Southampton is a city famed for many things. It has its own shopping super-centre, one of the largest and most historic docks in the country, and in 1976 its football team lifted the FA Cup in front of a near capacity crowd at the old Wembley Stadium. But one thing which the city has never had is a reputation for is being a musical hotbed. While they are not expecting to play a sell-out concert at the new Wembley anytime soon, The Novatones could be set to buck that trend.
The four-piece only formed three years ago, but since then vigorous live performances – reminiscent of The Jam in their early years – and an impressive stage presence have seen them gain support slots for the likes of Bez from Happy Mondays, Twisted Wheel, From The Jam and The Pigeon Detectives.
“It’s just guitars plugged in and fucking going for it,” said lead guitarist Tony Smith, and frontman Anthony Pittman continued: “It’s raw sound, there’s nothing too technical about what we do.”
It’s easy to tell where the band’s influences come from. Their mod-style is coupled with Pittman’s standout Gallagher-esque union jack guitar, and although ‘The Supernova’ provided the inspiration for the name The Novatones, the lead vocalist admitted that he is considering getting a new one. “It was great when we started,” he said, “But now it looks a bit like a wank over of Noel Gallagher. Pretentious people pick us up on it.”
The Hampshire band have already amassed a strong local following, and in 2010 they reached the national final of Sky TV’s music competition ‘Live and Unsigned’. Although admitting that it helped to gain them some publicity, Pittman explained that the band grew frustrated with the voting process, which they believed was a con.
“When we got through to the final the first thing they did was hand us a piece of paper saying you’ve got to get all you fans to text in, a pound a vote,” he recalled. Discovering that this counted for 50% of the vote and that they only had three minutes on stage, the rhythm guitarist described how they got so fed up that they decided to play ‘i i i’, their longest song at almost five minutes, followed by The Who’s ‘My Generation’. “They said they were gonna cut us out, and we just thought, fuck it, we’re just gonna keep playing until they stop us, and we did! We got through all the set and we didn’t win!”
While there is a serious side to The Novatones – they are now under the management of the newly formed Cabbage Media Company – talking to them gives you a real sense that they are in the industry primarily for the enjoyment. But there is certainly ambition. Drummer Sean Swift said: “We always said if we weren’t pushing forward we would call it a day, if we were staying the same or going backwards, we would just say that’s enough.”
Where do they see themselves in five, or even ten years time? “Hopefully dead mate,” jokes Tony Smith, “We’ve got two years to make it – then it’s the 27 Club!”
Sam Skilton spoke to The Novatones on Saturday 17th November before their live show at Lennon’s in Southampton. Full interview coming soon!