On Tuesday, toward the end of their set at the venue they affectionately call “the Brude”, English Teacher obliquely teased their future debut album.
Vocalist and bandleader Lily Fontaine asked the audience if they were looking forward to it, and while she admittedly couldn’t reveal any details for contractual reasons, she did wryly hint that it’s going to be on the way “soon”.
Sometime next year would be a pretty safe bet, and if that’s the case then English Teacher are sure to be one of the breakthrough alternative acts of 2024.
Tuesday was the hometown date on the band’s latest headline tour, sold-out ahead of time even though they’d only recently played in Leeds as part of the Live at Leeds in the City all-dayer.
Brudenell Social Club hosted, a seminal music venue in Leeds that Fontaine has attended plenty of times as a fan, and playing this show there clearly meant a lot to her as she referred to it as “her favourite venue ever”.
In an interview last year she explained how at shows she’d “always wanted to be the one on stage”, and while she’s had that experience aplenty by now, this was always going to be a special night all the same, playing in front of not just fans but also friends from the Leeds scene.
Several daffodils decorated the stage – more on those in a minute – as Lily and the rest of the band got things going at 9:15pm with The World’s Biggest Paving Slab.
Slab was penned in 2018 while Lily was still at university, but became the first song of English Teacher’s debut album era when it was released as a single, 7″ included, back in August.
This inevitable full-length was naturally a majority focus of their setlist, and by night’s end English Teacher had played eight unreleased songs, all presumably earmarked for inclusion.
This meant eschewing some old favourites, including EP namer Polyawkward and, perhaps most surprisingly given the Leeds location, Yorkshire Tapas.
Instead songs like Albatross and Mastermind Specialism featured, and the new material very much retains the English Teacher sound and Lily’s signature songwriting style.
One track – I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying – features its title as a cyclical punctuative hook and was the first of the new songs to feature on the night.
There seems to be no need for fans to worry that their decision to sign for Univeral Music – albeit the credible imprint Island Records – will lead to a fundamental change in sound, and the album is likely to be a critical hit when it lands.
As a performer, Lily Fontaine possesses great charisma in the way that she manages to make even a sold-out venue seem intimate and personal, even taking the time to have little moments for herself while performing in front of hundreds of people.
She doesn’t jump around the stage or often play to the crowd, the sort of clichés that tend to lead to a band being described as good live, being far more likely to contemplate, even daydream, between her verses.
It’s her rich lyricism and the art that instead glows, and it suits what English Teacher are doing just fine.
That’s not to say that the band seem distant, however, for the atmosphere at the Brudenell was definitely one of a joyous homecoming for a local band done good, with several light interactions thrown in.
One such interaction involved Lily introducing new single Nearly Daffodils, to a great reaction from the audience, only to then be told by the band that another song was to come first.
That was Song About Love, the Speedy Wunderground release from earlier this year, and with its thumping bassline and memorable refrain it’s likely to remain a non-album favourite for a long while yet.
Nearly Daffodils did finally appear, and for it Lily lent into the theme by taking one of the flowers from the stage and holding it throughout the song, stopping to admire and gaze at it through one instrumental break.
It’s another highlight in their output, and a good choice to release as a single ahead of time.
Lily took to the crowd for one moment of rockstar chaos during R&B, the 2021 single that’s closing in on one-million Spotify streams.
It’s English Teacher’s most raucous song, and as the chorus dropped a pocket of fans broke with the decorum and jostled moshpit style, before Lily took to the audience to get up-close with the band’s home city for some crowd guitar.
R&B may well still be their best track, albeit one that could prove an anomaly among their output, as it doesn’t seem like a sound they’re set to replicate on their debut album.
English Teacher closed out their set with Albert Road, before returning for an encore, including a debut for This Could Be Texas and finally old favourite Good Grief.
It all closed with an ovation and a sense that this could be English Teacher’s final show for a while in such an intimate Leeds space, with bigger venues sure to come whenever the next tour may be.
On Wednesday afternoon Lily took to English Teacher’s Instagram account to reference her travelled past, living between towns and sofas before she’d settled in Leeds, and to ask “Where is home?”
“Home is what happened last night, probably”, she concluded.
The support on Tuesday came from Alien Chicks, who doubled up as English Teacher’s biggest fans in the audience for their headline set.
The Londoners are well-hyped in the capital and are another band with big things to come.
English Teacher’s headline UK tour continues with six more dates, all already sold-out. They’re at Scala tonight, before trips to Bristol, Southampton, Brighton, Birmingham and finally Manchester on 1 November.