New Blood: Broken Hands
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For all the things the medieval city of Canterbury is most renowned for – its impressive cathedral, Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, the prog music scene of the late ’60s (known as the Canterbury Sound) made famous by the like of Soft Machine, Caravan and Gong – there was one institution that locals who were into music held in just as high regard as any of those things: the second-hand record store inside the city’s indoor market.
Run by Dave Radford, the lead singer of mid-’70s prog act Gizmo, it was a musical treasure trove full of rare CDs and cheap vinyl, and served as the centre of a town for all its many music junkies. Just ask Dale Norton, vocalist of genre-defying rock act Broken Hands.
“We practically lived in there when I was about 15,” he remembers. “Dave actually sold me a Rhodes piano. I was really into The Doors, and I told him that I wanted to get my hands on any Rhodes-based thing. About a year later, he said ‘I think I found what you’re looking for’ and he sold me this immaculate Rhodes piano. I think it had just been my birthday and I had some birthday money and he sold it to me. I knew they were worth about £1,200, so I told him I could pay him in instalments, and he was like, ‘No, £100 is fine!’ Because he knew I’d never sell it. And he used to do that with records as well. There was a pound bargain bin full of cheap CDs, and everything else was just so well-priced. We all lived together in the same house and we got half of our record collection from him.”
A decade later, the influence of Dave’s Indoor Market record store remains strong, even if Canterbury is still lacking somewhat, and was when Broken Hands – completed by drummer Callum Norton, bassist Thomas Ford, guitarist Jamie Darby and keyboard player Dave Hardstone – first began playing.
“It got better for a while,” Norton says, “but when we started playing music it felt like it was impossible to get gigs. But it was probably a good thing, because it forced us to go further afield for a show, towards the Medway towns and then towards London, so we figured out how to play ball a bit earlier on as a result. We learned a lot about the ladder now, and we understand how things work better.”
With the release of their debut album Turbulence, Broken Hands are stepping up another couple of rungs on that ladder. Dirgey yet spacey, heavy yet ethereal, its songs traverse a wide range of genres, from the rowdy rock of Royal Blood – like that band’s debut album, *Turbulence *was produced by Tom Dalgety – through to the ambitious yearning of early Muse, with the occasional hint of both prog and Britpop thrown in for good measure. Yet while those influences flow through the blood of their songs, they’re used to create a sound that Broken Hands can confidently say is their very own and which lays a firm foundation for what’s to come.
“When we used to hang out in Dave’s record store,” says Norton, “we were never interested in just being another band. There’s a lot of elements of what we do, especially with our live shows, that other people don’t bother to do. We’ve got loads of ideas, and if this finds a group of people that are into it, we’ll keep on exploring them. I’m sure this is what everyone says, but we want it to be as heard by as many people as possible. I’ve wanted to make a record from the age of 15, and I’m just chuffed that maybe one day, in 2055, there’ll be another Dave’s Indoor Market in Norwich or somewhere and someone might find a copy of our record on vinyl.”
Turbulence is out now via SO Recordings. For more information on the band and upcoming tour dates, visit their official website.