LIFE: There’s No Place Like Home

Celebrating their surroundings and casting their sonic net wider than ever, Hull quartet LIFE are gearing up to take their ‘North East Coastal Town’ out into the wider world.

In March 2020, the four members of LIFE caught the very last two planes out of New York’s JFK airport back to the UK, jumping ship from a US tour that, it was becoming apparent, would be unable to continue due to the unfolding pandemic. When they got back to Hull, says vocalist Mez Sanders-Green, “It put everything into perspective. [You had to prioritise] the things you cherish the most and the people that have given you the support you needed to do what you do.”

Mez and his brother Mick, who pen the majority of LIFE’s lyrics, have always had a straightforward focus when writing. “We write in the moment, day to day,” the singer says. Their 2017 debut ‘Popular Music’, for example, took influence from his and drummer Stewart Baxter’s work in the youth provisions sector. 2019’s follow-up ‘A Picture Of Good Health’ was written entirely on the fly during hectic sessions in London, songs conjured from scratch in the morning and taped in the afternoon.

When it came to ‘North East Coastal Town’, then, it was only natural that the feelings of closeness that emerged under lockdown would begin to work their way into the band’s writing. LIFE’s third displays levels of tenderness the band have never reached before. On ‘Duck Egg Blue’, for instance - a gentle ode to the power of love in the face of exhaustion - Mez recorded his vocals at 2am, cracked and weary. “Maybe I’m not as tuneful, but that lowering of the barriers and lowering my guard lends to what we were trying to say,” he says of the take.

Beyond just the people in their immediate circles, ‘North East Coastal Town’ is also a tribute to the wider communities to which they belong, and ultimately, as the title implies, to their home city of Hull. “It’s a love letter to the community around us,” says Mez. “I would say that this is the album where we’ve truly taken ownership of who we are. On this record we’re reflecting and taking stock, and showing our true colours.”

“It’s a love letter to the community around us. This is the album where we’ve truly taken ownership of who we are.”

— Mez Sanders-Green

Such is the intensity of LIFE’s civic pride, that they followed a strict philosophy: no aspect of the new record should be sourced from any further than forty miles from Hull. Everything was written in their studio on the banks of the River Humber (the evocative post-industrial landscape around it is featured in the video for lead single ‘Friends Without Names’), and recorded just south of the city in a converted chapel. They borrowed guitars from Hull forebears The Beautiful South. “If we’re gonna call an album ‘North East Coastal Town’, harp on about how it’s in our DNA and really pinpoint it as a love letter to our community, then every single thing needed to be from that community,” says Mez. “I think you always have to be sincere. That’s what we’ve always tried to do.”

It was an exercise in commitment rather than altering their sound, yet the progression LIFE have made on their latest LP is still obvious. As well as the pounding aggression that defined their first two records, the band’s third stretches out readily into longform psychedelic grooves and tender ambience. Like the subject matter, this too was a product of lockdown; “The time and space allowed us to experiment,” nods Mez. The sessions in The Chapel, meanwhile, were open and free: a far cry from the intense, fractious and pressurised process last time around. “We’re very proud of ‘A Picture Of Good Health’ and it put us on the map as a band, but we only had ten days to turn it around,” he notes. “We didn’t have time to sit with it, so did we make the best decisions on that record…?”

It’s also easy to read the album as a direct counter to those who may have pegged LIFE as part of a post-punk ‘scene’ following their last release - an effort, perhaps, to carve out their own separate identity - but Mez insists that was never a concern. “I’ve never felt the pressure to write specifically for genres,” he says. “We just wanted to write the best record that we could write at that specific point in time.”

Ultimately, the recording of ‘North East Coastal Town’ was an exercise in identity, and one that has imparted plenty of lessons along the way. LIFE are now resuming the hectic touring schedule that they abandoned back at JFK in March 2020 - including a summer that will take in stops at Long Division, Mad Cool Sunset, Colours of Ostrava and more - and they couldn’t be more thrilled. Now, however, they’re doing so with a newfound self-assurance.

“I look at schedules with different eyes,” says Mez. “It often feels like the artist is the last person to be considered, and I have a stronger opinion on not just saying yes to everything. But in the same breath, do I relish playing live? I love it. It fills me with such joy to be onstage with my three best friends, and I can’t wait to crack on with the summer. It’ll be amazing.”

‘North East Coastal Town’ is out 19th August via Liquid Label.

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