The Night Cafe have already hit the road with some of Dork's absolute faves. Now, they've some dates of their own (including a Dork Live! show, hurray!).
Music classes at school typically go one of two ways: either students are stuck staring at keyboards all day trying to work out how to play the Eastenders theme tune, or it's the moment where they discover something special.
For The Night Cafe, thankfully, it was the latter - and it helped set the path for four lads from Liverpool to find the sounds and outlet they needed growing up alongside each other.
“When it was me, Sean and Carl at school, we would just play while we were learning instruments ourselves,” remembers guitarist Josh Higgins, thinking back to those early days. “When Sean moved, he hadn't even started playing guitar - so we basically learnt together.”
Born out of friendship and a journey to find something they could call their own, The Night Cafe has found them a legion of fans already with only a handful of tracks out in the world. Selling out venues across the land, devoted masses singing along to every word, it’s a kindred connection that immediately has found a home - and puts them firmly on course for a breakthrough year ahead as one of indie’s most potent powerhouses.
Yet underneath the sun-drenched hooks and buzzing party-vibes that burst out of debut EP ‘Get Away From The Feeling’ at the start of 2017, the months following have been dark for the band - taking their toll personally.
“This year has probably been the craziest of our lives,” elaborates Josh. “Shit things have been happening, while at the same time the band has started to do really well - it’s been this complete contrast of emotions. It’s crazy, but everything is working out good now.”
You can hear that shift in tone in the cuts that have emerged since ‘Get Away From The Feeling’. ‘Felicity’ is an unabashed love ode where lead singer Sean croons of smiles holding him together and willing to do anything for someone, while the most recent heavyweight ‘Turn’ takes things even darker, crashing layers of guitars spiralling across lines like “I don’t believe it when you tell me that it’s alright/I’m overthinking things my dear, I don’t care.” It’s a step that Josh can see has grown from the year they’ve had, and a leap up to a whole new league for them. An evolution of The Night Cafe.
“It definitely is,” he agrees, “it’s been like a release. I think that’s why ‘Turn’ came out the way it did, because we had so much to release. I feel like that’s the most we’ve ever expressed ourselves on a song, as opposed to just making a good-sounding track or a nice pop song. ‘Turn’ is like fully mature and being ourselves, rather than just the lyrics it’s more than that.”
That’s what makes The Night Cafe stand above so many new bands; their music effortlessly evokes the captivating emotions of youth - hitting like a weight, whether that’s in joy or unbridled hope.
Starting life from after-school hang-outs between Sean and Josh, the pair would head straight to Josh’s garage to work on demos before sharing them on SoundCloud for their mates. From spending days skating (where they met bassist Arran) to tucking themselves away to play, there’s a focus with The Night Cafe that, while having a good ol' time, they’re not messing about either.
“We were all mates. Some of us played in different bands before,” details Josh. “The Night Cafe came about from us wanting to make music rather than being in a band so we could gig - which is what all young bands seemed like they were doing around us at the time. We didn’t do a gig for like a year, because we didn’t want to do covers. We wanted to make our own sound and develop a little catalogue of tracks before we did any gigs.
“Looking back, I’m really glad we did that”.
It put The Night Cafe in a fizzing position, with friends spreading the word of what they were doing through shared links and messages that spread far and wide. By the time their first actual gig rolled into view, they were playing one of the smaller stages in Liverpool's O2 Academy - where over 100 mates turned up to see, hear and sing along to the songs they’d been playing over and over in the flesh.
"We’d done this smaller thing before at this band night at school, where we were the oldest band playing, and everyone else was doing Nirvana covers and stuff. When we did that first proper one, we were a bit nervous, but at the same time, it wasn’t because it was all of our mates. Being on stage when you're not used to it is nerve-wracking in itself."
After almost a year spent honing and crafting their sound, The Night Cafe had saved up enough money to go and record nearby at Whitewood Studios with Rob Whiteley, another vital connection that led to early cuts ‘Growing Up’, ‘Together’ and ‘Addicted’.
Their crisp indie sound immediately called to mind big nights crammed into one space and singing along with your mates all around - a feeling in your gut that transports at first listen. Thriving off creativity, individual tastes merge effortlessly in everything they do. Arran is massively into his house and techno, Sean into Tupac and Basement, Carl throwing back to Steely Dan and Fleetwood Mac.
The band make hip-hop and house beats when they’re not writing tunes, something they simply do when chilling together - all working and creating at every moment. It’s why they can jump and shift so easily, and why their newer material promises to be a return to the bands they first loved.
“When we started, and now, the stuff that represents us is stuff like Title Fight, Turnover, Balance And Composure - stuff like that,” points out Josh, opening up the heart of band many simply would have seen as indie through and through. “That’s what we listened to when we first started, and then we got into other stuff. Now we’re full circle, and we realised that this is what we started doing so this is what we should go back to.”
They’ve more than come into their own after the past twelve months. Tours with the likes of Blaenavon, supporting Will Joseph Cook and much more - The Night Cafe have spent the hours looking around them and learning, becoming the band they’ve always wanted to be on-stage and perfecting that live show.
“The last tour we did with Blaenavon, we definitely came into our own live,” recalls Josh. “We learnt from them kind-of, because we toured with them before about a year earlier, and we just saw how comfortable they were on stage and not caring whether the crowd were active or not - just doing their thing. I think now we’ve got that confidence that we saw in them.
“I think its a maturing thing, now we don’t care what people necessarily think of us and we’re comfortable with ourselves, because we’re sounding and doing what we want to be doing.”
In a year of so many ups and downs, The Night Cafe have come out the other side as a band focused and ready - chomping at the bits with the music that’s risen through them, and is primed to open up a sea of devoted followers throughout 2018 and beyond. They're about the good times, of sharing and seeing a connection with what they’re doing and those longing for an escape. It’s a breakthrough that’s not just likely, but inevitable. At their heart though, they’re four mates from Liverpool still working out what life is - distilling it all into song and wanting to be more than simply another guitar band.
For Josh, there’s so much more ready and waiting to happen. “We started the band because we wanted to make music, and as things have gone on, it’s going even further. We want to make music, we want to make merch, we want to make our own videos, we do our own artwork with photography and films. We just want to make stuff together, as opposed to being this untouchable guitar band or a god-like thing. We just want to be a group of mates who make good stuff.”
The Night Cafe play a Dork live show in Oxford on 25th January. Taken from the February 2018 issue of Dork, order a copy below.