By Camilla Whitfield
Photography by Caleb Nelson
The newly branded bar, Hive, situated at 78 Sackville Street, former site of Retro Bar, was the perfect place to host Broke Casino’s first headline gig. After undergoing a facelift themselves, with the addition of bassist Sean Savage and a new logo to boot, Broke Casino were all too prepared to show their best face. They do say dress for the job you want, and if this in fact works, then they’ve clearly done their homework. Throw in their penchant for turning a quaint, calm venue into an electrical, high-energy experience, and their ambitious plans for the future would seem to be foolproof.
Casuals were the first band to grace the stage. A four-piece alternative indie wonderland band, thriving on the reaction of the audience, they were immediately egged on by the crowd as they introduced themselves with their leading track, an upbeat number dripping with gritty riffs. When you have three guitarists in a band, you expect nothing less than slick guitar work, and they certainly delivered. They may have been playing to a room largely full of people who knew them, but they definitely wouldn’t do badly in a room surrounded by strangers.
They were set up well for their set with a large applause to the first track of the night. As the chorus kicked in, the audience didn’t hold back, and there was enough energy to lift the roof of the small venue as they continued into the next track. It could easily be summed up by an audience member declaring “what a tune”. Despite the following track being titled ‘No Compromise’, it showed an alternative, slower side to Casuals. It was still received well, with the last few bars fading out nicely. Frontman Louis Foster then signalled the return to their more upbeat tracks by announcing “enough of that slow shit now”, as they turned up the volume again.
Their penultimate song was reminiscent of Nirvana, as the mixture of quiet and louder segments and the larger focus on riffs than lyrics worked well within the song. Their final track, ‘Casual’, was a spunky number, with cutting lyrics such as “Why you looking at me? / Because I don’t know who you are”. The drummer, Evan Joes, may have been hidden at the back of the small stage, but he in particular made his presence known within this track. They finished all of their guitars in unison and received a massive applause, as the audience shouted for “one more song”. They may not have had one, but it surely won’t be long until they have a whole host of new offerings.
Before Broke Casino could make their headlining debut, it was time for Plain Navy to take their turn to fire up the audience. It may have seemed optimistic to fit 5 people on the tiny stage in Hive, but they wouldn’t let a little thing like that detract from their performance. They kicked off their set with ‘Fruit Machine’, a classic song dabbling in the idea of chance and love. Perhaps an overdone theme, but this band appeared to pride themselves on taking the stereotypical indie style and perfecting it. Catchy lyrics demonstrating technically brilliance, accompanied by the frontman swaying from side to side, gave off a brilliant atmosphere.
In much the same vein as Casuals, they made sure they had a nice variety in the songs selected for their set. Tracks ‘Long Way Down’ and set closer ‘Fate Worse Than Death’ in particular called for comparison to indie greats Circa Waves and Catfish and The Bottlemen. The crowd responded well throughout their set, even collectively mustering the energy to headbang for the final track, as the guitarists and bassist worked well to deliver a lasting impression on the crowd. If their aim was to warm the audience up for Broke Casino, they clearly achieved it, and then some.
A sold-out gig in and of itself must’ve been a confidence boost in itself before the quintet could play a note. Having formed less than a year and only very recently welcomed a fresh new addition to the band, one would merely expect an average-at-best performance from Broke Casino. However, from the opening notes of their first track, ‘Boss’, it was clear that they weren’t there to take any prisoners. Vocalist Ralph Schofield’s voice fit the track well, as his raspy tones mixed well with the dirty riffs that are certain to become the cornerstone of a Broke Casino hit.
Schofield may have had a small stage to work with, but he still managed to add to the atmosphere with his stage presence, taking the mic off the stand and holding nothing back. The audience were cheering from the start, and it was refreshing to see Schofield asking for applause, not only for the support bands but also for each each individual band member in between songs. There seemed to be a notion of brotherhood between them, which would explain how they managed to flow so well together both on and off the stage
‘Rango’ was introduced as having a bit of punk flavour, which was immediately demonstrated by the high energy executed by the band, translating to the crowd. Match Sienkiewicz may have been obscured from view on the drums, but he especially acted as a driving force for this number. Schofield even managed to channel his inner Joe Strummer, shouting into the mic, while his bassist and guitarists backed him up excellently.
