Credit: Rachel Cuthbert

Review: Vanderlye at St. Luke’s

By Matt Benson

Vanderlye’s careful curation and slick live performance highlight their position as a growing force in Glasgow’s music scene.

For Glasgow-based guitar outfit Vanderlye, May 4 was a hugely significant date in the calendar. Not because it was Star Wars Day, but because it saw them play one of the East End’s elite music venues, St Luke’s, merely hours after releasing their fourth single,“This Plastic Ego”. I caught up with Sean McGarvey (guitar, vocals), Becky Clarke (bass, vocals), and Jamie Morrison (drums) before witnessing their set in the supremely repurposed and undeniably beautiful converted church building.

Ahead of the gig, I quizzed the band on their upcoming performance, and how it might differ from previous sets they’ve played. Sean noted that, “with this gig, we’ve thought of the set as more of a show. It’s gonna be a lot more carefully crafted, with less time in-between songs and more sequences. Because it’s a half-hour, you really just want to make a statement”. This approach was certainly evident in the opener, ‘Guilty Lovers & Heartbreak Serenades’, their second single from the tail-end of 2023, during which Sean exhibited a polished, earnest solo lead vocal over the top of bright instrumentation, courtesy of the band. 

Next came their newest track, ‘This Plastic Ego’, the origins of which were shared with me. Sean explained that he “had the music written at the same time as some of our previous singles … the first time I met Becky, I came in with it. Becky had a lot of lyrical ideas. We were doing a painted word thing of what the music was conjuring up emotionally, and we used these words to write the lyrics together”.The track employs a structure wherein Becky and Sean sing a verse each, before proceeding to trade vocals in the chorus section; a clear manifestation of their joint writing effort. This tune, along with “Terrible Comfort”, where the pair sing in unison, provoked an immediate mental image of Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham – a comparison the band are certainly comfortable with.

As Becky stated: “I would say one of our main influences is Fleetwood Mac, with the dual male/female vocal thing. When I first heard the music for our new single, the guitar part immediately made me imagine it with those influences in mind and that really helped the vocals complement each other”.

However, the band were quick to acknowledge the other influences that informed their sound. Sean explained that, “there’s a bit more of a punk rock element with some songs. I’m a big fan of Fontaines D.C., and we’ve got a track called ‘Step Back’ where we’re trying to implement that kind of feeling.” Jamie further highlighted “the different styles that we can show throughout the setlist. Different influences for different songs. We’ve got punk rock influence and other bigger, more atmospheric stuff.”

The band couldn’t have demonstrated this any better than with Sean’s announcement to the crowd, that “We’re gonna dial it up!”, before all members of the band crashed back in, delivering breakneck, aggressive renditions of ‘Malleable Soul’, and the aforementioned ‘Step Back’. Sean and guest guitarist Calum Steel shredded along together in the heavy instrumental breaks between verses, oftentimes pointing their guitars to the heavens. (Rather fitting, venue considered.)

The set closed with the as-yet unreleased (but personal favourite), ‘There Must Be a Way Out’; their slickest and most atmospheric track. Sean’s twanging, ethereal rhythm parts worked in conjunction with his and Becky’s considered call-and-response vocals to ensure that they did what they set out to do – make a statement. Vanderlye’s expertly curated set meant they left this repurposed place of worship with some disciples of their own.


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