Steve Sparrow (vocals/guitar); Chad Thomas (guitar); Ben Giddings (keyboards); Phil Titus (bass); Andy Hayes (drums).
“Hit the ground and start running” – Us And Ourselves
The opening line of the first single from Morning Parade’s debut album is as good a summary as any in understanding the approach of a band who’ve already achieved much since their limited edition debut single Under the Stars was released in November 2010.
They’ve supported their heroes Biffy Clyro at Ibiza Rocks, wowed “hundreds of crazy Russians” in Moscow, played their first London gig to 2,000 people at Shepherds Bush Empire – and made a classic debut album that more than lives up to the five-piece’s early promise.
All this has been managed despite deliberately avoiding the hype that’s harmed so many bands who could otherwise have been Morning Parade’s peers. Instead, they’ve honed their album until it’s far more than what singer Steve derides as “one hit and loads of filler” typical of so many newcomers.
Steve is honest enough to admit “We were an ever-growing identity crisis” before they met Us And Ourselves producer David Kosten, who has also made albums with Bat For Lashes and the Ivor Novello nominated Everything Everything.
Guitarist Chad explains: “David did us a favour by stripping the songs back until they were naked and then we built from there. We used to have lots of layers in the music and David made us choose which of five keyboard sounds we preferred for a song rather than putting them all on as we had before. At first, we’d wanted to recreate how we are live, with everyone jumping up and down. But the space on these recordings has opened up the songs more.”
The Morning Parade live experience is a community, and not just fans jumping up and down (though that helps) but also the lyrics… inspired by “what’s real and what’s around us”. They’re the first band of their kind to tap into the worries of the new generation of young adults who can’t just walk out of school or university into a decent job like their parents had.
As Steve notes: “There’s a massive pressure on young people now. Most don’t know what they want to do until their mid twenties. It leaves people demoralised and isolated. Children are taught Maths and English at school but not how to apply themselves to a career path, a calling, or an ambition”
Not that they’re an overly-earnest band by any means. Sure, they’ll intensely discuss the dynamics of steering songs until all five members are happy, but the next moment bassist Phil is recalling how Steve was being so impossible to be around in the studio after giving up smoking that he received a band ultimatum to take it up again because “we’d rather he died young and was fun to work with, than give up fags and be a c*** for longer.”
It’s typical of the gang mentality humour surrounding five musicians who’d been in bands around their native Harlow, Essex, before Morning Parade began when keyboardist Ben and drummer Andy joined Steve, Chad and Phil in 2009.
Fewer than 20 gigs later, Parlophone wanted to sign them but their early approaches were ignored. “Getting signed wasn’t what we were looking for at all,” shrugs Ben. “Morning Parade was just about having fun and getting out of the house, we weren’t thinking about a record contract at that stage. There were no stresses, and we’ve tried to keep that atmosphere ever since.”
Eventually persuaded that EMI meant business, they signed in May 2010, impressed at their history of giving artists from Blur to Tinie Tempah time to develop their sound.
“People in our hometown go ‘wow, you must be millionaires now you’ve got a record deal’,” laughs Steve. “But far from it... we’re skint and we’re just getting started. Getting a deal is the easy part, now the work really begins.”
It helps that Steve has built up an arsenal of songs, able to craft so many ideas that Ben admits “I’ve stopped downloading them, there’s just too much!”
Such a prolific work-rate helped the band add songs like Us And Ourselves and Running Down The Aisle onto the album after everyone thought it was finished.
“There was a plan to hold onto those songs for the next record,” admits Steve. “But then we thought ‘What if we die tomorrow and they never got released?’ We’re glad we didn’t, as those are two of the strongest songs on the album. You should never think of playing it safe anyway, you should wipe the slate clean each time.”
The newer songs are already firmly established in Morning Parade’s formidable live show, where the music’s emotional pull is given a mighty boost via a visceral urgency that’s a world away from the usual clunkiness which results when rock and dance collide.“I defy anyone to come to our shows and not dance,” insists Chad. “If we’re not moving, if we’re just stood on stage politely bopping our heads, then why would the crowd move? We give them everything and expect it back. It’s down to how much we rehearse. Two years ago, we’d shit ourselves if a gig was going wrong, but now we can storm it in front of any crowd.”
As well as supports with Glasvegas, The Wombats and Feeder, the quintet were thrilled to play with Biffy Clyro in July as part of Ibiza Rocks. Biffy were an early influence on Morning Parade, dating back to seeing the arena rockers’ early days in front of just 30 people at Harlow venue The Square.
They talk animatedly about ideas for their second album, hoping to continue work with David Kosten as producer. But they also have a healthy disregard for the notion of success, even if Us And Ourselves receives the respect and sales it deserves.
As Steve says: “You’re always waiting for the big moment that says you’ve made it, when the ground opens and people emerge, blowing trumpets in your honour. Then that moment never comes, because we’re always pushing on to the next thing. I don’t lie awake at night thinking ‘How’s the record going to sell?’, I’m insomniac because I can’t finish a song – ‘Shit, I’m halfway through writing my best song yet and I can’t work out how to finish it.’”
Steve should get some sleep, as the songs the band have finished for their debut album stand up next to any debut of the past decade. Us, ourselves – and everyone else - will agree soon enough.