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Belfast, N Ireland, United Kingdom | Established. Jan 01, 2014 | SELF

Belfast, N Ireland, United Kingdom | SELF
Established on Jan, 2014
Band Alternative Rock




"Pillow Talk EP Review - "National treasures... or should be""

They will tell you ‘Rock is dead’. They will tell you ‘guitar music is dead’. They will tell you ‘there is no such thing as new music, merely old music recycled’. Who are they? Well, the industry itself seems more interested in re-issues and making money out of established artists than breaking new artists, especially if those artists come as a band – the more members, the harder to package/control and finance during those initial salad days. The media too wants to have artists created by its own TV shows. Competitions create (false) drama, feed our prurient, intrusive need to hear a sob-story to know whether to ‘like’ the artist as a person before we even begin to decide whether they are any good or not. Oh and it’s really handy that we get to enjoy/endure hearing singers singing a multitude of cover songs, the rights to many of which just happen to be owned by the person behind the TV show in the first place. They are the battery-farm song-writers they have in waiting to pen the oh-so-finger-on-the-pulse-of-popular-culture hit song for that one album the winner will release before they are dropped in time for next year’s winner…and repeat ad nauseam. Just read Dave Grohl’s ‘music as a competition’ rant and you’ll know where I am coming from.

The counter-argument that talent will always win through, is not valid enough. People have to eat; and if the means to earn enough to eat through your music is removed or denied and talented people have to do other things to eat that take them away from their music (or take them down the wedding band route), it is a major barrier to success. It’s not even about being No 1 and making millions, I am talking about being successful enough to have some sort of decent standard of life, to be able to continue to create new music, and not just be a cabaret act, cover/tribute act. Reading about bands that you figured were doing ok, giving up because they just could not make ends meet is becoming a depressingly frequent occurrence. At times you wonder will another Muse or Arctic Monkeys ever break through?

I (as do my CB colleagues) unashamedly champion local music because we believe we have bands/artists here in O.W.C. that are as good at what they do as anyone. I accept that some of those bands are derivative or ‘NI’s version of…’ if you will. But we also have bands/artists here that are pretty much unique. I can understand why ‘derivative bands’ may get overlooked but surely someone has to get a hold of one of our unique bands/acts and get them heard nationally/globally? And, at the top of the ‘tree of uniqueness’ for me is R51.

The only pigeonhole suitable for this Belfast-based 5 piece is ‘un-pigeonhole-able’. Even saying R51 is ‘alternative’ does not really do the band justice, because there is so much music out there which labels itself ‘alternative’ that it has almost made the term meaningless. But if alternative held true meaning for any band it is R51. For me this band is up there with the true innovators in music, like Radiohead, Muse, Arctic Monkeys, Faith No More, Arcade Fire; bands for whom experimentation is normal, not some affected chic.

The skill of R51 is to create a body of music, of which the 5 songs on the ‘Pillow Talk’ E.P. are just the latest installment, that is amazingly varied and yet, you know it is R51. That’s tremendously clever. There are common threads that tie it all together. Melyssa Shannon’s Kate Bush-esque vocals are dreamy at times, yet still have that cutting edge when necessary. This is a young lady who gets better with every release but I still think there is more to come from her in terms of consistency of delivery. The lyrical content has a bizarrely ethereal-yet-real quality (yes, I know that is a contradiction). There is cohesion to the music, be it fret-board magician’s Jonny Wood’s work, the tight rhythm section, or clever use of modern technology, especially to the fore in the unashamedly dance-inspired ‘Absolutely Nothing’. To sound cohesive while covering a myriad different genres from house music to thrash metal takes some doing. But R51 pulls it off with ease. It speaks of a band of much greater years than these still-young musicians. The production is just mind-blowing considering it is self-produced.

Not all music is art. There’s nothing wrong with the music that isn’t art; music to dance to, to rock out to. Nothing to be ashamed of. Music is many things to many people and rare is the person who only listens to one type of music to the exclusion of all others. I love many bands whose music I would not call art, but I also need bands in my life that push boundaries, who refuse to same to plow the same furrow as everyone else; hell, that even refuse to plow any straight furrow at all. I’m even prepared for such bands to release songs, even whole albums that I don’t like, but I still admire them for their bravery. R51 is one such band. These 5 intrepid sonic explorers are national treasures or should be. We should all be doing what we can to push them as hard into the national consciousness as possible. This is a band that could write an ‘Ok Computer’ people. This is band that is more than just verse-chorus-verse-chorus, yet it still has hooks in the songs. This is band that has a concept of what it is; that has artwork that again sets the band apart and makes them stand out among the crowd.

