JAWS – 15/12/15 – Oxford
It was a mild December night and it’s fair to say the nostalgia was running high between me and my best mate. Having survived her dodgy motorway driving, we were back on the Cowley Road in Oxford, the home to many of our gig memories – which include seeing a younger Jaws supporting Peace on their first In Love tour back in the dismal days of Year 11.
Back then we were just getting to grips with mosh pits while a shy, introverted frontman wearing a baggy mustard-coloured jumper had just released the brilliant Milkshake EP. Fast-forward 2 and a half years and although still introverted, with Connor Schofield apologising, “I’m not very good at talking”, Jaws are more mature, self-assured and no longer merely propped up by their friends Peace and Swim Deep from the Digbeth B-Town scene, having a sprawling fan base to themselves. Since 2013, they have released their second EP, Gold, and debut album, Be Slowly, and have been on the touring circuit for some time, with this latest tour being supported by Nai Harvest.
Nai Harvest already have a cult following. For only two people, their energy is incredible, similar to other duos like Slaves, although their sound is less growling and more upbeat and punky, bringing to mind Pup’s ‘Dark Days’. The Sheffield pair’s latest release is an album called Hairball, the best tracks including ‘Melanie’ and ‘Oceans of Madness’, and as they sprawl around the stage the crowd gets dancing rather than resembling a sea of tamely bopping heads.
In the interlude the inevitable happens, and Jaws take to the stage to the sound of an audience howling along to ‘Fairytale of New York’, to bring the place to life with their distinctive pulsating, underwater sound, and stir up a wild and rowdy crowd for the next hour. Their wistful vocals, jangly guitars and clear 1980s influences have prompted many comparisons with The Cure and The Stone Roses, however Jaws are also at home in the 2010s, with ‘Breeze’ conjuring up the lo-fi, scuzzy sound of Best Friends’ ‘Nosebleeds’ and the baggy ‘Stay In’ resembling a more thoughtful version of Californian-sounding Bos Angeles’ ‘Beach Slalom’.
Their material is mostly from Be Slowly but Connor reveals that their second album is written and ready to be recorded in 2016 and new songs, ‘What We Haven’t Got Yet’ and ‘Bad Company’ are popular and join effortlessly with their previous work. Classics such as ‘Toucan Surf’ and ‘Friend Like You’ go down very well with the crowd, and with lethargic lyrics such as, “I thought this was all a dream in my room/Friends on my TV screen”, they are reminiscent of Splashh’s ‘Feels Like You’ or Swim Deep’s ‘Soul Trippin’ – youthful, carefree and lazy as hell, ironic as this band are very hardworking.
Finally, as the penultimate night of their tour, Schofield permits everyone to “lose your sh*t to these ones” as the boys lazily avoid the spectacle of the encore and remain onstage, jamming straight into the crowd-favourite ‘Gold’.
Overall, it was a great night. They may be named after a Bond villain rather than the cult killer-shark franchise, but where on record they make for a chilled West-Coast vacation, Jaws’ live shows see them baring their teeth in full grungy glory.