So far gone: Stewart Nash on the early years of The Early Years

Oakfield Social

This week sees The Early Years take to the stage supporting Ride at ULU in London. It’s the perfect bill. Two of my favourite bands playing on the same stage at one of my favourite venues. The ULU was a regular haunt for me in my late teens and I’d often go there regardless of who was playing.

The Early Years weren’t always on Sonic Cathedral, but they always felt like they were a Sonic Cathedral band. I first heard of them just before the release of their debut single in 2005 – I was co-running Sennen’s label Hungry Audio at the time and they were asked to play a gig with them.

Rich Kelleway from Sennen remembers: “It was all to do with Roger Trust at Beggars Banquet who arranged for us to play on the same bill at 93 Feet East.

“What do I remember about that gig? Not that much, actually, other than I think it must have been one of The Early Years’ very first shows as it was just three of them. They were great. I remember them playing ‘All Ones And Zeros’ and being very impressed!”

‘All Ones…’ had just been released as their debut single following their signing to Beggars. Rich explains further: “I think Roger was there and he had signed them and was their A&R. We talked to them after the show and obviously we were into a lot of the same music and ended up playing more gigs together and have kept in touch ever since.”

2006 Truck Festival

A few months later I was at Truck Festival with Nat from Sonic Cathedral and we went and watched them together. It was Sunday lunchtime and the campers were stirring; The Early Years had been given the task of waking them up.

On a hot sunny day in a small tent in Oxfordshire the band’s blistering tunes blasted from the PA. Now a four-piece, with the addition of Brendan Kersey on bass duties, they were mesmerising. In fact, they were perfect. They’d only released two singles (‘All Ones…’ and ‘So Far Gone’) at this stage, but the whole set flew by in what seemed like just a few minutes. It was one where you walk away knowing there’s a new band to add to your favourites list and you’ll buy everything they release. That doesn’t happen very often.

We talked to the band afterwards and I remember them commenting on my Sennen T-shirt (any promotion helps!). Apparently Brian Eno was there to watch them, too. He spoke to Phil, the drummer, and told him how he reminded him of his friend, Klaus Dinger. High praise indeed!

Later that day we went to watch Mojave 3, fronted by Neil Halstead who’d also go on to release a solo album and his Black Hearted Brother project on Sonic Cathedral before Slowdive got back together. There was obviously something in the air that day.

Over the next year or so, I saw the band play all over the place – from the tiny and very poorly attended Portland Arms in Cambridge to a Sonic Cathedral gig at the Oakford Social Club in Reading on a very drunken Sunday afternoon. There were plenty of others, too. All blisteringly loud, all brilliant.

The Early Years in Cambridge

By 2008, after some reorganisation at Beggars Banquet, The Early Years finally moved over to their spiritual home of Sonic Cathedral to release the classic ‘Like A Suicide’ single. The same year they also did two reinterpretations of Sennen’s song ‘Just Wanted To Know’ for an EP. (You can listen to one of the versions below. It’s flippin’ ace!)

There was then a three-year gap until their next release (‘Complicity’) and series of live shows and a combination of new family responsibilities and bad timing mean I have somehow managed to miss every show they’ve played since. I hope that I get to witness many more in the future, beginning with the show with Ride at the ULU.

Stewart Nash is the founder of the Ride archives