It’s refreshing to find a truly humble and hard-working British band on the scene today, but Manchester four-piece City Reign tick all the boxes.
City Reign first began to blossom four and a half years ago when Chris Bull (Vocals/Guitar) and Michael Grice (Guitar) met at a Ryan Adams gig. “We'd both recently moved to Manchester from London and got chatting at this gig and realised we had quite a lot of shared influences. We started to write songs together and played in a band for a couple of years which ended up breaking up” said Chris.
Then two years ago they met Michael Glaze (Bass) and Sam Jones (Drums) and have been playing together under the name City Reign – inspired by Adams’ song ‘City Rain, City Streets’ - ever since. Mike Grice says “In the previous band we were maybe trying to write songs to fit a style of that moment but now we've started to write some new material and finally started to develop our own sound that seemed quite natural to us”.
City Reign’s sound has been difficult to pin down for some. “We've been described as a lot of things, from indie, to grunge, even country influences. I guess that's just a reflection of all the kinds of music we like” said Chris. “We have an energetic sound but we'd like to think the melodies are pretty strong too.”
The lads are fans of bands such as Idlewild, Doves and The National. Chris admits “They don't really sound like each other but I guess they all have found their own sound with a certain subtlety that I think is what we love about them”.
But City Reign have not stopped at creating music. The band have also established their own independent label, Car Boot Records. “We decided to set up the label because we wanted to start releasing material so people could actually hear us. We wanted to try and reach a broader range of people than just the few people we knew, who could sometimes be persuaded and bullied into coming to see us live. With the internet and people like AWAL it's possible to release music and have it reach all sorts of people” said Chris.
And all the hard work has paid off as the lads now have fans from as far afield as the States, Canada, Europe and even Japan. A little closer to home, BBC Radio DJ Steve Lamacq has also heralded City Reign, listing them as one of his ‘bands to look out for’ on his ‘In The City’ show. “That was pretty amazing to be honest. Steve is such an influential figure in the modern music scene so for someone like that to support us like that was great. Since he played our first single and then featured us on his show we've been shamelessly using his name to get more people to listen to us! It's definitely been a massive factor in whatever small success we've had so far.”
The band are so humble that they prefer not to feature in their own music videos, instead opting to play their music alongside old movie footage. “We just felt that while we're trying to get people to listen to our music it would be best to stay out of the videos” said Chris. “We didn't want a standard video, which would've been really bad as we wouldn't know what we were doing. It's been good for people to hear our music first before they realise what idiots we actually are.”
The video for new single ‘Daybreak’ for example, has a spaghetti Western theme which came about after the band watched Blazing Saddles. “Thankfully the American archive had an abundance of old Cowboy and Indian films” said Mike, “the running horses just seem to fit the pounding nature of the drums”.
‘Daybreak’ is the band’s third single and will be released on 9th May as part of an EP recorded with Grammy nominated producer Dan Parry. The track has been a fan favourite at their live shows and its original recording was the title track of the band’s early demo. ‘Daybreak’ has echoes of fellow Mancunians Oasis, yet with a more atmospheric grunge sound. Raw vocals give it that unique British feel while the subtly progressive drums build up to something even bigger.
Chris said “It’s probably the song we’ve been most proud of. We always enjoy playing it live, as it has that typically youthful conflict between despair and restless hopefulness. The harmonies in the outro really capture that feeling that there’s always something else to reach for, even when you don’t know exactly what it is.”
However, the band don’t want to stop at an EP. “We have the track listing for the album we want to record written up on our dingy practice room door. We would love to be able to record it in the next year” said Chris, “We think we have enough songs to make one that we'd be really proud of.” Mike adds; “The only problem we have after that is thinking of a name for it, as the current ideas being banded about are horrendous!”