So here it is, the follow-up to Over The Counter Culture, the alternative timeline.
Rewind 10 years. Brassbound didn’t happen. How To Get Everything You Ever Wanted In Ten Easy Steps didn’t happen, (although it’s pretty hard to ignore with such a long title). Both were created by frontman, Preston, under the Ordinary Boys moniker, and now it’s time to set the record straight. Like, literally set the record straight.
“I went off and made some music that just wasn’t really to do with the history of The Ordinary Boys,” he tells me, while munching on salad and signing album covers. “It was like a real side-step from it with the other Ordinary Boys records, and so I just wanted to continue like an alternative timeline, which would be if Charlie had never left in like 2004, what we would have done afterwards […] and that’s what this record is I think.”
Today’s release, fittingly self-titled The Ordinary Boys, a statement in itself, certainly has all the hallmarks and characteristics of the debut, but despite joking about it being exactly the same – “We just went through each song, and put the chords backwards” – the content is different.
“The album’s like, personal,” explains new band member, Louis Jones (formerly of Spectrals). “Not just love songs, it’s like personal. It’s like a relationship record, but that could be with your friend, with your…”
“Definitely the fact that it was with new friendships and old friendships rekindled,” jumps in Preston, which kind of typifies the make-up of the new album really, where vocals are shared between the two. In fact, the first vocal you’ll hear on the new record is Louis’s – “All masterfully on purpose,” as Charlie Stanley, the original drummer, puts it. Although Preston kind of gives the impression that it was more of a happy accident.
‘About Tonight’ is the perfect opener for such an album, a rip-roaring belter of a tune that tells of wasted time, undying dreams, and living in the present – “I count my blessings/fingers crossed for something more/it’s time to make amends/I’m gonna do it for my friends” – setting the tone and pace for what’s to come.
The track was written and finished the first day they met and is already making its mark on Japan, having been picked up by a radio DJ over there. Preston seems a little surprised, admitting that at first he didn’t really like the song as much as the rest, and that it reminds him of when a B-side gets popular. He clearly has a lot of love for Japan though, for ‘many reasons’… besides liking the toilets a lot, the country also gave them a number one album for Over The Counter Culture, which they supported with around 15 live dates – probably a good idea to put faith in their music choices then, as well as their facilities.
A year in the making, the new album was created very much by the band as a whole, and with all members dotted around the UK, from Cornwall to Yorkshire, no time was wasted in the studio. Or even out of the studio, for that matter. These boys really put the graft in, “We were just messaging each other every day with notes for ideas, like certain chord progressions and lyrics,” explains guitarist, Louis. “We had Google Drive on every day, going over every line to make sure it worked properly.” The result is also testament to the fact that their new management didn’t attempt to swerve their sound into something that felt unnatural to them. This album was built on instinct alone, and not cookie-cut into shape by anyone who thinks they know better.
“We went back to our old managers,” recalls Preston, “we were like ‘do you want to manage us for this record’ and they were like ‘yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah – what you should do, it should sound a little more like Bring Me The Horizon’ or whatever, and we were like okay, but that’s a different band, we’re The Ordinary Boys…”
“We left them in the pub,” adds Charlie, “I think they’re still there now.”
“It’s our label, our record,” states Preston. They’re proud of it, and have every right to be, “We directed all the artwork on that, we wrote all the tracks,” continues Charlie. “There’s no one saying I think you need to sound like Green Day or something.” And thank god for that.
The band is completed by original member, James Gregory on bass, who was absent for interview but sounds pretty awesome – “I think James probably put in about four hours work on this album,” says Charlie. “He does everything in the first take and that’s it, no editing” – but it’s endearing to witness how much Louis has become part and parcel of the team.
“There were a lot of flirting, a lot of eye contact…” he jokes, about the first few times they met, which was at gigs for bands he was supporting as Spectrals, namely The Cribs, and Girls.
Indeed, it does come across as something of a lovely affair, with playlists being exchanged (the modern day mixtape, yeah?), once the deal had been sealed on their band endeavour.
“We didn’t know how much we’d have in common,” tells Preston, “we’ve known each other since we were 10 years old,” he says, referring to Charlie, “and we grew up listening to hardcore music, and like punk and stuff, and just the fact that you like exactly all the same music as us, is just a bit weird. The chances of it, is very slim.”
“All the references just landed,” confirms Louis.
Speaking of references, Preston must be one of Morrissey’s more famous fans, and I’m keen to learn what sort of impact this has had on him as an artist; “I think just as simple as, as thinking about lyrics as something… you can be really powerful […] with Morrissey I was thinking about some of his lyrics when I wasn’t listening to music, when I hadn’t listened to it in a while, and I think that’s quite powerful, just having lyrics that exist separately to music as well.”
“A lot of modern music is kinda just like a noise, isn’t it?” adds Charlie. “You’re shocked by something that emotionally moves you, that’s why all these artists like Adele and Amy Winehouse got so big, because it’s something that absolutely makes you feel something, and you’ve got to think about it.”
