Photo credit: Carolina Faruolo/DIY Mag.
Not to be confused with Spielberg’s rubber shark epic, JAWS are an indie-pop three-piece from Birmingham. They’ve recently released their second full-length record, Simplicity, and are considered part of the up and coming ‘B-Town’ scene along with Brummie contemporaries Swim Deep and Peace. JAWS visited E-Town’s Phoenix this Sunday last and played a punchy set to an intimate audience. Although the venue wasn’t packed to the gills – and at the risk of sounding like a stereotypical Exeter student, I didn’t have to remove my puffer jacket for about twenty minutes – there was a strong turnout from every stratum of the city, from college students to the older hipsters you might find skating down Fore Street.
“We’re better at songs”, Frontman Connor Schofield announced a few times during the very brief and often non-existent intermissions between tracks. And he wasn’t wrong. Schofield’s taciturn stage persona permeated JAW’s performance with a sense of effortless cool – he didn’t need to say anything between songs because the silence was filled with applause and excited anticipation for what they might play next. The set design, adhering to their overall aesthetic, was simple: a large LED sign reading JAWS accompanied by an impressive light display.
Opening number Surround You, an interesting choice for its comparative obscurity in their catalogue, was well-received by the audience. They then launched into a nonchalant rendition of Cast from their 2017 EP of the same name. Although I enjoyed the studio version of their latest album, the band’s live performance transformed it into something far more exciting, an indefinable panache which streaming on Spotify doesn’t quite capture. And I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just the alcohol effecting my perception, as the rest of the crowd seemed to be enjoying it too. Indeed, I was pulled into a mosh pit that had formed during Stay In– and, given that JAWS’s laid back aesthetic doesn’t particularly lend itself to such lively behaviour, this was impressive.
Schofield describes Simplicity offering as “the band’s most developed material to date”, and I’m inclined to agree with him. The maturity of their second album seems to have translated to their live performance, which I felt boasted a sonic complexity that touches on an impressive number of musical identities – from the romantic and punky Cure-esque tone of the penultimate number I’m Just A Boy to the more conventional alternative indie rock of personal favourite GOLD, drenched with guitar riffs and reverb; sounding like Birmingham’s response to the band DIIV. On the setlist, before the track Filth, it simply reads ‘JAM’; and no, this isn’t the name of a track, the band actually jammed for five minutes, which got the whole room clapping in time. Yep, JAWS JAMS, and we JIVED.
Without any big surprises, Simplicity is perhaps an apt name for their latest album. Every track feels well-polished and calculated, and it comes as no surprise that the work was recorded and produced by Oliver Horton, the man behind The Foal’s What Went Down – which felt similarly precise. Although it may be the band’s most developed material to date, there is still room to grow. JAWS is still a relatively new group, showing signs of coming into their own and finding a foothold in the English indie-rock scene. Their gig at Exeter’s Phoenix showed an upcoming band going from strength to strength.
After the show, I managed to catch the band in the foyer and spoke to the drummer about their set. He told me that the last time the band had travelled to Exeter, they had played to a meagre eight people – and I’m glad that more fans had turned up this time since their live performance was unmissable.