Few bands have moved me, and I mean really moved me. That might seem an odd thing for me to say, but – strange or not, it’s true. Yes, there have been bands that were very important to me as I was growing up (and many of them are still as important to me now as they were back then) but this is an entirely different thing altogether. Even fewer bands have had an impact on me in such a way as to totally change me and challenge me in life; in fact I can probably list all of them on my fingers. Things changed for me back in 2005. Thursday 4th August 2005, in a tiny little pub in the arse-end of Norwich to be exact. That was the day that altered everything – and I am eternally grateful to those who were a part of that; I thank God for them every day. That said, nothing quite prepared me for Union Sound Set. Back then, of course, they went by the name of Prego. Although having only heard a couple of tracks on MySpace at the time (found entirely by accident, too) through the crappy little speakers in my old computer – that I’m convinced was run by an old, fat hamster on a broken wheel – I knew right then that I had stumbled upon something very special. What struck me initially were the vocals. As a classically trained singer, it’s something that I pick up on instantly. Sometimes it’s the melody that attracts my attention at first, or perhaps the rhythm – with Prego, the melodies were always something very special; emotive and stirring, literally tugging at the heartstrings, but it’s usually the vocals that stick with me, both good and bad. Upon hearing Edd Simpson’s vocals I knew in the first instance that here was an untrained voice – there are tiny flaws in it, and that’s how it should be. Real singing has faults in it; the secret is to leave them in. Secondly, it was the control of the vocals that in all honesty, made me feel slightly jealous. Like I said, I was classically trained for a long time but not even I have that level of control. Natural talent like his should never be ignored. The following year, the opportunity arose to see them live in London, no less. Those who know me well know my exact thoughts on London. Nevertheless I find myself going there an awful lot. That first time I was amazed by the bold, bright melodies and again with that distinctive voice! The recordings really hadn’t done them justice, masking that great power that overtakes you and the relentless energy; I knew I had to hear more. Incidentally, I saw them again the following week – also in London (I must be a glutton for punishment) – and was once again struck by the strength in the delivery of the vocals, the melodies that stirred every human emotion all at once. I’d never heard anything like it! I’d also never come across a band whose line-up changed so often! I’d actually become used to seeing somebody new at every show – to the point where I stopped trying to keep up. From a fan’s perspective, I always really loved the shows, but there was a time when all of their shows sounded exactly the same. In one respect that’s very good: one thing you don’t want with a live performance is hit and miss. You want to be consistent in your delivery. However, what you also don’t want is to settle. If you’re stuck where you are, never moving anywhere, let alone forwards – where does it leave you? Of course you want to progress. From a writer’s perspective however, despite always really enjoying Prego as a live band, there was that little irritating niggle in the back of my mind that said “something’s missing” – and annoyingly, not being able to fathom what it was. To hear and see that potential but not see it quite realised has been a little frustrating; seeing various people come and go, but not really getting rid of that annoying niggle. The shows were still great and I still loved it – but there was still that something missing. During this time I started a degree course at the University of Huddersfield, studying Music Journalism (yes, you can get a degree in this!) and quickly fell into a pattern of just producing work designed to pass my course. In my second and third years I did go back to having some work published, but I was only really doing what I was told to do. Also during this time I joined numerous online publications – and left all but one of them because I felt they weren’t right in how they did things. However, I too had settled. I had just started my first term of my final year when Prego announced a gig at The Fly in London (obviously), and I decided to go along; I knew it would be a good night out. Prego never gave anything less than the best they could offer and really, I’d be silly to miss out. But I expected more of the same old stuff. I soon discovered my mistake! Once again, I spied two new people in the line-up and quietly chuckled to myself. But then they began to play. I’d expected that annoying bugger of a niggle to rear its head, but it didn’t. “I suppose we came up with the right line-up when the right people came along. You need certain things. You need the right talent – and we’ve certainly got that