“My mum got us out busking every weekend to earn a bit of pocket money,” Thom Southern tells Clash. “You’re not technically begging but you’ve put your case out there for a reason, to see if people like you.”
“We did it so much,” he continues. “We were still in school, too. I went to uni for a little bit but was just like, ‘Mum, I have to do this. We have some good songs.’ I played on my own a lot but would always tell everyone my sister, Lucy, was missing. She finished her last exam, flew to London and we both never went back. That was it. That was Southern.”
Busker-toughened skin, the Belfast-born siblings took fearless strides onto the stage, couch-surfing gig after London gig before management suggested a move to Liverpool to find a band, rent a studio and lay down foundations in its tight-knit live scene. They’re young, granted, but their story reads like an excerpt by Jack Kerouac: spontaneous, constantly on the move, a deep appreciation for musical traditions not just in sound but sentiment, songs and sharing.
“When I was 15 I started to play with the famous Irish traditional group, The McPeake Family. The music is centuries old, it’s been handed down and handed down through generations and it’s very sociable. I’m drawn to music that sounds like it’s got history and I learnt a lot of my style there. Our songs are very rhythmic; the guitar leads the whole thing. I try to put those traditional Irish rhythms into blues chords.”
Harmonies are next in line. Untrained, Lucy Southern’s natural attraction to complementary notes sees a rolling swarm of warmth lighten songs which otherwise might feel too predictable. Largely self-produced and self-taught, this hook-laden, blues riffing isn’t about seeking a new sound – it’s about adding to the lineage of rock ‘n’ roll.
“The blues is the blues,” Thom affirms. “Lucy is an amazing poet. I write the music, we’re both painters and we want to write really classic songs – Nick Drake, Simon & Garfunkel, all those influences. Just bring it back to the basics.”
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WHERE: Liverpool via Belfast
WHAT: Sibling-tuned blues
GET 3 SONGS: ‘World Don’t Shine’, ‘Just Think About It’, ‘Where The Wild Are’ (video above)
FACT: Remember the first song you ever wrote? Exactly. ‘World Don’t Shine’ was Thom’s and he was 16.
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Words: Kim Hillyard
Photos: Trinity Ellis
Fashion: Lola Chatterton