Decca Records (an ever-forward looking arm of Universal Music) treated us to a showcase of their two recent signings – The Wandering Hearts and Rhys Lewis (previously featured here). On a balmy Tuesday afternoon, we made our way to the beautifully modest Hoxton Hall in North London to see what the acts had to offer.
The decor in the main room gave the stage an intimate feel, all red velvet and delicate lighting. After a small introduction from Decca Records, The Wandering Hearts took to the stage to showcase their repertoire. The British folk group came to the stage in fitting attire; feathered hats and floral dresses. Their setup of two male and two female vocalists gives them some similarities to other Americana-tinged acts such as Of Monsters and Men and First Aid Kit, yet being a quartet allows them to layer far more complex and intricate harmonies.
A band that were first discovered within half an hour of uploading their first demo, the immediacy of their sound came across in droves during first track ‘Wish I Could‘. With such a strong vocal presence, the band were modestly supported with two acoustic guitars, double bass and a kick drum, allowing their vocal melodies to take centre stage.
The set bounced from intimate to uplifting with impressive ease; the range in all the singers was inspiring in its own right. Keeping true to their folk roots, all songs had touching undertones that conveyed sincere emotions and tales of past love. Their track ‘Rattle‘ re-energised the set with bluesy licks and chugging acoustics – a welcome change of tempo at the halfway mark.
Following on from their set came Rhys Lewis, a young singer-songwriter backed with a full band. The change in style impacted the atmosphere in the room, taking it from something slightly more organic and grass-roots to a foray into modern songwriting; electric guitars, drum pads and backup singers.
His style was both vibrant and captivating, with every track packed to the brim with memorable pop hooks. Being able to hold the room playing either solo or alongside his band, Rhys had a stage presence that was confident and assured. Having spent time writing across the world (Nashville, LA, Stockholm and London), his sound shows a mature, global appeal that is often hard to find among today’s younger writers.
At 24 years old, Lewis has found a sound that he’s evidently comfortable with, and it speaks to the masses. The set explored highs and lows, yet we were most impressed when there was no one on stage except himself. The juxtaposition of the full band and the solo setup showed another side to Lewis that the crowd weren’t expecting. As a result, his set was memorable and diverse.
Ending on the ever-enchanting ‘Waking Up Without You‘, the crowd were immediately won over by the bluesy guitar lick that underpins the song. This, coupled with a piercingly loud solo from Rhys at the song’s climax, made sure the Decca Records showcase ended on an uplifting high.