now with the line-up. I think you need the right frame of mind, the right dedication and people ready to slog and persevere, and those who are willing to do that, and who just want to make music. That’s made the right line-up. Different people have come through and not been ready to do that to the extent that we need,” Edd explains. Finally, that something missing had been found. The missing pieces of the puzzle were in the line-up, and now having found the right people, Prego were at long last moving forward. This was the best I’d ever seen them play and it was a joy to see it happen. “It must be hard for people who have known Prego’s stuff and known it for years, and taken those songs to heart,” says bassist Caspar Williamson. I don’t think that’s true. I can’t and won’t try to speak for anybody else, but personally, I have enjoyed seeing them progress and grow, and to see it all finally take shape and fit together as Union Sound Set. You can hear the difference in the music – that much is evident from their glittering debut album Start/Stop, but you can also see the difference. There has always been that great bond between Guitarist-vocalist-genius Edd Simpson and bassist Caspar Williamson – they bounce off each other perfectly, but unlike with previous line-ups, that same sense can be seen throughout the entire band now. And I love it! I consider it a great privilege to have seen just how far they’ve come. After the gig at The Fly, it struck me then that I too had settled again. I tried to rationalise it: at least I was studying how to be a better writer and learning more about the industry and… But I had settled. I wasn’t really doing anything beyond trying to pass the course. I’d stopped going out there and doing it – finding things for myself and writing just for the fun of it; for the joy of finding something new. Seeing that process in Prego – of people coming and going, but seeing the rest of the band try to push forward regardless, also it seems, looking for those missing puzzle-pieces, having found them in guitarist Dan Best and drummer Alex Walker – they were finally making progress. It was truly inspiring to see in someone else realising what I had lost. That drive, that ambition and the passion behind it all… and the need to keep going that Prego had shown for years proved to me that I’d settled for something less. That really kind of stuck with me, and inspired me to strive for the same. There are times when I take a look at where I’ve been and where I want to go with my career as a journalist – and indeed where I am. There are those moments when I seriously question why the heck I put myself through this! I’ve said for years that the good times are the best, but the bad times are the absolute worst and I do sometimes wonder why I have never wanted anything else. I’ve never wanted that normal, nine-to-five job; I’ve always felt I was meant for something else. Music has always been a passion of mine, as has writing so it made sense to me to combine the two. That’s not to say it’s been easy. I’ve spent years trying to prove myself and prove my worth as a writer – and have met some great people who have inspired, encouraged and supported me along the way. Sometimes I wish I could strive for some kind of normality and stability – and I could do that, but would I be satisfied? Probably not. I wanted something to remind me to never let go of that need to push forward and to strive for something better - something that would always remind me to never settle again. I figured nothing was more permanent than a tattoo. When I was thinking about what I wanted, and what could represent it, it struck me that the Prego logo was the perfect symbol for that, having seen just how far they’d come and what it took for them to get there. Seeing a band like Union Sound Set have proved to me time and time again that anything less than right isn’t worth it – and most notably, their biggest change in is the live performances. That has always been their strong point, but the difference in them within the last year is truly amazing. Their recent single launch gig at the Barfly proved this once again. When it came to the tour, knowing that a) they always give it their all in their performances and b) that I didn’t have to travel for a day just to hear them for an hour, I had to be there at the Glasgow date, and I’m so glad I did it. The progress they’ve made just within the last month is unbelievable. The show at The Captain’s Rest (in the cool end of Glasgow, no less) was by far the best I’ve ever seen them play. I was literally stunned afterwards, barely able to see straight or string a sentence together, but could just about manage an “I’m so proud of you.” And I meant it. Just thinking about it makes me smile… and when I think of what could possibly come next it actually makes me dizzy. I don’t honestly think there’s any stopping it, either; there is nowhere else for them to go but onwards and upwards, and I’m excited for what Union Sound Set will come up with next. http://www.myspace.com/unionsoundset