Allow me to introduce to you #Tags (read: HashTags), an indie-folk-pop-rock band making waves on the local music scene. Hailing from Ruislip, London, the group have a significant following here in Southampton owing to the attendance of two members, brothers Patrick and Ciarán McManus, at Southampton University. Pat and Ciarán, known affectionately by many of their South Coast fans as The McManus Brothers, have performed many of the band’s songs as an acoustic duo at some of the university’s biggest and most popular events including the Excellence in Volunteering Awards (EVAs) and SHADE at Glen Eyre.
Formed in early 2011, #Tags in its fullest form comprises vocalist and guitarist Patrick McManus, guitarist Ciarán McManus, bassist Oli Stanton and drummer Mike Smith. The group’s first release came back in April in the form of a five-track EP entitled Summer, recorded entirely by Pat and Mike in a shed in London. Presented as “five distinct impressions of the summer season” and released in tandemn with a music video for the track ‘Some Place New‘, Summer is an easily enjoyable listen and will have even the most hardened of music fans bopping along to every song, not least the final track ‘I Mean It When I Say I Love You’, a breezy composition driven by ukelele melodies and beautiful vocal harmonies. Another track from the EP, ‘Sunshine’, has also been doing the rounds on Surge Radio, and actually topped the Surge chart back in July. On their first batch of recordings, the duo had already proven an impressive batch of musical innovation and chemistry on which they would later build.
The first EP by the full lineup of the band was recorded in June and released for free in August: No Ball Games features six brand new songs, including the crowd-pleasing mainstay hit-to-be ‘I Wanna See You’. There’s not much more to be said about #Tags’ second EP than that it is a massively enjoyable, universally relatable and painfully catchy body of material; the album showcases an impressive low-budget production value and intricately layered instrumentation, vocals and — a necessity of any indie album — handclaps, serving as a high-end example of what amateur bands can achieve.
No Ball Games opens well with the guitar-driven indie track ‘Teardrop in a Petri Dish’, a happy-sounding pop gem featuring group vocals and interesting personal lyrics. ‘Kinda Inappropriate’ is the first highlight of the collection, and a perfect example of Pat’s impressive vocal style and range. For good measure, there is even a cat sound in the second line of the song! ‘I Wanna See You’ is next up, a tale of frustration from a male narrator’s point of view detailing desires of a sexual nature towards an unidentified girl who apparently likes to tease her admirers. The beauty of this song is really found in the lyrics, which are both painful and sweet in equal measures, and the chorus is perfect for crowd singalongs. The fourth song, ‘Natasha’, is a really, really impressive piece of work. Ask 100 amateur ‘guitar bands’ how they’d feel about putting dubstep fills in their music, and I guarantee that you’ll not find more than one or two, if any, who are willing to even think about trying it. #Tags not only attempt this phenomenon, but pull it off with immense precision and care, providing the kind of selling point you can imagine catapulting them into the mainstream spotlight. Yep, I said it.
Two equally strong numbers finish off the EP. ‘Sick of Heels‘, the music video from this record, is driven effortlessly by funky guitar melodies, group handclaps and charmingly funny lyrics. With two wonderful key changes and a big cheer at the end, ‘Sick of Heels’ is definitely a contender for one of the best tracks released by the band thus far. ‘Callina’ rounds out the album with plenty of confidence. The cheeky lyric ‘It starts with a C/And ends in an A’ sums up the album nicely: a happy, no-pressure composition of melodious guitars, funky drums and layers of sweet vocals. Every song is notable, and the EP flows perfectly from hit to hit. No Ball Games feels like the beginning of something big, and until that something comes along the EP is a mainstay on anyone’s iTunes favourites.
I caught up with frontman Pat recently to ask him a few questions about the band:
First off, what made you decide to name the band #Tags?
It was one of a number of names we had in mind. It feels fresh and current; we knew it might become dated, but eventually become retro.
Incidentally, what were some of the other names you had kicking about?
Leonard Funk and the Full Time Party Providers, Immigrants — they were two that I can remember. I wish I could give you a third, that’s better from an editorial standpoint… [Pauses] Carlton Navidad and the Wonderboys!
Brilliant, the first is really interesting! So what inspires you to write songs?
Anything and everything. It might be the seasons, as on Summer, but lately it’s been sexual frustration, as on No Ball Games.
Okay, and if the band had a mission statement or musical outlook, what would it be?
Erm… let me have a think! [Laughs and pauses] It’s all about fun: bringin’ the party!
Awesome. Which is your favourite song from the new EP, and why?
The song closest to my heart is ‘I Wanna See You’, ’cause it draws from real events, the frustration and torment of having to be around someone you really want to have sex with. It might seem glib, and I hope it’s humorous, but they’re very real and hopefully relatable emotions.
It’s definitely one of my favourites. So finally, what’s next for the band, and will you continue to perform in Southampton?
We’re gonna keep writing, try and get our music heard by as many people as possible and, if we’re lucky, the right people. We’ll be performing in Southampton, hopefully a lot!
And in Southampton, will it still be you and Ciarán?
Yeah, but we’re hoping to do full band shows as well; the drummer and bass player are only ever an hour and a half away.
In this writer’s opinion, #Tags are one of the best local acts around, so if you get a chance to check them out — either as the acoustic McManus Brothers duo or as the full band — make sure you don’t miss out! They are playing at SUSU for AIM’s Frequency event on October 10th, so be sure to check it out!