AN up-and-coming Oxford band are organising a benefit gig in support of Ukrainian refugees.

Electro indie-pop act Brite Spires are staging the show at The Bullingdon in Cowley Road tonight, Wednesday April 13, in aid of Unicef’s Ukraine appeal.

The show follows a flurry of London shows by the five-piece, founded by guitarist Drew Atkins, from Summertown.

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“We thought of how we could help with the current crisis in Ukraine,” he said. “We really wanted to get involved and do something constructive, so decided to do what we do best – play live. This is our small way of contributing.”

One of the most refreshingly exciting acts to have emerged from the city in recent years, Brite Spires consists of 23 year-old cousins Berry Brown and Betsy Sweeney on vocals, backed by Fischer Luigi on bass, Cal Brumhead on drums and Drew on guitar and synths.

Oxford Mail: Oxford band Brite Spires pictured at Modern Art Oxford MAO20/3/2022Picture by Ed Nix

All pictures by Ed Nix

Berry, who was born and bred in Oxford and now lives in Witney, previously gained success with her track ‘Check In’, supported by 6Music. “I’ve been told many times I sound like a combination of Lily Allen and Dolores O’Reardon of the Cranberries,” she says.

A constant source of inspiration, says Drew, is David Bowie. “We try to bring his Berlin coolness to some of our songs,” he says.

Londoner Fischer, meanwhile, is a fan of Chic’s Nile Rodgers and Bruno Mars, while Cal cites Oxford stars Glass Animals and Foals as inspiration.

Betsy, who is a classically trained musician, also works in television and helped produce such shows as Strictly, Britain’s Got Talent and Love Island.

“I love the operatic style of St Vincent, harmonies of Haim and the guilty grandeur of Coldplay,” she says when asked about what enthuses her.

Oxford Mail: Oxford band Brite Spires pictured at Modern Art Oxford MAO20/3/2022Picture by Ed Nix

Cal and Drew are no strangers to the Oxford gig circuit, being two thirds of the retro-power pop band The Anydays. The third member, former Oxford Mail journalist Niall Jeger is currently enjoying success of his own with his band Jody and the Germs.

“It’s great to be in a band with Drew because we get to tell of all the shenanigans we experienced in our past musical life,” laughs Cal. “Brite Spires are consistently gigging London now, with really receptive crowds copying the girls’ dance moves and repeating the lyrics back to us – which reminds me of The Anydays’ old shows.”

He grins as he recalls one particular night in the Italian city of Perugia, Italy. “Man, that crowd was wild!” he laughs. “We landed in Italy at 11am and basically partied until 3am the next day when the promoter finally said it was time to play.

“I have vague memories of front row fans offering us their rum and cokes and stage invading. then there was the support act saying they could drink us under the table... a bet they literally lost. We last saw them passed out under a desk in the manager’s office.”

Oxford Mail: Oxford band Write Spires pictured at Modern Art Oxford MAO
Picture by Ed Nix

Drew flinches at the recollection and recounts another memorable gig in Spain: “We played Madrid, where one fan was so besotted with our bassist that when we left to get in the taxi to the airport she almost got run over trying to get in with us!” he smiles.

“Being in a band can be quite surreal,” says Cal. “I remember when we opened Cornbury Festival’s main stage, we shared a dressing room with Sophie Ellis Bextor, who drank green tea and entertained her small daughter while we sheepishly necked beer.”

Drew’s credentials stretch back to brushes with 90s Oxford icons Supergrass and Radiohead. “It was while I was rehearsing at Cumnor’s Glasshouse that Danny Goffey from Supergrass drove up waving his hand at me with my phone digits scrawled on. The band wanted to try me out.

Oxford Mail: Oxford band Write Spires pictured at Modern Art Oxford MAO
Picture by Ed Nix

“Of course, I was booked in with my boys so that opportunity was delayed until I saw the band’s second gig, whereupon after 30mins of Gaz Coombes’ blistering Jam-style guitar, they ended their set and Gaz immediately came over and very apologetically informed me they didn’t need a second guitarist. What a sweet fella! He should have told me to jog on!”

He goes on: “A similar thing happened with Radiohead. We ran over our allotted practice time and they were outside listening. Rather than being annoyed they had actually dug the big sound we had been trying out. So Johnny Greenwood starts inspecting my pedals and amps curiously. Next thing I know, my signature ‘speeding up and down’ guitar tremelo sound is all over The Bends! Quite flattering I suppose!

“They kindly invited me to their Cowley Road house and we had a nice cup of tea and talked music. Now, that kind of behaviour would get me a restraining order!”

“Trouble does seem to follow us,” Berry chimes in. “At our last Brite Spires photo session we had to fight off some techno dancers who clearly hadn’t slept from the night before... and a drunk lady wanted to join the photoshoot. It would have been fine had not the clothing she was posing in been stolen from the shop next door!”

The band formed three years ago with local singer Clare Violet who left to go to university, replaced by Natalia Stark, before cousins Berry and Betsy stepped in to give what they describe as an “Abba meets Radiohead” take on electro indie-pop.

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“This is a band with real chemistry and a unique pop vision” says Drew.

“We have been described as having ,” says Drew. “The band have echoes of CHVRCHES and Christine+Queens mixed with LCD Soundsystem and the poppiness of Dua Lipa and Anne Marie... but as if Robert Fripp crashed the sessions!

“We can’t wait to see as many people as possible at The Bully on Wednesday. It’ll be fun, but with a serious cause at its heart and will hopefully do some good as well.”

  • lThe Brite Spires Ukraine benefit show is at The Bullingdon, Cowley Road, tonight, Wednesday, April 13, with rapper Gorygang and local synth act The Subtheory.
  • Tickets £9 on door or at Eventbrite via the band’s Instagram ‘britespires’

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