Just before Lawson headlined the Brighton Centre, BN1’s Gary Marlowe spoke with drummer Adam Pitts about how the band have developed, how they’re helping teenage cancer and how he was feeling about his big hometown gig.
The last time we spoke was back in February 2012 when you were supporting The Wanted at Brighton Centre. Now, fast forward some 18 months and you’re headlining there. As a Brighton boy, how does it feel playing your hometown’s biggest venue?
It’s absolutely crazy! I still haven’t come to terms with it and I don’t think I will until we arrive at the venue and see our trucks outside.
No doubt you’ve seen a lot of bands there yourself?
Yes, I’ve seen so many of my favourite bands at the Brighton Centre: Paramore, Fall Out Boy, The Script, The Killers. The fact we get to headline that place is unbelievable. For a couple of weeks, when I was at BIMM in Brighton, I used to work there sweeping up and setting the seats out, so to be going back and performing is quite something. So many friends and family coming down, it’s gonna be one of the biggest nights of my life. I know it sounds a bit clichéd, but it’s going to be emotional!
On this tour is the band playing all four of your home towns?
Not all of them. We’re doing the Echo Arena in Liverpool, which is Andy’s hometown and I’m sure it’ll mean the same for him. Hopefully, we’ll get to visit Nottingham and Sheffield on our next tour.
How do you think the band has changed over the past year and a half?
I don’t think we’ve changed at all really. Back then, we hadn’t released any singles and we were getting ready to record the album. Luckily, we got to make the album we always dreamt of making and it went to No 4 in the UK charts which was absolutely amazing.
There’s a new version of the album coming out, what’s that all about?
Yes, we’re doing a re-pack of it. It’s called Chapman Square / Chapter II and it includes six brand new songs, an acoustic album, plus a special behind-the-scenes tour documentary which we’re really proud of.
What about musically? Do you feel you’re better musicians now?
Well, since we last saw you we’ve been touring around the world. We’ve toured in Asia, America, Australia and throughout the UK and Ireland, so as a band we’re so much tighter. Every time you’re onstage, you always learn things about the people you’re in a band with. Your playing becomes tighter, new ideas occur, the set gets better every night. I really believe that right now we’re playing the best we’ve ever done. And hopefully, we can keep on growing and developing.
Presumably you also get access to better equipment, which must also help make you sound better?
Obviously the more success you have and the bigger the venues you play you need better gear. Growing up, all musicians have their dream gear. If you’re a drummer you’d yearn for a particular drum kit and the very best cymbals. All of us have got our dream gear now. I’ve got a custom drum kit, which is something I always dreamt of having. SJC in Massachusetts made it for me and I’ve got a three of those kits now, two here and one over in America. I also have a Zildjian endorsement now which is awesome. Joel’s just got himself a classic guitar as well. It’s about 60-years-old and is something he’s had his eye on for a long time.
How would you say the Lawson sound has evolved? And what direction do you think the band is heading musically?
I think we’re trying our hand at more things now, especially with the repack. We’ve been working on the six new songs over the last year. We wanted to make each of them completely different. ‘Brokenhearted’ our last single was very different for us, we had B.o.B rapping on it, someone we never imagined we’d work with. Our new single ‘Juliet’ is quite Bruno Mars-inspired and a little bit reggae in a way. Again, a whole new sound for us. And there’s another track that’s almost like a Justin Timberlake song, very funky and cool. We like to experiment and try different things. When you write your own music, you can write whatever song you want to.
As well as all the musical diversity today, another trend we’re seeing is the amount of really young bands who are enjoying a fair amount of success very quickly. Union J are playing Brighton Centre in December and The Vamps, who just played SD2, are only 17 and 18. You yourself have just turned 22, how do you think you would have coped having ‘instant’ success at that age?
I’ve a lot of respect for bands like The Vamps because it must be pretty damn scary. We spent years touring. And, by doing that, everything that could ever go wrong, goes wrong, but when it does it goes wrong in front of just a few people. But if that happens onstage in front of 5,000, it’s a lot more embarrassing. Mistakes do happen, especially when you haven’t got the experience of playing a lot. I remember our first tour, we were playing at the Hope in Brighton and we were all really nervous, and that place is tiny.
