Every Monday we will be bringing you an unsigned singer or band as part of our Independent Music Monday feature. This week, we caught up with The Illicits find out more about them…
Who is in the band, how did you meet, where are you from and how did you come up with the band name?
The band comprises of Brad Hayes (Lead Guitar), George Richards (Lead Vocals), Matt Cottam (Drums) and Joe Mitchell (Bass). The Illicits first formed in 2016 where Brad convinced George to sing over acoustic songs that he had wrote on an acoustic guitar in his bedroom over the previous couple years. After a few nervous takes we had them nailed, so the idea for a band cropped up. Mitch was brought in on bass then came up with the name 'The Illicits'. George then found out that a former guitarist from an old band in Blackburn also plays the drums and wants to get gigging again. He immediately messaged Matt and got him to practice with us and that was that, four Blackburn lads, The Illicits.
Who were your musical influences when you were growing up and who are your influences now?
Our musical influences centre around guitar bands, but the songs aren't really wrote with any particular genre or band we want to sound like. A song will be presented at practice with chords and a melody and then the attitude will be everyone play along, so it can be taken anywhere and interpreted by whoever really.
How would you describe your sound?
The sound of the band is difficult to put your finger on. From the guitar point of view is it based upon British and American rock, yet the guitar is written with a move away from the archetypal indie sound, even after a song is written and played a thousand times we’d still be looking for ways to improve it. Moving to the drums, Matt is a massive metal fan… so naturally he loves to add a fast paced beat with plenty of fills and crash bang wallop. The dynamic of the band allows the bass to be heard forefront at times, with Mitch having weighed in with his own songwriting, songs like ‘What D’ya Say’ have a heavily featured bass.
When we play live the sound has a fast flow energy of a rock n roll band with a few curveballs in there like one of our tunes called 'Let Me Be Yours' which has a softer tone to it but still has the jangly picking that is used in some of the heavier stuff. As a band, when we formed we decided best that we really focus on our own music rather than playing cover songs (simply because we knew we would basically ruin our favourite songs), don’t get me wrong we’ve played a couple covers here and there and mess about in practice. But, we just figured putting more effort into our own sound would benefit us in the long run.
What is your latest single called and what was the influence behind it?
Our latest single is called ‘Smoke Me Away’, the influence behind the actual song was pretty simple, George left Mitch playing on Garageband on his laptop, when he came back he’d recorded some guitar parts for a song. George wrote some lyrics to it and the next time we all got together we just jammed it out. It was largely influenced by the lifestyle we were living at the time and it was about people we knew. The song itself has always been our favourite to play, whether that’s in the rehearsal room or live. It brings out the best in all of us, it’s a song that has space for Brad to really use his riffs and solos and that is heavy enough for Matt to really let loose on the drums.
What’s your local music scene like?
The local music scene in our surrounding area is very much pubs and bars, in recent time there have been some really good little venues opening and we love playing locally because all our mates come down. This is where we learnt our trade, we owe a lot to our good friend Jamie whose pub The Belgrave in Darwen let us practice in the day and then play their open mic nights. From this, the transition to venues in the likes of Manchester was much more natural as we were confident in our sound.
What do you have planned for the next 12 months? Any albums or festivals?
In the next 12 months firstly we plan to release a second single called 'Alive', which is another great one. Moving on we will support Toploader on the 6th May at Cellar Bar Blackburn at a day long festival. Then our biggest gig to date will be supporting the mighty Twisted Wheel at Cellar Bar Blackburn again on the 30th June. To support a band we all grew up listening to is an honour to be honest, we love them and we hope after the gig that they’ll love us! After that the plan is to keep gigging, keep recording and just keep plugging away and hopefully the right people will notice us.
Is there anyone you’d love to collaborate with?
It’s a difficult one really, we obviously all have our heroes and who we aspire to be like and who we think is awesome. But collaboration is a totally different thing, their ideas and way of doing things can be totally different to ours, sometimes if you have an idea/vision of what you want your songs to sound like it’s best to have as little people involved as possible so that you can really achieve your goal. Otherwise, it isn’t yours anymore.
Any funny stories surrounding your live performances?
At Darwen Live 2017, 4 hours after our gig the last band did not turn up so therefore we were invited back on to perform one more song, drunk like you wouldn't believe, we felt like we were really smashing it out, we were wrong. Watching the video back was more painful than watching Rovers lose to Burnley. It was a good crack though.
What is the one thing that you want readers to know about your band?
We're all about the music and having a good time. We’re all best mates, so we want to portray that and we want to invite people to be our mates and spread the word about our songs and our gigs because we really want to make this our full time job, it isn’t just a hobby for us, it’s more important than that.