Leicester isn’t known for its musical pedigree. Late, great Deep Purple keyboard player Jon Lord was born there, and ’60s crooner Engelbert Humperdinck grew up in the city, but beyond that it’s slim pickings.
Which is why local upstarts SKAM decided to redress the balance with the guerrilla-style video for the title track of their second album, 2014’s ‘Peacemaker’. Armed only with their instruments, a video camera and a transit van, their mission was to put their hometown on the map. The result is a whistlestop tour of pubs, shops, streets and football stadiums that would do the Leicester Tourist Board proud.
“We’ve got a spool of footage of us getting kicked out of places,” says singer and guitarist Steve Hill with a laugh. “We went in a supermarket, set up the guitar, then security came over and told us to leave. We said, ‘We’re just recording a 10 second clip of Leicester landmarks’. He said, ‘You can stay but it’ll cost you three grand’.”
It’s this DIY spirit that fuels the trio, who also feature bassist Matt Gilmore and drummer Neal Hill. Pitched halfway between the arena rock tunefulness of the Foo Fighters and the punky attitude of Therapy?, the title of the opening track from their 2011 debut album ‘It’s Come To This’ best sums them up: ‘Soldiers Of Rock’.
“I’m proud that we do everything off our own back,” says Hill. “In the beginning it was a necessity, but as things have progressed it’s become quite difficult to give it up.”
SKAM’s can-do attitude have seen them notch up close to 500 gigs since they formed in 2011. “The live stuff is the reason we’re in a band,” says Hill. “The joy of performing, just getting out and meeting people, playing the music in its rawest form. It’s just face-melting madness.”
Aside from their appearance on the Ramblin’ Man Fair’s Rising Stage, the trio are gearing up to release their third album. It is, according to Hill, a concept album based around a time-traveling fighter pilot.
“We’ve not gone prog, though,” he says. “Or maybe we have in a way. We’re all quite geeky and we came across this real life story about a chap who flew in World War Two, who just casually dropped into one of his reports that he believed he travelled back in time. We based it around that. He flies to different locations. It’s got a bit of a ‘Quantum Leap’ feel to it. But there’ll be no 23-minute keyboard solos…”