#2 – PROTECT THE TARGET
Protect The Target were a five-piece pop-punk band from Bury St Edmunds. Formed in April 2009, the band very quickly became a sensation around East Anglia, took off around the UK and were hotly tipped for great things, before abruptly splitting in April 2011. As part of our ongoing series celebrating Fallen Heroes of the local scene, Dom Arbon raises a glass.
Before 2009 there wasn’t a lot for the young people of Bury St Edmunds to do and, not to sound ungrateful, there never had been – nothing that could tickle the fancy of this young person regularly anyway. There has always been a cinema and there has always been the bowling alley, but there was that something lacking that got anyone who was anyone talking and excited: Music. There had, for many years, been the annual BurySOUND Band Competition but, one or two bands aside, there had never been that spark. Then one damp night in November 2009, something happened; a crowd descended on one place, for a birthday party that declared Bury a fun place to be a kid – for the next two years at least.
Though the local music has gone quiet again in “Britain’s Floral Town”, there was a time when all anyone could talk about, get excited about or bitch about was when the next time a much-loved local band were going to cram into a tiny, sweaty (and occasionally shitty) basement venue called The Old Maltings. It hides beneath the Lucky Break snooker club around the corner from what has become the centre of Bury’s festering and much famed/shamed night life: the nightclubs Vision and Big B’s on Station Hill, where all you can hear is the cringey chat-up line or lip smacking of that guy (who you know has a girlfriend) kissing someone else’s girlfriend; “classy” is a word that comes to mind. The Old Maltings was the place where bands loved to play and kids loved to hang and between April 2009 and April 2011 the venue, along with Pot Black (another snooker club) and occasionally Ruin (now The LP), regularly saw aptly-named local legends Protect The Target (PTT) gracing the stage.
At their inception in April 2009 PTT’s lead singer, Dan Brandon, had always set their ambitions on not being “that band” who always played their home town, so their first show was at B2 in Norwich. Shows in Cambridge and Norwich became an regular part of the young band’s life, although venturing out of Bury was an issue due to the fact that two of the members, guitarists Lew Parker and Ben Cavanagh, were still only 16 and 15 years old respectively. Their initial sounds were somewhat immature “beatdown-doublekick-pop-punk”, taking influence from bands such as Four Year Strong and Set Your Goals. Though nothing ground-breaking, they had a certain charm to them which gained them quite a few fans in a relatively short amount of time; songs such as What’s The Deal With Orange Peel? and Yes! No! Maybe, Go!, with drummer Sam Nunn showing off his double kick speed, were never going to light up Wembley Arena, but were a good starting point for a band yet to find their own sound. They played the BurySound competition, but at this point, nobody seemed to care other than their closest friends, with even the judges deeming that what they did had been done before and saying silly things like, “the bassist and the drummer need to make more eye contact”. That said, they ended up coming second in the audience vote in the first round, and (Bury’s local newspaper) the Bury Free Pressnoted their performance as “The most polished and well rehearsed (of the night).”
Time passed, with PTT still slipping under the radar of the Bury St Edmunds music scene, until the aforementioned night in November 2009, which saw the band play Dan Brandon’s own SURPRISE birthday party. Everyone who knew anyone crammed in to the Old Maltings to kick off what would become a two year reign of pop-punk and metal nights in Bury St Edmunds, with local bands such as Vide Infra (RIP), This Sudden Injury, Rules Of Romance (RIP) and The Easy Life (RIP) playing regularly in The Old Maltings and Pot Black. The scene was alive and kicking, the town’s youth were buzzing with the question “When is the next gig?!”. The flurry of well-promoted, well-put together and exhilarating shows paved the way for more well known bands to come from all over Britain, Europe and the USA to have a go. Bands such as Deaf Havana, Me Vs Hero, Ghost Of A Thousand, Paige, Lower Than Atlantis, TRC, Man Overboard and Dead By April all came to sleepy old Suffolk to see what all the fuss was about.
PTT continued to write new songs and had obviously matured as a band, finally settling on their own sound and sorting out their line up by bringing in Callum Grant on bass. By now they were being more closely compared to bands such as You Me At Six, showing obvious signs of advancement. They still couldn’t shake the poppy edge they had though. The song Waterslides and Car Rides epitomised good lyric writing with catchy hooks, yet still showed them as a serious band. It wasn’t until the release of their first EP Closer that they began to gain real notoriety inside and outside of Bury. The EP sold out in pre-orders alone – quite an achievement for the young fivesome. Having enough pop-goodness mixed with a more serious, indie(ish) influence, the song Closer was the pick of the bunch in my eyes and was later also released on their digital-only “3P” (as I like to call it) ‘10. It has a infusion only a musical chef could cook up, bringing in punchy verses with an emotional yet catchy sing-along chorus.
Although short, the '10 EP really showed off how far the band had come in just two years. The song Eyes gave their fans something completely different, showing a more genuine, emotional side which not many people could have predicted. It showed off the vocals of Brandon in a song he later described as his “baby" with the band’s producer Arthur Walwin going on to describe it as "the best thing (he had) ever recorded”. This release went on to get an 8/10 in online magazine Ourzone describing the band as one that had potential to be “the start of the return of guitar bands in the mainstream" and gaining a 4/5 in online magazine Alter The Press.
Sadly here was the end of the road for Protect The Target. Despite the critical acclaim they had been racking up, with upcoming university exploits and, in certain quarters, a loss of interest, the band called it a day in April 2011. This isn’t just the tale of one band though; this is also about the death of a music scene. Along with PTT went the interest of local gig-goers, with many bands also deciding to call it a day. There was one last hoorah with a short burst of new (mostly metal) bands, but none were ever really going to make any headlines.
Let’s not give PTT’s egos any more of a boost however, because there were some other factors leading to the end of such a short-but-sweet burst of action in Bury St Edmunds. With a scene growing in popularity and gaining a name for itself outside of the town, naturally there came an influx of new promoters wanting to milk the rock cow dry. One night in particular which stands out for me (having been involved with one of the bands who were supposed to play) comes from Abandon All Hope Promotions. The owner of said promotion company booked a venue without confirming or putting a deposit down. Every promoter knows how to book a venue, other than this one, as it came to light that this wasn’t the first time this had happened to him. A band called Flood Of Redcame down from Scotland to play but, with the venue not confirmed, they drove all the way to Bury for nothing and – in an irony no-one could make up – they abandoned all hope of playing for Abandon All Hope Promotions. Instances like this only helped further sap the life out of everything that had been built up.
Right now in Bury St Edmunds, we have The Apex, a new £17m venue which has already seen the likes of Funeral For A Friendtake to the stage. So while there may not be a lot to shout about in terms of the present music scene in Bury St Edmunds, maybe all we need is a few big names to roll through The Apex to get some creative juices flowing. Maybe we need another Protect The Target to get something going. For now though, we sit and wait.
Protect The Target’s EP Closer is available on iTunes and Spotify, and the ‘10 EP is available for free download from the PTT Bandcamp page. PTT’s Ben Cavanagh and Lew Parker are currently playing together in Monet, and you can find out more about them here.
Formed April 2009 in Bury St Edmunds, split April 2011.
Dan Brandon - Vocals
Ben Cavanagh - Guitar
Lew Parker - Guitar
Callum Grant - Bass
Sam Nunn - Drums
Demos (2-track EP, Toonteen, 2009)
Closer (5-track EP, self-release, 2010)
'10 (3-track digital EP, self-release 2010)
Words: Dom Arbon