When I first stumbled across Flyte just over a year ago I was immediately drawn to them. Not just because their music was seriously cool but because there was something about their sound that was incredibly intriguing. For the first time in a long time I found a band that made me listen—that made me want to know more.
Flyte create music that is transgressive and metamorphic. Whilst the authenticism of their song writing is an unmistakeable nod to the influences of their 60s and 70s pop-rock forefathers, what Flyte produce is a compelling and dazzling amalgamation of the old and the new. The result is a sound that feels retrospective and nostalgic but at the same time equally relevant and enduring. Imagine the lovechild of The Beatles and Simon & Garfunkel and then fuse it with the edge, grit and talent necessary to ‘make it’ in today’s indie-rock band world, and there you have the London-based four-piece comprised of Will Taylor, Sam Berridge, Jon Supran and Nick Hill. It sounds like it shouldn’t really work—but it does, and the effect is nothing short of mesmerizing.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised, then, when I arrived at Scala to find that the crowd that had turned up to see the band play was as diverse as the music they create. Spanning the ages of about 16 to 60, their fan base is a fitting testament to how Flyte draw together generational tastes and trends and somehow pull off transgressing their diversities. I really shouldn’t have been surprised, either, to see how packed out the venue was. They sold out the show—and by sold out I really mean sold out. Ten minutes before the band were due on stage there was hardly an inch to move. Every corner of the venue was teeming (including stairs and fire exits. The sight would have sent any health and safety officer into anaphylactic shock). And as I waited for the show to start, with many a stranger breathing down my neck, I wondered whether finally seeing them live would bring them crashing down from the rather high pedestal I had placed them on.
The first track they played, ‘Victoria Falls’, quelled such fears of disappointment. It’s a song that typifies the band’s spin on classic modernist pop with opening muted rhythms that suddenly crescendo into expansive guitar lines, layered vocals and psychedelic melodies. And, as their most streamed song on Spotify, it provided a natural show-opener. Then came ethereal, synth-driven ‘Echoes’—a stalwart example of how the band have sought to broaden and substantiate their sound on their debut album ‘The Loved Ones’, which was released via Island Records in August.
Unwaveringly ambitious both lyrically and in musical vision, ‘The Loved Ones’ is a daydream-like narrative with a darker undercurrent, exploring the themes of alcoholism, violence and mental illness. Nowhere was this more obvious than in the stirring performance of ‘Cathy Come Home’, which paints a tale of domestic abuse from the perspective of the victim’s longing parents with its whirling, fragile vocals punctuated by delicate piano chords and a subdued use of percussion. It provided just one of the many heartfelt moments of the evening. Among them, the sensitive delivery of ‘Orphans of the Storm’—backed by the exclusive addition of a string quartet for their London show—which was made even more poignant when the lead singer, Will Taylor, revealed he had written the song for his late grandfather.
Even though Flyte touched on themes that could have dampened the mood, and were clearly visibly touched at points by the number of people who had turned up to see them play live, the atmosphere of the night was neither sullen nor despondent. The band showed charisma and charm, often mocking the clichés of their own industry such as making the pages of “the Metro guilty pleasures” (‘Little White Lies’) and the common charade of ‘disappearing’ before re-emerging to play an encore. When the band reappeared to play two more songs at the end of the show the mop-haired frontman only had one comic word about the whole act: “tedious”.
Yet what followed suit was undoubtedly the show-stopping moment of the night: the hypnotic, shiver-inducing acapella cover of Alvvays’s ‘Archie, Marry Me’. It was more than just a fitting exhibition of the true vocal talent of each member of the four-piece. Never have I heard a performance that demanded such silence from a live audience—and Flyte’s Scala audience obeyed. Of course followers of the band will recognise the version as the concluding track of their debut album, but witnessed in real time it absorbed a stunning, otherworldly dimension as a soaring master class in vocal harmony that transfixed every ear it touched.
So what is in store for Flyte after the release of the ‘The Loved Ones’ and its subsequent nation-wide tour? The band have teased their listeners by releasing a number of low-lying singles before removing them from Spotify and then neglecting to put a number of them on their debut album all together. Fan favourites such as ‘We are the Rain’, ‘Harley Street’, ‘Light me Up’ and ‘Closer Together’ are all decidedly missing from ‘The Loved Ones’ track list. However, as tantalising as this gesture is, it is a promising signpost to the band’s future. Flyte clearly have a vision behind their musical trajectory and nowhere was this more clearly exemplified than when Taylor chose to disclose about the catchy, disco-speckled ‘Closer Together’ before its performance, “don’t worry she’s not dead, she’s just sleeping”.
Flyte shows no sign of a band that intends to slow down any time soon. Their live set was sensitive, finely crafted and at times entirely entrancing. And although ‘The Loved Ones’ shattered expectation by refusing to rely on tracks from the band’s back catalogue, it did provide an indication of a band that is still in the processes of creation, a band whose sound is constantly evolving.
There’s more to come from Flyte and we’re excited. You should be too.
Normy x x x
P.S. Flyte love an “annoying cover of an obscure song” (W. Taylor’s words, not mine) so here’s a couple with some silk smooth vocals thrown in. You’re welcome.
[Picture source: https://www.facebook.com/flyteband/photos]