Her's: Liverpool's indie scene reels at death of 'the loveliest lads'

There’s a sense of shock within the Liverpool music community today, as people come to terms with the tragic death of two of its rising stars. Audun Laading and Stephen Fitzpatrick, who made up the band Her’s, were travelling to a gig in California with their tour manager Trevor Engelbrektson on Wednesday night when all three were killed in a traffic accident. The news was confirmed by the band’s record label, Heist or Hit, on Thursday evening.

Since moving to Liverpool to study at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts (LIPA), graduating in 2016, Fitzpatrick, from Barrow-in-Furness, and Laading, from Flekkerøy in Norway, saw their friendship bear fruit in an exciting and infectious brand of music that won fans across Britain. They were exporting that success to North America with a run of 19 sold-out tour dates that included six shows in three days at SXSW festival in Austin, Texas.

Tonight, many in Liverpool are gripped with raw feeling at this sudden loss. “Every person you’ll speak to would tell you the same thing: they were just so incredibly lovely and genuine and fun,” says Nathalie Candel, who acted as tour manager for the band during a run of UK dates last year. “I wished every band were like them. They always made people laugh, always joking, having banter and just being really positive. I can’t think of a bad word to say about them.”

It’s a view echoed by Martin Isherwood, head of music at LIPA, who saw Fitzpatrick and Laading’s friendship develop as students under his tutelage, then witnessed them becoming a Liverpool band despite their having been outsiders. “They were so close. Audun’s accent became so close to Stephen’s – they were almost indistinguishable from each other! They managed to sound like a Liverpool band even though Audun was from Norway and Stephen was from Barrow. It’s really nice that people are calling them a Liverpool band: they feel like a Liverpool band. Just great writers, great musicians, great people.”

Liverpool may be fiercely proud of its own, but gladly embraces those who wish to lay down roots in the city and contribute to its cultural life. Fitzpatrick and Laading were prime examples of that. They became recognisable faces from the bars, venues and streets of Liverpool: they belonged. Jez Wing, a music teacher, keyboard player with Echo and the Bunnymen, and fan of Her’s has fond memories of chatting to the pair while walking down Bold Street, “talking about how brilliant I thought their music was and how brilliant I thought they were. They were really fired up for the tour. The loveliest lads you can imagine – it’s a huge loss to the Liverpool music scene. Horrible.”

“Americans got their music,” Wing continues. “I think that was the beauty about them, that they travelled so well. The spirit of their music is so fun and creative; such flair and musicianship, and humour.”

The Orielles, close friends of Her’s.

The Orielles, close friends of Her’s. Photograph: PR

That humour was self-deprecating – something regularly remarked upon, and a trait now remembered by some of the band’s closest friends with great fondness. Sidonie Hand-Halford and Alex Stephens, of the Orielles, counted themselves among Fitzpatrick and Laading’s closest friends as well as neighbours. “Both of them never failed to make me laugh, they were absolutely hilarious,” Stephens remembers. “Ste gave me so much confidence to play my own music – he was the first person I ever played my music with, he really backed me. They only lived two streets across, and we used to just pop round to theirs, and vice-versa. Both of them were just absolutely lovely people and I was always happy after having met them.”

“Their infectious energy and lust for life will be my overriding memory of them,” says Hand-Halford. “They always brightened up a room. I remember going on a lot of nights out with them and they’d always be so full of energy, always having a great boogie.”

Liam Brown is a labelmate of Her’s under his Pizzagirl moniker, and toured with the band last year. As with everyone else who came into contact with the pair, he speaks of Fitzpatrick and Laading with the highest regard. “What’s really sad is that we’re not going to hear any more music from them. They were such great people – really warm and funny – but also more than that. They’ll get so many new fans to their music now, but in the most tragic circumstances.”

These two young artists lived with great vigour and happiness. Tonight, their music is a salve for those still reeling from their deaths. It is ringing out in the bars and venues in Liverpool they frequented, and their impact will ring out for longer, and further.


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