It’s a gloomy Friday night in East London. A faint drizzle dampens the air, the Old Street roadworks persist eternal, and I’ve already taken the wrong exit.
Down the end of Brick Lane, Rough Trade East is aglow with fairy lights. The band haven’t yet started, but a long queue for the bar is snaking back around the record shelves. It’s the 11th March, and The Mysterines are a long way from home to celebrate the release of their long awaited debut album, Reeling.
Hailing from Liverpool, the quartet have been a name awash with praise over the last few years. They've scored enviable support slots for Royal Blood and Sea Girls, headlined the BBC Introducing Stage at Reading & Leeds, and been chosen as an Amazon Music One To Watch 2022 pick. As their debut finally enters the world, the pressure hanging over them must be daunting.
I overhear the first chords of Dangerous before I glimpse the group, peering out above a sea of bodies pressed tightly to the foot of the stage. Hovering beside a rack of Beach Boys records, there’s no space to move any closer. The crowd are quiet, barely moving as the energy in the room feels potent. As the first song winds down, there’s a strangeness that’s hard to place. A somber mood floats in the air, like we’re all here in preparation for a funeral, much less a celebration. It's well suited to a record that muses so poignantly on grief and heartache, and the audience sits transfixed as the band, all dressed in black, play out a stripped down set - there’s no theatrics here.
As they introduce the record's titular track, the crowd finally lets out a collective breath. There’s some cheering, clapping, a slight jostle and then frontwoman Lia Metcalfe’s softly spoken voice rises to a powerful cry. Plucky guitar chords start to meld with a humming bass line, and her vocals resonate and fill the room completely.
The quartet are unassuming as they pace through the new tracks. Under Your Skin’s painstakingly slow beats feel enticing, a threatening edge lingers while Still Call You Home shows off emotional storytelling at its finest, plucky and lilting. By the time they arrive at their final song of the evening, I’ve lost track of time entirely.
“This is going to be our last song. I just want to say thanks again for everyone coming down. It’s a bit weird that we’re standing here with a debut album. I started this band with George when we were 13 years old so…” her voice trails off as the room erupts with cheers, the loudest the audience have been all evening, and it seems to shatter the spell that's been hanging over us all. Lia grins back at the audience.
The album's closer also ends the evening. Confession Song is heavy and damning, like a funeral march cutting through thick air. There's a dark edge pressed to a heavy bass hum, an ever present rumbling of guilt and despair. It's haunting and powerful, a fitting description for the entirety of their set. The crowd shouts for one more, give us an encore, but the band are gone, slipped outside for a cigarette. They don't oblige.
Find The Mysterines on Instagram here
Pick up a copy of their debut album Reeling here