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It was Ian Brown who said, “It’s not where you’re from, it’s where you’re at.” But he said that after he’d already made it. What he didn’t realise is that for most people, they don’t make it out at all, and for those who do, what really leaves the impression is the journey.
This is what Morning Parade have discovered. And for starters, Morning Parade are Steve Sparrow (vocals/guitar), Chad Thomas (guitar), Phil Titus (bass), Ben Giddings (synth) and Andy Hayes (drums). And they’re set to be among the most exciting breakout guitar bands of 2011.
Morning Parade hail from the Essex satellite town on Harlow, and they know the pleasures and frustrations of towns like that better than most. As Steve explains of the town, which is still struggling to adjust to the decline of its manufacturing base: “Harlow’s like a weird bubble where no-one really enters and no-one really leaves.”
Harlow isn’t quite Royston Vasey from The League Of Gentlemen, but the point still stands. “The place stay the same but the generations change the adults and then their kids come in and then their grandkids. When you live in these places there’s really nothing to do. There’s just everyone there, doing whatever they want all the time.”
Solace of sorts came in the town’s one live music venue, The Square where Steve and Phil, gradually joined by the three friends who would become their bandmates in a nascent band scene. But even there they felt like outsiders. Like any youth movement through the ages, the kids of Harlow fell into two camps, the mainstream ‘townies’ and the skate-punk ‘grebos’, with little room for anyone inbetween. And of course, inbetween was exactly where they found themselves. “I used to dress like a chav but I used to try and go to The Square… I didn’t really like the metal stuff but I wasn’t into UK Garage or 2 Step or anything like that either. I was in a bit of a weird place because I didn’t know which I wanted to be. There was a little group of us that kind of did that because we didn’t know which one we were.”
The turning point for Steve was one night way back when at The Square one night when The Cooper Temple Clause rolled into town supported by a little-known band called Biffy Clyro. Their opening song ‘Hope For An Angel’, he says, opened his mind. “Everyone was just talking and it was the quietest song you’ve ever heard, and suddenly it just erupted into this massive wall of noise. That was crucial.”
What followed was years in identikit rock bands, but when they went to London they didn’t feel included either, and years of thankless day jobs ensued. But what it was what they did with their weekends, during the overspill from the nineties rave era, that would point them in the path that would lead them to where they are now. Chad remembers: “round here that was just a new thing to do. Not so much out of boredom, but it was new. Playing guitar was fun but on a Saturday night sometimes you just want to let go and get smashed. And that was where that music imprinted itself onto our souls. It was a different kind of euphoria.”
Those years of passing CDs and mixtapes round, getting off on Daft Punk and Aphex Twin would affect the fivesome profoundly. But with that music as prevalent in the UK as rock’n’roll, it’s perhaps surprising that so few bands have successfully blended them together. They admit it took them some time from their Interpol-esque beginnings, but in the widescreen, windswept, emotional yet undeniably euphoric guitar pop sound of Morning Parade, they have got there in spectacular fashion.
The first song where they really cracked it was with the urgent ‘A&E’, so it stands to reason that this will be the song that launches them onto the national stage. Yet while it’s powered energetically along by 4/4 dynamics, this is no ‘new rave’ fantasia. Like all their songs it’s rooted in the world they know. “It was about one of my friends who was seeing this girl, and basically she was having another relationship with somebody else at the same time as him but convincing him that it wasn’t happening so he couldn’t tell the difference between the paranoid and the reality and it really wound him up. It’s about these scenarios unfolding in your head really fast.”
Heavy stuff for a pop song perhaps, but Steve imbues these everyday stories with a passion that burns through everything they do in their quest to elevate the normal to the fantastical. “We used to get frustrated when we were out and about going to see other bands. We were like ‘what the fuck is this, who are these jumped up people singing absolute bollocks about nothing?’ We’d think, ‘that’s so pretentious, there’s nothing real about what you’re doing but you’re trying to sell it as something real. So when we started doing our own songs we thought it had to relate to something. But being here there’s nothing really to write about, so we just started writing about the people around us.”
Even their title was inspired by their surroundings. On returning bleary-eyed from the forest raves of their teens, they would be struck hard, possibly giggling, by the contrast between those party hordes returning by tube in the opposite direction of those on the commuter belt. Chad remembers: “Whether it’s the people on the way to work or the social aftermath, you’re always in this morning parade.”
It wasn’t long before the band were noticed. After being picked up by Wildlife Management (Arctic Monkeys) they signed with Parlophone and were quietly left to grow into the band they could be. They recorded their debut album with producer Jason Cox at Damon Albarn’s 13 Studios, and in September the world will be able to hear the fruits of their labours in the form of the trance-inducing ‘Under The Stars’, the tearjerking ‘Headlights’ and the grand, expansive ‘Speechless’. And now they’re ready to take their message out to the world.
And with only a clutch of gigs under their belt so far, the blend of mass euphoria and sweeping emotion that mark out their shows is already earning them new fans at every corner. “The songs have been cooped up for so long,” says Steve, “that when you get them out there and you get feedback from people, you get a little private moment. You do it for yourself, but there’s a lovely validation when a complete stranger comes up to you and says ‘this speaks to me’, or ‘this song helped me get through that time’. I’m still not used to that.”
“What we said earlier about the divide where we were between the townies and grebos, and how being in the middle you always feel so alone. Once we started putting the songs out and getting feedback we realised that there are thousands of people out there who feel like that. Everybody feels like that. And if the songs make a connection, and if we can unify people – then that’s everything we could hope for.”
Morning Parade are fast discovering that most people don’t have chance to worry about where they’re from or even where they’re at – most people just want somebody with them for the journey.
"This Essex quintet are writing songs as expansive & ambitious, as the large venue spaces that we expect them to be filling by the end of the year." Xfm
"... it’s epic, anthemic, and likely to conquer a lot of hearts in 2011." TheFly
"A fusion of pulsating synths, 90's Britpop, melodic vocals and supercharged stadium busting guitar riffs..."Rising Stars of 2011" " 4MUSIC & T4
Steve Sparrow (vocals/guitar)
Chad Thomas (guitar)
Phil Titus (bass)
Ben Giddings (keys)
Andy Hayes (drums)
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