Words & by pic by Emily Doyle / Pics by Danny Holden
*Liquid Cheeks support The Taboo Club at The Victoria (John Bright St) on Saturday 29th September – alongside Lilac Noise, as part of Birmingham Review’s live music showcase. For more direct info visit the Facebook event page here, or for online ticket sales click here*
Inside The Night Owl, the monthly art and music showcase Kaleidoscope is in full swing. Outside in the smoking area, Ben Ollis Gibbs and Greg Clarke of Liquid Cheeks are perched on one of the picnic tables. They’re big fans of the night – it’s where they chose to debut their latest single, ‘Serendipity’.
“I think the concept of art upstairs, music downstairs… it’s wicked,” says Ben. “I mean obviously, I sell my art as well.”
“It shows that Birmingham, it’s so much more than just the whole B-town thing,” he muses. “We’re not in the state of being hungover from a corporate explosion anymore, there’s far more to it and these people have always been around. I mean, coming from Redditch we haven’t always known that crowd, so getting to really see what’s going on is excellent.”
“There’s a lot of great bands as well,” Greg interjects, “so it’s just nice that they’re all together and everyone gets to know each other.”
Ben and Greg are no strangers to the Midland’s live music scene. Most would recognise them from the now defunct Byron Hare, who were championed by BBC Introducing and played Birmingham Town Hall in their final months. They’ve brought the Byron Hare song ‘Serendipity’ with them into Liquid Cheeks. I ask the boys else how they’re carrying on the narrative.
“It takes it back to the start really,” Ben explains. “It was me, Greg and Jodie, and we’d go to the pub over the road to Greg’s Dad’s house, then we’d go back to Greg’s Dad’s house after he’d gone to work, and we’d just write music. That’s kind of what Byron Hare always was, until we realised that Jodie’s voice was far more than that in terms of a presence. That’s why we became a rock band. So it’s nice to go back to just writing and kind of not having any inhibitions about it.”
This ethos is evident in Liquid Cheek’s first release, ‘He’s A Flower’; three minutes of softly spoken indie rock, it rails against toxic masculinity. BBC WM Introducing gave it a spin, describing the band as ‘very pink’.
“With a lot of our imagery we want to be kind of touchy feely, and a little bit provocative in that sense,” tells Ben. “We’re men, we’re heterosexual men – but it’s fine to be a bit effeminate. Especially coming from a town like Redditch, all of my life I’ve had to deal with people throwing shit at me like, ‘So what are you, gay?’ and it’s like firstly, that’s not an insult, and secondly…no? So we wanna push that a little bit. What is it to be a man? Is there a place for this kind of alpha anymore?”
Greg nods along. Liquid Cheeks will be making their live debut alongside The Taboo Club and Lilac Noise at The Victoria (John Bright St) on Saturday 29th September . I ask them how preparations are going.
“It’s all been very slapdash ’cause we were offered the gig before we even thought we could do a gig,” admits Greg. “Like, way before we thought we could do a gig.”
“It was the last Kaleidoscope!” Ben remembers suddenly. “We were here when we were offered the gig, and we went to The Crown and we had a drink and we said ‘I don’t think we can do it. It’s a shame because we really want to but I don’t think we’re gonna be able to,’ and then we finished the drink and then by the end we were on the phone to Ed at Birmingham Review and we were saying ‘yeah yeah no we’re happy to do it. Yeah, we’ll play it,’ and then we hung up and we were like ‘ah fuck…shall we book a practice next week?’”
“It’s good though,” adds Greg, “because when you’ve got stuff like that it forces you to fucking get on with it because as a writer or whatever you can just dwindle on things and be like, ‘Ah it’s not good enough yet,’ but when it has to be ready it fucking is.”
“Yeah definitely it’s good to have the boost up your bottom,” Ben agrees. It seems Liquid Cheeks like to work under pressure, as he goes on to tell of the band’s origin.
“In all honesty, we were at The Dark Horse, and we’d had a miscommunication, me and Greg. And Greg was telling people we were releasing music on Monday and I was like ‘…are we?’ This was on like a fucking Friday. And we didn’t have a band name, we didn’t have anything.”
“It was going to be Wet Face Society, wasn’t it?” Greg interjects.
“Wet Face Society after David Bowie in ‘Five Years’, he ‘cried so much his was wet,’” quotes Ben, “I liked that that painted such a graphic picture, but it also kind of touches on our generation just being sad about life because of how fucked we are. That’s something I can definitely relate to. So we wanted to go along that kind of graphic sort of line, but yeah Liquid Cheeks just ended up being what it was.”
Greg grins to himself, goes to speak, then hesitates. “Because… no, I shouldn’t… it sounds like diarrhea do you not think?” I’m glad someone said it. Moving swiftly on, I ask the pair what their audience can expect from their set at The Victoria on Saturday 29th September.
“Karaoke!” laughs Ben. Greg concurs. “It is glorified karaoke – for now anyway. It’s gonna become an actual band, but now it’s just glorified karaoke.”
“We want to put a show on,” says Ben. “We wanna really make it quite personal, quite one-to-one. It’s just going to be just us on the stage, so there’s not that backbone of support of musicians. It’s just me, Greg, and a room of people.”
‘Serendipity’ – Liquid Cheeks
Liquid Cheeks will be supporting The Taboo Club at The Victoria on Saturday 29th September, as part of Birmingham Review’s live music showcase. Joining them on the bill will also be Stoke’s melodic electro four piece, Lilac Noise – playing their debut Birmingham gig.
For more direct event info visit the Facebook event page here, or for online ticket sales click here.
For more on Liquid Cheeks, visit www.facebook.com/liquidcheeks
NOT NORMAL – NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.
To sign up to NOT NORMAL – NOT OK, click here. To know more about the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK sticker campaign, click here.