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A Magazine for Sheffield

The Day that never came – the failure of a band that had it all.

It’s a low-lit joint and as I make my way in the smell of dried up beer mixed with bleach overwhelms me. A nice tabby cat is sleeping in one of the chairs and lazily looks at me before nodding back off. On a slightly wobbly table by the chimney, I see Frank. He raises his hand slowly and I walk towards him. I ask him if he wants a drink and he asks me for “anything fizzy.” A couple of lagers with limes haphazardly inserted are paid for and I sit down with him. He draws a wry smile and gives me a CD. “These will never come out, but I remember you liked them.” Frank sighs and I ask him the obvious: “What went wrong?” He lets out an exasperated sigh and just replies, “We went wrong.” Frank was in a band I loved called Lucky Lester. It was a band fusing several genres quite deftly and they had a decent amount of great reviews, plus a couple of releases. A label was very interested in Lucky Lester and it all seemed fine and dandy for them back in 2011. Just like one of Wile E. Coyote’s contraptions, it all went topsy-turvy. It’s a bit of homespun knowledge that the biggest enemy of the creative mind is self-doubt and in the case of Lucky Lester, I think that was what really killed them. Bad promoters, terrible venues and some drastic changes to the line-up never managed to hit them as hard as that flaky lack of confidence that slowly eroded them. “It all started with the second guitarist,” Frank says. “He got too creative.” I ask him if he would elaborate and, well, bluntly said, this guitarist, Mark, had good connections with the local scene, guaranteeing the band better venues and a privileged direct line to the local reviewing sites and rags. The problem came when in order for Lucky Lester to fit in, a compromise had to be made. Their stylish genre-bending music had to be toned down a fair bit, but it was a very rewarding live band, always managing to connect to the audience with two very chatty lead singers. “You probably noticed the rot settling in,” Frank says, while squeezing the lime. I assure him I did, but I thought it was the band finding their footing after their rise from being unknowns to local darlings of the scene. Still, the music lost some of its punch. Then came the confusing decision that they needed to wear similar clothes in order to have a “stage presence”. Grey and black colours were decided by Mark, Gonsen (lead guitar) and Katie (drums, sequencers). Johann (bass, vocals), Frank (synth) and Gail (violin, vocals) agreed just to avoid internal strife – the other great killer of bands. Then attitudes changed. Whereas the band always hung out with both fans and support bands, their meteoric rise meant that ties were severed. Frank tells me that Mark said the band had to appear to be more “exclusive” in order to garner more hype. “But we all know that hype has a 15-minute half-life, right?” quips Frank before excusing himself to go to the toilet. When he comes back, I ask about why he left. “It started when Gail was sacked for not agreeing to tone down her lyrics,” I agree, the replacement singer was but a shade of what Gail was. “Then Katie started to get double-booked when she got press ganged by Mark into that post-rock band, Edsels. She was eventually too tired to do both bands, thus we got less gigs. I decided to leave when we cancelled a headline gig due to ‘exhaustion’.” Frank tells me Katie will probably focus on Edsels more, so Johann, Mark and Gonsen will rebrand Lucky Lester into something “more thought provoking”. “They probably get shitloads of gigs at Lukin’s and the Blue Note Pub”, deadpans Frank, knowing quite well Gonsen is a bartender at Lukin’s and Mark is on good terms with the owner of the Blue Note. I ask Frank if he regrets what happened. “I see it as experience. It was good while it lasted but it was meant not to be. I wish them well, but I truly hope they find what they are looking for. Mark seems to want acceptance and a sense of belonging, not recognition as a musician. That’s what it seems like for Gonsen too.” A few weeks later, I would run into Gonsen and Mark. They were outside Lukin’s having a cigarette, waiting for the main act (“a really challenging avant-garde metal band”) as the supporting band wasn’t cool enough for Mark. Gonsen was really enthusiastic about the new jazzy stuff he was writing (“I’ll send you a copy. Very Coltrane meets Buckley”), while Mark never even looked me or Gonsen in the eye while chatting. Their new band, Eden’s Snake, played four gigs before acrimoniously splitting on stage. Their legacy? A free mp3 and an album’s worth of material that will never be officially released. None of them played in any bands afterwards. )

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