‘Chemical Imbalance’ toned the intensity down slightly and showcased Schofield’s vocals. We were warned to look out for this track in particular, as it’s going to be released shortly as a follow up to their hit track, ‘Bleach’. With Schofield jumping up on stage and the band keeping it slick, the audience couldn’t help but comment that they “fucking love them.” Quite a successful start, as we hadn’t even hit the halfway mark of the set yet. ‘Dark Horse’ offered another taste of their new era, as well as being Schofield’s self-proclaimed favourite. It contained more of a funk and electronic vibe, and was carried off well. Broke Casino’s chameleon-like quality is what will keep them fresh and interesting, as they’re not afraid to experiment.
The tendency to expect the unexpected becomes second nature at a Broke Casino gig, as they then launched into a cover of ‘Sex On Fire’ the Kings themselves would be proud of. An extravagant remark, perhaps, but as Schofield handed the introduction over to lead guitarist Ollie Boon and Sienkiewicz’s infamous thrashing drums, they certainly lived up to it. The crowd went wild at the chorus, singing along to their ambitious but brilliant cover.
Their first release, the aforementioned ‘Bleach’, was the next to be announced, as Schofield demanded a mosh pit to mark its opening, and couldn’t resist joining in himself during the opening riffs. As he brought the audience closer after the pit has closed, he asked for silence as he crooned: “I know you came here looking for something,” the audience joining in with the infamous opening lyrics. Some members of the crowd even managed to get onto each other’s shoulders, a feat in itself in the fairly low-ceilinged venue.
The final song of the set, ‘Truth’, saw Broke Casino ramp up the energy, as Schofield shouted “come on”, headbanging so much he almost fell off the stage. The boundless energy exerted, perfected to a T already, marks them from any other novice band. As the fast-paced track reached a peak which then turned to silence, the band teased the audience, with Schofield cheekily saying “joking” before they continued with the best crashing riffs of the night, inevitably accompanied by the ultimate show of audience appreciation – a reappearance of a mosh-pit. With the audience shouting for “one more song”, the quintessential encore could only be a reprise of ‘family-favourite’ track ‘Bleach’, which featured the audience jumping as much as Schofield himself, and all members giving it their all to ensure that they would be remembered.
Despite half of their name lending its inspiration to an alternative word for ‘damaged’, Broke Casino seem to be the future patrons tasked with fixing rock music, keeping Manchester’s name on the music map. Be sure to see them lighting up a gig soon – they’re only just getting started.
We caught up with the band before the show, to find out more about Manchester’s rising band.
Some of the questions have been edited for brevity and clarity.
How did you settle on ‘Broke Casino’ as your name?
Match: “Basically, when we first formed the band, we were sat in Spoons having a meeting with our manager and we were trying to come up with a name. We wanted to take some influence from the new Arctic Monkeys album ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ which everyone was listening to at the time.”
Ralph: “It had literally just been released!”
Match: “It had just been released and was fresh in our heads. It had been leaked on Twitter, and we thought we’d take Casino from that. Also, because Sam and I were going on buses and were seeing casinos in quite a few places in Manchester. We wanted to make an oxymoron out of the name.”
Ralph: “Like Stone Roses, Joy Division and Happy Mondays – as Mondays aren’t meant to be happy, et cetera.”
Match: “So we thought a Casino usually has a lot of money, so we’d scrap that idea and make it a broke casino.”
How did your band form?
Ralph: “Sam was a rep for Kai [lead singer and guitarist for Carnival Club] and I’ve been best mates with Kai for years. I was saying to Kai that I just wanted to start a band and I just want to sing somehow. He then put me in touch with Sam, who was also trying to form a band at the time.”
Sam: “So we got in touch with him.”
Match: “Sam and I dropped out of old our band and after a few practices we realised we needed a lead guitarist. I knew Ollie from high-school so brought him in.”
Ralph: “Then we went through quite a few bassists. Now we’ve settled on Sean. Sean’s our third bassist and he’s the best one.”
Sam: “He’s the best looking!”
Ralph: “And he’s the best looking!”
How would you describe your sound?
Ralph: “I don’t even know.”
Sam: “It’s quite a hard question to answer.”
