Electronica with bells on

LIGHTING UP NELSON: Neon are Brendon Grant, Ryan Beehre and Paul Hargreaves.
LIGHTING UP NELSON: Neon are Brendon Grant, Ryan Beehre and Paul Hargreaves.

Three middle-aged men practising electronic music in her garage probably isn't quite what a 92-year-old Stoke grandmother has in mind for Friday night fun.

But Brendon Grant's nana, who is still a full-time accountant, apparently "doesn't mind because she can't hear anything," laughs her grandson.

Grant, alongside best mate Ryan Beehre of Minuit and friend Paul Hargreaves, make up Neon, a trio of performers ready to take the cathedral stage by storm in this year's Light Nelson festival.

The makeshift band has been meeting in the garage like teenagers for at least two hours a week for the past four months, ensuring the electronic music spectacular they bring to the festival each night is authentic and professional.

Grant and Hargreaves met four years ago when working near each other in Nelson and have been making music ever since.

"Brendon wheels and deals and has a general interest in things going on in Nelson, so we naturally struck up a friendship," said Hargreaves.

Grant has been a professional musician for years, touring Europe with his London band and Minuit's Beehre was a "natural fit" for the venture, said Hargreaves.

Hargreaves has also been a long-time lover of all things musical, and it is his collection of analogue vintage synthesisers and drum machines that make up the key components of next week's shows.

"Using old synthesisers has become really popular now, but up until a few years ago people used to throw them out or try and upgrade to the latest digital things.

"I stuck with the sounds I really liked," he said.

His hoard is impressive, featuring a Korg MS-20, a Roland TR-808 and a Roland MC-202, all in pristine condition.

The show, performed each night in the cathedral, will be an extravagant presentation of light and music, timed to the church bells.

Hargreaves is persistent in stressing Neon is not a group of "boffins" turning up with a laptop with everything pre-made.

"What we're doing is totally live, with all the elements of danger that come into that," he said.

"I always believe music sounds like the instrument it came out of, and these instruments have a real warmth and woodiness to them."

Grant said the main difference between the style of electronic music the men are presenting and what the rest of the electronic music industry is doing is the hands-on aspect.

"There are knobs and dials and switches, which people love to see being worked. You can't do that with a laptop."

Hargreaves said it would be the easiest thing in the world for the trio to "go out there and wing it", but they are trying to make sure they give Nelsonians the musical experience they deserve this chilly season.

Alongside performing, Hargreaves is also acting as marketing director for the Light Nelson festival, creating promotional posters and advertising.

"Kids are really short changed in the middle of winter here. There's nothing to look forward to, and there's no magic in the darkness," he said.

"In the UK, you've got Christmas and things are lit up, you've got Halloween. There's nothing here."

The trio particularly want to thank Bishop of Nelson Richard Ellena and Dean of Nelson Nick Kirk from the Christ Church cathedral for being so welcome in opening their chapel to Nelsonians for the festival.

"They've been really understanding and open," said Hargreaves.

Following their nightly performances at Light Nelson, Hargreaves and Grant will gear up to perform at the 20th Nelson Arts Festival.

The Nelson Mail