You will notice I have not done the ‘song run down’ type review; not described each of the 5 songs in detail or in order. This was deliberate, because only a fool would try to encapsulate in my limited vocabulary what this fantastic band is and does. You just have to find out for yourself. Record companies, this is a band that doesn’t need a development deal, does not need some Svengali producer to bring out of it what it doesn’t know it has, does not need an image consultant, does not need to learn to play its songs live. R51 is the finished article, dues paid, all boxed up and raring to go. What are you waiting for? - Chordblossom

"BBC Pillow Talk EP - " a beautifully produced, subtly epic new EP""

Few bands have shown such progression with every adventurous release. R51, who were always a curious prospect, have struck gold with a beautifully produced, subtly epic new EP, from which this is the standout. Majestic. - BBC

"Pillow Talk EP Review - "R51 are a legitimately exciting band""

Belfast’s R51 latest EP, Pillow Talk, has got powerful weapons hidden in it’s arsenal. The release is awash with lush guitars, brutal riffs and a genuine excitement. The influence of the Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine is evident throughout. However, rather than parroting what those bands have done, the band seem intent on mixing these sources with their own voice to create something refreshing. Centrally though, the band seem intent on straddling that fine line between artistic and accessible and while they may not always be successful in that goal, they still knock it out of the park with alarming consistency. Each one of the songs has something to recommend, be it the Sigur Ros vibe permeating throughout the EP closer, ‘Seaweed’, the spaced out verses on ‘I Hate That Too’ or the monstrously huge chorus on ‘Pillow Talk’. Over its appropriately long runtime, the release provides the listener with some genuine surprises. It is fantastic to see such a young band come out with a release as accomplished as this. R51 are a legitimately exciting band. What they’ve presented us with is a finely hand crafted EP that begs to be relistened to over and over again. A damn good group and definitely ones to watch over the next twelve months. Will Murphy - TheThinAir

"Pillow Talk EP review "R51 prove they are within the top three bands in the country""

To some questions, there are no definitive answers. Just an abundance of other questions, floating endlessly, a bit like us. A bit like 'Pillow Talk'. This debut extended release comes from a band consistently showing up their own incredibly high standards. For those convinced the hazy love-lust tranquility of singles such as 'Slowhound' was a one off, a stroke of luck or a freak accident perhaps, this may come as a shock to the system. For those already setting their sights upon the sun for this young band, you'll find nothing but total satisfaction. It really is that good.

Whilst this reviewers heart will always belong somewhere between 1989 and 1994, when music's concerned my spectrum reaches far over the Brit-pop soundscape and into the distance. My first alternative love came in the shape of 'Meanwhile...Back In Communist Russia', a short lived, post-rock student band from Oxford in the late 90's//early 2000's. Based upon front-woman Emily Gray's entrancing spoken word, the band put music to poetry and so encapsulated a 12 year old from Northern Ireland that he decided to dedicate his life to music. Okay, perhaps there's a hint of artistic licence on display here, but the point remains. R51 are the first band (bar perhaps, the genius of Hot Cops) to entice me in such a way since. 'Pillow Talk' is a dream within a nightmare, a shimmer in the dark.

A singular listen through this Ep, will never be enough. Be it 'Absolutely Nothing's dance-invoking melody, 'Pillow Talk's cataclysmic emotional blow-out or the orchestral brilliance of 'Seaweed', each and every track holds a clue. Each lyric a hint, a glimpse behind the iron curtain of this fantasy band. You feel throughout this Ep (which you never truly want to end) R51 are willing their listener to open their minds. You'll find no comfort in lead guitarist Jonny Wood's pen. Nor will you find any meaning. This is a band uncomfortable with the concept of forever, unnerved by the prospect of tomorrow. "You and I have got tonight..."

Lyrically R51 prove they are within the top three bands in the country on this record. Melyssa Shannon has adapted that enchanting voice of hers and elevated it further. Yes, there's hint's of Kate Bush (probably my favorite female songstress of all time) and she must never loose that; but 'Pillow Talk' see's her come into her own once again. Powerful, striking and equally brilliant in a daydream ('Seaweed', 'Pillow Talk') or a dark space ('I Hate That Too'), this is a voice of the people. This is someone singing about 'Life when it's not flowing'. Credit must too go to Jonny Woods, as not only does his guitar playing remain upon a wave, but the production of this self released Ep is astounding.

So bringing things back to our initial question, what is The Beast Of The R51 Broadcast?

A moment in time? A feeling? A lover? Society? Us?

We may never know for sure, and nor is that the point.

I'm not sure I want to. - EncoreNI

"Pillow Talk Ep Launch Review"

...As enjoyable as the evening has been so far, we are relieved to finally witness R51 take the stage. “Do you dream of me ever?” questions Melyssa and when it comes to this band we’re always dreaming of new material and live shows. What makes R51 that quintessential live band is their ability to mix up the dreamy (‘Pillow Talk’) with the almost riotous as Matthew Killen beats the drums within an inch of their life (‘I Hate This Too’).

