WHEN highly tipped outfit Brother had Paul McCartney turn up to their first gig they must have thought the future looked rosy.
At another show, however, someone from a band sharing their name served them with a writ.
Now called Viva Brother, the gritty quartet’s debut album Famous First Words is out and fulfilling much of the promise of some incendiary foundation touring.
“It was a pain,” bassist Josh Ward says of the name change. “We had this whole campaign and picked the name but there was another band, in Australia, also called Brother.
“They are a Celtic rock outfit who have about 13 fans. One of the band came to our gig in San Francisco. While we were on stage they served a writ, while we were playing. I didn’t know what it was at first. I thought it was some weird person giving me some kind of newspaper.
“They weren’t willing to co-exist with us so we had to go through a legal battle and change. We’ve come to terms with it now. Viva Brother means long live brother, so it actually means we kept our name in a sense.”
The band announced it officially during their Glastonbury shift. “We came out as Brother and finished the set as Viva Brother with a huge flag. We wanted to do it as a bit of a statement.”
And while the label may have changed on the tin, Josh is keen to stress the contents remain intact.
“We’re exactly the same band, the same album, nothing has changed our course,” he says, confirming it took them three weeks instead of the allotted six to make the record.
“We like to party but when it came to the album we were working with Stephen Street who is a legend, a hero of ours.
“We didn’t want to mess him about and not be focussed, so we chose to record in the middle of the countryside where there was nothing to do apart from the album.
“We were living at the studio with him. We just woke up every day, recorded, wrote songs, and then had dinner at night and discussed what we were going to do the next day. It was very civilised.”
The rural setting was maybe at odds with the nature of the record, which sounds like it is born of city streets, but the result retains a vitality missing from so much guitar music.
“We wrote the album in the urban scene – our guitarist Sam’s living room for most of it – just on our acoustic guitars, hanging out with each other every day doing that, just writing about our lives, what we’d been through and how we were breaking out of our hometown.”
For Josh that meant naval city Portsmouth while the others hailed from Slough. Frontman Lee Newall tested Xboxes for a living, Josh worked the railways.
“I was at college doing music and media studies, trying to make short films and then my dad convinced me I should get a job on the railway which involved me going out every night working on the tracks dressed as tango man.
“Everyone I used to work with was very different to me. They were older, grown men and I was this young boy who knew this wasn’t what I wanted to do. I used to shut myself off and listen to bands on my headphones and couldn’t wait until the weekend when we could go and practise. I was listening to a lot of ’90s bands like Blur, Stone Roses, Happy Mondays. We’ve got hints of those in our songs but more modernised.”
They’ve even, albeit rather flippantly, invented their own genre. “People were asking ‘Are you a Britpop revivalist band?’ We’re not trying to revive anything. We never set out to write these songs to sound like anything mixed with anything else. It’s just what came out so we thought instead of being called a Britpop band we’ll make up our own genre for a laugh. People have taken it seriously and some bands are calling themselves Gritpop, which is quite hilarious.”
And, of course, Macca got an early taste of that when the then Brother boys played their first gig supporting his son James. The Beatles hero was standing in the corner at the Brighton venue.
“We weren’t ready to play live properly so we just supported him to see how the songs would go down,” recalls Josh ahead of their return to The Leadmill on September 24.
“It turned out Paul McCartney was there, which was quite nice for our first gig. That’s definitely one for Wikipedia.”
Since then, the band have definitely evolved and VB have been touted to fill the Oasis void, if that really needs filling. Certainly Lee is a band leader who polarises opinion like Liam Gallagher.
“We knew we weren’t going to come out staring at our shoes and biting our tongues. We knew we had written these big songs and wanted to take them to big stages and we’ve got big attitudes to go with it,” says Josh.
“If we’re asked for an opinion on something we’re not going to hold back which sometimes gets us in trouble, but that’s the way we are.”