Local Lads Arcadia Headline O2 Academy

Bethan Shuff || July 2016

Not many unsigned, up and coming bands get the chance to say that they headlined the O2 Academy, Birmingham. Arcadia is one of the few bands that can actually say that they came, they saw and they most definitely conquered.

In the dressing room, the Arcadia lads were sharing a bit of a group hug – this was their biggest gig to date and it was all a bit emotional (until they started chanting Will Griggs’ on Fire). They bounced down the corridor in excitement but as soon as that stage door opened all anxiety disappeared and the 5 young lads transformed into nonchalantly confident rock stars.

Their intro instrumental moved fluidly into Transparency, the first track from their EP, The Shore, which is filled with chaotic, grungy instrumentals and an equally heavy breakdown. When the track drops, it appears that gravity has grasped everyone’s guitars and the lads are fighting for them back; the way they throw themselves around the stage is enthralling to watch but also brilliant to bounce around to as the music forces you to mimic their energy.

‘Don’t pretend like I don’t see, just what’s behind those liars eyes of yours’ frontman Jake Ward sings in his deep and gravelly voice. Realisation is a more emotional song, Jake tells me that it’s about when you think everything is going fine, but then you suddenly realise that it’s not – it’s a very personal story for him, and when he sings it you can really hear the emotion in his voice. It’s the calmest song that Arcadia have created and it’s a refreshing track that helps you recover from the mind-blowing Transparency. I often find myself singing Realisation around the house, and that’s how you now a song is good – if you find yourself subconsciously singing it, without realising.

Cabin opens with a powerful bass line from Seb Clarke and James Whitehurst’s meaty drums. The entire track is overflows with charisma and maintains this strong bass-driven vibe throughout which makes it sound quite stompy and aggro. I’m really hoping the lads decide to record it for a second EP because it sounds so much different to the stuff they’ve produced previously!

It’s almost ritual that Arcadia throw a cover into the set list. This time they chose one of my current favourites: Gold by Jaws. I’ve heard the boys play this a handful of times before, but this time they didn’t ‘cover’ it, they truly owned it. Jake’s explorative vocals we’re absolutely insane, I’ve never heard an 18 year old lad sing like that in all my life. Jake Ferchal’s guitar is like an additional limb to him and his confidence and the effortlessness with which he plays is more than admirable! Even during heavy and energetic breakdowns, the lad never misses a note despite throwing his guitar around.

This set entirely was completely different to anything the boys have done before and they are definitely not afraid to try new things, that’s evident not only in Jake’s new, confident vocals but also in introducing Seb into the band only a month ago! He’s managed to pick up and learn all of Arcadia’s tracks in such a small space of time whilst also adding his own little spin with the synth. These aren’t the only changed though, Jake Ferchal has moved from bass to guitar with Sam Fieldhouse which has given the band a fuller, more complete sound.

The next track in the set list was entitled Illusions. It’s an up-tempo, hectic, teenage-angst reflecting track that is composed with passion and the drop looked choreographed perfectly as each band member thrashed about the stage. Sam abilities as a guitarist were very apparent in this track as he shredded his way through some wicked riffs, whilst James, again, tore his drum kit to pieces. I’d confidently say that James is one of the most talented drummers for his age in Stoke, at only 17, the guy’s got rudiments.

New material is a constant at Arcadia HQ, and the gig at the O2 was their opportunity to test the waters of their newly written track which was temporarily named Vermilion (the track is currently unnamed due to discovering that Slipknot also have a track called Vermilion, and no-one needed that confusion.) This time Jake Ward switched his guitar for bass so that Seb could perform a Tame Impala-esqye psychedelic dream on the synth. Jake Ferchal’s guitar solo in the breakdown was intricate and innovative; it sounded phenomenal in conjunction with James’ snare. Arcadia smashed it, and it had a pretty good reaction from the crowd too! I’m excited to hear the completely finished, polished product – new name included!

The Shore is the title track of their EP, a summery tune that makes me want to jump into my car and go on a very long road trip to the beach; ice-cream included. The song is about moving away, and the passion and drive behind the track makes you want to do just that – chase your dreams and follow your heart. It’s a song full of hope and determination, both of which Arcadia possess in great quantities, completely evident in both their writing and recording, and in their powerful live shows. Seb playing synth and bass simultaneously was hypnotic to watch – I can barely walk and text at the same time, so to see a young lad play 2 instruments at a high level of skill at the same time was just mesmerising. Adding the synth to Arcadia has helped them progress and develop their sound massively, now reflecting the influences of Peace, Tame Impala and Jaws, with some riffs influenced by the likes of Catfish and The Bottlemen. It’s a fresh, eclectic mix, and a sound like no other and they are owning it.

To conclude the set, Arcadia explosively executed ‘95, complete with a body shaking build-up of snares, Sam’s smooth and exciting riff and Jake Ferchal’s up-tempo rhythm before the breakdown spirals into chaos for the final time of the evening. Jake Ward is a top frontman and his stage presence is huge and professional, yet remains modest. Arcadia had energetically expounded their indie-rock sound with every last ounce of passion in their bodies and had done an impeccable job.

For the rest of the year, Arcadia have a series of in and out of town gigs to play, including a headline at The Sugarmill on 3rd September. They’re also booked in with Sam Bloor from Lower Lane Studios to do some recording in early August, so a new EP may be on the cards later this year.