Leeds Through The Eyes of Lo-Fi Rock Band Nanna

Join us in the North of England and get to know the band Nanna. The young group won us over with their incomparable lo-fi single “Don’t Touch Me”. Beyond the clichés about the cold, gray weather, Rosie, Gin and Reb take us on a journey through the dynamic and creative side of Leeds, with special focus on their neighborhood of Hyde Park – the epicenter of alternative culture.

If you could create your own city tour, what would it look like?

Rosie: I’d pretty much stay in Hyde Park. We’d go to the Hyde Park Picture House, the Brudenell Social Club, LS6 and some of the little cafes on Hyde Park corner. We’d maybe go to Woodhouse Moor park too, otherwise known as Hyde Park, and possibly to Chunk, our practice space and a great gig venue and co-op on Meanwood. If we really had to go to the City Centre we’d maybe stop off at the art gallery, town hall, and minster, as they’re all pretty nice buildings. And then we’d end with a drink and a gig at Wharf Chambers.

Gin: I’d got for a pie and a pint at the Brudenell play a bit of pool, and then walk through Hyde park and into town. I’d maybe go bowling at the Merrion centre (looks it hasn’t been decorated since it opened – very nostalgic), then maybe head to the Angel pub and Wharf Chambers for some cheap pints. After that I’d walk down the canal back to Burley and round it off with a film at the picture house in Hyde park.

What’s the first thing people say when they come to Leeds?

Rosie: People usually say that it is grim and grey. When my mum first came to visit me in Leeds she described our Hyde Park house as one of squalor, and thought that the streets were dirty.

Gin: Its very windy/rainy/cold, and that everyone’s so friendly.

What do you do in Leeds when there’s nothing going on?

Reb: There’s always something to do in Leeds!

Rosie: What’s great about Leeds is that it is close to so many beautiful places. You could go to the Yorkshire Dales or Hebden Bridge or to see where the Bronte sisters lived in Haworth. If you are sick of the city there are plenty of great pieces of countryside nearby. Alternatively, there is a gig on in Leeds every night of the week. We can go to the Brudenell and watch a band or play some pool, or to a DIY gig, often run by friends, somewhere in the city.

Gin: If it’s nice go for walks in all the countryside places nearby (Otley, IIkley, Meanwood Ridge) or chill at the park reading a book/listening to music. If its cold stay in drinking and playing cranium with my mates.

What’s the best neighborhood in Leeds?

Rosie: For me it is Hyde Park. Yeah, it’s grimy and dirty and filled with row upon row of back-to-back, red brick terraces. Sure, there’s a fair amount of crime, and often a lot of noise, and litter, and nasty smells. But that’s exactly what gives it its character. Everyone lives on top of each other and everyone can hear what their neighbours are up to, whether it’s singing in the shouter or partying until 5am. The other day we found out that the occupants of a house two streets away from ours know some of our songs off by heart because they have heard us practicing every week from the comfort of their living room! Hyde Park might not be the most aesthetically pleasing area of Leeds, but for me it’s the most charming. There’s culture everywhere, whether it be in house shows, local gigs, or basements turned art galleries. There’s always something happening.

Which neighborhood should you avoid?

Rosie: I tend to avoid the city centre. I hate it. It’s always filled with people that get in the way, and there are really horrible shopping centres popping up all over the place. I will only go into town if I really need to go to the bank or something, or if I fancy looking in some of the independent shops, such as the Jumbo or Crash records or the little second hand shops.

Gin: Don’t really avoid any areas of Leeds. I’ve lived in most places near the city and found they’re all pretty sound.

Do you have an urban legend to share with us?

Rosie: A story that I love about our area is that Henry Rollins, the vocalist of the band Black Flag, once lived just round the corner from us. Harold Mount is just a few streets away from us, and any music fan that lives in Hyde Park knows that once upon a time Rollins sofa surfed and lived on that street. While it’s not so much an urban legend as a true story that only Leeds’ residents know, it’s one that I love.

Gin: There isn’t one I don’t think. There’s some pretty unusual people that are quite well known in the Hyde Park area but they are all real. Double Denim Bob (resident at the Brudenell) is quite a character, and then there’s Irish Brian, who’s got 3 million views on Youtube when he sang in town with a busker.

Reb: Apparently there’s a huge nuclear bunker under Millennium Square…

What does your typical Loiner look like?

Rosie: That’s a hard question. Leeds is a total mesh of different types of people. It’s really ethnically diverse, and students and local intermingle with one another really well.

Gin: Chilled out, cool, left-wing types mainly (at least the ones I’ve met).

Reb: Leeds is quite a young city on account of its large student population. I think most people in Leeds are quite open minded and creative. This of course does not reflect everyone here as the city and its surrounding suburbs are vast.

Are there any famous people from Leeds you’re ashamed to call your own?

Gin: Jimmy Saville – obvious reasons.

Reb: Don’t really want to name the worst, because they’re the worst. I’ll name my favourite though, the musicians of the 80s pioneering the post punk revolution. People like The Mekons, Delta 5, Gang of Four, Girls at Our Best. Sporting personality I wanna say Nicola Adams (first woman to win an Olympic gold for boxing in the UK).

