Viva Brother – the artists formerly known as “Brother” – have survived a band re-naming, a spat with Liam Gallagher and a deluge of critical acclaim to produce an album that genuinely could be The Greatest Guitar Rock Album Of The Year.
At the beginning of this year, NME triumphantly declared Viva Brother signaled the “return of the great British guitar band” upon the strength of their first single, Darling Buds Of May. Since then, the band have been dismissed by Liam Gallagher as “little posh boys with tattoos” and have been slapped with a lawsuit by obscure Australian Celtic tribal rock-band, Brother, to challenge them about the copyrite of their band name. Surprisingly, the Australian band came out on top on the name front, and perhaps not surprisingly the spat with Gallagher has done wonders for the bands’ profile. As Viva Brother get stuck into the publicity grind for their debut album, Famous First Words, we rouse lead guitarist Samuel Jackson from a nap to ask a few questions.
First of all your band name – Viva Brother – what happened there?
We didn’t know there was a band from Australia called Brother. [Frontman] Lee [Newell] did actually Google and discovered them but didn’t think anything of it at the time. Then we were playing a show in San Francisco and out of nowhere this guy battled his way through the crowd of the sold out show and slapped this fifty page legal writ at Josh’s [Ward, bass player] feet, and he just kicked it to the ground. None of us knew what was gong on but after the show a few people from our label were milling around with this document and basically they were trying to sue us. So there’s been a bit of a legal battle since, and they’ve managed to keep their name and we’ve changed ours. But I’m not bothered. I’m happy with the new name – it’s like saying Long Live Us! Our twitter name was already Viva Brother and people in crowds at our shows would shout it out anyway and we think it sounds good. So it’s the right decision.
Have you heard actual Brother?
I haven’t actually listened to them. I have no desire to. I’ve heard that it’s quite comedy. Although it’s weird – it’s like they don’t have a single fan in the world but they seem to be able to afford a big case. They can continue playing shows to no-one.
Right. So can you describe the sound of your own music in five words?
Super fast rock n’roll injection.
You guys have been making a bit of a name for yourselves in America – does it feel to be making it big in the USA?
It was a surprise for us. When we did our first trip in March where we did SXSW and some shows in New York – they were only tiny shows, but they were all sold out. It was a really good feeling. American’s like Brits and British stuff, but to have a loud British band come and shake things up, I think they’re ready for that.
You’re from Slough – not the most renowned part of the world for generating engaging music – could Slough become a new cultural hotspot?
We’re not all from Slough. Lee and I were both born there, and Frank was born in Canada but we all spent so much time in and around Slough when it started. We used to rehearse as much as we could and Josh lived with Lee so as a band we started there. I can’t imagine it becoming a cultural hot spot any time soon. It’s so industrial and stuck in the 9-5 mindset that I can’t see it getting out of.
When did you realise you could make it as a band?
For us there wasn’t any other option. We had to make it work as we can’t do anything else. We’re useless. One of the first songs we wrote, Darling Buds Of May, our manager said was a great song. He put so much time and faith in us and we had to make it right and then we put it out and it got picked up almost instantly. Zane Lowe started playing the demo in his show and played it three times in one week. It’s been a rollercoaster since then!
The band have been championed as saviours of the guitar-rock Brit-pop world – how has all the critical praise affected the album writing process?
Um, we were on the cover of NME in January, I think. So we were on the cover before we’d recorded the album, but it still seems now that people judge us before listening to us – purely because of what we say in the press. And I don’t blame them we have said some daft things but I wouldn’t go back on them because we’re being honest but I just hope people still listen to our record because it is bloody good.
The band have made a few derogatory comments about other music acts out there – does the band need a bit of anger management?
We’re not angry boys! I promise. We’re nice and pleasant. When people ask us what we think of other bands and other people, if we like them we say we like them and if we don’t we’ll colourfully tear them apart. We’re being honest, that’s all it is. We’re not doing it for attention.
Lee went as far as to say “I see evil in her eyes” about Jessie J.
[Laughs] Oh yeah. She is quite evil.
So is it a tabloid tactic? Obviously you’ve been compared to Oasis and Blur who famously had spats with each other in the press – is this something the band are trying to create?
We’re not influenced by Oasis at all and all we get is that we’re Oasis wannabies. I wouldn’t want to be like Liam Gallagher and if I ever was I’d hope someone would punch me in the face and tell me to fucking sort myself out. We’re not trying to start anything. We’re just focusing on our own band. That’s what other bands should do. That’s what Liam should do.
Who do you see as your competitors in the music arena?
I don’t really look at anyone as competition. You have to focus on your own thing. But other bands that want the same thing of having rock and roll back in mainstream music would be bands like Vaccines, Wolfgang and Tribes. Those guys are great. They’re really good. And Yuck. They’re great.
How does it feel to be flying the flag for British music?
It feels good. It feels nice. We’re just anxious and eager for our album to be out so people can hear the whole thing. It’ll be nice for everyone to be like “Oh right! They DON’T sound like Oasis.”
Famous First Words, the debut album by Viva Brother is released today under Geffen
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