I have a friend whose musical taste I trust implicitly. Since I was a teenager I have followed his lead and recommendations. So when he sang the praises of Bird to Beast I knew I had to get to see them at the first opportunity.

That chance came in Manchester. They were supporting Sheffield band the Hosts at Gullivers in Manchester. It's a small venue, the upstairs room of a city centre pub. They have been doing a lot of supporting roles in Manchester this month. Make the most of it if you want that living room intimate experience. They won't be supporting other bands in small venues for much longer. They are creating a real stir. They were interviewed by Radcliffe and Maconie for BBC6 Music last week. 'Manchester Evening News' voted their debut album the best of 2013 in January. They played a headline concert at London's Union Chapel in February.

But it's not about the bookings. It's about the experience of being there. The sound was perfectly balanced for a rocking band with delicate harmonies in a small room. Bird to Beast play as a duo and as a band, with friends along to help.

So, who are they? Where do they come from? What are their influences? How did they get to be so amazing?

Bird to Beast are a now married couple, Hannah and Sam Hird. They come from Colne in Lancashire. If you google Sam Hird you discover he is a classically trained musician. There's a lovely interview filmed in 2010 where he discusses his dislike of camping at festivals and his dissatisfaction with the singer-songwriter label. He talks about Bowie and Bonnie Prince Billy.

Their music is described on their own website as psych-folk, but I would claim that they defy labels. Sam's classical training shows in his confident musicianship. Their love songs are melancholic but not depressing. There's an irresistible mix of talent, charm, confidence, a lovely performance presence and a desire to share their music. They connect with the audience. They look the part. The mood and songs spin from rocking to delicate and back. 'Elephant', 'Winter Snow', 'Tides', 'Daniel', 'Catacombs', a new single and familiar favourites, but it wouldn't matter if you were hearing them for the first time. These songs are strong and instantly memorable.

Couples making music together. Sonny and Cher, Ike and Tina, Abba. It's not an encouraging roll call. It's siblings who seem to have the most success, sharing those genetically modified harmonies. But these two have the magic. You can hear the influences. Wainwrights and McGarrigles, Beach Boys, Fleet Foxes, the Beatles. It's lovely to be able to recognise these influences, to hear where they have come from and how they have distilled the inspiration of the musicians they admire. It's even better to recognise where they are going with their own strong identity. It won't be long before they will be credited as an influence by a new wave of young musicians.


The photographs that accompany this article were taken by Shay Rowan.













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