Match: “We take influences from everywhere, like Black Keys, old Arctic Monkeys…”
Ralph: “We’ve all got quite different music tastes, but they’re quite similar. Match and I both like a lot of the modern indie kind of stuff. Sam loves his Oasis, Joy Division and Stone Roses. Boony [Ollie Boon] loves his Led Zeppelin and stuff like that. Sean’s quite into Reggae and stuff like that. It all kind of comes together.”
Ollie: “You can still place the band in the North-West.”
Ralph: “It’s very much a North-Western sound.”
How have you found working together?
Sam: “Shit! Hate them.”
Ralph: “ Fucking hard! I hate all of them, but I just like singing that much that I put up with them.”
Match: “We don’t even turn up!”
Ralph: “Nah, we get on quite well really.”
Sam: “We get on well!”
Ralph: “When we write tunes, it’s a collaborative process.”
Match: “It’s a biblical process.”
Sam: “It’s very technical, a lot of writing.”
Given that you are a five piece and probably have different influences, how have you found handling these creative differences and finding your sound?
Ralph: “It works because we get a lot of different influences in all of our songs because we don’t have a specific songwriter in the group. When we write songs, we all get together and someone will have some ideas such as rhythm, lead or bassline, just anything, and we build it up together.”
Match: “We all just add our style into it, so it can be slow and quiet or really hard and rocky. Then we can even go into a funky sound. You can see the changes.”
Ralph: “Yeah, you can see the changes as there’s no real dictation to it. We play it back to ourselves and then pull it together.”
Ollie: “Even though we write the songs together, we’ll keep rehearsing and then it’ll become a process of we’ll change this or add this. It’s like with this gig tonight, we’ll end up playing a few tunes and it’ll be different than last time, it’s the way it goes with rehearsals.”
We touched on this slightly earlier, but would you say you’re more influenced by more classic or modern bands?
Ralph: “I’m not sure, as I do love a lot of modern bands and underground indie music at the moment. But you always want to be stadium top, if you know what I mean.”
Ollie: “I think at the time – now with people wearing flares a lot again, 70s fashion is coming back. We can take that era of music and put a modern twist on it.”
Match: “Being in Manchester especially, you can tell the fashion, like the 80s and 90s, is coming back, and the music has always been here. The influences from Oasis and Stone Roses can be heard in our tunes. The fashion, the music and the atmosphere remains as a Manchester thing.”
Due to social media has become more prevalent in today’s society, have you found it a useful way of promoting and interacting with people?
Sam: “We leave all that to our manager James Thomas, he does all of that.”
Ralph: “It’s helpful because we all add stuff on our Instagram, Twitterand Facebook. You can promote yourself on that really well. All you have to do is click on that and put it on your story, and whoever cares enough to look on it can see. It makes it a million times easier.”
Have you ever had to deal with any gig malfunctions, and if so, what has this taught you about performing?
Sam: “We’ve been pretty lucky – touch wood.”
Camilla: “Shouldn’t have said that.”
Sam: “Nah I know, we’ve been pretty lucky.”
Ralph: “Yeah, gig malfunctions, I’m trying to think. Couldn’t hear anything at Jimmy’s, fresh off Halloween was not a great idea, doing that gig. Everyone was hanging out of their heads. If anything, the malfunction was internal at that point, we’ve never had anything technical really.”
Sam: “That was our fault.”
Ralph: “All the sound techs in Manchester are all really professional about it.”
Match: “I feel like another malfunction we had was at a gig we had to play at Jimmy’s and then Sam decided to start coughing up blood after the night before. Then we had to malfunction and call the gig off.”
Ralph: “Because Sam decided he’d be terminally ill.”
Sam: “I thought I was going to die!”
Did this teach you a lot about performing live?
Sam: “Yeah it did, as I’ve never been part of a band before, so this was my first time. I’ve played a few, performing stuff, before, though, but nothing like this.”
Ralph: “This is my first time in a band too.”
Sam: “Ralph and I are quite new to this sort of stuff, but we take it in our stride and we’re learning.”
Ralph: “Yeah, we’re gobbling it up.”
Sam: “We take it as it comes and we’ve been learning off the other three, as they know all their shit too.”
Ollie: “It’s quite weird because me and Match used to play in a jazz band at school together, so it was a very conservative environment.”
Match: “There were a lot of Tories!”
Ollie: “There was to be fair, but I’m not bothered, but we’d get all these Doris’ sat in the crowd clapping and not really doing anything. It’s different now, just watching these adolescents coming in fighting as we’re on stage.
