When it comes to modern British bands, we usually get one of two types: cheeky or arty.
In the first case, this means outfits like Oasis and Supergrass; in the second, it means groups like Radiohead and Coldplay.
What we never seem to get from the U.K. these days is a band that’s brutally masculine, a group with the oomph of such American acts as the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Audioslave.
That may be changing, however. A British band cockily called the Music pumps out anthems fired by as much brio as the U.K. bands that won America’s heart back in the ’70s, such as Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Queen.
Not that the Music sounds precisely like any of those groups. It simply shares their guitar-driven dynamism.
“We like that bigger, more forceful sound,” says the Music’s singer, 18-year-old Robert Harvey. “We’re all really into bands like Queens of the Stone Age, Foo Fighters and Jane’s Addiction.”
They sound closest to that last-named act. Harvey has the yowl of Perry Farrell – or Robert Plant. He operates, as they do, less like a conventional vocalist than like a guitarist. His manic yelps mimic the orgasmic release of a high-flying six-string solo.
“A lot of bands try to highlight the singer, but we want to show that no one member is any more important than the other,” Harvey says. “We want to operate as an equal-member band.”
To make his point, Harvey writes spare and slogan-driven lyrics that have more to do with establishing a groove than with any poetic aspirations.
“I’m not educated enough to express my own feelings,” he says. “It’s just a vibe I’m going for, a feeling.”
One role model for this approach comes from the hedonistic, lyrical incantations of dance-rave culture. Harvey counts acts like Underworld and Leftfield as influences.
Interestingly, one of the Music’s early boosters was none other than Tony Wilson, who helped create rave culture with his Hacienda Club in the northern English city of Manchester in the ’80s. Tipped by hipsters, Wilson went to see one of the Music’s seminal gigs in its hometown of Leeds. “He talked about working with us, but never pulled it off,” Harvey says. “Mainly, he just spread the word.”
The group had a local following almost from the start. Harvey had been in another band with drummer Phil Jordan (the group’s elder statesman at 19). Guitarist Alan Nutter (his real name) and bassist Stuart Coleman, both 18, were friends from toddlerhood. The quartet came together four years ago in high school and quickly hit on a signature sound. It’s highlighted by Nutter’s epic guitar lines, which can sound as ornate as those of Queen’s Brian May or as architectural as the Edge’s.
Two songs on the Music’s debut CD, “The Dance” and “Human,” were written when the band was just starting out. As you’d expect from these riff-oriented numbers – which shun the common verse-chorus-verse form – they rose out of jams.
“There’s a freedom that way,” Harvey says. “There are no rules to jamming. No one can tell you you’re doing it wrong.”
“Music is all we care about,” he says, explaining the group’s name, “and we want people to focus on that, not an image. If we called ourselves Bald Scarecrow, people would look at our heads.”
Not that everyone has focused entirely on the music. While the British media have been quick to celebrate the band’s sound – starting with its first EP, provocatively titled “You Might as Well Try to Fuck Me” – it has also played up several images: first, as stoners. Harvey finds the tag tiresome but admits, “We used to smoke a lot of weed. We’ve calmed down now. It was playing with my brain.”
The press has also focused on Harvey’s distinctive stage dancing, a mix of rave moves and kung-fu gestures. One writer dubbed it “rave fu.” The music paper even offered a guide to “How to Dance Like Robert Harvey,” complete with foot patterns readers could imitate.
The singer says he was both flattered and appalled. Another major U.K. story dubbed him “the coolest uncool frontman in the land.”
“I think they meant that I’m uncool to the point where I don’t give a shit about being cool,” he says. “And that makes me very cool.”
Or something like that.
The group is now aiming to make it in America. Harvey cites several reasons most U.K. acts have failed to soar here. “One: They don’t work hard enough. They think that because they’re big in England and Japan and Europe that it will be the same here. But it’s a different place. Two: They’re not good enough live.”
Harvey knows that to win over America, they’ll have to tour relentlessly. “Some bands say, ‘I don’t want to always tour. I want a life,'” he says. “But touring is my life. We’re all young, so we have the energy it takes.”
Even better, his band has the hard-core sound America craves.