Just as people are about to ready to write off Pete Doherty & The Babyshambles as man who squandered his talent away in the smack dens of London along come a band that remind us of everything the Libertines used to be. Orphan Boy sound like Joe Strummer and Jam-era Paul Weller jamming on a tip with a battered guitar that they lifted from a porn shop. The fact that the look like Gonch and Tucker Jenkins from old skool Grange Hill only adds to the fact that Orphan Boy are the only band you should be watching right now.
Designer Magazine caught up with bassist and vocalist Rob to talk about how Cleethorpes is more rock'n'roll than MTV, Nancy Sinatra being gang raped by the Gang Of Four and Council Pop for the unitiated
Q: You grew up in the fishing port of Grimsby. What
were the other options than being in a band for a kid in Grimsby?
A: Being in a band is a pretty shit option itself - there's no where to rehearse, few places to play, and no one outside the area really cares what you're doing. I could slate our hometown all day to be honest but I won't cos most of our favourite people come from there. And we're in Manchester now so we've got no excuse to moan any more. We don't have to stare at the walls - we can make our music go somewhere. Cleethorpes is quite nice in summer, incidentally. You should visit.
Q: Is it safe to say the music scene in Grimsby was
uninspiring? Were there any quality bands or highlights that you formed
a pact with?
A: You'd be surprised by how many great bands there are going nowhere fast in Grimsby / Cleethorpes. Really. I've been more into local stuff from the likes of Jacks Union, the Huskies, the Wasp Factory and the Dutton Experience than anything I've seen on MTV all year. Most of these great bands are destined to fizzle out like the rest, though. There have been no famous musicians ever to come out of Grimsby. Even Louth has Swing Out Sister. They still burn witches in Louth, y'know. And they feed dope to cattle.
Q: Like many bands you set up your own indie night.
Tell us about it? If your a band in a small town how easy / hard is it
to set up an indie club or night?
A: If you've got a big circle of mates and a DJ with some decent records you should have no problem in a medium sized town where there's not much else to do on a Friday night. It'd be a lot harder to do in a bigger city cos there's so much else going on. We'd still try and set one up in Manchester though if we knew enough people.
Q: Smithy, your first gig was with Clash man Mick Jones.
An impressive start. How did that come about and was it everything you
expected it to be?
A: Speaking in Smiffy's absence, I remember he was pretty pissed off at the time cos he was stuck in his bedroom writing loads of songs and having no way of getting them out there. So he blagged his way onto the bill for Carbon Silicon (Mick Jones' band) and played on his todd with a scabby old guitar and a cheap drum machine. Because he was all on his lonesome, he called himself Orphan Boy and it stuck ever since. We met Mick that night, by the way, and he was a thoroughly sound bloke, as you might expect. Really soft-spoken.
Q: How did the rest of Orphan Boy come together?
A: Chris joined him onstage at the next gig, playing guitar. And I left the Gents not long after cos I was getting pissed off with that kind of small-town ambition you were talking about. Sick of supporting the Complete Stone Roses each Christmas at the town's highlight gig. As soon as OrphanBoy was together, we decided we weren't gonna fuck around with our music anymore. We dragged the local indie scene off its arse, basically.
Q: Council pop for the unitiated - elaborate?
A: Well, our tunes are pretty much pop music, but a bit run-down and gritty, and full of unsavoury characters and leaky taps. Like a council estate. What do you reckon? A load of bollocks really. Council pop is one of the phrases we use to describe our sound without sounding generic, like two-chord garageland stomp and dancefloor noise boomchow.
Q: What was it about Manchester that prompted the move,
rather than London? How have you found it since you moved up here a few
A: We can't tolerate expensive pints, so London never really appealed. Apparently, it's a bit of a shit place to live; but I've never really been so I can't criticize. Everything we want is right here in Manchester - and it's closer to home in more ways than one. If you put the top five Manchester bands (Roses, Mondays, Joy Division, Smiths, Oasis) against the top five London bands (Clash, Who, Pistols, Libertines and Kinks) they are pretty evenly matched. Does that mean anything? I don't think it does, but it's fun.
Q: Small time indie bands, Nancy Sinatra, nights on
the lash - what are Orphan Boy's songs about?
A: Lovers and loudmouths, hooligans and humanoids, digital boys and digital girls, creepy old men lurking around in graveyards and tracksuit wearing tricksters flogging vouchers at the pawn-shop. Stuff like that. Not just characters, but stories, emotions, opinions, rants and roams off the beaten track, where the lyrics aren't signposted and the words run pretty and untame. Keep it cryptic and you'll do fine. But never rhyme baby with maybe.
Q: Nancy Sinatra being gang raped by the Gang Of Four.
Why that song?
A: We like imaginative covers - like the Clash's Police and Thieves or the Futureheads Kate Bush song. If you take something which sounds nothing like you, you can make it your own. I guess that bitch Jessica Simpson stole our thunder on this one.
Q: In The City - you fucking the majors and doing it
DIY or after all the money you can get? Do you have that indie ethic?
A: We're not really in a position to fuck the majors, so we'd sound like twats if we started ranting about how authentic we are. We'd never end up like the fucking Bravery, that's all I'll say.
It's shit how business-like bands have to be. You're expected to get your own website up and running, record an expensive demo, tailor your look and sound and arse-kiss round bands, promoters and industry-types. It's no wonder the mainstream is full of well-to-do graduates with slick haircuts (like the Kaiser Chiefs). How are all the fuck-ups and freaks supposed to get heard if they don't have an action plan and a firm handshake?
I'm a hypocrite cos we'll be playing the game like everybody
else over the next year. But you've gotta have some integrity, otherwise
you just end up like Zane Lowe, pretending every band is great.
Q: What are your plans for post-ITC?
A: We're not pinning all our hopes on ITC. We've only just arrived in Manchsester, don't know that many people and the gig won't have the necessary buzz around it that it will a year from now. (We're playing 3pm Dry Bar on the Sunday now, not the Saturday, by the way).
After ITC we'll just carry on gigging, carry on winning friends and allies, get known, get signed and then get ready to start gate-crashing awards ceremonies and throw pickled onions at Edith Bowman. What do you reckon?
We're gonna record a proper demo before Xmas too - if
anyone wants to fund it feel free cos we're skint. Cheers.
Photos: Shirlaine Forrest www.shirlainephotos.co.uk
Orphan Boy play Glasswerk In The City on Sunday Oct 2nd
For more info and audio streams
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