Remembering Viola Beach: the story behind their album

13 February 2024, 14:49

On 13th February 2016, the world lost a promising new indie band. Radio X tells the story of Kris Leonard, River Reeves, Tomas Lowe, Jack Dakin, and their manager Craig Tarry and celebrates their music.

Radio X

By Radio X

Viola Beach's 2016 press shot
Viola Beach's 2016 press shot. Picture: Press

In 2016, we paid tribute to the young Warrington band Viola Beach by hosting a very special playback session of their debut album, a day ahead of its release.

Following the tragic death of band members Kris Leonard, River Reeves, Tomas Lowe, Jack Dakin, and their manager Craig Tarry in a car crash in Sweden on 13TH February 2016, their families decided to release a posthumous debut album in their memory.

In a show presented by the Communion label's Maz Tappuni - who worked closely with the band - we played all nine tracks of their eponymous LP, and featured tributes from the band members' family, friends and fellow musicians.

Listen to the album playback on Global Player here:

Radio X Viola Beach album playback
Radio X Viola Beach album playback. Picture: Radio X

The band formed in their hometown of Warrington, Cheshire and released their debut single, Swings And Waterslides on their own label, Fuller Beans. Five years on from the tragedy, friends and colleagues of Viola Beach have paid tribute to the band by covering this song in a special charity recording.

Viola Beach’s second single was Boys That Sing, which was released on the Communion Records label on 22 January 2016.

Viola Beach - Boys That Sing (Official Music Video)

All four members of the group were killed, along with their manager Craig Tarry, died in a car crash in Sweden in the early hours of Saturday 13th February, 2016. The group were on their way back from playing the Where Is The Music festival on the Friday when their car fell off a bridge just outside Stockholm and landed 82 feet below in the Södertälje canal.

Viola Beach in May 2015: Jack Dakin, Kris Leonard, River Reeves and Tom Lowe.
Viola Beach in May 2015: Jack Dakin, Kris Leonard, River Reeves and Tom Lowe. Picture: John Davidson Photos / Alamy Stock Photo

Manager Terry aged 32, frontman Kris Leonard, (19) guitarist River Reeves (19), bassist Tomas Lowe (27) and drummer Jack Dakin (24) all died in the accident. They were driving back to the UK to support their friends Blossoms at a gig in Guildford that night.

The Communion label said in a statement: "Viola Beach had only recently come into the Communion family, and had everything going for them – great songs, passion, talent, drive… everything that a band should have. To sit down with the band was to sit down with a group of guys whose band you wanted to be in, and to be in the presence of a band who knew just what it would take to make it."

Viola Beach - Swings and Waterslides (Lyrics)

"This is why the band had been in Sweden, rather than sit back and wait for it to happen to them, Kris, River, Jack and Tom were determined to go out into the world and play every show they could until the world was singing along with them, and now that dream has been sadly taken away from all of us.”

Coldplay - Boys That Sing (Viola Beach Cover) HD

Viola Beach’s self-titled debut album was released posthumously in July 2016 and went to number 1. At Glastonbury festival that year, headliners Coldplay paid tribute by playing their song Boys That Sing. Frontman Chris Martin said: “We’d like to create Viola Beach’s alternate history and let them headline Glastonbury for one song tonight.”