Having heard Kula Bay's new single 7 Hours on BBC Introducing an hour before, the notification they were playing Academy 3 the same night on Facebook was too much of a coincidence to turn down, to see whether the good impression that song gave on first listen would be replicated by their live show.
Let's start with the few downsides, and for a band that's right at the infancy of their career, there's inevitably going to be a couple. They call themselves tropical, and wear it like some sort of badge of honour. They're not, save for a few rhythms that wouldn't be out of place in a Vampire Weekend or Viola Beach playlist, and the nonsense massive inflatable beach ball and palm tree they throw into the audience. We spend half the next few songs trying to determine whether it's going to get smacked in your face from about six feet. Ditch it, let people concentrate on your music, because it's really rather good.
Kula Bay are still in their infancy as a band. You can tell in the slightly awkward in between song banter, the way they don't introduce the songs (always do this if you're playing to a new crowd), the fact they seem to know and acknowledge a lot of the crowd and they have to add in two covers - one excellent version of Sally Cinnamon and an OK version of Mardy Bum - to fill out the forty five minute set they've been given. But they're headlining Academy 3, a feat some established local circuit bands seek to but never achieve. And they're celebrating, rightly so, that impressive BBC Introducing slot.
7 Hours is of course one of the stand out tracks, it allows lead guitarist Matt to take centre stage and he makes a strong impression, taking the song by the scruff of its neck and delivering a hook that looks like it's effortless and steely cool as he does when he goes over all John Squire on the aforementioned Sally Cinnamon. Drummer Oli, who also adds backing vocals, beats ten bells out of his kit to the extent that he runs out of unbroken sticks by the end of the set that kiboshes any hope of an encore. Bassist Max remains unruffled throughout, but you can hear his contribution loud and clear. Front man David has a great voice, strong, clear and precise and emphasizing the meaning of the songs in his intonation and he looks like he's shaking off his inhibitions through being the leader of the band, hardly believing his luck that he's fronting a group of mates in a place like this. He might need to get used to that.
Their other originals, if they can keep up that standard of output, should render the need for covers unnecessary in the not too distant future. They talk about plans for an EP coming soon and if the likes of Back In The Water, Fool and Beach At Midnight (we're guessing a bit at titles here, boys) are anything to go by, that very positive impression they made with 7 Hours sounds like it's far from being a flash in the pan and they've got much more up their sleeve.
Kula Bay are on Facebook and Twitter.