I’m on assignment to shoot Youth Man. They are a complete fucksplosion of a band and it’s just a couple of days after the launch of their Wax EP on Gallows’ label Venn Records. It’s hot and smoggy and my first time seeing the long shadows of Birmingham in over a decade. The city has changed and it strikes me that every band I know from Birmingham is vocally proud of their roots to almost Welsh proportions. I suggest meeting at the Flapper & Firkin where I used to play shows in my touring band days but drummer Marcus Perks counters with the Sunflower Lounge: their usual watering hole, sometime place of employment and regular host of Youth Man shows.
The band, completed by singer/guitarer Kaila Whyte and Bass player Miles Cocker seem to like my plan of drinking and talking for most of our time together and then shooting a few frames towards the end. Both the talk and the drink flow and conversation veers from questions they get repeatedly asked- what it’s *like* to be a strong, female, black frontperson (Kaila- “I don’t know… normal?”)- to how Status Quo are nothing short of the British Ramones, but the subject we keep coming back to is Birmingham. I’m delighted to hear they have as much love for the city as other hometown exports and they enthusiatically agree- after shooting the magazine feature we’ve assembled for- to take me on a tour of their city.
Selfridges & St Martin’s - old Birmingham meets new
Marcus: I never really came into Birmingham much when I was younger - it was always made out by my Black-Country-dwelling family to be this distant gigantic scary space where everything wanted to eat you alive, so when I hit my teens and got the chance to do what I pleased, naturally this was the first place I wanted to check out. I spent Saturday afternoons hanging around the Bullring and Pigeon Park and many a night stumbling drunkenly around St Martin's and Digbeth... In fact, I still do! The wall outside St Martin's is a good place to stop and compose oneself on the journey from the Vic to Digbeth.
The Rag Market
Kaila: I spent a lot of time in this part of the city when I was little so it’s got a lot of sentimental value for me. My Mom's a seamstress and also a cheapskate so I spent most Saturday mornings running round the rag market while she bought fabric and stuff.
Muthers Studio, Digbeth
Miles: Birmingham has become home for me over the past ten years or so. I first moved here as a sort of stop gap while I was deciding what to do with myself. I ended up falling into a job (albeit to pay off a large tab) at Muthers Studio. After paying my debt I landed a full time role there and that really cemented Birmingham as home, Muthers in particular. The transformation from the first day I stepped foot in the studio to what we have today makes me really proud to be part of the studio and part of Birmingham's ever growing arts scene. If I'm not there you'll find me at the Sunflower Lounge; another home from home.
We’re rushing back to the station, bottles of lager from the Muthers bar in hand, late for my train home and swapping Steve Albini stories. When we arrive at New Street and it’s stingingly clear the train has left, Kaila, Miles and Marcus have one response: “This means you can come back to the Sunflower with us for a bit”. Best job. Best band. Youth Man.