Far from being content in their own skin R51 treat the audience to a few guest appearances; first an appearance from Runaway Go’s Dave and Fiona for a sparkling rendition of Kate Bush’s ‘Hounds of Love’ before Stevie Lennox’s talents are utilised on a cover of Sonic Youth’s ‘Tunic’. Guest appearances done and dusted we are left with a bone shattering rendition of ‘I Could Kill You Sometimes’ to close out a riveting evening of live music.

If R51 can maintain this level of performance and keep producing music as exciting as that found on their debut EP, then there can be no doubts that they are set for a bright future. - Chordblossom

"Slowhound Single Review"

For my money R51 are one of the real ‘hopes for the future’ of local music: Hell, UK music. Really. For ones still so young they have an amazing self-confidence in what they are doing, and no matter what style of song they record, it is done with such care, attention and belief, that is impossible not to be impressed. There is nothing obvious, nothing piggybacking on the latest trend, nothing that gives you even the slightest feeling of ‘oh, heard that all before’. That is a real strength, I believe, in a world of music which is becoming so homogenised (boring) at the top of the charts and so splintered beneath that. This is a band that could really stand out, or at least straddle more than one small sub-genre. They are modern but with classic influences.

‘Slowhound’ itself is, naturally enough, a slowburner of a song that does take a few listens to get into. It bears all the now-classic R51 hallmarks of shoe-gaze guitar, mixed with modern beats and sequencing, all topped of with Melyssa Shannon’s Kate Bush-esque vocals; vocals that are fragile, yet with an inner strength and confidence about them. It perhaps isn’t as catchy/immediate as the previous single, ‘Boxkite’, or as jaw-droppingly experimental as Boxkite’s ‘B-side’ – ‘I Could Kill You Sometimes’, but it is a classy song nevertheless. ‘Slowhound’ is backed with the beautifully wistful ‘Skelf’ (love the title). To call ‘Skelf’ merely an acoustic song does not do it justice. R51 always manage to add little sprinkles of stardust to lift it out of the ordinary, even for a track less than two-and-a-half minutes long.

If R51 stay on this trajectory, there is only one way they are headed. Upwards.
-Al Gilmore - Chordblossom

"Slowhound Single Review"

First off this is a solid band, unified in sound and execution of this particular tune. Slowhound‘s epic swells and crests blend alternative rock melodies with pop vocal, carried along with the pulse of power bass and tom drums. This is a well-rounded composition.

Softer and dreamier than America’s Paramore; but in that same vein, with a taste of Norway’s Highasakite blissful power ballads. This is one of those tunes you push repeat and listen to over and over again, discovering something new in each nuance of octave and chord change. I’m anxious to see where R51 will go with this.
- Noelle Ellis, GiggingNI.com - GiggingNI

"Live Review & deemed to have "Stolen the Show""

I won’t spend too much time waxing lyrical about art rockers R51 as Al Gilmore has done it at length (here and here) but they have firmly cemented themselves into my recent listening. Their latest single ‘Slowhound’ is a regular slice of dreamy heaven which leans on the notion of whimsical guitar rock. Think of Welsh rockers, The Joy Formidable, throw in a bit of the Smashing Pumpkins and you are somewhere close. Their live show is nothing to be sniffed at either; they stole the show during the most recent BREED showcase despite being the opening act. News that they are back in the studio recording yet another single is just music to my ears.
- Robert Brown - Chordblossom

"Boxkite Single Review"

I first saw R51 two years ago in the now-defunct Ma Nelson’s and could see then that they were a band with a lot of potential and ambition, even for ones so young (I’m not so sure they were all old enough to be playing there at the time). They gave me a copy of their album ‘Orchestrina’ and it confirmed that the band had talent but also confirmed that their ambitions hadn’t quite matched their product but again, given their age, this is no criticism. But now, with this single release they have fulfilled the promise I saw in them and have written and recorded two stunning pieces of Art/Indie Rock.

‘Boxkite’ is a top notch modern Indie Rock, with a few small nods to the past (Kate Bush, Siouxsie Sioux, Bahaus and more recently Smashing Pumpkins). It builds slowly based around clever percussion and insistent bass guitar, then halfway through it just takes off, then comes back down, then continues in this manner up and down – just like a boxkite in fact. The refrain ‘you could never love me as much… as I do you’ really works. Melyssa Shannon has matured into a very strong singer, and one who doesn’t settle for the easy or obvious note/melody.

