Ten years ago I began my fledgling journalism career as a junior reporter in the sleepy Gloucestershire hills of the Cotswolds. The idyllic village of Chipping Campden was one of my more interesting sources of news and one of the places that I remember with fondness, partly as it brought me two of my favourite stories.
Firstly, a German couple bought a beautiful house on the way into the village and decided to do some renovation on it. They then risked the wrath of the locals as it emerged they hadn’t secured planning permission – and duly had to knock down two-thirds of the house, costing them millions. It even made The Times and the Daily Mail! Then a slightly more surreal story saw me tracking ‘big cats’ through the Gloucestershire countryside with a ‘big cat expert’ based on my colleague’s American aunt and uncle’s half-arsed ‘spotting’ of a lynx-type creature in a field. Fun, but utterly mad.
Chipping Campden is the quintessential countryside village that’s more likely to produce the NIMBY-esque localism excellently mocked by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s Hot Fuzz than a bunch of exciting rockstars. But, in the form of Brixton Alley, that could all be about to change.
The trio of vocalist and guitarist Jonny Magro and brothers Alex (drums) and Ben Wells (bass and vocals) have created an exciting, high-energy sound that is about as far away from the slow, idyllic lifestyle of the Cotswolds as you can imagine.
But in Brixton Alley’s case, the countryside location has worked a treat. Jonny told us: “We’ve built our own recording studio in an old caravan. It’s the ideal place to write new material and bash out demos then, when things get a bit stressful or we need a little break, we can just step out into the countryside, kick a football around and chill. It’s pretty sick.” To which Alex added: “It was great. There was no-one around, so you could make a sh*t load of noise!”
They first formed around three years ago and started jamming for fun. As Alex explains: “We played our first gig at a fancy dress party for my work at the time, where we dressed as Thunderbirds. After that we played a load of shows in London, keeping up the fancy dress until we decided to take things a little more seriously… two years later. If you ask the boys, I still dress up now and pretend to be a drummer.”
They certainly have started taking things at least a little more seriously, and churned out some crackingly catchy rock. The latest addition is today’s release of new single Gold Dust, on which Ben tells us “It will leap out of your headphones and punch you right in t’ ear ‘ole,” while Alex claimed: “The riff will get stuck in your head for daaayyyysss. In a good way.”
We had a listen to put that theory to the test. Gold Dust opens up with a funky bassline that continues as a big smash of rocky guitar chords comes in over the top. It drops down into an opening verse of high-pitched engaging vocals over stabby guitar bursts. A big catchy chorus follows and ends with a fast-spaced spit of vocals that flow into high-pitched vocals over chords and the opening bassline.
The second verse of vocals over a cool drawn-out bassline leads into another chorus, which begins with the line: “Why don’t you take me back to the old days, When we actually had stuff to say to each other other than this false pretence small talk, How’s your day been love?” An acapella version of the chorus leads into an outro of the repeating chords and high-pitched vocals to see the track out in typically energetic fashion.
It’s fast-paced and ridiculously catchy, it absolutely will be stuck in your head for days, and I’m loving it. Check it out now in the stream below:
The single is part of an interesting ploy for 2018, which sees Brixton Alley release one single per month. Each single will have its own cover artwork that combined will form a collage upon a theme. Jonny explains: “We want to keep people interested with fresh music and give them something to look forward to each month.” While Alex told us: “It’s a really cool challenge for us to take on. We’re excited to see how it plays out and what people think.”
Part of the Brixton Alley appeal is their combination of a whole range of genres – which they tell us is unintentional – from rock and alternative through to pop-punk and even a bit of rap thrown in for good measure, offering something for everyone. As Ben tells us: “Our songs have big riffs, catchy melodies, punchy drums and sophisticated lyrics. We’re different, but we think you’ll like it.”
In terms of what inspires them to write music, Jonny explains: “Scenarios that I find interesting. I like to write stories about them and create characters. I rarely write songs about my own experiences, whereas Ben does that quite a lot.” And indeed, Ben tells us: “My feelings and how I’m feeling at the time. I find it easier to write in the moment.”
As mentioned, there’s plenty to come from Brixton Alley this year. As Alex explains: “Well we’ve got a new track coming out every month, so a load of recording will be done. We’re in the studio every three months at the moment, which will be awesome. We’re also hitting the gigs hard. Mainly around Coventry and The Midlands, but also branching out to the rest of the UK – we’ve recently bought a van, so a tour is definitely on the cards.” And they tell us (all three of them, including Ben) that Ben goes “HAM” during gigs, so definitely keep an eye out for upcoming gigs.