AS seasoned veterans of the UK indie scene, the Coral are no strangers to the British festival season.

For frontman James Skelly, this bank holiday weekend marks the beginning of another summer of open-air gigs played to muddy fields filled with revellers swigging cider in the sun.

The Wirral-based five piece’s first festival date of the year comes on Friday, ahead of their Main Stage appearance at the Neighbourhood Weekender in Victoria Park on Sunday.

And Skelly, who has been playing with the Coral since 1996, still gets excited when this time of year comes around - with hits like In the Morning, Dreaming of You and Pass it On seemingly perfectly designed to cater for a festival audience.

He said: “We’ve played a lot of festivals over the years, and I like how we get the chance to convert people who might never have seen us play before.

“Sometimes you can’t hear anything and you’re just winging it because you don’t get the chance to have a soundcheck.

“We’re quite old school, because we don’t use things like in-ear monitors - we just get up and see what happens, but that’s part of the excitement.

“You don’t really have time to think about it too much, but some of our best gigs have been at festivals.”

Neighbourhood Festival will mark the Coral’s first gig in Warrington since the Viola Beach memorial concert at the Parr Hall in 2016 - a gig arranged within a month of the band and their manager Craig Tarry tragically dying in a car crash in Sweden.

Looking back on that night two years ago - which also featured fellow Neighbourhood Weekender acts the Courteeners and Blossoms - James said: “We’ve played at the Parr Hall a few times but the Viola Beach gig was a very sensitive event.

“We didn’t know the band but I knew Craig a bit and we were asked to play, so we went along and played our songs because that’s all we could do.

“It was pretty heavy, but it was great how everyone got involved.”

With the Coral having been credited as being an influence on Viola Beach, James is now also playing a key role in the emergence of Blossoms - the hotly-tipped Stockport indie band who are playing after Skelly and co on the Main Stage on Sunday night.

He was the producer for both of their albums, with latest LP Cool Like You released last month in the wake of Blossoms’ chart-topping eponymous debut release in 2016.

James said: “I don’t think there are any limits to how far they can go.

“Their singer Tom Ogden is just a really good songwriter - they’re really good lads and they’re a proper band.

“It was a pleasure to work with them - with the latest album there was no rehearsal time so we just did it all in the studio.

“Obviously it’s a lot harder to be in a band nowadays, but I think they were the only band in the iTunes top 100 last week.

“It’s not the easiest time to be in a band but I think they will do really well.”

But James is not overly concerned by the music industry’s current aversion to guitar-based bands.

He added: “It’s not that indie isn’t popular with people, it’s just that whoever the tastemakers are think it’s not for now.

“There is still an appetite for indie bands and people are still turning up to watch them in their thousands at festivals like the Neighbourhood Weekender.

“It’s not like Liam Gallagher isn’t selling any albums or bands like Blossoms aren’t doing well.”

The Coral’s ninth album Move Through the Dawn is scheduled to drop in August, their second release since the end of the band’s four-year hiatus ended in 2015 - following on from 2016’s Distance Inbetween.

And James believes the band are now as solid as ever, more than two decades on from when they first formed.

He said: “The last release probably got the best reception we’ve had for an album.

“Whereas the last one was written around riffs, this next album will be more song-based and going back to being about the melodies.

“We’ve been back for three years now and it’s like we’ve never been away.

“We’re a band and this is what we do - we’re all best mates and we still love doing it.

“When we don’t love doing it we won’t do it anymore.”