Band of the Day

2014.06.11

The Lottery Winners

Fun-loving British indie pop that blends momentous melodies with wistful lyrics
My life's got a funny way of creeping up on me, and pointing out the beauty in things I no longer see.
lyrics from Elizabeth

Born in Salford and raised on romance, The Lottery Winners can be found at the exact midpoint between the North West's dual musical Meccas of Manchester and Liverpool. Though Liverpool and Manchester have claimed many a legendary artist as their own, more often than not they hailed from somewhere betwixt the two, somewhere beneath Blake's 'dark satanic mills', somewhere in Lancashire, somewhere called Leigh. The birthplace of Georgie Fame and the Buzzcocks' Pete Shelley, Leigh has done it again, spawning the best live band to emerge from the North-West in a generation:The Lottery Winners. The indie- pop quartet blend momentous melodies with wistful and insightful lyrics, “The songs are the most important thing in the world to me,” remarks Thomas Rylance, frontman and songwriting force of the band, “if they’re ever even a tiny fraction as important to other people, I’ll die a very happy man.” “I grew up listening to a lot of eighties bands,” he adds, “bands like Aztec Camera, Orange Juice, Bowie, Blondie, Tears for Fears and New Order, but the ones that were always particularly close to my heart were the Smiths, The Cure and Joy Division, you know, all of the painfully miserable ones, but, if I have to be entirely honest, the reason I wanted to be on stage? That was Freddie Mercury’s fault.” Although the band have played extensively live, supporting the likes of The Futureheads, Jamie Cullum, The Charlatans and The Enemy, building up a loyal family of fans in the process, they’ve kept studio releases to a minimum. A very limited edition debut EP, Somebody Loved You, was released in April 2013 and those lucky enough to get their hands on a copy were rewarded with five nuggets of perfectly formed singalong gold, every lyric and guitar hook lovingly crafted with microscopic precision. “We spent a lot of time on Somebody Loved You”, bassist Katie Lloyd comments, “it manifests everything that had happened to the band in the time we’ve been together and spits them out into three minute pop chanters”. Hot on its tails came the bands first single ‘Elizabeth’, an ode to misappropriated love with a nod to Her Majesty the Queen, released to coincide with the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. Described by Lauren Laverne as “Adorable”, Hooting and Howling magazine remarked “It’s the sound of Morrissey taking some happy pills and prancing stark naked through a hilly glade, singing of romance”. The video featured Lancashire actor Will Travis indulging in a bit of Agalmatophilia - the attraction to dolls (or in this case mannequins) – a realisation that 'the greatest love is often to be found right under your nose’. As Spring turned to summer and the number of concerts played by The Lottery Winners in one year approached 100, the band were asked to play Hard Rock Calling in the old Olympic Park in Stratford. It was a rich experience, as Thom describes, “Hard Rock Calling was our first major festival. We'd played lots of festivals in the past, but the sheer magnitude of that one really hit us hard. It was a beautiful line-up, and we got to play with Bruce effing Springsteen. I bet he has no idea what Leigh even is!” The band certainly do, and it’s a fact about which they're passionately proud. “I couldn't imagine being from anywhere else. Leigh is tiny, there isn't even a train station, but there is a real sense of pride and community here. Even though it can be a little grey...” Leigh and Lancashire are pivotal to the band. Growing up in the shadows of the industrial revolution, the whole of Lancashire became their playground, and later their inspiration. The beaches of Morecombe, the brooding hills of Blackburn, the saucy pleasure seeking of Blackpool, the ubiquitous football players and the Super league monoliths of St Helens, Wigan, Warrington and Widnes. The Lottery Winners formed the way many bands do. Thomas and Robert, best friends since Robert was elected to show Thomas around the new school he’d be attending, shared a passion for music, and could both play guitar and sing. But neither knew anyone with a bass, until a few seconds after their ‘Bassist Wanted’ poster was placed on the notice board of Heybrook Music, Leigh’s only guitar shop. The 15 year old Katie Lloyd just happened to be in there at that time on that day. The position was filled. The band was completed when Joe Singleton, drummer, received a phone call from Katie, high-school best friend, insisting that he became a Lottery Winner. After many declinations, he finally agreed. “I remember our very first gig, which was in a pub in Leigh, the Colliers Rest. Literally, hundreds of people turned up. It got to a point where it was uncomfortably full, and people were turned away, and had to watch through the windows. The pub completely ran out of alcohol. We were horrendously under-paid for that one.” recalls Joe. “It's surreal for us