an engineer, someone who works in a steelworks, John working at the Environment Agency and two barmen. But that makes it all the more real. And very gritty.”

The album will be released this year and will feature ten tracks.