From the moment I listened to ‘Dissemble’ for the first time, I wanted to see Autobahn play live, in order to experience the psychedelic effect of their music. Influenced by post punk and minimal music and aesthetics, the 5 members’ band from Leeds, have released the debut album in August 2015 through Tough Love Records. This first release has been preceded by three singles entitled ‘Autobahn 1’ (2013),Autobahn 2(2014) and ‘Society’ (2015). The three EPs have somehow prepared the ground for ‘Dissemble’ in terms of atmosphere and sound and the result was one of the most memorable albums of its kind in 2015. So we headed to Bethnal Green on the first day of the last month of this year in order to see Autobahn on stage!

The venue

Bodies_11The Sebright Arms and ‘The Viktor Wynd Museum of Curiosities’ are small pockets of creativity and alternative culture in an area of London which faces several social challenges. I arrived quite early at the pub and had the chance to wander around a bit and see the unexpectedly cosy outdoor area in an alley that would probably be deemed unsuitable (for any use) by some people. The place dedicated to gigs is at the basement of the venue and Bodies_3offers a quite generous space with a separate bar which is always handy.The announced stage times were fully respected and a few minutes later The Bodies appeared on stage and caused vibrations of traditional punk rhythms to the space. This is a band that has very strong influences from Oi!punk and a likeable stage appearance which revealed a balanced fusion of Bodies_6punk posture with a ‘toned down’ outfit. The Bodies offered a fitting opening to the evening with quick rhythms in the guitar, with the drums playing the most important role to the sound after the vocals, and a vindicating singing style.

The next act on stage was a fascinating eye-opener and caused a rollercoaster in the venue! I guess SWEAT_2nobody was expecting what we had experienced from SWEAT, a 3 members’ band from Peckham. This is a band that you MUST see perform live, in order to appreciate the dynamism of their music and to get a grasp of their attitude towards music and performance in general. Having strong influences from psych rock in their sound, rhythms and melodies and from Brechtian theatre, SWEAT did not leave a stone unturned and a single one of us unmoved (literally and figuratively) during their show. The first image was that of three musicians on stage, dressed conventionally. The frontman reminded me of photos I have seen of Antonin Artaud and was singing in a way that at times brought to mind David Bowie. This stage appearance and SWEAT_5this conventionally presented image of the band, was meant to be broken to almost a million pieces very soon in front of our eyes with our unconscious contribution. A few songs later, the band began ‘tearing apart’ the invisible border between the audience and the stage by somehow dissembling gradually and symbolically the setting of the stage. The singer wandered around his fellow musicians, he wrapped himself and the guitarist with the microphone’s cord, he made unexpected movements while singing and overall he continuously added personal bits and pieces to his performance thus rendering it more and more unexpected, passionate and dynamic. I have said before that audiences in London are quite difficult to become engaged during live shows. In the first few songs the applause at the end was too composed SWEAT_1and possibly nervous. Personally I was already positively surprised, amazed and excited to see such an unusual and inventive performance! The music of SWEAT has so many elements that it is a genre of its own with many influences here and there. The last alternation of the band’s show included the singer coming to the audience once again, engaging every single one of us to the lyrics and making us become part of the show. Some were motivated to dance with the singer, others (me included) were challenged to a mesmerizing eye contact with him. At small intervals he returned to the stage momentarily before leaving again and coming among the audience for another round of unexpected moves and passionate singing. I have only seen such a performance that engages the audience in this way, from Johny Brown by the Band of Holy Joy.

Even though most of the performers aim to establish a warm communication with the audience and some achieve it while on stage, very few manage to challenge successfully the line between the stage and the audience. The more time the singer spent amongst us the more passionate and dynamic his performance became. In the few days that followed this gig, the band has released an EP entitled ‘Be Complete’ and has performed in an abandoned house in Peckham for an one off special show together with Pumarosa another new band from the south part of London. I definitely want to see SWEAT again and I am looking forward to seeing how they will evolve musically and artistically.


