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“I’ve always been fascinated by 90s dance music,” Timo explains. “All those old, 90s House sounds you don’t hear as much, but they’re always in your head. The Balearic kind of stuff.”
Liverpool in lockdown had Timo Tierney thinking back to a more carefree era of music, dance and freedom in the city.
“My sister used to bring me home these old State cassettes of Lee Butler and Mark Simon,” he remembers. “l’ve still got the New Year’s Eve ’94 one. When you listen to it, every one of those songs is brilliant! I was only about 12 then, but I was thinking about how good it must have been, going out on a Saturday and coming home on a Monday, when you’d had a really good time.”
Timo began work on ten tracks inspired by 90s-era Liverpool culture in April. Only eight days later, he had single-handedly recorded and produced City Pets, using the GarageBand app.
“Nick from The Tea Street Band had always said stuff to me about doing songs on his phone, and I’d think, that’s mad!” Frontman Timo, 38, admits. “I’m a bit of a technophobe, but I couldn’t get into a practice room and use live guitar or live drums, so I started learning to use GarageBand.
“Being in lockdown, I wasn’t that tired. All I’d done was walk my dog, Rupert, for our hour of exercise. I was getting up about five in the morning, and it gave me a means to be active,” he explains. “It was either that, or end up watching Beauty & The Beast again!
“It was something I did out of boredom, but once I started learning how to use GarageBand, I couldn’t stop thinking about it,” Timo says. “All recorded in my living room, with no amps or fancy mics. This was my slant on proper Dance music, done the easiest way, with no cost and completed alone. The timing of it all, putting videos together using old 90s Liverpool nightclub footage, getting it mastered, it’s all been done in about two and a half weeks.”
As well as getting to grips with GarageBand, Timo found himself with the time to reconnect to his work as a musician.
“I do a guitar group, teaching people on a Tuesday evening in The Florrie. I play Beatles’ songs or The Stones, things they want to learn, for three hours. So, the guitar became more of a tool for work,’ he says. “I was getting home and I wasn’t really picking up the guitar and playing for fun. Suddenly, not doing the teaching, I was picking up my guitar in a different way again.”
Okiro’s first two singles, NEWSE and Deep Love, are described as odes to the early summer parties of 2020 that never were, and the twilight mornings that followed a long night of partying during the days of 90s Rave culture.
“I don’t write songs the way Bob Dylan or Jamie Webster play guitar; thinking of cords, then the words, and chorus. I find it easier when I get a drum beat, and find notes that I like on the keyboard, which is why I liked GarageBand, and kind of, building songs like Lego.”
Timo’s first offering as a solo artist, his City Pets project is headed up under the name of Okiro.
“I’ve been in the band with my best-mates for near enough 20 years now,” he says, of the revered, Tea Street outfit. “Doing something on my own, I’ve put myself out of my comfort zone,” he admits. “It would’ve felt a bit egotistical, using my own name, which I’m definitely not in any way.
“I typed, ‘African surnames’ into my phone, because I used to love African footballers, like Roger Miller and JayJay Okocha,’ he explains. “The top one was Akiro, which looks really good, and when it said it meant, ‘Baby with fat cheeks’, I thought to myself, well, I’ll definitely coming out of this lockdown with a set of fat cheeks, so that’ll do me!”
Similarly nostalgic, the City Pets album name was also inspired by Timo’s childhood, growing up in 90s Liverpool.
“I wrote lists of things I remembered, probably inspired by about 1995. City Pets was where we used to always say we’d meet up when I was in senior school at Cardinal Heenan. I loved City Pets!” He laughs. “It made me think, being in lockdown, without being too mad about it, we were all locked up like pets across the city.”
As Liverpool joins the rest of the country in gradually leaving lockdown, Timo is optimistic about what this means for the future of our city’s prolific music scene.
“There’s a lot of concern about the venues in town and venues around the country. I saw a couple were shutting in Manchester, good venues, and some in Liverpool that are struggling. I’d like to think we’ll go back to having five or six gigs a week people can go to,” he says. “I remember going to The Zanzibar on a Wednesday night, watching bands; whether it be college bands or touring bands and young bands coming through, and Liverpool had kind of lost that a bit.
“I never had any thoughts of performing these songs live, but I’m probably going to do a couple of gigs, and hopefully it will be the same, if not better. I’d like to think that when we come out of lockdown, everyone will want to go and watch gigs. It will hopefully give people that inspiration.”
Meanwhile, the self-described, second-best guitarist in Tea Street Band, has remained busy at work with his bandmates.
“Tea Street are doing another album. We’ve got eleven tracks demoed, and we’re hoping we can get into the studio and get it released by the end of the year,’ Timo says. “In the same way I’ve done this Okiro album, we’ve all been able to do that, and it’ll be great to see Dominic, Nick and Lee all together rather than calls and sending songs and ideas over WhatsApp.”
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