Although their music touches the usual mainstream pop bases – lyrics about girlfriends, easy and catchy melodies – Lawson aren’t quite like your average pop band. Their first single, ‘When She Was Mine’, has just reached Number Four in the UK charts, but it was achieved through four years of hard graft and relentless touring, rather than four months of putting record label money in the right pockets (now the usual route to success). SCAN met them backstage at Manchester’s premier indie-rock venue, the Deaf Institute, just before they put on a top notch show that ended in a thoroughly un-pop hard rock jam session, with drums clattering around at one thousand beats per minute and dueling guitar solos electrifying the sold-out crowd.
So, you fine gentlemen have got a new single – your debut single, actually – coming out at the end of this month, can you tell us the story behind its conception?
Well, it’s basically a heartbreak song! Its melody is uplifting and feelgood, but the lyric is a heartbreaker. It’s the standard story about a girlfriend breaking up with a guy, and reminiscing about the times that used to be. Everyone’s going to be able to relate to it, you know, because everyone’s had their heart broken at some point, no matter how old you are.
So how does it feel to finally get this piece of music out to your fans?
Oh yeah, it’s incredible! Especially for the fans, because we’ve had people following us from day one, which was three and half, four years ago, and they’ve had to wait as long as we have to get an actual single that they can actually go out and buy. We absolutely love these fans that have been learning all the lyrics from coming to live shows and watching YouTube videos, and we’re really happy with how many have come tonight to.
I know, I was going to mention the turnout! I’ve never seen this many people come to a show at the Deaf Institute before, have you had this kind of response all around the country?
Haha, yeah, as you can imagine we’re really pleased with the turnout. We’ve been working on this for a really long time, just writing songs and building support, so it’s brilliant to have this many people turn up. This is one of the biggest shows we’re doing, but the biggest one is in London, which is for 600 people.
You’ve picked some brilliant places to play in too. Is there any reason you’ve gone for these indie-rock clubs rather than the traditional corporate venues like the Academies?
Well the thing about these smaller venues is that everyone who turns up is our crowd – we’ve played at bigger venues supporting bands like The Wanted, but at these gigs it’s our crowd, and we love how passionate everyone gets. And you’re right about the venues being like rock clubs, these are real venues, dirty rock clubs, we love it! Rock and roll, that’s what it’s all about. And they all have their own unique character too, so it’s not just like playing in exactly the same venue every single night.
We’ve played some bloody brilliant gigs this tour.
The venue choices seem to fit in with your nature as a proper band rather than a standard auto-tuned pop outfit.
Exactly, we’re an actual band, a real actual touring band who write their own material and play their own songs, which seems to be quite rare in the charts at the moment. The charts are really heavy on dance and RnB, and there aren’t so many people like us. It’s great to actually tour too, I mean before this, before we got signed, we just bought a knackered old van and ran it up and down the country. We had to jump start it after every single gig because it was so bad! It was the rock and roll dream! It was like that film Anvil [the excellent 2008 documentary], we were basically like them for three years, living off nothing and trying to get a gig wherever we could!
Life on the road, as well as playing these smaller venues, must be quite different from some of the bigger support shows you’ve played with the likes of The Wanted and Avril Lavigne. What’s it like touring with them?
Oh absolutely, The Wanted, we’re big friends with The Wanted lads so it’s a lot of fun going out on tour with them, it’s just like going on holiday with your mates for two weeks. And the crowds at those arenas are absolutely incredible. And supporting Avril Lavigne was just mental, but then we’ve also played big festivals like Hard Rock Calling, so technically you could say we’ve supported Bruce Springsteen, which is just surreal, there’s something special about the atmosphere that you get from playing proper rock gigs like that that we really like.
So how do you end up supporting bands like The Wanted and Westlife? Is it all sorted by the record label or have you just got lucky?
It’s weird really, we’ve just kind of become friends with them all by accident! There was a festival we played last year where we basically spent the whole weekend getting hammered with Mark and Shane from Westlife… and I have no idea why they asked us to support them after hanging around with drunk us for an entire weekend! I mean we spent a lot of time just taking the piss out of Westlife songs, we wrote a parody version of our song Standing in the Dark called ‘Standing Here with Mark’, and Andy [singer] almost compromised Shane’s marriage! But somehow after that we just ended up friends, and they were really big fans of the band, so by some miracle they asked us to support them, and now we’re playing with them on their last ever shows in front of something like 80,000 people, which is just going to be surreal.
So would that be your advice to any bands looking to make it big? Get drunk with Westlife?
Haha, yeah, absolutely! Just get drunk with any band you want to support, mock them a lot, do impressions of them, give them as much stick as possible and you’ll just end up getting a great gig!