Ralph: “We brought the city crowd to them.”
Ollie: “I remember Ralph just turning around and screaming it in your face “just fucking go for it”. I remember thinking that’s quite nice, a bit of a good change.”
Sam: “It’s just spurring each other on.”
Ollie: “These last couple of months have definitely been about performance.”
What is the largest lesson which you have learned?
Sam: “Don’t start a band.”
Match: “Try to change and have patience. Try to adapt to your music, and mature with it.”
Ralph: “Don’t rush it. A lot of our earlier stuff was removed from our set list, as we’ve bonded as a band we’ve learnt you don’t need to write a song in one rehearsal. You can just let it continue over 2 or 3. Maybe even more. We’re not desperate to make tracks, it’s about building a track which we’re properly proud of.”
Sam: “It’s like now we’ve got a bass, we’ve got the tracks and we can put on gigs. Now it’s just building on them.”
Match: “Even with stuff like with the logo, I’ve put on my social media ‘new logo, new tunes, same energy.’ From day one we’ve had the same energy on stage and the same atmosphere, just changing our logo and the tunes to make them more mature.”
Ollie: “With us as well, we don’t try to be the best. When we go into rehearsal we say “leave your ego at the door”. When we go in we’re like, people may be better at things than other people, but it’s fine. We take criticism from each other. Such as “it’d be better if you did this, or that”. Even if someone doesn’t like it, you take it on board. I believe we’re better songwriters for that.”
How have you found standing out from other bands?
Ralph: “I don’t know. We’ve all got our own personalities, so that helps. I feel like, within the bands we’ve worked with in Manchester, we’ve never had a sense of competition.”
Ollie: “It’s more camaraderie.”
Ralph: “It’s like building a music collective.”
Match: “Yeah, like help each other out.”
Ollie: “We’ve seen the downfall of people. We’ve played with a band which will remain nameless, in Stockport. We thought they were dickheads.”
Ralph: “Didn’t really talk to us.”
Match: “Didn’t speak to us.”
Match: “Now you’ve seen them, they’ve crashed.”
Ollie: “We know we’re never going to have a gig with them again. Because we don’t want that.”
Match: “100%! Some people we’ve worked with, like Dolphin Centre, we’ve remained mates with them. We go to each other’s gigs and we see them out.”
Ollie: “Great lads!”
Ralph: “They put us on for our first gig.”
Match: “Whereas with another band who we played with for, one of our first gigs, we saw them at Arctic Monkeys and the guy just blanked me. You can tell some are right dickheads and some are sound.”
Have you taken inspiration from other specifically Manchester-based bands and others which you have grown up with?
Ralph: “[Sam] Wilks.”
Sam: “Probably like Oasis, is the main one.”
Ollie: “I’ll tell you a true story about Sam Wilks. He came into a rehearsal one day, and said: “I’ve done it, boys, I’ve written the new number one, the best in the country!” He played it and he wrote Acquiesce.”
Match: “He literally wrote Acquiesce. Sam Wilks writes Oasis songs like Noel Gallagher writes T-Rex songs.”
How have you found the response to your debut track ‘Bleach’?
Match: “Yeah, good!”
Ralph: “Really good!”
Ollie: “Very positive!”
Ralph: “Catchy is the word I always get.”
Match: “It’s mad to hear the response on social media, like the way people are rating it on their stories, just posting it on Snapchat. I was flicking through over 40 snaps, it was sick!”
Sam: “It’s pretty sick just to have a song on Spotify!”
When can we next see you live, and when can we expect to hear more music released?
Ralph: “Well, we’ve got our gig tonight. If you get down to Retro in an hour and a half, about a week ago. Come and watch us. Nah, we are booking festivals.”
Sam: “Yeah, we’ve got festivals lined up. We’re booking in a few.”
Match: “Maybe Dot To Dot – no promises.”
Ralph: “We’ve definitely got a single in the making. Don’t want to give away too much on that though.”
Match: “By summer we’ll definitely have an EP or an album.”
Ollie: “As far as recording goes, we’re going to take our time. A few criticisms we’ve received is with the sound quality. I go to university in Salford, so we use the recording studio there for free. I think our manager’s talking about things and getting somewhere really professional and we’re going to strive to do that. We’re going to take our time making the album.”
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