Manchester band LIINES played a blistering set on Sunday 29th at Bearded Theory festival – the crowd was obviously loving it – and there’s plenty of social media comments that indicate they’ve gained a raft of new fans. I was thrilled to catch up with Zoe McVeigh (vocals/guitar) and Leila O’Sullivan (drums) after they came off stage, for a quick interview before they headed home.

Hi to you both! So it looked like everyone was enjoying themselves out there watching you play. How was the show – and what was it like performing in the middle of the afternoon instead of a sweaty venue?
Leila: It was great, amazing. Yeah, it was fine being on stage in the afternoon, it felt the same as at night. We’re absolutely exhausted because we got home at 2am from 02 Academy Leeds and left at 9.30 this morning to get here. But we’re buzzing all the way!

Any other festivals booked?
Leila: Kendal Calling. We were booked for Bearded Theory and Kendal Calling in 2020 – so we’ve been waiting all this time… we’re happy they kept us on the lineups.
Zoe: And we’ll be in Brighton, it’s just been announced that we’re playing The Wedding Present’s At The Edge of the Sea festival in August. 

I read about your gig at The Trades Club in Hebden Bridge, I hear you did a really long set. How did it go?
Zoe: Yes it was an hour which we’ve never done before… an 18-song set. I nearly fainted on stage with the intensity of it, it was really quite hard. We need an instrumental in the middle, haha. 
Leila: The gig was part of Independent Venue Week, so it was meant to be at the end of January but it got delayed [to March] because of Covid. Again there was quite big a big build up. Obviously we’ve always wanted to headline The Trades, it was a bucket list for us and it was yeah, really cool. We took it as an opportunity to play as many songs as we could. 

How did your voice hold up for all that time?
Zoe: Well, I did it, although I literally had lack of oxygen because I’ve realised I don’t take many breaths! There aren’t many spaces. It’s a learning curve… although I wouldn’t have it any other way because that’s just the nature of our songs, they’re intense, they punch you in the face.

Leila: You know you’ll only have to last another minute and then you stop again. It’s just about getting through each one, making it as intense as possible while you’re performing. 

Zoe: We play like it’s a 100m race, perform as fast as we can and give each song everything. And that’s why we come off stage drenched!  But playing today… that was off the scale. Really cool.

Leila: You just don’t know with festivals, do you? You don’t know who you’re up against. But people seemed to be sticking around and it got busy and we’re grateful when people give us a punt. And a few people were singing along as well, which was really cool.

Zoe: If you see one of your t-shirts out in the crowd, and you don’t know them – they’re not your mates – it’s so heartwarming.

Since your album came out, you’ve played some new material. Are the new tracks going to be part of your next album?
Zoe:  We’ve recorded 75% of the new album. We’re from Manchester and we record in London so we’ve got the travelling back and forth and we work full time. So it’s quite tough and we’re self funded. We’re doing as much as we can… but it will be finished this year.

Leila: Not sure if all the recent singles will be on the album. Some might be. If we are going to wait for four or  five years to release our second album, we want to do it right. We’re writing newer stuff as well and it’s just a bit different and it’s got a different dynamic. We ended this set with one of our newer ones.

So how do you feel your songwriting is evolving?
Zoe: We’re reaching four minute songs now, whereas we used to be two. When we hit three, we were like woah! And now we’re at four but I think that’s the max, I don’t think we’re going any further than that. But we have been developing our songwriting as we had some time over lockdown. 

Leila: We’re just going to do it right. We’re not rushing to end songs, we’re giving the music a bit more space as well, which is good. And it’s been great to see the response, especially from a festival crowd where they don’t know you as well. So this is a nice opportunity to try that newer stuff out.

Zoe: If people can lock into a song quickly, that’s what we’re about, trying to be catchy. There are four or five songs we wouldn’t have written two years ago so, yeah, having that [lockdown time] helped.

Leila: So at The Trades Club, we ended on a different song [These Days] and people were going, “You should be ending on this one”.

What has inspired your new material?

Zoe: Well, it’s not lockdown. So many people have come out with songs about lockdown and isolated life and I just don’t want the album to be in a time capsule of a horrendous time. Obviously people wanted to document it and that’s fine but I want it to be a timeless album. We’re looking in a new direction. We want it to be timeless, broader.

Leila: If we’d been going into the studio as lockdown hit, it would have been a very different album. So we’ve had a couple of years to just take a bit more time to write songs. We’ve written four or five songs we wouldn’t have written a couple of years ago. So that’s exciting.

Zoe: Yeah. Timeless is the word. And I never really write about specific things like that anyway. It’s just not really how I write. 

So you’re very much about looking in a new direction

Zoe: Yes. People are so excited at gigs too. It’s lovely.

Leila: Obviously people were a bit nervy and we were hit with Covid. We did the first run of dates with The Wedding Present at Easter. We’d just come out of lockdown, and we haven’t given it a second thought since. It’s so nice, not worrying about being at a festival or at a few gigs… it feels normal again. But this is back to what we know and love and what we’ve missed.

What have you been listening to recently?

Zoe: I really like my old school stuff which I know isn’t very exciting!  And I’ve enjoyed the first Wet Leg singles and the Dry Cleaning album.
Leila: Sink Ya Teeth have got some good stuff out at the moment. And A Certain Ratio – they are really cool. We’ve seen Billy Nomates a few times as well. 

Do you feel Manchester is a supportive city for young artists?
Zoe: I think coming from a big city with a big music scene and history behind it obviously it does help.

Leila: There’s room for improvement… not that the network isn’t supportive. 

Zoe: Our home town shows are incredible. You feel it the audience. 

Leila: With our second album, we’ll throw everything at it and hopefully we’ll cut through. People in Manchester will go to a gig every night and they’ll support you and they’ll support the next big thing coming through but they’ll stick with you as well. 

Zoe: There’s the The John Hall foundation coming up. It launched this year, supporting grassroots bands. [John Hall Foundation Launch Party] He was an important guy in the Manchester music scene who passed away last year. He raised money to set up rehearsal rooms in Manchester. That’s a big thing for the city.

Leila: He was at gigs all the time and when people like that are supporting you, you know that you are doing the right thing. 

LIINES  Links: We Are LIINES   /    Facebook    /    Twitter
Album Stop-Start released on 4 May 2018 via Reckless Yes Records. Latest single Keep On Going released digitally on 3 September 2021
LIINES performed at Bearded Theory festival 29th May 2022

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