The clutch of the forehead, the crease of the brow, the frustrated sweep of the blonde tangles. The classic picture of the artist swatting away all of the flitting ideas in his head to best explain his art.
"Sometimes I can't make sense of the modern world," says 20-year-old Jay Treadell, gripping tight at his bottle-blonde forelock, and wrestling with the core meaning behind his music. "Sometimes things just don't process and do my head in. It's the flipside of things, when something is bothering me or something has really enthralled me. I don't think it ever meets in the middle - if someone's content or fine or not worried then they must never think about things that they see or do or hear. I'm either blown away by something or something shocks me or really gets me. I think if I can put that across to people on any scale then that's it."
The Screaming Lights are one of those bands; the deep thinkers, the life scourers, the melodic mounds of meaning. Jay won't let on as to the precise topics he's singing about - usually a blazing klaxon that there's 'nothing to say here' - but one skim through his instrumental palette and it's clear there's universes of ideas to explore. The epic synth storm of 'Phenomena', recalling White Lies, The Killers and Interpol racing rockets down a wind tunnel. The warehouse rave blares and techno android hissings of 'GMN', giving their freewheeling alt.rock a Gatecrasher gleam. The pummeling piano of 'Grandfather Clock' with its 'Born To Run' sense of speeding down a 1974 freeway to Asbury Park. The whisky lounge atmospheres of 'Air In A Lung', bringing to mind a mogadon Radiohead. Big Indie-by-numbers? Pah. This is genre-bursting experimentalism of the grandest order, a band blinded to all boundaries by the yodel of Yorke.
And inventive, if their history is anything to go by, by force of nature. Screaming Lights were one of those bands: the Nirvana obsessed long-hair kids who, aged 13, decided to be a band at school in Heighton, Liverpool, before any of them could play an instrument. Jay already owned a guitar so he bagsied the fret-fiddling role, James Connor plumped for drumming and Alan Breen got bullied into the bass. The three of them rehearsed fortnightly with a variety of singers, trying to write Green Day style songs but unable to come up with something so dumbass. Instead, at 15, their "ridiculous, very naÃ¯ve" songwriting somehow spewed out 'GMN' and a fresh vein of tech-rock pioneering opened up.
"It is as aggressive as it sounds," says Jay, "it's not deliberately over the top. That was me as a fifteen-year-old kid. Not in a problem child way, it was just the way I was. Everyone was like 'do you realise how unique that song is?' It's very unique in its structure, the chorus is at the end and it's very sharp and exciting. I remember writing it, it was exactly what I was thinking at that time, in that five or ten minutes. If a song could be a Polaroid picture."
It wasn't until the band had broken up to study music tech at Carmel College, found that the college had its own recording studio and reformed - with Jay singing and new guitarist Max Goldberg completing the line-up - to enter its annual Battle Of The Bands that the tune avalanche really descended. They wrote a clutch of future hit singles in the space of a few weeks - 'Phenomena', 'Glow', 'Body, Spirit And Mind' - tunes with such breadth of vision and instrumentation they could've been written by a musical United Nations.
"I've always been into different things," Jay explains. "I like writing with a drum machine or turning a guitar up or playing the piano. Everything could be used in some way, I can always find a way of making it more interesting through different mediums. It wasn't so much the songs had style, the vibe has always been a sort of expression, in the most appropriate way. It's hard with this band because to people who don't know it and as it's just coming to light to the public it does look like it's a bit all over the place. I'm looking forward to the real record coming out because it'll seal up the gaps."
Naturally, they won the contest hands down. And two years of touring Liverpool and the UK's club circuit as Clockwork, recording five demos at Carmel's studio, supporting the likes of Mystery Jets and Late Of The Pier and in January landing a deal with eclectic independent label Anti- Records (home to notables such as Tom Waits, Bob Mould and Jason Lytle), making that "real record" a growing blip on the horizon. Jay promises "more guitar tracks, more interesting things going on both vocally and musically. We always think 'where can it go? What can these five chords do?' It opens up and becomes what it is as a song and a piece of art rather than something people would expect to hear. It'll make sense as a whole. As I start getting closer to doing it I'm hoping that the artwork and the lyrics and the execution of the songs will become 'right, I get it now', this direct and threaded record."
We told you they were deep thinkers, right? And also, with so many branches of the rock tree their for the clambering, quite possibly the band for all audiences.
"We've got a lot of songs and there's so many shades in there," says Jay. "We supported Late Of The Pier and thought it was just going to be full of people who want to dance so we did 'GMM' and other songs that provoke that, not necessarily to do what the audience wanted but if that vibe is there and there's no way we can escape it we may as well find that part of our set. Hopefully one day we'll do an hour and a half set where we can play everything."
Before those giddy heights are reached, however, one hurdle will need to be vaulted. As the owner of what's become known in the trade as a 'dolorous indie baritone', how are you going to react to the legions of reviewers who are going to say you just sing like Interpol/Editors/White Lies/anyone else even vaguely Curtis-esque?
Jay clutches his brow. "I think its bollocks. When I was younger I liked the voices of Ian Curtis, Jeff Buckley and Thom Yorke and I had fucking no chance of singing like Thom Yorke or Jeff Buckley but I could do Ian Curtis, so I did when I was younger. But I've never heard Interpol or Editors lose it where it becomes uncontrolled, like I do in 'GMN'. I understand where it comes from and I was expecting it. I can't wait for the record to come out because there's a lot more there."
A lot more? You've no idea how much. Screaming Lights, you see, are one of those bands...