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9 May 2014, 06:00
Joe Lean and George from One Night Only's new musical offering.
We asked BOYBAND to tell us a little bit about themselves:
“Boyband is seen as a dirty word,” says Joe Lean, back in the spotlight, on his own terms, “but I love pop music. The first ever boybands are what are considered the biggest and greatest rock’n’roll bands that have ever existed. So it’s trying to flip it back on itself and own it a bit and say that there’s nothing to be ashamed of being boys who want to make people kiss.”
Boyband are a filthy rock sensation, a storm of biker leather and stunt rider melodies, and the most accidental of indie supergroups. When the tang went out of the Jing Jang Jong, Joe spent a couple of years out, acting, writing songs and working out what to do with them. He met guitarist Stuart Wolf-Murray and began a year-long song-writing partnership that left them at the start of 2014 with a raft of great tunes – among them ‘B-Side’, “an empowerment song; It’s an A-side, but the line goes ‘stop stepping like a B-side, I wanna play you on the radio’” – but no band to record them with.
Through mutual friends, Joe asked Bobby Cook, ex of his old Vertigo labelmates Goldhawks, to help them record some demos; he loved the songs so much he insisted on joining the band. So, halfway to a full line-up already, Joe roped in his old drummer James ‘Bummer’ Craig “because he’s so good” and James’ brother George Craig – model, restaurateur and singer with One Night Only – joined on bass since ONO were enjoying some down-time. “It turns out he’s a better musician than all of us combined,” Joe says. “He didn’t even play bass. The fact that we’ve all been through similar experiences has pushed us forward, we all understand each other.”
Boyband rehearsed so hard for four months that the mirrors in the make-up salon next door kept falling off the walls. It should’ve been terrible luck, but Boyband flew. Working with producer Matt Terry they put together demos and released them online to a flurry of interest. ‘Motorcycle Boy’ and its gritty performance video directed by Mario Testino’s first assistant Alex Franco showcased their thrillingly raw euphoric garage pop and cult movie references - “It’s a reference from Rumblefish,” Joe explains, “it’s about evolving, like Motorcycle Boy does” – while ‘What Happened To You’ and ‘One Call Away’ crept onto Soundcloud and radio. By their first gig at The Edition Hotel on London’s Berners Street there were smartly attired queues around the block. “Because it was a posh hotel they gave everyone umbrellas,” Joe says. “There’s a great black and white shot of hundreds of people with umbrellas in the pouring rain.”
Inside, the crowds found an energised and revitalised new band hammering ruthlessly through the most electrified livewire rock’n’roll in recent memory. “The songs are desperate,” Joe explains. “I find life quite desperate. Life is hard, it’s about swimming harder than you’ve ever swum before and running faster than you’ve ever run. I’m glad that comes across onstage. You have to have quite a lot of stamina to get through the songs. Considering we’re only playing a 35-minute set, I feel like I’ve run a marathon when it’s done. I really wanna start sounding like the bands that made me like music. When I was thirteen-years-old and walking to the bus stop listening to music that was making me walk down the street thinking I was the absolute dog’s bollocks, I’m trying to write songs for thirteen-year-olds to have that same feeling.”
The thrill of Boyband is sheer creativity given vent rather than any need to prove themselves. “It feels like starting from scratch,” Joe says. “It feels like we’ve taken all the good bits from the things that happened before but this feels completely fresh and new, it’s completely different to anything the rest of us have done beforehand.” And what lessons has Joe brought to Boyband from his previous life? He grins. “Don’t care too much about what people think and try fucking hard.”