Thirteen Senses Biography
“Stadium-conquering pop from the West Country.” NME
“Thirteen Senses mix the widescreen ambition of Radiohead with the melodies of Coldplay.” The Guardian
“Heartfelt choruses and brilliantly sweet melodies that leave scratch marks on your soul.” The Fly
“A knack for crafting widescreen, piano-led stormers that make blancmange out of your emotions.” NME
Whilst most bands – even some commercially successful ones – endure a lifetime making the journey from one margin to the next periphery, it is clear that Thirteen Senses have wasted little time in arriving at the centre of all things music in 2004.
Virtually unknown before this January, their debut single, the emphatic, unforgettable ‘Thru The Glass’ (“Big Music with Bigger Still Vistas. An astonishingly assured debut.” NME) immediately became the centre of attention – numerous plays on Radio One, playlisted at xFM… live radio sessions… single of the week reviews in the press… sold out shows in the UK… shows in the US… Thirteen Senses have quickly come to be known as one of the bands ‘most likely to…’ in 2004.
‘Most likely to…’ what? Flicker brightly for a year and then pass into obsolescence? Dazzle briefly, before delivering a dud and becoming a footnote in rock’s almanac? Or perhaps, by the power of their “soaring, dreamy pop” (Time Out), get songs on the radio, fill concert halls and occupy record players for the near – and distant – future. And become something, real, tangible: something to truly remember.
Thirteen Senses hope – expect – the latter. They have the songs; of that there is little doubt. No kidding, The hardest task they’ve faced so far is distilling their collection of seventy quality tunes down to an album-sized album. The sumptuous shimmerfolk” (NME) of ‘Thru The Glass’ is merely the tip of the proverbial, it’s relentless chorusing (“one of the year’s best”, said the Daily Star, amazingly) is joined in a sizeable cabal of massive songs by, amongst others, soon-to-be classics ‘Do No Wrong’, ‘Lead Us’ and the memorably titled ‘Untitled’.
Although it seems that the band has been around for the merest blink, these tunes come from half a lifetime of writing by Will South, 21-year-old singer/guitarist/pianist and principle Thirteen Senses songwriter. Growing up – literally – at the end of the country (Land’s End, Cornwall) and prodigiously talented at an early age, Will has been joined in the exercise of realising these songs by three fellow Cornishmen, Adam Wilson (bass), Tom Wellham (guitar) and Brendan James (drums) – all young ‘uns as well, and all at once entranced by Will’s sensational melodies and beguiling lyrics.
The simplicity of their line-up betrays a deeper understanding and rending of Thirteen Senses’ music. Songs that sound like instant hits arrive with barely a chorus. Others are only choruses, seamlessly stitched together. Melody is central to each individual tune, strikingly so in many cases. Not for them simple formulaic versions of a familiar sound either: keyboards, manipulated feedback, strings and found sounds will all ultimately embellish the songs at the heart, giving them a massive, dramatic, earthiness. Not unlike their home. “We’re not flying the flag as such, but it has affected us. The melodies are importantly pretty and they’re kind of epic – soundscapey in a way,” Says Will. Tom’s guitar and Will’s piano parts bring an adventurous, classic, dark palette to the band’s work in progress – something that perhaps insinuates a sense of timelessness more strongly than any of their peers – this band is mined from the rich seam of British white-boy deep-soul-rockers. They are what ‘we’ do best.
This year’s impressive arrival has been heralded by goodwill from all who meet and drink with the band: from radio and television to press and punter, Thirteen Senses are fast becoming that rarest musical beast – a ‘my favourite band’. These things are important, as the band has quickly realised. Their remoteness has informed their encounters with music to date: 9,000 songs on their ipod, but only six gigs attended. Because of this they know what it means to be fans – and already they’re nurturing a growing army of loyal followers – so much so that the limited edition release of ‘Thru The Glass’ in early March sold out of it’s run inside a week.
Another quirk of coming from the edges of the music scene (see also bands from Scotland or Wales) is that the formative steps are rarely easy. Numerous pub gigs in Cornwall inform 2004’s model Thirteen Senses – these were epic shows, as the standard in that part of the country is to play two-hour sets, or you don’t get paid. So the band played twelve ten minute long versions of their songs instead, and took the money. “Because there’s no scene in Cornwall, we’ve had no other bands to compare ourselves to, we’ve just been in our own little world and done what we wanted to do.” On returning to Truro this March for their first ever sold out headlining show, the band played for forty-five minutes and left to a standing ovation. NME: “tonight’s tiny venue is so rammed that half the crowd watch the show on TV around the corner.” Already they’re rightly seen as local heroes. As The Fly put it, because of Thirteen Senses, “Cornwall has a music scene now.”
What else? Upon returning from a group holiday to France to decide whether or not to continue the band, Thirteen Senses discovered that the music industry had clocked their awesome songs – and they became the subject of an unseemly A&R scrum. They ‘tested’ prospective record labels with days out on the Cornish surf (Mercury Vertigo stayed afloat long enough to sign the deal). They recently played their first shows overseas as part of 2004’s South By South West music festival in Texas, and although two of the band were ‘underage’ a grand time was had regardless. It also occasioned Tom’s first ever aviation experience (enjoyed, but the films were “shit”). A recent NME interview saw the band annex a whole dying genre (remember sports metal, anyone?) and an invite to the magazine’s awards was gratefully received – with alcoholic results. Oh, and Will can levitate.
Returning to the question, ‘Most likely to…’ what? With huge songs fit for summer’s fields and autumn’s arenas, as well as subtle moments of solitude and introspection, this band have the anthems to touch the hearts of listeners in their thousands. They are a people’s band like a trusty few before them. That’s where Thirteen Senses start and their songs end: crucially, whether its under bright lights or through a crappy transistor radio, like all the important bands of the last forty years Thirteen Senses have the songs to thrill the individual and the masses alike.
Hall Or Nothing, 2004
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