The former industrial city of Sheffield, South Yorkshire has spawned an array of indie and popular music over the past 5 decades, from Def Leppard to Pulp, Bring Me the Horizon and The Human League. The Steel City—with its music pubs and underground arts centers—has been one of the most impactful creative stomping grounds in Western Europe. This is especially true when it came to the Indie music scene; Milburn, their former apprentices Arctic Monkeys, the irreverent Reverend, and The Makers were some of Steel City’s most well-known exponents in the first decade of the 21st Century. Now as we approach a new decade, Steel City’s legendary music scene seems to be undergoing something of a resurgence.
The turning point came in 2016 when the legendary Milburn got the band back together after an eight-year hiatus. Having formed their group in 2000, Joe Carnall, Louis Carnall, Tom Rowley and Joe Green were early creators of the iconic Northern indie sound. They played a key role in helping to raise the profile of Arctic Monkeys, whom they invited to play in support of their 2005 tour. After releasing two full albums and 5 Eps, the band announced their split in 2008 and parted ways. Initially reuniting in April 2016 to celebrate the ten-year anniversary of their first release Well Well Well, the band went on to tour throughout the UK, recorded and released a new single, and released their third album Time in September 2017.
Jon McClure’s eclectic Reverend and the Makers have also been stalwarts of a new indie sound in Sheffield since their initial formation in 2005. With their seemingly ever-changing line-up and the headline-grabbing antics of front man McClure (like that time he announced he was the reincarnation of Bob Marley), the Makers soon developed quite a following. After releasing five albums, starting with 2007’s The State of Things, it seemed that the Makers were going to call it a day in 2015. But the rejuvenated group came back in September 2017 with an album that was to give them their highest UK chart position since their debut ten years before – The Death of a King.
And then there’s Arctic Monkeys. Formed in High Green in 2002, the Monkeys began rehearsing at the iconic Yellow Arch Studios before playing the well-known city centre music haunts The Grapes, The Washington and Leadmill. Their first full-length release, Whatever People Say I am, That’s What I’m Not, in 2006 became the fastest-selling debut album to hit the UK chart, with sales of over 360,000 in the first week. Unsurprisingly, their ascension was stratospheric, and global fame was to follow. After front man Alex Turner took a brief hiatus and formed the supergroup The Last Shadow Puppets alongside Miles Kane and James ‘Simian Mobile Disco’ Ford, the Arctic Monkeys were back in the studio working on their third consecutive number one album Humbug from 2008 to 2009. Jetting between the legendary Rancho De La Luna and New York, the band even filmed an impromptu (and all too-short) cover of Lady Gaga’s “PokerFace”—not an obvious choice out of the long list of card players’ anthems, but one that worked nonetheless.
More number one albums followed, culminating in 2013’s AM (their most successful release), which sold over one million copies in the UK alone. Following their 2014 tour, the quartet announced a temporary break from making and performing music together. Fast forward five years, however, and a new global tour is in the cards for 2018, with appearances scheduled at the Firefly festival in Delaware (14th to 17th June), Best Kept Secret in the Netherland’s (8th June), and Barcelona’s Primavera Sound (2nd June), amongst others. Starting back in 2016 with a series of Instagram posts, the band has also dropped many hints about an upcoming new album, but, for now at least, the Monkeys are keeping this information close to their chests.
As influential as the Monkeys, the Makers and Milburn have been, within the factories and abandoned steel mills of Sheffield, a new generation of indie music-makers are ready to step into the spotlight. The Sherlock’s, who hail from the nearby Bolton-Upon-Dearne, first began with one of the dads as a manager and one of their mums as a promoter. Having sent their demo to BBC Radio’s 6 Music station in 2012, the Sherlock’s have played “every step of the ladder apart from stadiums”. Although they have yet to get their international break, High Hazels have released a steady output of music, influenced in part by the environment surrounding their rehearsal room in an old industrial workshop in Sheffield’s Kelham Island. And these are just two of the bands leading the charge to elevate Steel City to its former glory.
***This is a special editorial. The views, opinions, and musical tastes do not necessarily represent the staff of Ear to the Ground Music