You can’t help but feel that Neon Waltz are a band who are on the start of an epic journey, in both a figurative and literal sense. Being based as far north as you can go in John O’Groats, they’re no strangers to having to travel to get their music heard.
“Have you ever watched Father Ted? You know the opening credits? That’s basically what it’s like here. It’s cold, quiet, isolated, but it’s all good.” Jordan, the lead singer and guitarist of the up and coming six piece, tells me of the place where they live and have their own rehearsal space.
“There’s two towns in the county that each have 6000 people in them, everyone knows everyone and we all went to school together, and played instruments and wrote music so it was inevitable we’d make music together.”
Apart from the Sea View Hotel, the local where the boys spend a lot of time, one of the highlights of the area sounds like the medieval architecture. “Our mate’s dad is this eccentric writer guy and he owns this castle so we used to go and party in it when we were 14 or 15, so we thought it would be really cool to film the video for Sundialer there. If you’ve got something like that you have to take advantage of it.”
Howie Pain, ex The Stands and solo artist in his own right, has a lot to do with the rise of the band. “He found one of our songs online and was blown away by it. He saw that we were from the arse end of nowhere and thought that he should help us out so that people could hear our music. That then graduated to him becoming our manager, he was someone that we could really trust.”
Howie now co-manages them with Ignition’s Marcus Russell, who is held accountable for bringing Oasis into the wider world. When asked if it’s inspiring or intimidating being on those books Jordan was confident in his answer. “I’ve never felt intimidated, at all, we’re with them because they want to work with us, so I’ve never found it intimidating, it’s just kind of cool.”
Mercury Rev, also managed by Marcus, have been an influence on them, as well as loving The Band, The Walkmen, The National and The Coral. “All 6 of us write songs for the band so it’s hard to put names down as we all take different influences from different things. I don’t know how much the bands we love affect the way we sound or that we particularly sound like any of them, but they’re ones that we can all agree on. Maybe subconsciously they influence us in some way”
When asked “The most hated question” of how they would describe their own sound, Jordan answers “Well crafted songs, with bursts of energy, with tinges of psychedelic and indie music.” I would admit he’s nailed it on that one. Throughout our interview, Jordan exudes a cool, confident, laid back charm that I think also comes across in the music itself.
To announce their signing to Atlantic Records they recorded First Light, a collection of demos and live recordings and pressed only 500 copies. “We thought it would be cooler to do that than do the clichéd thing of taking a picture of us with the owner giving us a big cheque. By only doing 500, we thought it would be cool for the real fans to get something that could be worth something one day. It’s actually number 9 in the official vinyl chart at the moment.” With a new single hopefully due over the summer and works for a new album aiming for early next year, it’s all exciting times ahead for them.
They were named one of the bands to watch in 2015 by The NME which has no doubt helped their rise in support from fans. “It’s always nice to have support, especially from them who can notoriously be quite harsh.” I asked if there’s any pressure that comes with it, “I don’t feel any pressure from it, it’s just a nice thing to be said about your band and we have complete faith in what we do. If somebody else wrote that we’re the worst band they’ve ever seen it doesn’t really put us up or down because we know what we’re doing.”
Something people might not know about them is that they have a 3D picture of a dog that always goes on tour with them. “He’s called Biy. (pronounced Boy to us southern fairies) We practice in an old abandoned croft that’s on farmland that’s owned by the bass players mum and dad, so we went and put a floor in and the picture had been left there for many, many years, god knows how many, so we’ve just adopted him and he’s our child now.”
They’re going to be back in Brighton for their second time round at The Great Escape and are looking forward to it. “It was brilliant last year, before playing it we’d only really played crowds of 100 people, maximum. Then we did 2 gigs on the same day that were totally rammed with like 3 or 400 people and it was kind of a big turning point for us.”
They’re playing at Digital, or Colosseum, or The Arch, or whatever it’s called now on the Thursday. Jordan jokes, “They’ll probably have changed the name again before we get there.” And then at the Brighthelm on Friday. They are definitely not to be missed…
I did ask if moving would ever be an option for them. “Right now here is home. I don’t think that will change anytime soon, we’re so used to travelling now, it’s just a good laugh.” With a series of other festival dates and touring lined up, it’s a good thing that Neon Waltz are accustomed to travel. If things keep moving as they have been there will be plenty more time on the road ahead for them.
Neon Waltz play The Great Escape, Brighton on Thu 14 and Fri 15 May 2015
Their vinyl and digital EP ‘First Light’ is available now, via Atlantic Records.
Words by Tom Ricards