It may not be harmonicas and washboards but, jumping into the 21st century, Southern’s bluesy guitar twang provides a welcome change to the cleanliness we’ve come to expect from break out artists in the last 12 months. That is, of course, omitting recent purveyors of the White Stripes rock legacy, Royal Blood and Drenge.
Southern aren’t a gritty band but their dose of blues inspired rhythms and guitar provide a refreshing angle to the pop music they’re creating. Born in Northern Ireland, now based in Liverpool, Southern are comprised of brother and sister duo Thom and Lucy Southern. Percussion and other instrumental assistance is provided by other musicians who’s identity are kept under wraps, probably for simplicity. They make well thought out, southern fried pop that always provides an enjoyable listen from some clearly talented artists. Southern have found a formula that works for them and their eponymous pays testament to that. Our only concern though is that they’ll need to flesh out their sound and consider where they might take it if they’re too hold onto our attentions through a longer record.
Their EP was released on the exciting Marathon Records, a label also called home by the talented Australian Madchester rockers Jagwar Ma. They’re certainly in good company. The first track Shout It bursts open with playfully overdriven blues whilst World Don’t Shine dances around with bluegrass tinged acoustic guitars and a take on the deep south rhythms that no doubt gave credence to holding onto the surname for the duo. Just Think About It takes the time to revert back to their favourite combination of slick guitar and driven percussion that leaves ample room for a brother-sister duet that gives a glimpse of the exciting vocal harmonies to come. Lucy’s sun-kissed, laid-back vocals provide a wonderful antithesis to the frantic drive of Thom’s excitable cries. EP closer Cool Kids takes them in a slightly different direction. They shed the blues but retain the playfulness that rings throughout. It too is the track that sees them at their most indistinguishable from some of their musical neighbours but is finished with a proficiency that helps to separate them from the pack. In some ways Cool Kids was one of their most interesting tracks so far, yet its their bluesy sound that has caught people’s attention. Intentional or otherwise their blues has been diluted for the sake of pop. It sounds great but there’s a nagging feeling that if they were to dive headlong into it they’d find the sort of lasting appeal acts like Cage The Elephant have benefited from.
For now though, Southern’s bouncy, playful indie with its tinge of blues makes for a great listen and begs for more material. There’s no dungarees, black skinny jeans are the order of the day. They don’t hail from Nashville, but who needs to when you can call Belfast home. This is the kind of musical fusion they are playing with. It’s looking likely Southern are going to make waves with their accessible British take on a tried and tested US formula, provided they take the time to experiment at the edges of their honed and effortlessly cool sound.