INTERVIEW: LYR | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Steve Gullick

I wasn’t prepared for the sound in the room. The warming up of the instruments and the arranging of the humans threw me back to when I used to play in orchestras as a kid. When they played their first notes, it was tear-jerking and jaw-dropping. I was also frantically plugging in microphones, hoping I could capture the best possible version of it.”

The emotions that washed over producer Patrick J. Pearson as he set about recording the Marsden Silver Prize Band are infused throughout Firm As A Rock We Stand, the new EP from LYR – the fascinating ambient rock band featuring Patrick and singer Richard Walters alongside lead singer (and current UK poet laureate) Simon Armitage.

The EP depicts the stories and voices of former mining villages left to die; a wound on the national landscape picked at by Marsden-born Armitage when he discovered his village’s North East doppelgänger had been wiped off the map. “I’d grown up knowing there was another Marsden. I was always fascinated as to where it was and what it was like, so it felt a bit like having a severed limb or something. I don’t think we’re used to the idea that places can just disappear; it’s anathema to us as people.”

I hope we’ve created something stirring and passionate that people feel excited by but also proud of in relation to where they come from and who they are

One of County Durham’s notorious ‘Category D’ mining villages, Marsden was a place where no future development would be permitted, and all properties would be acquired and demolished, consigning a tightly woven community to little more than memory. “I’m biased because I grew up in a village,” reflects Simon, “but I like that size of community where you can still feel free enough to do what you want, but you’re also looked after by a group of people, and you’re accountable to them as well, you’re accountable for your friends.”

LYR will debut the evocative collection of songs live at Durham Cathedral as part of Durham BRASS Festival on Friday 15th July. “It was deeply moving and surprisingly so,” says Richard. “Brass bands have a nostalgia that goes back to Christmas or growing up in a village, gatherings of the community. It instantly taps into some part of our past. It feels very ancient, weirdly.”

Sharing the floor with Easington Colliery Band for the BRASS Festival performance, the band are anticipating the heady emotions of the night. “A lot of people in the room will have connections with bands, with County Durham, with those villagers,” says Simon, “and I like the idea that we’ve given them an opportunity to form this big communion. I hope we’ve created something stirring and passionate that people feel excited by but also proud of in relation to where they come from and who they are.”

Even if you don’t feel connected to the story or you’re unaware, it’s a fantastic opportunity to see the combination of all of these things in the Cathedral,” says Patrick.

Deeply moved by the voice of communities here and gone, while the show is not to be missed, LYR are keeping the village hall door ajar for future collaborations. “We’ve got a taste for the brass band world now,” enthuses Simon. “Pat has nailed how to record a brass band, and we’ve been approached by other bands. It’s an amazing story, a really rich story, so there might be more to be said.”

LYR perform alongside Easington Colliery Band at Durham Cathedral on Friday 15th July as part of BRASS Festival. Firm As A Rock We Stand is out now.


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