Music journalists love nothing more than droning on about the conflicts that all too often tear great bands apart, but the truth is that the friendships which brought these bands together in the first place are, more often than not, much stronger than the ‘artistic differences’ often cited for the splits.
New Brighton, who created minor ripples in the Camden scene of the mid 90s as the band Lemonade, are a prime example. Sure, they’d like the wider recognition, radio-play and no doubt the lifestyle, that evaded them at the time, but their current project is about far more than that. It’s about reuniting a group of friends and finally recording the album that they never got the chance to record way back when.
We spoke New Brighton, and they told us the secret to keeping the dream alive.
Ivan and Jamie have been playing together since meeting in 6th form in Birkenhead in 1989. A couple of years later, with keyboardist Joe and Dutch street poet Rijn on board they became Lemonade. The band didn’t survive far beyond the end of University, with Ivan opting for a punk outfit while Jamie knocked out what Ivan describes as “the most hardcore prog rock you've ever heard”. Apparently, “flutes were involved.”
Proof that creative differences – even when they’re as stark as those between punk and prog rock – aren’t as long-lasting as friendships was swiftly delivered when, on moving to London, they gave it another go.
In the years since, and even with band members spread far and wide across the globe, they’ve got together, jammed and played more than the odd gig, whenever their paths crossed and the opportunity arose.
Being the final guy to join the original band, Joe claims it was his ownership of a white Bedford van rather than his keyboard skills which got him involved, and specifically the fact that, in the summer of 1994, he agreed to drive the band to Holland for a festival in Rijn's Grandma’s back garden.
With very happy memories of the resultant fun and games still bringing smiles to everyone’s faces, it’s clear that these are the sort of experiences which no one wants to forget in a hurry, although Joe did point out that "Ivan still owes me £6.80 for petrol."
It's not an obvious pre-requisite, but when Rijn did the warm up for Lemonade at their formative gigs in Huddersfield, he became a crucial part of the band's story.
“We were big in Huddersfield,” says Joe, but Rijn had his sights set on bigger things… mainland Europe. The unlikely launch pad for European success was a visit to his home town in Holland, or more precisely his grandma's house, to play a four-day “Feast of Friends” festival which proved to be the catalyst for a friendship which still endures to this day.
Jamie, who was later to be Rijn’s best man, still visits Holland every year to play a few shows, and the Dutch wordsmith has been the key driver in getting the boys back together for the current project. His belief, and his insistence on part funding the project, has contributed to New Brighton recording the album that may never have happened.
Ivan, Jamie, Joe and Rijn have all made a living from their passion, and drummer, Chris, who joined in 1999, has gone on to work with the likes of Brian May, Bruce Foxton, and Foreigner.
Chris points out that he’s keen to be involved in most creative projects, but when you’re dealing with friends who are also talented writers and musicians, there’s even more reasons to go that extra mile to ensure their music reaches the audience it deserves.
New Brighton as they are now
It’s likely to cause yet another ‘Snickers versus Marathon’ debate for years to come, but when your fan-base consists of your closest friends, changing your band’s name is as easy as writing an email, posting on Facebook post, or announcing it at a party whose guest-list comprises the usual suspects.
Lemonade are now New Brighton for two reasons. There is a successful American band who stole their original name, and so, even if it is the type of ‘seaside town that they forgot to close down’ which Morrissey has sung about for years, given three of the band’s number hail from the same locale as New Brighton, Merseyside, it all made sense.
The newly named New Brighton haven’t forgotten their history though. The album they are currently putting the finishing touches to will be called ‘Lemonade’, and this summer they plan to return to Holland – in a different van this time – as part of a wider tour to support the album.
"We’ve suffered for our music…it’s a shame we couldn’t give the wider public their opportunity to share in that experience” says Jamie
After many years, and as a result of their enduring friendship as much as their obvious talent, that’s all about to change.