Interview: Viva Brother
Published on May 11th, 2011 | Jonny Abrams
If their huge, everyman choruses, spot-on nineties revivalism and recent Letterman appearance are anything to go by, Slough four-piece Viva Brother are about to go stratospheric.
Their cocksure conviction of their suitability for such an ascent is bound to flush out the naysayers but, in Stephen Street-produced debut album Famous First Words, they’ve got the anthemic talk to back up their swaggering walk. Rocksucker caught up with singer Lee and guitarist Sam over a nice cup of tea to discuss their journey thus far…
What was it like working with Stephen Street?
Sam: Really great. He’s a hero of ours as he did some of our favourite albums, produced some of our favourite bands. Very early on, Lee and I were having a chat about it and we said, “Imagine doing a record with Stephen! He’d be perfect for it.” It was like a pipe dream. When the demo of ‘Darling Buds of May’ started floating around, he heard it, got in touch with us and we were like, “Woah…that’s really cool.”
Do you know how it got passed on to him?
Lee: He said he heard it on the radio.
S: Zane Lowe got hold of it and played it a couple of times.
L: So it was completely by luck. We met him, asked him if he was up for doing a single and he was like, “Yeah, a hundred per cent.” And then he said, “Let’s do an album!”
S: When we did that first track, we went for a pint next door to his house to talk about doing a single and, by the end of the chat, we were talking about doing an album.
L: He’s a lovely bloke and he’s fucking good. Obviously he’s done some of our favourite albums: The Smiths, Blur, blah blah blah – but not Kaiser Chiefs! – so it was incredible working with him. He’s very normal.
S: He’s really easy to get on with. He actually finished the track in nearly half the time because he works really long hours. He’s a soldier.
L: He loves a red wine. Little bit of Merlot.
What can we expect from Famous First Words? From the songs I’ve heard, it sounds like being back in the nineties. In a good way.
L: Yeah, we love a lot of nineties music so there’s a lot of influence from that. The songs are quite bold, shamelessly catchy, just classic songs that wouldn’t be out of place on the radio; certainly not out of place on the radio in the nineties! That was the last great era for guitar music so it would be nice if we could bring some of that back. There are a few bands doing it…well, not doing what we’re doing, but…
S: We had a look at the charts yesterday and the first actual band in there was at 55…
L: And that was Noah and the Whale.
S: Actually, it was Two Door Cinema Club. Either way, though.
L: Tomato, tom-ay-to!
S: Something’s got to be done about that. There’s a massive problem there.
L: Yeah. We’ll keep at it.
Whenever a band comes around flaunting the kind of confidence – some might say arrogance – that you guys do, they inevitably polarise opinion. Are you prepared for the flak that’s likely to come your way?
L: Massively, yeah. In fact, this is a discussion that we had way before we even existed. We spent a lot of time writing the songs before anyone really heard us. We play the sort of music that will polarise opinion and we’re the sort of people that will polarise opinion, because we’re horrible mouthy bastards! But we’re not afraid to be that.
S: We just aren’t afraid to say what we think. We don’t see any point in holding back. If someone asks us for our opinion on something then we’ll give it. We don’t see any reason why anyone should ever do any different. Sugar coating your answer: that isn’t what people want to hear.
L: Exactly. We’re big fans of The Smiths, Morrissey in particular, and I think the way he conducts himself has translated into the way we conduct ourselves. Obviously we love his music but also the way he goes about things as it resonates quite truly with who we are. So I think there are a lot of similarities there and I think that’s why he got in contact with us and liked us. I’d imagine he likes us more for being mouthy bastards than for our music!
Are there any bands out there whom you’d regard as your peers? Anyone you feel you have an affinity with?
L: We really like Everything Everything. There’s a band called Mona but they’re terrible so I wouldn’t say them. I don’t mind The Vaccines, actually; I didn’t like them at first but I do now. It took me ages to warm to them.
Their bassist Árni is a former Rocksucker interviewee and a lovely bloke to boot.
S: We met them at an airport somewhere in America and we had a good chat. They’re not massively my thing but, yeah, they’re alright.
L: They want the same thing as we do so we see them as peers in that respect.
How long have you guys been together, working the ‘circuit’ and that? Didn’t you used to be called Kill The Arcade?
L: (Laughs) Oh no! That was an old band from a long time ago. A couple of us were in it. It was a kids band: funny but fucking terrible!
S: We haven’t been doing this for that long at all. We started touring in December.
L: It’s been a meteoric rise in that respect but we have toured before in other bands, so we’ve done the rounds. This one’s been quite quick and we’ve been really focused so we’ve not necessarily wasted our time taking the tour to places where we’d play in front of ten people. There’s no point in doing that.
What advice would you have for aspiring bands looking to make a similar step up?
L: There’s no right or wrong way but what worked for us was getting nearly an album’s worth of songs that were really good and getting rid of the ones that weren’t as good before playing them live in front of anyone. So, for every single song, people were like, “This is really good,” rather than, “This is alright.” It’s subjective – who’s to say what’s good and what’s not? – but, you know…you know when you first write a song and you think it’s the best song you’ve ever written? Then you go back and listen to it and think, “Oh, maybe it’s not that good.” I would also suggest recording everything straight away, even on a Mac or whatever, because you can really tell what a song is like when you hear it back. Put it online, play it at a few small gigs…be wild and look good!
You’ve got an unbelievable amount of gigs lined up. Are there any in particular which you’re especially looking forward to?
L: Glastonbury, Summer Sonic Festival in Japan…touring America again. We just did Letterman over there and we’re going back again to do Jimmy Kimmel, so that’s going to be a moment.
If you have the time, who else would you like to go and see at Glastonbury?
L: Morrissey’s playing.
S: We’re on really early and on the first day so hopefully we’ll get to see a few things.
L: U2 will be interesting. I hate U2 so I just want to see what happens.
S: I’m boycotting U2. I’m going to go and watch Fatboy Slim.
L: Yeah, you have to. Fatboy Slim will be amazing.
Finally, could you name – as of this very moment – your top three albums of all time?
S: Parklife by Blur for me.
L: The Queen is Dead…and let’s say London’s Calling.
Brother Lee and Brother Sam, thank you.
Viva Brother’s new single Still Here, taken from their upcoming Stephen Street produced album Famous First Words, is out now.