What’s your favorite season in Leeds?

Rosie: Probably summer. I haven’t much patience and I’m not really a people person, so I’m in my element in the summer when the students have all gone back home. Hyde Park turns into a completely different place and it’s pretty quiet. Pretty much only the local people remain in the Hyde park area during the summer months, and the music venue I work in gets really quiet. It’s a nice break.

Gin: Summer! All of the students leave and it turns into a ghost town so there’s loads of space to chill at the parks, no queues in the bars and the weather’s quite nice so you can drive out to cool waterfalls in the country and go swimming.

Reb: Summer because I hate being cold.

Best places to see bands play?

Rosie: The best places to see live music in Leeds are, without a doubt, the Brudenell, Wharf Chambers, Chunk, and Temple of Boom. The Brudenell, where I work, and where Gin, our drummer, also used to work, is great for seeing artists on their debut tours. I recently saw Japanese Breakfast at the Brudenell supporting Porches. It was a fantastic gig. We also played a gig there in September supporting Cassie Ramone and Colleen Green. It was such a good gig. The crowd was really supportive and the sound was spot on. Wharf Chambers and Chunk are both co-ops and safe spaces run by people in the community. The gigs that get put on there are mostly DIY and feature lineups full of great local acts. Chunk is also Nanna’s practice space. It has a special place in our hearts. It’s in a residential area of Leeds called Meanwood. It’s damp, cold and draughty, but a place that is very much at the heart of the Leeds DIY community. We had our first ever gig there, and recorded our demos there on a little 8-track.

Reb: Temple of Boom is great for heavier music. But even the larger venues like the Academy are great, the sound is always so good. Unfortunately there have been some great and important spaces that have closed their doors over the years but new spaces are popping up all the time.

What book, movie, or work of art best describes your city?

Rosie: Although not specifically set in the city of Leeds, I love Wuthering Heights. It’s set in the Yorkshire Dales, not far from here, in Haworth, a place I’ve already mentioned. It really conveys just how dark and miserable West Yorkshire can be at times, and I like that. Plus, the Brontes were of the most inspiring women to come from these parts. It’s good to think that so many creative and intelligent people have come from these parts.

Gin: Kate Bush – Wuthering Heights.

Reb: Can I say Rita, Sue and Bob Too? I love that film. I think it’s more Bradford, but that’s close enough.

How does Leeds influence your music?

Rosie: Leeds is one of the biggest influencing factors in our music. If Gin and I hadn’t worked at the Brudenell, and seen people we know and massive artists get up on the stage, we may never have been inspired to start a band in the first place. Leeds and its DIY community made us realise that anyone, even us, could start a band and make the music we like. Plus, if it weren’t for the people in Leeds that we have met and become friends with, we wouldn’t have been able to do this. Our friends have recorded our demos, put us on at gigs, provided us with instruments, amps, and places to practice, made posters for us, and more than anything, encouraged us to start a band. We are, of course, inspired by other things too. Personally I’ve been inspired by the Riot Grrrl movement of the 90s and the current bands that are coming out of the East Coast of the USA, like Frankie Cosmos. I remember a couple of years ago Gin and I went to the Hyde Park Picture House (one of the oldest cinemas in the country) to see The Punk Singer, the film about Kathleen Hannah and the Riot Grrrl movement. When we came out we just looked at each other and knew we had to start a band, knew we could start a band. It took us a good amount of time to actually get around to doing it, but now we have, and I think we couldn’t have done it if we weren’t in Leeds.

Gin: Leeds has affected our music. We formed the band in Leeds, and we were going to local gigs and seeing other local bands regularly so they definitely influenced the music. We probably sing with a slightly Northern accent too!

Reb: Leeds has a strong community feel to it, and definitely is very liberal. This has definitely been influential for me and a huge reason I stayed after moving from Manchester 10 years ago. The open-minded ‘all in’ attitude means that everyone is free to explore their creativity and learn to understand a vast array of approaches.

Are there any local, up-and-coming artists you want to tell us about?

Rosie: There are so many great local bands from Leeds that it’d be really hard to pick just a few. Trust Fund, who aren’t the area’s best kept secret anymore, are absolutely fantastic, and have just come off a European tour supporting Mitski. Our pals Crumbs are also a great band, as are Chest Pains and Bathymetry. I really like Okay! too, but unfortunately they’ve split now.

Gin: In terms of new bands emerging on the scene from round these parts there are loads:  Mush, Oil, Chest Pain & Trust Fund are some favourites of mine. The Girl Sweat Pleasure Temple Ritual Band are also from these parts and put on a fucking great show live. I recently saw Mayshe Mayshe live too, who is also fantastic!

Reb: Katie Nicholls makes amazing art, as does Kelly Boyle!

Come up with a slogan for Leeds that will make us want to visit.

Gin: It’s cheaper than London but just as much fun, son.

Nanna’s Bandcamp page: https://nanna.bandcamp.com/releases

Enjoyed this article? Subscribe to our newsletter below: