FEW doubt the influence Sheffield’s universities have on the city – but probably what isn’t always appreciated is how they also creep into the area’s musical fabric.
Plenty of lesser-known bands have plied their trade on the circuit having met while studying in the Steel City.
A few others have gone on to make bigger noises, including current critics favourites The Crookes.
Among those that can trace their lineage back to Sheffield University is Firegarden, a familiar name at local live music venues for around 10 years.
“Three members studied at Sheffield Uni and it was through the uni that we ended up being a ‘must see’ band,” recalls founding guitarist and main songwriter Jake Mann as Firegarden release a long overdue new album.
“We’re heavily influenced by bands like Deep Purple, using their template of high-energy Hammond organ and guitar virtuosity as a staple for our own music.
“There’s not many young bands on the circuit that take the musical complexity and progressive nature that Purple had and make it relevant again for a 21st century audience, but we feel we fit the bill.”
And that sound has found ears beyond their hometown, the band having won fans on tours and at various battle of the bands contests around the country, as well as abroad including Russia “where ’70s-style European rock music is very much ‘in’”.
The line-up has evolved down the years, notably in 2008 when Chris Heald and Harry Sadler joined as bassist and vocalist respectively.
“Harry had big shoes to fill after the departure of long-time front man James Jeffery, but he quickly proved he had something different, new and raw to give us,” says Jake.
That will be demonstrated on Firegarden, the simply-titled follow-up to the band’s 2007 long-player Circles.
“The new album is very much a clean slate.
“Firegarden has built on previous successes but with the added freshness that Chris and Harry have brought and the continued enthusiasm of Andy Gotteri on keyboards and Ashley Tuck on drums.
“This album has taken two years to record and produce and almost didn’t see the light of day.
“But we have to thank Dan Worrall at the Laundry Room studios on Abbeydale Road for taking what we’d got and helping us produce an album that is by far the best we have done.
“In my opinion the musicianship and songwriting has really come together.
“Everyone is contributing to give it a unique flavour.
“I think this album has something for prog fans.”
Firegarden play a launch gig at their spiritual home, the Dove and Rainbow, on Saturday.
Keep an eye/ear on www.firegarden.info and facebook.com/firegardensheffield for a sneak preview and future activities.