FEW bands have embraced festival season quite like Cumbrian alt rockers Graces.

The Penrith band's return to Kendal Calling on Sunday wraps up two massive weekends that have seen them play a handful of shows around last week's Tramlines festival in Sheffield, and will see them head to Derbyshire on Saturday for Y Not.

But in between all the travelling, they also squeeze in a show in Barrow on Thursday, and another on Friday at The Source Collective, in Carlisle - anyone not at Kendal Calling this weekend will be mindful to get along, to see a band on top gigging form.

"It’s great to come back and test new material and new ideas in general in front of an audience we trust," says guitarist Bradley Neen.

"Since we’re playing Kendal Calling, we thought we’d add a couple of extra Cumbrian dates, as we don’t get to come back very often at all. Our mothers will be happy.

"We’re really excited to play Barrow for the first time. Despite us gigging around Cumbria during our teenage years we never made it down there for a show.

"There’s some awesome bands coming out of Barrow right now such as Wolfpeake, Pariahs and Riot Androids, who are supporting us on our show, so it feel likes there’s something special happening down there at the moment.

"The venue we’re playing, called Odd Frog, has just opened up and from what we’ve seen the place looks cool, so this should be a great warm-up for our shows at Kendal Calling and Y Not Festival over the weekend."


Graces guitarist Bradley Neen (photo by Kirsty Swarbrick)

The site for Kendal Calling, Lowther Deer Park, is just down the road from where some of Graces members grew up - now based in Sheffield, this a homecoming show of sorts, even though they still gig around Cumbria more than most bands out there.

Last year was their debut outing, and this weekend they have high hopes of packing out the Yam Riot marquee for what will undoubtedly be one of their big highlights of the summer.

Bradley continues: "Last year was cool - we were the first band on all day on the Sunday, it was absolutely bucketing down and we were on an outdoor stage.

"You begin to doubt yourself when stuff like that happens, but a glint of sunshine appeared and people came flooding in.

"We ended up playing to a big crowd and it was definitely our best festival show last year.

"It was actually a really nice feeling to get booked again this year, it feels like validation that we are heading in the right direction. We’re excited to be playing in the evening this year and it’s nice to see more local names on the line-up."

The move to Sheffield has played a massive role in Graces' continued development, and has seen them play most of the top venues there over the past 12 months.

Being among a thriving city music scene affords them the opportunities they feel they need to go as far as possible, but the pull of home means they won't be forgetting their roots in a hurry.

"Sheffield has been nothing but amazing to us since we got there," says Bradley.

"It’s really starting to feel like something special is building for us and it’s happening way faster than we imagined. Sheffield is our focus at the moment and it really does feel like home now.

"We’ll never forget where we came from but we needed to be in a place where there’s more people, more venues, more bands and more opportunities. It’s starting to get to the point here with the last couple of headline shows we’ve done that the majority of the crowd are people we don’t know personally, which we think is a big achievement.

"Cumbria is where it all started for us and we wouldn’t be the same band without that influence."

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Graces - completed by vocalist and guitarist Stephen Harrison, bassist Billy Marshall, and drummer Joe Carter - plan to slow down the live schedule as the summer draws to a close, and start work on their next EP.

The single releases in the past year or so have all shown promising signs of things to come, with the new single, Two, set to launch soon.

"We are currently in the process of making a music video for it which always presents a new set of challenges," says Bradley.

"The song is basically a track about fighting with your best friend, and how sometimes if you really care about somebody then you end up fighting, but it doesn’t matter because you know you’re never going to leave each other.

"We have been sneaking a couple of other new tunes into the set as we’ve been playing the same set of songs for the last year or so and feel like we want to spice it up a bit.

"Our most recent single, Hotel, was a bit more of a ballad, and I thought it might be harder to get people to engage with it when we play it live. It turns out the complete opposite is true!

"As soon as we start playing it, people become involved. It seems like the lyrics have caught people’s ears and Hotel has become a song that they care about.

"We’re heading back to the lab to write some of the best music we can. We’ve built a good enough foundation to now work on a single cohesive project that we can put everything into.

"We’re going to be going into the studio with a producer who’s working with some chart-topping bands right now, and we’re excited for the new material we’re going to be putting out.

"We’re going to be fairly quiet on shows in the next few months whilst we write and record an EP.

"We are legitimately going to a cottage in the country for a week to write and record all the demos which will be a new process for us. We’re excited for what the next year is going to bring and you will be seeing a lot more of us in 2019."

Graces appear at Odd Frog in Barrow on Thursday July 26, from 9pm, and The Source Collective in Carlisle on Friday, from 8pm. Entrance for both shows is payable on the door.

Catch Graces at Kendal Calling on the Yam Riot Stage this Sunday.