when we leave Leigh, and play in front of audiences in other towns and cities. It's crazy when they know who we are, and know our songs and sing along with them. I don't think there's a better feeling than that.” With such a fertile music scene, the majority of the shows to date have been in Lancashire and its environs, with occasional trips over the Pennines. There's simply been no need to travel further, but as interest in the band grows and their live reputation spreads, hauls down and up the M6 are becoming inevitable. Radio has been key to their burgeoning fame. Regular plays on XFM, 6Music and BBC Introducing have been invaluable. Says Kate “BBC Introducing has massively helped spread the word. BBC Introducing is a platform new artists could not live without. They give so many bands so many opportunities, and we owe them so much.” And it's not just their music filling the airwaves, it's their personalities too. A most refreshing side to The Lottery Winners is their humour, perhaps no surprise as Peter Kay is a neighbour, BBC Radio 6music DJ Chris Hawkins remarked that “they're like the bastard child of Freddy Mercury and Peter Kay”. Though in no way a 'comedy' band, their self deprecating and acerbic wit permeate anything they do. And so to latest single, ‘Heavy Heart’ - a perfectly formed slice of singalong disco-pop, unashamedly catchy, it tells the classic tale of an unrequited love, and the video features the world renowned Peter 'Dr Dance’ Lovatt - Peter runs the Dance Psychology Lab at the University of Hertfordshire and the band got him involved after seeing his famous speech at the TED conference “I loved being part of The Lottery Winners’ music video for Heavy Heart.” says Dr. Lovatt, “For me the story in the video, of a man whose daydreams release him from the boredom of a mundane job, represents the power of music and dance to transform someone from the ordinary to the extraordinary. A good tune, and the movement it inspires, can light up a dull day and fill you with joy. This is exactly what Heavy Heart did for me when I first heard it, it put a smile on my face. Dancing to it was easy, the song got inside my bones and told my muscles what to do. Scientists call this sensori-motor coupling. Dancers call it feeling the groove. As a scientist and a dancer I don’t really care what it’s called, I just want to dance to Heavy Heart all night long.” Produced by legendary Culture Club producer (and Lancashire local) Steve Levine, ‘Heavy Heart’ will be released through his own label Hubris Records. On working with Levine, lead singer Thom Rylance says: “Here's a man that has more awards than all my hotpot dinners combined; a true genius. He has a way of knowing exactly what to do, all of the time. I'm not actually sure he's human. Getting the opportunity to work with a man of Steve Levine's status is an absurd prospect, the man's knowledge is incomprehensible. We're from tiny Leigh and to get the call from him was a little bizarre, I have to admit. Towards the end of our first day, he showed us his photo album. "Here I am with the Beach Boys, Stevie Wonder, The Marleys. My photo albums consisted of pictures of me in caravans in Rhyl with a mushroom haircut!” In an unusual move, the band debuted the song at Old Trafford during the Swansea game. It was a proud day. Not only was Heavy Heart blasting out to 80,000 fans, but the band also featured in the match day programme. For Thom this was a dream come true: "At the risk of sounding like a cheesy idiot, Manchester United is in my blood. My Grandad, Ronnie Rylance, is Old Trafford's longest standing season ticket holder. He's been going since 1944. I might not actually be here if it wasn't for United! As a nipper I ran out into a busy road after watching a training session at the old Cliff. Peter Schmeichel's massive hand being the thing that stopped me. 'The best save he ever made', my mum likes to say (every single time he's on the telly)." The half time dose of The Lottery Winners worked its magic as United scored their opener moments after the start of the second half, and went on to claim a rare victory for this season. In the acclaim surrounding the song's performance, Grandad Rylance ended up being interviewed in Garry Richardson's Sportsweek on BBC Radio Five Live and the band were invited by Manchester City to play at The Ethiad stadium for their FA Cup game against Blackburn, in the process becoming the first people to inspire both the red and blue sides of Manchester to victory since Carlos Tevez. With a ‘World Tour Of Lancashire’ in the offing, an album in the works, new songs being written every day, The Lottery Winners are quickly establishing themselves as one of the hottest prospects on the scene, and one of the hardest working, fun-loving bands around. ”Being in this band has completely changed my life. I’ve already met a lot of my heroes, and played shows that I’ve never imagined I would. When you’re having a beer with Zane Lowe, you know you’re doing the right thing”, Joe states, “I don’t think any of us could comprehend not being in this band and doing what we do, it’s what we love”.