After a stressful season of Christmas dos, events and a general trying-to-keep-everything-together, sometimes a Friday evening gig at Hyde Park Book Club is exactly what is needed.
Taking time away from their busy recording schedule, romantic rock group The Howl and the Hum took stage as support. Hailing from York, the band are led by songwriter Sam Griffiths, whose lyrics are gorgeously poetic and whose voice is a wonder. The trio seem to have grown a strong following in Leeds: I caught their Brudenell show back in October, and at both venues there were crowd members mouthing every line of every song — they were clearly touched by this as support for Modern Studies.
Modern Studies began with full folk force. Influenced by their Scottish heritage, the quartet mix rock, folk and chamber pop; all four members are multi-instrumentalists, and their graceful blending of genre makes their sound both distinct and familiar. Male lead vocalist Rob St. John’s baritone voice was offset and yet beautifully complimented the angelic voice of songwriter Emily Scott, who also plays synth. I couldn’t help but feel that their bold sound and might’ve suited a slightly larger venue, but it was fair to say that they make quite an impression on the small basement room of Book Club.
After a couple of songs Scott addressed the audience, explaining how their most recent album, ‘The Weight of the Sun’, was written in the wake of lockdown, and (relatedly) became their darkest record to date. ‘But covid is over in England now, right?’ joked St. John.
Despite some of the more subject-heavy tracks, it was clear that Modern Studies were elated to be performing.
Drummer Joe Smillie was grinning ear to ear, whilst bassist Pete Harvey, who initially formed the band with Scott, was visibly engrossed for every second of the set. The night flew by before Scott announced their last song: ‘we saved this one ‘til the end, cos it’s the one we’ve practiced least’. Safe to say it sounded as polished as the rest, and St. John’s gorgeous electric solo rounded off the night just perfectly.
Words and photo by Kate Wassell