Queens Road Studio in Bury St Edmunds is helping to fulfil the dreams of young musicians
In a studio at the end of a garden in a quiet street a fledgling band lets rip. They are getting to grips with ‘screamo’ … the loud and shouty baby of emo and hardcore punk, with a nod to noise rock, if you’re thinking ‘what?’
Screaming the lyrics can be so tough on the throat until you master the technique that singer Ewan needs constant sips of water to soothe his vocal chords.
He has just turned 14. Drummer Sybbie was 15 in May. And they are already veterans of the local music scene … living their dream of performing in bands since they were in primary school aged eight and nine.
The new outfit, Senza Nome – Italian for no name and coined because it took them so long to decide what to be called – are just one of the groups being nurtured by Queens Road Studio in Bury St Edmunds.
Sybbie and Ewan are also long-time members of Queen Dogs, one of the highest-profile of the studio’s bands.
The dedicated couple pouring most of their free time into this extraordinary enterprise are college tutor Linzi Stivey and lifelong musician White, whose day job is in biomedical engineering at West Suffolk Hospital.
Every time they hear one of their bands play a gig they feel – in their own words – like proud grandparents.
Despite both working full time they devote a huge amount of time to making it possible for youngsters who love music to develop their passion and skills.
With gentle guidance, plus insistence on commitment and collective responsibility, young people explore their chosen genres, learn to play instruments, write songs, record, and perform in public,
Linzi and White – who has long been known just by his surname and prefers to keep it that way not least because their protegees might find his first name less than cool – started the studio in 2017.
Mondays and Tuesdays are QRS rehearsal nights. “We get in from work, have a bowl of soup, and get in here from 6pm to 9.30pm. We can’t do more than two nights a week at the moment,” says Linzi.
The bands’ energy is infectious. “We will come home from work tired, and think my God we are down here till 9.30, but then leave with a spring in our steps.
“When we started we had four bands. I think they thought we were a couple of old folk – we’re both not far off 60 now – then they saw White in his band 13th Chime, and when they saw him it was really cool.”
Linzi grew up in Bury, and has known White since they were teenagers.
She studied at Chelsea School of Art, did interior building design, moved into teaching, and is now a tutor in media and journalism at West Suffolk College.
“I’m very passionate about helping young people,” she says.
“With potential band members we get approached by them or their parents and we do a try out.
“Then we try and place them with the right other young people. Sometimes it might take six months until we get the right people, or it might happen at once.
“We put them in a band so if they don’t do their ‘homework’ they let the whole team down. They come here for an hour a week in term time.
“We love our QRS family … parents come up to us and say you have changed my son or daughter’s life.”
The experience is not only fun, it builds confidence, especially for young people who might be struggling to fit in at school.
“The difference in their confidence from when they come in here is amazing,” says White.
“A lot of young people feel they can’t express themselves at school, but here they feel there is no restriction to do that - they can leave their inhibitions at the door.”
Formal music lessons are not part of the package. They learn as they go along.
“We often start with punk songs because it’s easier. Some modern music is so complicated - we keep it as basic as we can at first,” he adds.
“We start at age eight, but our bands don’t leave until they get to 18 or 19,” says Linzi.
“We have an 11 and a 12 year old at the moment. It would be nice to get some younger ones, but they need a lot more guidance and support.”
Queens Road Studio was set up after they saw a friend’s son at a school of rock event.
“We had a lightbulb moment when we thought we could do better by also giving pastoral care.”
She says she is not musical at all - meaning she doesn’t play any instruments, although she loves music. At QRS her speciality is care and organisation, while White is the musician.
The garden shed where the bands rehearse and record was originally intended as Linzi’s art studio.
Now it is crammed with music kit - drums in one corner, guitars, keyboards, recording equipment, and just enough room left to fit in a five piece band.
White is also Bury born, and the use of his surname has stuck from primary school when lads had their names on the back of their football kit.
“Music is all I have really been into,” he says. “I remember when I was a toddler Mum going round the house singing. She liked The Carpenters. My sisters were very into Glam Rock.
“When I saw the Sex Pistols on Top of the Pops I found my own identity in music. Much to Mum’s disgust I went upstairs and slashed all my trousers, and cut the sleeves off her tartan coat.
“As a 13 year old all I wanted was to be in a band. But as a single parent family my mum couldn’t afford any equipment.
“I struggled with that for several years. So everyone who turns up here, if they have the desire and the passion, I will get them in and loan the gear.”
The guitarist, drummer and singer has played in a succession of bands and toured with punk band Chron Gen for around 10 years.
He is now with punk/goth group 13th Chime … who were his musical heroes long before he was invited to join.
Queens Road bands regularly go down a storm at gigs and festivals including Washing Machine live sessions at the Hunter Club in Bury, and at the Portland Arms in Cambridge. They also shine in competitions.
On June 3 QRS ran a stage, Revolting Youth, at Strawberry Fair in Cambridge with six of their bands - Queen Dogs, Sub-Liminal, Manic Stanley on their first public outing, Sidewinder, Lyra and The Daze - among those performing.
It was the final gig for The Daze, one of the studio’s first ever bands, whose members are now heading off to pastures new.
“They headlined as the sun went down on them. It was emotional,” said Linzi. Drummer Sybbie stepped in to perform with them as well as with Queen Dogs, powering through two half hour sets.
“The focus on the stage was under 18s. We also had a 13 yr old DJ, Kai, from the Lake District. All the crew were from Digital Saints Music Production course from West Suffolk College.
“The day was brilliant. All 25 stewards were parents of the band members and Jozie Stivey was our head steward and general dogsbody on the day.
“All the bands and their parents said it was an amazing opportunity and a great day. We had a couple of parents cry with pride.”
They did three gigs at West Suffolk College over the winter to finance their appearance at the festival, which regularly attracts 30,000 visitors.
Linzi and White worked tirelessly before the event spending several days on site orgaising everything for their stage right down to the toilets.
QRS also raises money for charity by doing special gigs. And that recently brought a bonus in the form of help to buy new drums.
“Our drum kit died last year and charity fundraiser Diane Langland, who we have helped to raise money for charity Walk This Way, is raising money for us,” says Linzi. “Without that kit we wouldn’t be able to exist,” White adds.
Their bands record under the label QRS Records, so that they can get their music onto channels like Spotify.
Covid made it more difficult to keep the studio going, but they managed it.
“The first summer of Covid our bands rehearsed outside in the garden and our neighbours were wonderful about it,” says Linzi.
They have hopes of expanding in the future. “If we could work part time, and we had some time in the day, we would love to do groups for mums, pensioners, and adults with learning disabilities.