Amidst gathering momentum and rapidly mounting interest TWISTED WHEEL have come from seemingly nowhere to the brink of superstardom in just six months, as summed up by the three members of Manchester/Oldham’s latest sensation. As their Myspace proclaims:
'We formed in February 2007 a week before our first gig. At our second gig NME’s Rick Martin tipped us as ones to watch this year. We recently won an XFM Manchester Unsigned competition, which was judged by a panel of industry experts. Danny MacNamara of Embrace named us in his top 3 Manchester Bands. We were chosen by BOB magazine as one of Manchester's best new bands. Manchester Music named our demo *DEMO OF THE WEEK* and gave us 4.5/5. We won the Topman Unsigned Competition and played at Leeds Festival 2007. We managed to get into the MUSIC WEEK playlist in September 2007 and also featured in The OBSERVER MUSIC MONTHLY in the 'Five Things We Love Right Now' section in the same week. Designer Magazine London made comparisons of front man Jonny Brown to Jamie T, Jack Penate and Scott Mathews'.
Psychedelic roots are still visible from Brown and Clarke’s former group The Children. Musically, Twisted Wheel have the ability to devastate. The mod element is still there and rapid-fire truths are disclosed as low down dirty scenes explode and unfold. Jonny’s auto-rhetoric amphetamine street-poetry spits out everything from crackhead sleaze to life’s hopelessness told through vivid snapshots of dead end half-lives. The ever-present broken-glass sounds of domestic violence scream out from the sing-song streams of gloating consciousness as the wind-up rhymes bounce jauntily up and down in the face of misery. If you don’t laugh, you will cry, and then buckle.
Sleek and scathing, TWISTED WHEEL are well aware of this. Lightning fast and razor sharp, their DIY sound is a hands-on all out attack that has seen just about every spotlight turned towards it since their formation in February this year. Just six months on, they find themselves the most sought after band in the Greater Manchester region.
With one or two majors in amongst the crowd of indie labels already starting to scuffle for the band’s increasingly precious time, W&H eventually caught up with the group (as opposed to just the chaos) in the courtyard of Blackburn’s Cellar bar.
As they shed a little light upon the ins and outs of their rapid rise to prominence, I thought how strange it was to find them in such peaceful surroundings – and showing no signs of dizziness from the permanent rollercoaster ride either:
How did you get from jam to band in just one week?
“We had a jam on the Monday – all we had was a Craig David song!” laughs drummer Adam Clarke “….by the next Monday we had a gig, an acoustic gig at the Bootle St. circus night at the Late Rooms, in Manchester”
“We’re just meeting with different record companies, and lawyers. Trying to work out which direction we’re going” adds Jonny
“We haven’t signed anything yet, y’know – we’re just trying to learn off different people, and are thankful to have people who are high up in the music industry helping us out”
Adam “We’ve had a good leg up off Phil Beckett of Revolution radio. He’s been top with us, putting our songs out, giving us advice and stuff like that. XFM as well”
Stylistically, your sound is a mish-mash. There are Mod elements, and the 6T’s sound, but there’s the DIY punk ethic as well:
Adam: “We have got the 6T’s thing in there still. Me and Jonny were listening to a hell of a lot of sixties music as kids, ten years before The Children”
Is the band named with Northern Soul in mind?
Jonny: “We robbed it from the club. We were stuck for a name for ages, and at one point I thought: ‘Oasis took their name from a club in town’, and I thought about clubs in town…..and up came ‘Twisted Wheel’”.
“It fits” I comment. And it does.
Jonny: “Yeah, a lot of people have said that. We were a bit funny at first about what the Northern Soul heads would think about it….”
I reckon it keeps the name alive, that it’s a compliment, and the trio are affirmative in their responses.
Where The Children are concerned, there’s a wish to emphasise the difference without distancing themselves from the hotly tipped Manchester group that Jonny and Adam were a part of right up until the moment the new band was formed:
Jonny: “When The Children were going, I was doing half the songs I do with this band, acoustically. There was stuff that didn’t fit with the sound of The Children, stuff I always knew I wanted to do with a band. Rick was always interested in jamming”
I wonder if the experience that Jonny and Adam gained from three years of hard gigging with a band that got within an ace of a record deal has seen them well-equipped for their explosive second assault on the industry – this brings up former Children manager Kev, now the Twisted Wheel manager:
Adam: “He’s as much an important part of it all as we are…Yeah, he’s been great, he’s helped a lot”.
Jonny: “Clint Boon as well, obviously who we know through The Children. I think he was a bit funny at first, kinda ‘What’s going on here’ y’know. ‘You’ve got The Children and you’ve got this other stuff’. But as he sort of got to hear it more..he came and said he loved the CD and asked us to come in for a live session”.
I ask whether their next release will be their debut on a label.
“We want to do more tracks anyway. We’ve got more tracks” Jonny states:
Adam “Obviously we’ve had Leeds and that, and we’ve been busy doing gigs”
Jonny: “We’ll do another load, if we still haven’t signed anything, but we’re just happy meeting all these people. We’re not in any rush, and it’s just great to have all these people interested, especially when we’re all still getting to know each other musically".
"It’s getting better.." the front man states after a pause for thought: "...the songs are getting better”
“There’s just a good buzz about it” adds bassist Rick Lees.
Jonny: “There’s a singalong element to our songs, and this always tends to make the best gigs.
"Some bands don’t have a good crowd connection, especially when you get on the bigger stages, and them and the audience is separated by a big gap. If you’ve got them songs that get everyone together and singing, there's gonna be an atmosphere"