As far as sex symbols go, Brad Stank is not quite what you’d expect. In the age of Instagram – where chiseled torsos meet motivational quotes to vie for your attention – Stank is a bit of an outlier. He’s more Tom Jones than Tom Hardy.
But as he ambled onto the Zanzibar stage last Sunday evening, his presence was unmistakable. With a baggy jumper and loose-fitting jeans covering his considerable frame, he channeled Barry White to welcome the crowd in a uniquely sonorous voice. More than a few screams go up in the audience.
He opens up with ‘Pond Weed’, off his 2018 LP ‘Eternal Slowdown’. It’s an ode to the toking of questionable substances that makes up such a large part of British adolescence; as Brad plucks the spacey opening riff, wisps of smoke no less dubious eddy towards the ceiling. The vibe is relaxed, and the feeling of intimacy that characterised the record is maintained. The audience is transported to a late-night tryst under Ikea fairy lights; it’s Colette for Liverpool 8. Though the hushed bedroom ambience remains, and the sound is characteristically loose, spacey, airy – and yes, sexy, always sexy – it’s not for lack of technical skill. The band that Stank has put together manage the transition from SoundCloud to stage with great finesse.
At first sight, they seem a bit like a wall of guitars – a Jazzmaster, a Stratocaster, a Telecaster and a Precision Bass face the audience like a phalanx of strings. But they’re not unnecessary, nor do they precede an assault. They work in harmony to reproduce the sophisticated layers of Stank’s sound, with jazz chord voicings accompanying the front-man’s signature way of playing lead. Guys with guitars are back, but they’ve taken some theory lessons, it seems.
Stank and the band work through his Spotify hits and even give the Zanzibar audience a preview of his new track, the somehow unsurprisingly named ‘Kinky Visitation’. It goes down a treat. The crowd continue to swoon as Stank’s sensuous baritone nails ‘Take Me to the Crib’ before bringing us home with ‘Flirting in Space’. It’s a friendly group that have come to watch and it feels a bit like the homecoming before the homecoming – by the end of 2020 one suspects venues like this may be too small for an artist with such burgeoning popularity. The well-wishers here certainly seem to think so.
And it is the Sunday-night congregation that give this event, organised by Sumati Sundays, that extra bit of warmth. There’s a real DIY attitude on display – the beer taps are built into a thin MDF board and labelled with marker pen, a patio heater is used to warm the back of the bar, local Spotify superstars abound if you can recognise them. It’s indicative of a forward-thinking Liverpool scene that is aware of its past but refuses to be constricted by it.
Brad Stank is its star, shining through the haze, the self-anointed Daddy of bedroom-jazz-hip-hop-pop; the millennial walrus of love. This could be a huge year for him.