Raucous Nottingham upstarts put a contemporary twist on classic rock with ferocious, riff-laden tracks.
The burgeoning success of grassroots British rock music over the last three years has propelled countless acts and musical hubs into the hearts and minds of the charismatic and ever-engrossed aficionados of rock. One city whose momentum for breeding fresh rock talent has started to reach lamentable levels over the past eighteen months is the traditionally strong city of Nottingham. Whilst London Grammar, Jake Bugg and Sleaford Mods have successfully opened a path to the mainstream for themselves, there has been a lacklustre stream of mainstream attention for a city bristling with brilliant singer-songwriters and quirky new bands.
Making firm strides in changing the tide for their beloved city, four-piece Reflekter might well be the new kids on the block, but they’re certainly not a band to underestimate. Despite only releasing two singles to date, the vivacious rock and roll quartet consisting of James Gooch (vocals, guitar), Adam Mitchell (guitar), Isaac Bloomfield (bass) and Seb McNish (drums) sold-out a prestigious October date at the iconic Bodega in a matter of days, whilst their performance at Dot to Dot Festival earlier in May was one of the most talked about moments of the event.
Speaking calmly at the band’s recording studio in the city, Gooch explains that the band, whilst seemingly a new entity, have actually been together for some time now. ‘I’ve known Seb and Isaac for a while now and we’ve been in projects with other bands before in the past and we just decided that we wanted to do something new, something fresh, so then we were looking for a lead guitarist and I met Adam in a bar funnily enough and it sort of just happened from there really,’ he explains. ‘[Adam] came down to a couple of rehearsals and that was it, we just clicked straight away. It was quite an easy process to be fair luckily. We got on straight away and we’re all into the same music.’
‘Reflekter might well be the new kids on the block, but they’re certainly not a band to underestimate.’
Despite being in projects before, Gooch explains that the transition over to Reflekter was a relatively pain-free experience. ‘It’s never the easiest thing because everyone wants to put their own sort of stamp on things, but I think we were all wanting to do the same thing which was pretty good. We all had the same idea that we wanted to do something fresh and really make a good go at it.’
For Reflekter as a band, Gooch’s love of Springsteen and Van Morrison helped structure the multi-faceted sound that the four-piece have already crafted. ‘A lot of our influences are a lot of retro, 60s and 70s bands,’ Gooch states. ‘We wanted to take that but put a modern spin on it and do something that’s hopefully a bit different.’ However, whilst classic artists have provided a vast influence on Reflekter’s sound, they still search for influences in the modern music industry. ‘Going with modern and current bands I guess Black Rebel Motor Cycle Club, The Black Keys that kind of thing [are key influences], but we’re also keeping heritage to the bands we all love from the sixties and seventies.’
“I do feel that young people feel a bit mistreated and neglected and so any sort of outlet that you can give people through music is a win.” James Gooch
The ethereal blend of music history from the 1960s to the modern day permeates Reflekter’s audience-catching sound. Debut single Caught in a Storm possesses an inscrutable hive of energy that feels like it could erupt at any moment. From the snarling wails of the track’s opening lines, a heightened expectation builds immensely before the band go on the offensive. A track ready for both sweaty venues and festival main stages, Caught in a Storm carries a desirability in the confrontational, swaggering vocals and contains an incredulous concoction of grassroots rock and roll alongside the stadium-soaring rock of Oasis at their world-conquering heights.
Speaking of the track, Gooch states ‘Caught in a Storm is actually a song I wrote years ago. I think I was only about sixteen or seventeen and it’s just sort of stuck around. It’s a completely new version now than what it was but all the words are the same so I just took the words and we came up with that. I think pretty much I was driving home in a storm! It’s weird how songs can sort of just come from something as simple as that.’ Asked about the rawness of his vocal delivery, Gooch seems eager to tap into the mood of a disheartened and anxious nation. ‘I think a lot of young people are very angry at the moment and that vocal delivery, there’s a lot of angst about in young people and I think that sort of music can really give an outlet for that sort of anger I suppose,’ he confesses.
