Updated: Thursday, 9th April 2020 @ 1:24pm

Primed for lift-off: Manchester rockers City Reign set the controls for music stratosphere

Primed for lift-off: Manchester rockers City Reign set the controls for music stratosphere

| By Loughlan Campbell

Manchester rockers City Reign may have just played the venue they once set as a benchmark but they’ve been around the block enough to not let it get them carried away.

The four lads viewed a weekend gig at the Deaf Institute as a team goal – and their confident performance on Saturday night was surely one of their most accomplished to date.

Yet the up-and-coming indie outfit, whose founding members met while studying at University of Manchester, have been writing, recording and gigging for the past six years. Frontman Chris Bull knows there’s still a lot of work to be done.

Chris recalls the best piece of advice they had about sticking at it as a band, came from the wise mouth of British singer-songwriter Tom Robinson.

“He compared a band to a rocket, gesturing at how small the rocket is in comparison to the fuel tanks,” Chris explains.

“He said ‘your career is a rocket, and it takes a hell of a lot of energy and creativity to get into orbit but once you’re there, you’re there, so don’t compare yourself to band that have already made it’.”

It’s clear that the band believe they have what it takes to get into orbit, though they’re not aiming to take up a rock star lifestyle in any hurry.

“We’re not the most rock n’ roll band in the world,” says Chris. “The most rock n’ roll thing we ever did happened when we were put up in a horrific flat above the venue in Edinburgh.

“There was stuff all over the walls and we didn’t feel like we could leave it, so in the morning Mike heated a bakewell tart in a microwave to spread it on his toast and that is literally the most rock n’ roll thing we’ve ever done!”

With their name taken from Ryan Adam’s song, City Rain, City Street, founding members Chris and Michael Grice started jamming after meeting on the way to one of Adam’s concerts.

They discovered that they lived in the same building, so the duo started writing songs and for the last eight years, they’ve been perfecting their sound. They adopted the moniker City Reign two years later, in reference to how they met.

As an attempt to incorporate more control of the band’s dealings, they formed their own record label, Car Boot Records, a name inspired by a Doves documentary.

“Doves are Mike’s favourite band and we got the label name from watching a documentary they did where they told of how they use to sell tapes out the back of a van after shows,” Chris, the lead singer and guitarist, explains.

The decision to form their own label came after watching Tom Robinson (that man again) in a BBC Introducing segment where Robinson spoke of making yourselves look bigger than you actually are in tips for bands.

“It was more of an idea than anything else, we just slapped the name of a label on the CDs we’d send to radios to make them take us more seriously.

“With the label we absolutely felt like we had more control. We pretty much do everything ourselves.

“Musically, we don’t feel constrained; we’re not an introspective band. Of course, we want to be a communal band but we like that we’ve never had anyone telling us what to do with our music.”

Chris’ voice is one that has drawn all sets of comparisons from R.E.M’s Michael Stipe to Placebo’s Brian Molko.

“The Placebo comparison is one that really annoys me, sound wise,” Chris laughs, “but our influences have really had an impact.

“In the early days we were really inspired by Oasis and Idlewild so that’s where some of our sound comes from.”

The band admit that when it comes to CDs they have become more selective in their purchases, as most audiences have since the advent of streaming music applications like Spotify. However Chris believes the decline of CDs has been exaggerated.

“It’s a double-edged sword.  You can sort stuff out a lot easier without any barriers, as bands can get on to Spotify with relative ease,” he said.

“But of course, there’s a lot more competitors on there now, as everyone’s doing the same thing. I think online content is making music available to more people than before and I don’t see it as a bad thing but it does make it harder to make a living.

“I still enjoy buying CDs of band that I love but I think the decline in CD purchases has been overstated, their share of the market is still a very high percentage.”

None of them see the band as a full-time job just yet, with Chris working in customer service for a manufacturing company, Mike working as an engineer and fellow members, Duncan Bolton and Ryan Ashton working in Maplin.

Yet as their confidence grows with each performance and the lads under no illusions about how much work it takes to get to get a band off the ground, the rocket is certainly primed for lift-off.

City Reign’s latest single, Disappear, is now out on Car Boot Records.

Image courtesy of Car Boot Records, with thanks.