With the release of their debut album ‘Famous First Words’ Viva Brother are slowly but surely clawing their way to the top. They’ve come a long way since lead singer Lee Newell played his first gig in a curry house in exchange for a free dinner. Now having toured with The Streets, played their largest headline gig at the London KoKo and had a mixed bag of reviews they’re rearing to go and wiser than ever. But getting this far hasn’t been the easiest of journeys for the four lads from Slough.
Bursting onto the music scene last year, Viva Brother (previously Brother) were bellowing out a raw, gritty sound and serving up an ego as loud as their guitars. After a short time patrolling the gig scene, Geffen records were quick to snap them up back in 2010 and signed them for a two album contract. But with the sweet smell of hype in the air the media sank their claws into these boisterous ,if not somewhat naïve young men.
During their debut London gig at the Flowerpot, in a moment he will never be allowed to forget Lee claimed that they were “the future of music”. This kicked off a vicious love/hate relationship between the band and the press. Lee told Wireless magazine “I just wasn’t aware of how the media worked at that point. They turned their backs on us. But that’s how fickle the music press is. But we believe in our music. We did then and we still do now.”
The road of success was never paved smoothly. After building them up last year, NME seemed happy to knock them right back down on their asses (and managed to find the column inches to insult all the fans along the way) by saying it was impossible not to dislike them unless you were ‘a joyless, knee-jerking moron.’ Not being the flawless patron saint of the music industry themselves it was easy to not lose any sleep over this. However it was hard to ignore that seemingly every publication were happy to try to knock them down a peg. In a reflective moment Lee said “well on one level the critics are there to criticise. That’s what they’re there for. However, I do feel that we were unfairly criticised. I think we were judged a lot more on what I said than the actual music we made. And then everyone sort of jumped on the bandwagon.” On top of everything else they were slapped with a lawsuit by an American Celtic rock band of the same name and were forced to change their name from Brother to Viva Brother. After admitting that he was in fact aware of this bands existence Lee put it to the fans to decide what their new title should be.
It is clear that, despite their miscalculated actions and hyperbolic claims Viva Brother have every ounce of faith in their work. Behind the arrogance there’s a glimpse of humbled optimism: “I think what I said completely spoke over the actual music. Which is a shame because I was just messing around. And at the end of the day we got recognised and signed at the start because of our music. And you know, it’s a shame but however we are known now we’ve got a platform to build on so it’s not the end of the world. It’s definitely not the meteoric rise to the top like some bands have but it’s still a rise. It’s a step in the right direction.” They give the impression that they’re not the kind of bunch who you can brush into the corner and expect not to see again. They’re bursting at the seams with sheer determinism. Whether or not they’re up to fulfilling their goal of headlining Glastonbury you can bet your bottom dollar they’re going to damn well give it a go. They’re like the eager moths of music who, despite receiving some harsh burns will keep on knocking up against that elusive light of fame. In response to the angry comments of various journalists Lee said “It’s just fuel for the fire. I think that second time around people will be eating their words.”
Their new album is produced by Stephen Street and is dripping with catchy riff-driven Britpop: “This album is about achieving a sense of unity and camaraderie. They’re nothing more than songs to make you happy and that you can put on before you’re going out.”
However, the sing along friendly tunes may be a distant memory by the time their second album hits the self, as even the band themselves seem to have too many ideas to pin down their next direction. Lee admits “I completely change my mind every five minutes” and that “the next album may be completely different in terms of basis, concepts and manifestos. It really just depends on where we go and how we’re feeling.” The future is still up in the air but the boys have come a long way and aren’t scared to start pushing back. They get a little wiser after every fall and are happy to acknowledge where they tripped up, saying “we’re just going to keep learning, growing, playing live and trying to become better musicians. You know, just explore and don’t listen to what the critics say.” So keep an eye on these guys and remember, as the age old saying goes ‘haters gonna hate.’