For a developing band, the quality of Reflekter’s two-track library is a testament to their cohesiveness as a unit. Addressing their relationship, Gooch relays ‘It’s pretty great to be honest. Every band has their friction because we’re on top of each other all of the time and that can be hard but no, we all get on great. We’re like brothers really, there can be a bit of friction at times but again it’s healthy. You wouldn’t want three other yes men just nodding along.’
The singer goes on to say how the older influences for the band have helped him as a frontman. ‘A lot of the frontmen in those decades were great which is something I always take a look on, and not imitate but try and take something from each individual. I wouldn’t say I could do the moves but Mick Jagger is always a great one to watch. I’m a big Bruce Springsteen fan as well so I listen to a lot of his music. I’d say he certainly influences me more on the songwriting side of things. He can’t put a foot wrong in my eyes to be honest.’
‘Caught in a Storm…contains an incredulous concoction of grassroots rock and roll alongside the stadium-soaring rock of Oasis at their world-conquering heights.’
The likes of Jagger and Springsteen are certainly visible influences on the young singer, but it’s also clear to see that Gooch is an exceptional worker when he’s in the writing mood and seems to be following a path to reach a greater audience. ‘I write words pretty much everyday, whether they actually turn into songs or not is a different case,’ he says. ‘I just try and pick out words and phrases if I’m in a place that inspires me or even from a conversation with someone that I’ve just met, they might have said something. Words and phrases sometimes just turn into songs I guess. I definitely hope that we could speak to the young people through songs. I do feel that young people feel a bit mistreated and neglected and so any sort of outlet that you can give people through music is a win.’
“[Springsteen] can’t put a foot wrong in my eyes to be honest.” James Gooch
If reaching the hearts and minds of a disenfranchised youth was the goal, then latest track Alright puts the Nottingham band firmly on the right path. Strongly reminiscent of Leicester heroes Kasabian, the single prowls dangerously into a sonically-charged new dimension with a feral, quivering riff of substantial quality. Whilst Reflekter look to take influences from legends of the genre, their sound remains set firmly in the modern day, and the frightening prospect is that there feels like there’s even greater room for improvement.
‘[Alright] prowls dangerously into a sonically-charged new dimension with a feral, quivering riff of substantial quality.’
Addressing the single, Gooch says ‘I think I sort of came in with it pretty much written already and it was just sort of a case that the other guys write the guitar parts and the drums. Alright was one of the newer ones that I had brought in so it was a bit more band-orientated.’ Speaking of the modern-focused approach to recording, the singer also says ‘Again we were trying to be a bit more modern with that one rather than your sort of Oasis-based stuff. We were trying to be a bit more clever than that I think and the vocals just matched that. We tried to be a bit more modern, there’s more synths on that and stuff like that.’
Given the hype that Reflekter have amassed in recent months, we ask the singer what he thinks the current status of British rock music is. ‘It’s a tricky one because I do feel like there are people waiting for something big,’ he offers. ‘I feel like people jump on a lot of bands early and there’s a lot of hype around a lot of bands and it never really reaches the hype that I think people are actually waiting for. Guitar music is coming back around as it always does so it will be interesting to see. There’s starting to be a resurgence again, there’s more of it on the radio again and on the mainstream stations and stuff so we’ve just got to see which bands lead the surge I guess.’
“Guitar music is coming back around as it always does.” James Gooch
Despite the current hype, the band have very moderate expectations for the rest of the year, focusing on building a bigger fan base and getting more gig mileage. Having to balance jobs as well as commitments to the band, each member has seemingly learnt a great deal over the last six months as Gooch explains ‘I think this time it feels a bit more mature and like we’ve got to grips with things, not just with the writing but with the sound as well. Having that sense of longevity has been the main aim for me. Finding something that has legs and can be a long-term career for us all.’
Having announced their first full headline tour for October, Reflekter are a smouldering cauldron of energy. The new kids on the block are already taking Nottingham by storm, and now they look ready to conquer lands afar. To say they are one of the city’s hottest new prospects might be a bit of an understatement now, given the transcendent nature to their raucous rock and roll rollercoaster. With months still to go to consolidate their grip on the city’s music scene, the rising four-piece look set to end 2019 on a momentous high, pushing into the new year as one of the country’s most exciting new prospects.