Manchester is a city synonymous with music. That goes without saying. Exactly what kind of music depends entirely on who you question. Ask anyone who is involved in the scene firsthand though, and you can guarantee that the last people they want to be associated with are Burnage’s Brothers Grimm or the baggy pseudo-politics of Bez. The 90s has been, gone and left behind a legacy that should stay just that, and the host of contemporary bands that are coming up in the city at the moment want it to stay that way.

One such band is Patterns, who, instead of baying to the hyper-masculine stereotype perpetuated by certain, often non-Mancunian ideas of Manchester, would rather float hazily above the preconceptions. Their melodic, androgynous astral-pop is a far cry from the ‘in reality grounded, but really off our tits’ mentality associated with the city.

It’s been a year since we last heard from them, but with a new album on the horizon and a hometown show at the Deaf Institute on 28 March, we thought it was high time we found out what they’d been up to and just what they think about the stereotypes Manchester acts fall victim to.

It’s been a year or so since I last caught up with you and stuff has seemed pretty quiet musically from then until now. What have you been up to?

After touring the record last year we went straight back into the studio to start work on our second album. It was quite a while between the last record being recorded and released so we had a load of song ideas already kind of building up.

It’s also been just over a year since the release of your debut album, Waking Lines. What can we expect from the follow-up? Has much changed?

I hope we’ve matured as songwriters. We’re definitely a lot less concerned with the album being a series of pop songs. Vocally there’s a lot more going on with this record. I’m using a lot more of my vocal range and in general taking more risks. I think there are a lot of imagined constraints as a male singer in a band where you feel you have to sing within in a certain way, but that’s certainly not the case with this record. Making your first record is such a strange experience because you’re learning the process as you go, but with this one everything has felt a lot easier so we’ve had much more space to explore our ideas.

Your gigs have been few and far between recently too, but you recently announced a show next month at Manchester’s Deaf Institute. Anything special planned for a hometown return?

Playing Manchester is a very special thing for us. We’re in the position now where the last three shows we’ve done have had a strong concept or idea behind them, either with the venue or some sort of visual idea, so we don’t feel like we can just turn up and play a standard show. It’s almost a weird pressure we’ve put on ourselves where it has to have something special, which is why we’ve gone for the 3D visual concept for this show.

You’re known for combining your live shows with pretty far-out visuals. What’s the significance of such effects, especially when combined with your music?

Our music has always been inspired by psychedelia. Our use of ambient electronics and reverb is meant to take the listener into a very different mental space. Within a live context we’re trying everything we can to evoke that same space, so visuals are a big part of that. When I write, there’s always a strong visual concept behind what I’m doing. I’ll often see the mood of the track in my mind like it’s a place or collection of images.

Unsurprisingly, the Deaf Institute show will be no exception, having drafted in Plastic Zoo’s Sam Alder to help on the effects front. What’s it been like working with him and what has he brought to the table?

We wanted to take that psychedelic experience further with this gig. I was doing some video experiments with old school red/cyan 3D glasses and realised how you could harness that potential to create a really amazing effect. I just love the idea of the audience being able to look up at a band then look behind them at the massive infinite depth of space you’re creating with 3D projections. It’s the purest expression of what we’re trying to do, because hopefully the audience will actually feel like they’re in this strange, uncanny space.

The trajectory of Manchester’s music scene seems to have changed somewhat over the last couple of years, with bands such as yourselves, MONEY and Kult Country all opting to forgo the city’s typical indie in favour of something more artistic. Why do you think that is?

I think that kind of lad rock indie died a while ago now, which is a really good thing. Culturally our obsession with this constant rebirth of macho rock and roll is artistically really harmful. The scene in Manchester hasn’t been interested in that for a while now, but it’s almost like the rest of the country can’t help but put this ‘Madchester’ label on everything that happens, as if that period of time is everything this city has to give.

Do you feel that something has changed within Manchester as a city which has directly sparked such a change in musical direction?

For us, the most powerful experience was having the support of promoters like Dave and Kirsty from Underachievers, Phill Young, and Dan and Hannah from Pull Yourself Together. Before that we were playing these incredibly exploitative shows for complete dicks, so having the support of promoters who care and want to push the scene forward is vital to the shift Manchester has seen.

Where do you see the current scene in Manchester heading in a year or two?

I have absolutely no idea, but that’s what makes it so exciting.

Finally, what does the rest of the year have in store for the band?

We’ll have the record finished in the next few months, but in the meantime we’d like to explore taking this new live concept to different venues.

Patterns perform a 3D show at Deaf Institute on 28 March.

Dave Beech