Of course Preston has not only met his hero – when they were sandwiched between Morrissey and Junior Mervin on an episode of Jools Holland – but they have also toured with him a couple of times.
And so begin the stories of other Manc legends, with Preston recalling an incident with Athlete, who were climbing on a roof, backstage at a festival once; giving it all that, refusing to get down for security, and generally telling everyone to fuck off. A crowd gathered to witness the spectacle.
“Then Ian Brown came in a pink Adidas tracksuit and went ‘lads, down.’” The impression is uncanny, and we’re pissing ourselves as Preston concludes, “They just climbed down and went back into their dressing room […] you just don’t argue with him do ya?”
More stories ensued, with Mani being a highlight, “I DJ’d with him once,” tells Charlie, “and he turned up with a record box, just with a bottle of rum in it, Definitely Maybe, Screamadelica and the first Stone Roses album. And that was it.”
“That’s all you need though,” laughs Louis.
As for the Ordinary Boys’ new album, standout tracks include the wonderfully dark titled ‘I’m Leaving You (And I’m Taking You With Me)’ – probably also one of my favourite lyrics. “Yeah, it’s kinda dark,” agrees Charlie, “I always think of that as dark.”
“No, it’s happy,” says Preston, giving his take on the song, “I think it’s like when a relationship is crumbling but you kinda wanna save it, but the only way you can do it, is be like… absolutely walk away, but you kinda wanna take her with you, and do it together, because you love each other, do you know what I mean? It’s like the paradox of love.”
“There’s a lot of those feelings on the record, where you’re thinking one thing but you do contradict yourself…” adds Louis, “that’s why I think it feels like, quite real… to me.”
“Yeah,” continues Preston, “this is why I always think about the first album, but in a completely different way, and this is what ties them together lyrically, is that the first album is like ‘what’s wrong with the world, what’s wrong with England’ but there’s never a solution. I never offer a solution because I think that’s when you end up being a cunt and no one wants to hear that in the lyrics, no one wants to be told advice, but it’s nice to have someone like pinpoint all the problems, and in this album it’s just me pinpointing everything that’s wrong with relationships, and my relationships, but never offering any advice or trying to act like I have any authority about it.”
‘Losing My Cool’ is another standout track. “No one really mentions that one, but I really love it,” says Preston, and Louis continues, “I think it’s because in both the verses we’re… you’re really you, and I’m really me in my verse.”
“Yeah, that’s why I like ‘Putting My Heart On The Line’ as well,” adds Preston, “‘cause we’re swapping the verses around. I think that’s really nice.”
The Boys enlisted two producers for the album, with MJ (of Hookworms) producing ‘I’m Leaving You (And I’m Taking You With Me)’, ‘Cruel’ and ‘Panic Attack’.
“We recorded on a boat, on the docks,” states Charlie, an interesting fact that I completely missed at the time. Rory Attwell (The Vaccines, Veronica Falls) produced the rest of the album, which they recorded over three sessions.
“I think we just wanted it to be one of those things where… quite a lot of good albums are made like that, from different sessions, and then you put it together,” explains Louis when I enquire about using two producers, “and it’s just where we was at that time, we wanted to try working with these people, then we kinda went back to Rory and it was different the second time, so it always felt like three different sessions.”
Ultimately, the Ordinary Boys have created an album that they couldn’t be happier with, “These songs, I can listen to this album and get a lot of pleasure from it,” tells Preston, “if everyone hated this album I couldn’t give a shit. So really, the only reason this exists is for us and for the people who kinda want it, which is not that many people, […] it’s just like this is for us, therefore I can be like ‘this is really fucking good, I love it. It’s brilliant.’”
The Ordinary Boys’ self-titled, fourth album is out now via Treat Yourself Records.
UK TOUR DATES:
21 – The Cavern, Exeter
22 – The Fleece, Bristol
23 – Also Known As, Banbury
24 – The Joiners, Southampton
25 – Bowery District, Reading
27 – The Haunt, Brighton
28 – Mr Kyps, Bournemouth
29 – The Bullingdon, Oxford
30 – Brixton Jamm, London
31 – The Square, Harlow
01 – Waterfront, Norwich
03 – Copper Room2, Coventry
04 – Soundhouse, Leicester
05 – The Globe, Cardiff
06 – Live Room, Chester
07 – The Sugarmill, Stoke
08 – Night & Day, Manchester
10 – The Old Courts, Wigan
11 – Think Tank, Newcastle
12 – Liquid Rooms, Edinburgh
13 – PJ Molloys, Dunfermline
14 – King Tuts, Glasgow
15 – The Duchess, York
16 – The Hop, Wakefield
17 – The Adelphi, Hull
18 – The Platform, Lincoln
19 – The Plug, Sheffield
Words: Sarah Hardy