When Rowan Yaxley and Max Haywood met in their first year student halls in September 2018, neither of them would have thought just over two years later they would be sitting down to talk about their band’s debut EP.
On 14 February, The Verdis released “Streetlight Fables“. It is the genre-bending band’s ode to Sheffield life, giving an insight into how it feels to be a young person in the steel city.
This is the group’s first offering to Spotify playlists across the land, and so Sheffield Wire sat down with them to find out about their journey up until this point.
It was through their mutual friend Dan Adam that the pair initially met.
Max explained: “Me and Rowan met completely by chance really. Rowan was in Crewe flats in Endcliffe. He went round knocking on a load of flats and Dan happened to be there at a party. They got chatting about music and then Dan came round to my flat and said I’ve got a mate here who plays guitar. Then me and Rowan ended up just chatting and playing.”
Dan (left), Rowan (middle) and Max (right).
Singer Rowan had performed by himself previously and continued to do so during his first year. He explained however, that in order to progress from a live point of view he needed to come up with some original material.
Fast-forward to September 2019, and after a summer of songwriting the duo returned to Sheffield with some bigger ideas.
Max said: “We thought if we want to do this seriously then we should probably try and do open mics consistently. Playing live just makes you better and gives you new ideas for the songs you’re already playing.”
At this point the band were still a two-piece, having made a good impression at the Green Room on Devonshire Street.
The Green Room. (Source www.view.co.uk)
This is where they gained inspiration for the name ‘The Verdis’ (vert meaning Green in French). However, if they thought their style and image was nearly perfected, two new members made that transition complete.
Rowan said: “In our first term of second year we met Jamie and John through Facebook I think, and then started practicing with them.”
With a wide grin on his face Rowan continued: “I think it got pretty cool with the bass and a drummer. That’s when the whole arrangements of the songs really changed and started to take shape.”
The additions of Jamie Wright on bass and John Thomson on drums in late 2019 meant the pair of students who had met a year previously in a student flat, were now on their way to developing a holistic sound that they were eager for others to hear.
One such fan is Martin Clark, who has lived in Sheffield since 2013. He attended 474 (yes, 474!) gigs in 2019 and was enthralled when he discovered The Verdis.
He said: “When I first saw them play on 17 December 2019 as an acoustic duo at West Street Live, I was immediately and seriously impressed by Rowan’s voice and Max’s superb jangling guitar parts. The fact that The Verdis made such an impression and have become one of my absolute favourite bands is a definite tribute to their song writing and musicianship.”
Though the success of their first term would not be mirrored in their second, as in March 2020, the group found themselves in lockdown, a world away from performing on the live music scene which had delivered them notoriety.
For the band, the cycle of tightening and easing of restrictions, followed by another order to stay at home, has not been completely negative.
Nearly a year into the Covid calendar which has seen the music industry struggle and crowd-funders popping up in order to save local venues, The Verdis were pleased the recording process still managed to go ahead, so the group could release music they’d been working on for some time.
Max said: “We were sat in lockdown, constantly playing music at home. In a way I think it’s good we released it in lockdown because people are sat at home doing nothing. They may be more inclined to think I’ll listen to the music, so when we do come out of it people will want to come and see us.”
During this time, Rowan found his lyrics took on new meaning sometimes weeks after he had put pen to paper.
“When you’re writing lyrics that are good, when you first write them you don’t really know what they mean. The good ones give you something to mull over afterwards, you think, why did I write that? And then it can occur to you months later, ah that’s what that it means!” Rowan said.
The pair then laughed about how this idea compares to when Johnny Marr explains the riff to ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’ by The Smiths in an interview with NME. The legendary guitarist said it came to him from nowhere, but the group finds serious inspiration from this sort of content.
Max said: “The ideas for a lot of the songs came from watching tonnes of videos like that. I think listening to loads more music is the best way.”
The practice, refinement and hard work the group has put into the EP shows. The accompanying videos on their YouTube channel add a dash of professionalism to the excitement surrounding the band and of the talent which embodies their first release.
All feedback has been positive so far and the group have made it clear they cannot wait to continue.
Rowan said: “There’s loads more songs to come. This is just the tip of the iceberg.”