Five years on from Devizes six-form boy band 98 Reasons, we find vocalist and keyboardist Sam Bishop studying music in Winchester, while former Larkin partner Finely Trusler continues working with cousin Harvey as The Truzzy Boys and has become fresh new frontman for local mod heroes, The Roughcut Rebels.
Last week we were able get a valuable insight into Sam’s portfolio and progress, as he releases a five-track EP of new material across streaming platforms; Lost Promises. Seems education pays off; this is a dynamite of powerful pop, and showcases Sam’s vocal range with much more intricate and often daring arrangements.
But perhaps, what is more, there’s matured themes on show. Opening tune, Below the Surface is evidence enough, an emotionally-driven social issues context of two characters, firstly a young single mum thrown out of the family home and a motherless son turning to drug abuse. The haunting piano gathers a peek to courage against the face of misfortune, and it stings.
Relevance is key in a convincing performance of this style, personal reflection on your own words pulls the heartstrings. “I’m so proud of each and every song on it,” Sam says. “They all relate to a significant point of my life, when I was feeling a certain way. it’s the rawest and most explorative I’ve been as a songwriter.”
Fallen Sky we’ve reviewed as a single last year, a dark, moody ambience, backed with a deep bassline, sonic piano and ticking drumbeats; as if William Orbit took boyband to dubstep. It characterises dejected teenage anguish and echoes the passion in early romantic interactions. While it’s a bromide subject at the best of times, Sam rests on it well, as was a time when we wanted Phil Collins to have a broken heart, so his reflection on it would be so powerfully crushing and relevant to our own life.
The back riff of Decide trickles, reminding me of the deep South American riffs of the Graceland shadowed Paul Simon sequel The Rhythm of the Saints, but its pace and catchiness makes it perhaps the most beguiling. As the title suggests there’s a romantic dilemma, again cliché subject, but you know Sam’s vocal penitence has it covered to perfection.
We’re lucky enough to have an acoustic version of the fourth track for our forthcoming charity album; I know, yep, I’m working on it, okay! Largely guitar-based, Wild Heart gives prominence in particular to my observation about trialling in Sam’s vocal arrangements, there’s some complicated measures to handle, and he does. Trust is a continuing notion, which makes a running theme, I guess where the title developed from.
The trick is the balance, and Sam’s a magician, but not without friends he thanks for assistance, “this EP wouldn’t have been possible without the hard work of some of the best musicians I’ve had the pleasure to work with,” Sam continues, “Toby, Ellie, Martin, Robbie, Woody and Stephanie.”
As it suggests, The End is the perfect finale, a ballad of missing someone, praying fondness will prevail and it’s not the end. In this track, and in all, there’s a poignant concept, the mainstay of all good pop. Hey, teacher, Sam deserves top marks for this, it’s highly listenable and hauntingly deeper than anything previous, yet retaining freshness of memorable pop. Progress is sweet, and to prove it here’s Sam in his early days with a drumstick up his nostril. Something he’ll annoy for me adding, but honestly bud, you can’t unsee it now!