Novella @ Monto Water Rats, London 20/12/12

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Photograph by Angela Stephenson

It’s the week before Christmas, and I’m at the Water Rats near Kings Cross watching Novella open for Echo Lake. An indie rock neo-punk band made up of three girls (Sophie, Suki and Hollie), Novella is what super-hyped sister trio Haim might sound like if they’d grown up with less parental supervision. But unlike Haim, the girls of Novella limit their chatter between songs, pausing throughout their set only to take a sip of their Becks beers. An industry-light affair the audience seems to be comprised of “genuine fans” – hurrah!

It’s a joy to watch Novella because they’re relaxed and comfortable with their own skin. Reminiscent of Norwegian rock band Razika, another all-girl group, they take a laid-back approach to grungy punk pop. Their music is a bit difficult to dance to, and their lyrics are unintelligible at times, but their layered guitar music possesses a captivating warmth which dominates their performance.

Novella play for about forty minutes, treating the audience to every song in their repertoire. Songs like ‘He’s My Morning,’ and ‘You’re Not that Cool’ demonstrate that there’s an unpretentious intelligence behind their music which makes it more relatable. Novella’s music is a welcome respite from the heavily produced electronica that’s taken over the airwaves recently, and harkens back to bands like Le Tigre and even Shampoo and Bananarama.

It’s ‘Mary’s Gun,’ however, which is the absolute gem of the night. ‘Hold me in your tiny hands,’ lead vocalist Hollie mutters at the audience, her woozy vocals echoing against the walls of the venue.

After Novella finish their set, Echo Lake takes the stage. I saw them open earlier this year for The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, so it’s lovely to see them again – this time as headliners. Although Echo Lake’s album Wild Peace is synth pop perfection, I prefer their live performance over their recorded music. Lead singer Linda Jarvis’s vocals are epic and boisterous, whereas on the band’s albums there are points where she practically whisper-talks.

Tracks like ‘Another Day’ and ‘Wild Peace,’ are crowd favorites, but for me ‘Further Down’ is their best live song – “I will bring you down” Jarvis sings, unconvincingly, because her pitch-perfect performance of it is so uplifting. Echo Lake finishes out the night with – appropriately enough – a performance of ‘Last Song of the Year’ which seems as if it was written for this night, an agnostic Christmas carol. At the end of the night, I exit the venue feeling buoyant: Novella and Echo Lake have convinced me that there’s much to look forward to in 2013.