When you’ve courted publicity like any young band does, how difficult is it to get some privacy or normality into your lives? Or is it just something you’ve become used to?
I think we’re very lucky because when we’re out together we do get recognised quite a bit, but individually we can lead quite private lives. I now live just outside Brighton, so when I go home I can chill out and live a normal life. It’s the same for the other three. And as soon as you want to get re-involved, Twitter’s at your fingertips. We enjoy what we do so much that even if we’re not doing anything as a band for a day, we’re on Twitter talking to the fans. As soon as you’re not on tour, you miss it straight away.
I guess when you reach the level of a One Direction, that balance might be a little more difficult to attain?
Luckily, we’re quite far away from rivalling 1D!
You’ve recently become ambassadors for Teenage Cancer Trust. How did that come about and what will you be doing to help raise awareness and funds?
It’s one of the most amazing organisations I’ve ever seen. The staff there are absolutely amazing and the work they do is incredible. We wanted to get involved. Indeed just today we were at Leicester Royal Infirmary where we spent a couple of hours at the Teenage Cancer Trust ward there. We met some amazing people, young people who are literally going through some of the hardest things imaginable. Despite that, they’re so positive and to spend time with them is the most humbling thing you can do. We’ve now done about three or four hospital visits and we’re doing another one in Liverpool in a couple of weeks.
What does being an Ambassador for Teenage Cancer Trust involve?
It means we can get more involved. For example, the day before this tour started, when we were doing production rehearsals in Rhyl, we invited a hundred of their patients from hospitals in Liverpool and Manchester to come down to see the dress rehearsal. We can do stuff like that and it also means we can help them raise funds.
Another phenomena bands have to deal with today is just how small the world has become. Tours are no longer just about taking in the UK, Europe and America, it’s the norm now to visit Australia, Asia, the Middle East and South America. Outside of the UK, where have Lawson enjoyed the greatest success?
For us it’s south east Asia. Over there we’re probably ten times bigger than we are here. That’s Thailand, The Philippines and Malaysia. We have so much feedback from Twitter and YouTube from those countries, it’s phenomenal. In fact, it’s why we decided to play there in the first place. We had no idea what was about to hit us.
So Twitter influences where you decide to tour?
Definitely. 100% We heard from a few people that our songs were doing well on the radio over there, but when we landed in Bangkok for the first time there were literally thousands of girls waiting for us. It was something we’d never seen before. We were totally overwhelmed. The first show we did on that tour, we were told to expect about six or seven hundred people. In fact, there were almost 5,000. We couldn’t believe it. It was the biggest audience we’d ever played to. And the next day we found out that both our single and album were Number 1. Right now, ‘Brokenhearted’ has topped the charts in the Phillippines for the last six or seven weeks and now ‘Juliet’ has knocked it off the top spot. How amazing is that?
Traditionally, the drummer in most bands tends to always be in the background – behind their kit at the back of the stage. These days, many drummers are placed to one side of the stage at the front. Have you ever thought about doing that?
I don’t go for a sideways drumkit. I think the classic way is the best, drummer at the back and in the middle. Because this tour is so much bigger, we’ve got a proper production and I’m on a riser and the rest of the guys have a ramp so they can run up behind me. I love it because you sit at the back and keep the beat steady
Which drummers do you look up to?
One of my favourite drummers is Ronnie Vannucci from The Killers. I just love watching a drummer having the time of his life behind the kit and whenever you watch him play he has the biggest smile on his face and giving it 100% It’s the same with Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins of the Foos. Both of them hit the drums so hard and you can tell they love every single second when they’re playing. There’s nothing better than seeing a band having a good time on stage. Who wants to watch a band that look miserable?
Finally, with this being your biggest hometown show ever, how nervous are you and what can we expect from Lawson headlining the Brighton Centre?
I’m not too nervous, I’m just very, very excited. You can expect a massive step up from the last time you saw us. We’ve made the show bigger, we’ll be playing some new songs and we’ve got some gigs under our belt, which means everything should be perfect for Brighton. And it’s Friday night, party night!
By Gary Marlowe
Lawson’s latest album is ‘Chapman Square / Chapter II’
Follow the band at @LawsonOfficial and Adam at @LawsonAdam
Photo by Images Of Out Of The Ordinary