Over the course of Leeds Festival last week, the number of local acts on show was a great testament to the health that Yorkshire music is in. With many major festivals tending to spend their budgets helicoptering in as many superstars as they can, or casting their net out to talent further afield, there were many cases where they didn’t have to look quite as far this year.
One notable local highlight of the weekend was York’s very own Bull on The BBC Introducing Stage of the Sunday evening of the festival. Having recently released their debut album ‘Discover Effortless Living’ through EMI records, they’ve remained buoyant from its brilliant reception digitally (as it was released amidst pandemic restrictions) and are now looking to share it with as many people as they can in a live setting.
The quartet – consisting of Tom, Dan, Kai and Tom – combine soulful earworms with a certain bare-boned, garage rawness that is more typically suited to artists who are less conscious of the perfect melody. This ability to mash together two supposed ends of the spectrum only adds to their authenticity as a four piece guitar outfit.
While they are very much artists in their own right, they also turn to talented friends to help with colourfully brilliant animations & posters that bring Bull to life on the visual front.
We caught up with lead singer Tom upon arrival at Leeds Festival ahead of their slot on the BBC Introducing Stage.
So how was the reception at Reading festival?
It was cool. There were some kids there that came for our soundcheck at 7 o’clock, and they knew all the words and shit. So they were singing every single word from every song off the album, which we aren’t used to at all.
You’re based in York which isn’t far from Leeds. So hopefully you’ll see a few local faces?
Yeah, we’ve got like ten guests, and snuck some crew in. We’ve got a bunch of mates here coming down too.
One of your friends wrote a brilliant monologue on the band, that’s on your official Spotify bio.
Yeah, my friend Alan Vernon-Rees wrote that. He’s a really cool guy. We had this great, accurate write up from a journalist that we were gonna use. But then I thought, you know what? I prefer this stupid thing that my friend wrote when he was about twelve! It was just from the heart.
How’s the music scene in York? I imagine it’s a good place to live as an artist.
It’s lovely. I actually live in Scarborough now, but I’m moving back to York soon. I loved growing up there. There’s a lot of good things for kids starting out as musicians, like free instruments, and they’re taught to play in school. There’s loads of really good social things like that. So I think for that reason, we are pretty lucky, because there are a lot of good musicians in York, so there’s a lot of good bands.
Check out Perspex, they’re fucking amazing – Like the best band in the world, probably. There’s Fat Spatula – my favorite. Cowgirl, Bonneville, Trueman, Luke Saxton, Rory Welbrock – hundreds of amazing songwriters. York is nice and small too, so there’s a lot of open mics and stuff where people get to know each other, and there’s a good community.
Grassroots. That’s the stuff.
So the debut album ‘Discover Effortless Living’.
What’s the reasoning behind that?
I actually saw those words written on an advertisement sign where these luxury houses were being built. It was on a road in London called the ‘Millionaire Mile’ – I’d got off at the wrong tube stop. I saw this sign that read ‘Discover Effortless Living’ about these mansions, and I just thought it was pretty fucking funny.
You’re an experienced band of 10 years or so now. So have you lived with some of the songs for quite a time ahead of releasing them on an album?
Definitely, I mean ‘Green’ on the album was written in 2012, so that’s a long time. And I’m not bored of it at all. I like playing it.
‘Discover Effortless Living’ is released through EMI records. How has that backing from a label helped the band?
It’s been amazing, they’re super helpful. We’ve been looking at working with new managers and things now which is quite exciting, cos the resources available to us is pretty fucking mad. It’s about how we present it, and it’s our job to work hard so that we can say to them, “this is worth your time, it’s worth your effort and money.”
But any time they could, they’ve been really helpful which is really cool.
You’re off to tour the album in a couple of weeks too.
Yep. We’re playing every night for like two months. It’s gonna be mad, but I like playing every day. The thing is with playing every single day, the band become weirdly tight. It gets to the point where we all do stuff at the same time, and it’s like “how the fuck did we even do that?”
It changes so much, just from the music game.
You’re playing at lots of independent venues around the country, like The Talleyrand in Manchester, Blackpool Bootleg Social, and Leeds’ Brudenell. .
Yeah. We’re trying to get as many people as we can on the lineups too so we can see our mates play. In Glasgow we’ve got like 8 bands playing on the gig, so we’ve gotta start at 5pm. Credit to the venue for being cool, cos I just emailed them and was like “do you mind if we have 8 bands on?” and they were like “It’s a great idea.” A lot of venues wouldn’t do that.
It’s great to see these places back open and running as normal isn’t it.
It’s funny how long it was in the end, pushing two years. But yeah it’s really nice, I just love walking through crowds again. Just weaving through. I’ve always loved it. Little interactions with people.
Just seeing crowds having the time of their lives again gets quite emotional.
Yeah, I cry a lot at gigs at the moment – I didn’t used to!
A lot has changed.
Yeah, but also nothing. Although I think Leeds Fest has changed over the years.
I used to come when I was younger, and there was this one absolutely massive stage surrounded by a huge ring of kebab shops and burger vans.
I saw Guns n Roses, and a big group of people made a bonfire out of camping chairs 30 foot in the air with a huge crowd of people just circling it.
No one even tried to stop it.
I got pissed on too. A guy just blatantly pissed on my feet. He didn’t know where he was.
I occasionally see him in a bar late at night and remind him that he pissed on me at Leeds. He bought me a pint for it actually.
Is Piccadilly Party still there? Last time I was there there were people in the trees throwing branches out to others, and everyone was chanting with these branches to The Ting Tings. It was so stupid.
The tour starts in a couple of weeks, but what can we expect from Bull at Leeds festival?
Well, we’ve got a pretty short set, about 25 minutes, so it’s nothing but hits. We played a good set at Reading I think.
We’ve got so many new songs because we’ve not been able to tour for two years. Ideally we would just play new stuff, but we’re very happy to play the albums too. On the tour we’re gonna play the album, with new ones chucked in. We’ve got like 40 new ones. It’s mad.
Of the new ones I like ‘I Wanna Start Anew’ and we might play one today called ‘Stuck’. It depends on the crowd. Always gotta play to the crowd. It’s my job!