Young Hearts: Coastal Cities

Coastal Cities: a band high on “Major Key Melancholy.”

They say times are hard for dreamers. Dreamers like new faces Coastal Cities, who nevertheless might, in light of their sweet and clement new single “Summer Reign”, still be in line to rule the beach pop scene like off-season winter princes. Native to the distinctly non-coastal town of High Wycombe, CC’s principal vibe is – like their name – brimming with shiftless scenery, and takes in sun-blind tropic sights and solemn grey vistas alike. It’s the five piece band’s real lives realised in the most dramatic ways they can imagine, with all the theatre, tragedy and bland inland dilemmas that they entail. “It’s eccentric, it’s exotic, it’s cinematic. It creates a picture”, explains the indie pop band’s singer/guitarist Declan Cullen on the tone they strike. “It’s about telling the truth”, adds synth player Will Clark. “It’s about saying what we want to say”.

“I guess we’re a pop band whether we like it or not”, Cullen admits dryly, as if anticipating flack. “A lot of the time people dress up pop music as something else so it doesn’t get associated with the charts”. His straight, “I like what I like” perspective is pretty refreshing given Cullen’s relatively tender age; he feels little desire to fit in or pretend he isn’t interested in chasing that “big single”. For him, creating the perfect pop hit is, in the least Lady Gaga-ish way, a fine art, or as he phrases it, “the holy grail” in any songwriter’s sights.

Chasing fame for fame’s sake, in contrast, isn’t at all what Coastal Cities are about. Whilst Cullen and co-guitarist Sean walked with the likes of DIIV, Swim Deep and Egyptian Hip Hop in Hedi Slimane’s YSL A/W13 show in Paris back in January – a who’s who of “who’s hot” in international alt. pop – the band still shop mainly in charity shops, and aren’t swayed by bright lights and big stages. In fact, their main ambition is, says Cullen, “to have a fan say, ‘Coastal Cities are my favourite band’. To have someone look at us the way we do our favourite bands”.

Longtime friends Cullen, Sean Semmens and drummer Lewis Slade started sketching the blueprint for what later became Coastal Cities while still in school. Having got into playing and practicing in Slade’s shed (where they still rehearse), the trio acted fast to recruit Will Clark and bassist Dan Hardy, with all five financing 2011’s Think Tank EP.

The releases that have proceeded pool together the troupe’s broad range of influences, from the afro beat sheen of stand alone singles “Summer Reign” and “Entropic”, to the nervy new wave of Think Tank’s “Transgression”. “We each have our own things that we bring or don’t bring, we only work as a whole”, Cullen insists. “We don’t want to be one of those bands where you only know the frontman”. Cut to their Facebook page, and they describe the sound a “Major Key Meloncholy” – a perfect crystallisation of the melodious, soulful, spine tingling punch it packs.

The band’s live shows, too, are a kind of hyper-emotional release they describe as “desperate, chaotic, tragic and happy all at the same time”. “When we play”, Cullen adds, “we make the most of it, like getting blood out of a stone”. Catch them at Leamington Spa’s Zephyr Lounge this November – you won’t forget it, they say.

So whilst times likely are hard for dreamers, at least in Coastal Cities’ case they’re daring to dream big, to make a play to be the Band That Makes Your Summer… even if it seems a while away yet.


Aly Barchi
Fashion Editor
Shirley Amarty
Lonny Spence