…Been surrounded by these dirty tight walls, hardcore shows in the next room and dim light you get a picture of why the record turned out like it did…”  (Craig Johnson, extract from an interview)

When we talk about humour, inventiveness is a quality that is not always revealed by music bands. In any case, Autobahn introduced themselves to their audience in two ways: their 3 EPs and a memorable billboard for a gig in Leeds and for the release of their debut album ‘Dissemble’. The billboard showed a funeral car baring the name ‘AUTOBAHN’ which was formed by white flowers, while two kids with the most innocent smile, carry balloons in front of it.

…It was kind of a celebration of dark humour. We did it really cheaply, but it is probably best thing we’ve done. It was up at Hyde Park corner in Leeds for two weeks around the release of the album. It was replaced by Alt-J’s bloody arena tour. I told Eagulls about the billboard and they threatened to paint my phone number on it, but it was three metres up so they couldn’t really reach… (Craig Johnson, extract from an interview)

Autobahn_3Autobahn didn’t let us wait for long and the warm up playlist from the Dj of the venue couldn’t be better than it was. We listened to ‘Smash It Up’ (The Damned), ‘Lucretia My reflection’ (The Sisters of Mercy), ‘Personal Jesus’ (Depeche Mode) just before ‘Pretty Vacant’ (Sex Pistols) offered the most fitting intro to the 5 members’ band on stage. The set list began with ‘Missing in Action’, Immaterial Man and Beautiful Place to Die, the first two songs of their debut album ‘Dissemble’. By the time ‘Ostentation’ started, Craig Johnson had captivated not only us in the front rows but everybody in the venue with his magnetizing gaze. Autobahn, a.k.a Craig Johnson (vocals), Gavin Cobb (guitar), Michael Pedel (guitar), Daniel Sleight (bass), Liam Hilton (drums), draw inspiration from the determination of punk and add elements  from the decisiveness of a protester to their performance! Christian Death came to mind often during Autobahn’s show while the desperation that was emitted at times at the end of some songs reminded me a little of the older songs of And Also The Trees. ‘Passion’(from ‘Dissemble’) and ‘Lost Tongue’ (from the first EP entitled ‘Autobahn 1’) were next on the set list. ‘Lost Tongue’ together with the song that was performed next, Pale Skin, from the second EP entitled ‘Autobahn 2’ marked very clearly the evolution in the style of music, that the band has achieved since the release of their 3 EPs. Melody was skilfully injected in the compositions and the overall aesthetics moved away from the traditional punk style which was based on aggressive singing. ‘Dissemble’ is an album that has a nice flow between songs and within each song and this was not evident in the EPs that preceded it.

At this point I turned my attention to the rest of the band only to admire how well practised everyone was. At the same time, each musician was Autobahn_1playing with so much energy and passion, without giving off the impression that they took anything for granted. The music inspired the band and carried all of them and us, away. Seizure and ‘Impressionist’ are two songs, whose melodies are characteristic of the sound of ‘Dissemble’. Especially ‘Seizure’ brought to mind very strongly the song ‘Third Uncle’ by Brian Eno in terms of performance. The official set list ended without an encore with ‘Suicide Saturday’ my favourite song from the album, ‘Impressionist’ and Society’.

The sound at Sebright Arms was perfect throughout the gig. The volume was kept at a very good level thus achieving a great balance between the sound of the vocals and the noisy, quick but textured background that surrounded them. All the melodies and the lyrics were clear without any blurring. I am always very pleased to experience a live performance which has such a full bodied sound as the album. Craig Johnson is a passionate performer, as are all the rest of the musicians that form Autobahn and the whole band offered to us memorable live versions of their songs.

I will be keeping my eyes and ears open and will be waiting impatiently for the next Autobahn album. Do not miss them if they play somewhere near you. This band is worth our attention!

Blaue Rosen box

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