Chart-topping group Rixton return to their roots

editorial image
Have your say

Waiting to meet your interview subjects in a disused pub kitchen, peering out of a gauzed window, while the band plays an acoustic version of their next single in a slightly grubby-looking caravan is far from the norm.

But then Rixton are not your typical boy band.

While they tick the boxes on plenty of fronts, with handsome good looks and cheek a-plenty, as well as trendy style, their focus is very much on the music.

Proud of their Lancashire roots, with pianist Danny Wilkin born and brought up in Blackpool, vocalist Jake Roche spending his teenage years in the resort and Lewi Morgan hailing from Bolton – only Charley Bagnall comes from the south – the foursome are making great inroads into the American market.

In the States they can bring streets to a stand-still. Yet in the UK, they happily go about business relatively unnoticed, which was the case when they came home to Blackpool earlier in the autumn for internet music site Vevo.

They’d been selected by a fans’ vote to be the latest act on the site’s Lift programme, going back to their roots, visiting Jake’s home in Manchester, where he lives with his celebrity mum, Blackpool-born TV presenter Coleen Nolan, as well as Danny’s parents’ former pub, the Bourne Poacher in Cleveleys.

The video clips – which have gathered a total of 385,000 views – see them strutting through the streets of Blackpool, taking in the sea air on North Pier and back in the nostalgic setting of the caravan outside the pub where it all began, which is where I first caught up with them.

“Six years ago it started in my bedroom, but we were evicted to the caravan because of the noise,” Danny recalled, of his time starting to write music with Jake, having been the session pianist for the latter’s band with his brother, Shane Richie Jr (yes, his dad is EastEnders actor Shane Richie). “We used to have writing sessions with a little acoustic guitar and recording the vocals from the microphone off a phone headset – like secretaries have. We had no idea what we were doing.

“Me and Jake always wanted to form a band around us. We weren’t the best writers and had a lot to learn, so we were mastering the trade, or at least trying to.

“We wanted to make sure that, whenever it did come to something, that we were feeling the writing and that it was completely organic rather than forced. We took our time and did all the work, and it seems to be paying off.”

Guitarist Charley was next to join the band through music industry contacts, followed soon after by drummer Lewi through a girl Jake was seeing – although his latest squeeze is Little Mix singer Jesy Nelson.

Despite the high-profile relationship, Jake and the band don’t see themselves as heartthrob types.

“There have been times when it’s been crazy, but we’ve not experienced it here,” he said. “I don’t know if we’re that kind of band even, we’re not One Direction or The Vamps and keep ourselves to ourselves.”

Danny added: “Our fans will recognise us and come to say hello and have a chat rather than scream. They’re more interested in the music than who we are as people, and that’s what we like.”

That’s a refreshing outlook, when you consider they were found by Scooter Braun, the man behind Justin Bieber’s huge success, plucking the latterly-troubled teenfrom obscurity via YouTube – the same outlet where he uncovered Rixton’s cover versions.

After selling out shows in America and scoring a number one in the UK with their debut single Me And My Broken Heart in the summer, Rixton hit the road back home this autumn.

“The tour was brilliant,” Danny said, when I caught up with him again last week. “We sold out in Manchester, Glasgow, Newcastle, in these brilliant venues that we thought we would never even have a chance to perform at.”

This week, their follow-up single, the super-catchy, reggae-inspired Wait On Me, could have been destined for a similar success. Its original release date on November 9 was put back a week – possibly to save competition with the Children In Need All Stars choir currently on the top spot.

And if that was the case, a record label executive must have been kicking themselves when Bob Geldof announced Band Aid 30 was out this week.

Band Aid has already become the fastest selling single of the year - after just a day’s sales.

Figures from the Official Charts Company show it is a cert to claim the number one position at the weekend after shifting 206,000 download copies in the hours after they went on sale on Tuesday at 8am.

Rixton’s promotional campaign has included a Radio One Live Lounge slot, Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch, Friday night’s Children In Need broadcast, and dropping in to Terry Wogan’s Radio 2 show.

But, despite the hard work and high hopes for a second top spot, it’s unlikely they’ll see a repeat performance – this time round. Luckily, that’s not a worry for Danny.

“The single’s getting a good response and a lot of plays on Capital and Radio One,” the 24-year-old former Blackpool Sixth Form student said.

“We couldn’t believe we got a number one with Me And My Broken Heart. It was incredible and it’s gone platinum now.

“I would love to think it can happen again, but there’s a lot to do with timing. We have the same release now as some huge artists, and we can only hope for the best.” While Manchester is often cited as being Rixton’s home, it’s Blackpool where their heart is. They spend a good amount of their occasional spare time back here, at Danny’s parents’ latest pub-restaurant venture, and admit enjoying the odd night out in the resort – as well as having ambitions to play the biggest gigs in town.

“I can’t wait for us to play Blackpool Opera House and the Lights Switch-On,” said Jake back during a break in filming for Vevo. “We were meant to do the Lights this year, but were away.” And it’s home comforts that Danny craves these days: “We have two places where we hide out; my parents’ place and Jake’s mum’s in Manchester. Coleen makes the best cup of tea you have ever tasted. Blackpool is very much seen as home, my family is there.

“I’m so used to the inside of hotels now, that the main thing I’m looking forward to at the end of this – whatever comes out of us trying our best – I can’t wait to unpack my suitcase, which I don’t think has happened for four years. You just have to buy new socks every now and then.

“We have a week off between Christmas and New Year, and that’s it. No other rest time in our diaries. From a career perspective, you wouldn’t want it any other way. We are putting in the most effort possible and still have so much fun.”

“It can be difficult,” Danny said of life on the road and living in hotels, “but more the fact that we are literally four best mates, like brothers really. But imagine having to spend every second of every day with those siblings? Every opportunity I can get, we like to take space to breath, then when we get back together it’s like we’ve been apart for weeks.”

2015 promises the release of debut album Let The Road – in America in January and here in March –as well as further singles, with the next possibly a track co-written with Ed Sheeran.

“The album’s finished and can be pre-ordered,” Danny said. “That was the most fun we’ve ever had, recording in New York and LA. It was mind-blowing the calibre of producers and musicians we had working on it. Ed’s just done an arena tour in America – he’s so much further along the line than we are. He’s a big star. It’s great to be part of that, I feel like Britain is bringing out a lot of real musicians.

“Production has led the way for the last 10 years, now finally musicality is becoming important again for popular radio. And it seems like the UK is leading the way and it’s a privilege to be part of it.”

But the Rixton lads aren’t so far behind the likes of Sheeran Stateside – they’re on the Jingle Bell tour “playing arenas like Madison Square Garden – it’s mad” next month, and supporting record label-mate Ariana Grande early next year.

The album release could also bring further UK tour dates, and Danny has one venue at the top of his wishlist.

“I’d love to play the Empress Ballroom,” he said. “It’s such an amazing venue, but for some reason the path hasn’t taken us there yet. But we are pushing for that to happen, we love coming back.”