When I saw them live, the rhythm section of Simon Porter (Drums) and Anton Hughes (Bass) and especially guitarist Johnny Woods, really impressed me and their work on ‘Boxkite’ shows that, if anything, they have improved. Add in the keyboards of Carla Crawford and the band’s viewfinder widens further. The second song on the C.D. shows this to perfection. ‘I Could Kill You Sometimes’ is amazingly good piece of Art Rock. I can see why the band picked ‘Boxkite’ as the main song, but ‘I Could Kill You Sometimes’ is the song that really blew me away. It’s challenging, no doubt about that; starting off with a monster riff that Muse would be proud of, which then cuts to off-beat sounds, recorded voices, and whispers and at first I thought it was going to be an instrumental. Then, all-of-a-sudden, a song breaks out, and what a song it is! It’s off-the-wall at times, but there’s still a hook there both musically and melodically. It’s kind of an Indie version of Faith No More (if that makes sense) and considering it was self-recorded in a studio the band put together itself, it is an amazing feat.

The band self-disparagingly labels its style as ‘shoe-gaze’ music. On the basis of this single they should set their sights much higher. It is absolutely essential listening.
-Al Gilmore - Chordblossom


 Boxkite (Single) [Released 26th June 2013 - Madame Mazu Records]

  1. Boxkite (4:32)
  2. I Could Kill You Sometimes (5:32)

Slowhound (Single) [Released 14 Feb 2014 - Madame Mazu Records]
  1. Slowhound (4:11)
  2. Skelf (2:26)
Pillow Talk (EP) [Released 25 March 2015 (UK) - Madame Mazu Records]
  1. Absolutely Nothing (3:46)
  2. I Hate That Too (3:56)
  3. Pillow Talk [EP Version] (4:43)
  4. Modern Age (2:42)
  5. Seaweed (3:24)
NO CHILL (EP) [Released 12 September 2016 (UK) - Madame Mazu Records]
  1. Elephant (3:12)
  2. A Perfect Life (3:24)
  3. Everything (3:02)
  4. Surrender (2:54)
  5. Morocco (3:08)
  6. Flesh (2:59)



R51 formed in 2014 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. 

Self Produced, their debut EP "Pillow Talk" was championed by the BBC Introducing show Across the Line and they performed at BBC stages at Reading and Leeds festivals in 2015. Pillow Talk went on to be critically acclaimed by Irish Magazines and Music Mags and R51 toured Ireland throughout 2015, playing all major festivals in Northern Ireland (Stendhal, Sunflowerfest, Spectrum, Aperture & Swell).

They performed with Lonely The Brave on the Doc Marten's "Stand for Something" Tour 2015, and also appeared at a sold-out Ulster Hall celebrating the 30th anniversary of BBC introducing in Northern Ireland in 2016, which was broadcast live by the BBC. At this prestigious event they performed with artists such as Therapy, Neill Hannon, & SOAK.

Founding members Melyssa Shannon, Jonny Woods, Aaron Black and Anton Hughes began their career in 2013 when they were chosen to be featured in the prestigious music industry mentorship programme "Scratch My Progress" in the Oh Yeah Music Centre in Belfast, following in the footsteps of other talented N.Irish artists such as Go Wolf (Maison Kitsune artist) and BBC radio 1 featured artist Katharine Philippa. They were joined by drummer Matt Killen in 2014 while recording their debut EP.

In 2014 they gained attention from across the atlantic when live streaming secret gigs from dive bars in Belfast through their website, and their self produced and released second EP "NO CHILL" (released 12th September) has had raving pre-release reviews.

On release of their second EP, R51 will tour throughout 2017.

"...a legitimately exciting band. What they’ve presented us with is a finely hand crafted EP that begs to be relistened to over and over again. "

- The Thin Air


"[Elephant is] a pop song in disguise.. I can't recommend it highly enough, it really has restored my faith in the music industry and in people."

- Stuart Bailie, BBC Radio ulster 


"These 5 intrepid sonic explorers are national treasures or should be [...] This is band that has a concept of what it is [...] only a fool would try to encapsulate in my limited vocabulary what this fantastic band is and does."

- Chordblossom


"For those already setting their sights upon the sun for this young band, you'll find nothing but total satisfaction [...] R51 prove they are within the top three bands in the country on this record [...] The production of this self released Ep is astounding."

- EncoreNI


"[R51] have struck gold with a beautifully produced, subtly epic new EP ...Majestic"

- BBC Across the line


"This is a solid band, unified in sound and execution [] epic swells and crests blend alternative rock melodies with pop vocal, carried along with the pulse of power bass and tom driven drums [] Softer and dreamier than Americas Paramore; but in that same vein, with a taste of Norways Highasakite blissful power ballads. This is one of those tunes you push repeat and listen to over and over again, discovering something new in each nuance of octave and chord change. Im anxious to see where R51 will go with this.

- GiggingNI:


Band Members