Writer Mark Roberts/ Photographer Jess Whitty
As you enter Norton’s on Meriden Street, you really get a sense that this is a proper Irish pub. I can’t quite put my finger on it, it’s all very subtle. Perhaps, it’s the 8-foot-tall pint of Guinness by the door, right as you walk in.
The Devil and St. Joseph are made up of Joe Frascina, on vocals and a guitar oddly reminiscent of the Selfridges building, but it’s matte black and gold, and actually not hideous to look at. Emily Doyle, on vocals, synth and a snare drum and Billy Beale, on a second guitar, who somehow seriously pulls off wearing sunglasses and what appears to be a pyjama top on stage.
At this point, I’m worrying that The Devil and St. Joseph are going to suffer the same issues as other bands with no bass instruments, but as soon as they kick off, I’m subjected to a subterranean and disgustingly filthy sound that seems to come from deep in a swamp.
The guitars, which range from dark, sludgy tones to chicken-wire razor-sharpness, are the main body of the music. Impeccable solos ranging from cavernous shredding to atonal bliss disperse through the music courtesy of Billy Beale. All cut together with beats from a drum machine that somehow sounds like it had been sent back to the era of cowboys, recorded on a piece of paper and then played back through a 1930s radio.
Emily’s synth ranges from the keyboard equivalent of jelly on a vibrator, to an organ that wouldn’t be amiss at a funeral. Joe’s pugnacious drawl and Emily’s pure tones vibrate within the tunes, embedded in the swampiness of the songs. Joe, taking the lead, draws me in, but Emily is regularly utilised to incredible effect, her voice at times peeking through the mix, harmonious and clear.
Then, Emily turns to the snare drum and engages it. The snare brings a punch that the electronic beats just can’t achieve and as it pierces the sonic landscape, I find myself yearning for the snare drum, hungering for it. I’m falling in love with Snare Drum. It’s warm wooden body, subtle metal frame…
Anyway, I digress. The Devil and St Joseph move around the stage with a jaded nonchalance that is fitting and natural. Though as my last note, this coolness may stray into coldness unintentionally, something that could easily be resolved with a bit more eye contact.
Overall, it’s clear that The Devil and St. Joseph are a band which take command of an impressive sonic landscape. It’s a shame that there aren’t more people in attendance. It’ll be great to see them play backed by the energy of a full crowd.
For more on The Devil and Saint Joseph visit www.facebook.com/thedevilandsaintjoseph