‘One of the most addictive new voices in British music’

Darlia are hoping to release an album later this year
Darlia are hoping to release an album later this year
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Given Nathan Day is talking to me as his songs are being played on Radio One, and his band is being hailed as one of the best in the country, what he says is quite hard to believe.

“Almost exactly eight months ago I was cleaning toilets at Lytham St Annes High School,” he muses down the phone.

“Did I use marigolds? I think so. It wasn’t the nicest of jobs.

“It seems a bit mad to think we tried to squeeze in playing music around our cleaning jobs, and now we’re in the position we are ... that is quite bonkers.”

Bonkers. Not a bad name for a song. Pity Dizzee Rascal has beaten them to it.

But I daresay Nathan won’t be too disheartened for this is a man for whom songwriting appears a bit of a breeze.

He reckons he already has more than three album’s worth of material written.

The number of songs he has up his sleeve, and the quality of them, is one of the reasons his band – Darlia – were signed by a record label after playing just a handful of gigs and are now not so much on the verge of the big time but already in it.

In a recent article, for example, music bible NME described Day as “one of the most addictive new voices in British music”.

I first interviewed the 20-year-old from St Annes about three months ago.

It was then that Darlia, formed with fellow Lytham St Annes school pupils Jack Bentham and Dave Williams, were first starting to go places.

But Nathan didn’t sound like your average pop star. He was a bit nervous and distant on the phone and if I’m being honest, the interview was quite hard work.

Fast forward a few months and it’s like I’m talking to a different man.

He talks easily and freely, and has grown in confidence, which, he agrees, is probably down to the success of the band.

As he puts it, he’s the last person any of his friends or old teachers would have predicted to be a success.

The reason for this is because it seems Nathan was a bit of an outsider at school.

With admirable honesty, he tells me he suffered from anxiety attacks, a problem he’s still dealing with.

“It still is tough. I mean, little things still affect me, like waiting at a bus stop and I’ll be thinking ‘god what will I say to this bus driver, how will I word it correctly?’ That’s just typical anxiety,” he explains.

“But there is another kind of disabling anxiety which genuinely completely stops me.

“It’s not shyness. I don’t know what that is.

“When I was a really young young kid I was taken to hospital a few times for a lot of different reasons and I think that may have something to do with this massive shock that just keeps coming out of nowhere. It is a proper panic thing.”

Music, and the fact that people, lots of people, like the songs he writes, has helped ease his troubled mind.

“Recently, because of the things that have been happening, I think I’ve got a bit more confidence,” he said.

“A few months ago I had the after-school job cleaning toilets and I had never been further than Brighton. But the other day we went to Holland. We got the ferry and that broke a massive barrier for me because I didn’t feel agoraphobic. I was in Holland, I was OK, and that really broke a mould.

“It’s not perfect and I always feel slightly unsure, but I am beginning to feel just a little more stable every day. The more people that are noticing and listening to the music ... that’s all we want.”

Nathan’s dad is a web designer. He has two sisters and a brother and hardly listened to any music growing up. He only got into songwriting because of an uncle who played guitar.

He met bass player Williams when the pair were cleaning toilets. “We started talking about music and the same day we began playing together,” recalls Nathan.

“I’d played a little bit with Jack (Bentham, drummer) a few years before. So I got him involved and within a week we had a set-list.”

They started playing venues in Blackpool, though got disillusioned.

“We played a little festival called Under The Town (for local bands, at the Winter Gardens) and at The Blue Room about four times but places kept closing down so you couldn’t build a following,” he said.

“In the end we thought ‘why bother?’ and we very quickly started playing in Manchester.”

The first couple of gigs, no one batted an eyelid. But then, due to what Nathan describes as “the fact we were actually really trying hard, which gets the attention of people”, they were spotted by someone in the music industry and, as dreamlike as it seems, a deal quickly followed.

Queen of Hearts, the infectious first song on debut EP Knock Knock, was picked up by Radio One. Influential DJs Zane Lowe and Fearne Cotton started bigging up the band and suddenly Darlia were hot property.

Not bad for lads who were pouring bleach down a secondary school loo this time last year.

It is what you call a meteoric rise, yet Nathan, frontman of the band, and songwriter, doesn’t seem too fazed.

“It has happened a little faster than I had hoped for but I sort of knew it would happen,” he said, sounding sure rather than cocky.

“I love writing songs, I love playing songs, I love gigs, I love the whole thing.

“To have the support of Radio One has been fantastic and we really do appreciate it.”

Musically Darlia have echoes of Nirvana but Nathan says the band “definitely aren’t grunge”. He describes the sound as rock ‘n’ roll, and says his family are ecstatic at his rise to fame.

“My sisters and brother are obviously buzzing about hearing my songs on the radio,” he said.

“My mum and dad are really proud too. Are they worried about the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle I might start leading? They were probably more worried before I was in a band - then I had a rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle without the rock ‘n’ roll!

“Now at least they’ve got the music to listen to from it and they do actually like it, which is quite surprising really.”

An album is due later this year - “it’s not recorded yet but I know exactly what I want it to sound like - I’ve always known what record I wanted to release from being a young kid” - and it seems the world is their oyster, for these lads are going to be big, no doubt about it.

I ask again about those anxiety problems and wonder aloud if, the more famous he gets, he might become something of an inspiration for other teenagers who’ve gone through difficult times.

He hesitates. “I’ve heard a lot of people that knew me say ‘if he can do it, then I can’. I think to them I was just this completely incapable kid - through high school I was this kid who was never going to amount to anything,” he said.

“I think I have shown them differently.

“But I don’t want to be a symbol of messed-upness, because that is just making me sound messed up.

“I’m not. I just am who I am - and at the moment I am loving doing what we are doing and can’t wait for what comes next.”

Which, if the album is the success it’s expected to be when it comes out in the autumn, might well be one of the country’s leading rock stars.

Not bad for a toilet cleaner.

*Darlia’s second EP, Candyman, is released on April 14. For a full list of gigs go to www.darlia.co.uk