High-energy gigs and a cheeky sense of humour are trademarks of indie alternative rockers Brixton Alley. The band has been making waves on the Australian music scene since 2019, despite recurrent, enduring Covid lockdowns.
But the band was not born in the Bungle Bungles or Wooloomooloo. Hailing from the English Cotswolds, the Brixton Alley boys are as British as queueing. They're whinging poms, to use the antipodean vernacular.
Formed in 2016, the band comprises brothers Alex Wells on drums and Ben Wells on bass and vocals, with best mate and guitarist Jonny Magro on lead vocals.
In 2019, largely on a whim, this very English band relocated lock, stock, and barrel to Melbourne, Australia. Three years later, the boy have just released new single 'Happy Isn't Possible' and have performed their hundredth gig in Oz.
There’s more to Brixton Alley than meets the eye. The boys work hard to cultivate a playful, chaotic persona, but it’s clear that nothing has been left to chance.
The band has incredible stage presence. Charismatic guitarist Jonny looks suitably dapper as he stalks the stage in his signature crushed velvet jacket that has allegedly never been washed.
Quick to diminish their achievements – so self-deprecating, so English – the Brixton Alley boys are accomplished musicians with a setlist of impressively infectious songs and a well-deserved reputation for putting on a great show.
With Vegemite sandwiches in hand, we spoke via Zoom with bassist Ben to learn more about the band, the new track, what led them to a land down under, and what they miss most about good ol' Blighty.
Please describe Brixton Alley, for those who haven’t heard you.
We’re kind of like early Arctic Monkeys - but with fewer chords. We have messy riffs and catchy melodies, with good stage performances to get people going.
Our influences as a band are the likes of Green Day, Rancid, Arctic Monkeys, of course. As well as Highly Suspect, and Jamie T. And Catfish and the Bottlemen.
How did you each get started in music?
Alex played drums when we were kids, and then I got a guitar when I was about 9. Jonny was doing the same thing at the same time – we even had the same guitar teacher a one point – but we never actually met till we went to college.
Then we started playing together and writing shitty pop songs, and then we got Alex in to drum along with them.
Where did the band name come from?
It’s taken from a song we wrote - 'Simple Sally' - about a prostitute. There was another option too, but I can’t remember what that was now. We flipped a coin over a pint in Wetherspoon’s and that’s how we chose it. That was 2016.
Can you remember your first gig together?
Of course! Our first ever gig was in Worcester. We thought we needed a ritual before we went on stage. As we were thinking of what we could do, we noticed a playing card stuck in the gutter. It was the five of spades. We picked it up and to this day we kiss it before we play every show.
If only it had been the ten of clubs! How did three English lads end up in Australia?
Well, we came here for a week's holiday and to play some gigs with our label. We loved it so much out here we decided to move. So, three months later, we’d packed up our lives, said our goodbyes, and off we went.
What were those first days in Oz like?
Exciting, but also a complete shit show! The downside of moving so quickly was we had no time to save money, and we still had leases on apartments to pay, and bills, and all sorts of rubbish like that.
It meant we had about £400 to furnish a two-bedroom flat and get all the utensils and everything we needed, which amazingly we managed to do.
We got a whole lot of free stuff from Facebook Marketplace and still had money left over to go and have some celebratory pints.
We originally moved to Melbourne but now we are in Brisbane. We moved to escape lockdown, but it feels more and more like home every day.
Have you seen a lot of Australia?
We’ve seen a bit, and mainly the east coast: Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland. It's been tricky with Covid because it’s made travelling pretty much impossible.
Covid was a real shitter. We’ve been here for three years now and we’ve spent one and a half years of that in lockdown! We couldn't play any shows; we couldn't travel.
Most of the time we couldn't leave our house after 8pm, or go further than 5 km from our door. They had police on the streets and you’d get an on-the-spot fine: $1,000, or something stupid like that.
We also haven't been able to go home, so haven’t seen families or friends in three years. That takes its toll.
Other than family, what do you miss most about the UK?
To be honest, it’s mainly food and drinks. I miss Carling, which is something I never thought I’d say. I miss a good proper ale – they all have bubbles over here.
I miss Fanta Fruit Twist. And if anyone ever questions the UK’s crisp selection, shut them down instantly; it is second to none!
Are Aussie fans different to British ones?
Aussies seem to love to go and watch live music more than we experienced at home. Also, we have more fans over here than at home, so that makes it better.
We have incredible fans. We recently released the single ‘Are You Sure?’ and had a launch party for it. We had a room full of people singing all of our songs and crowd surfing.
We were so nervous about the night, but that went as soon as we got on stage. We just couldn’t believe it!
What do you guys like doing when you’re not making music?
Alex just had his first ever Thai Boxing fight, which was pretty cool. He did really well. He unfortunately didn’t win, but he’s definitely got the next one in the bag! Jonny has got well into fishing and snooker since being over here.
And I like to draw, little sketches and the like. I find it super relaxing and it’s a great way to wind down and escape for a bit.
I’ve also done a few album covers and gig posters for bands over here, as well as all of our artwork. It’s come in very handy and has saved us a killing, to be honest.
Now that you’re an experienced and accomplished musician, what advice would you give your younger self or someone starting out in music?
It’s a lot of trial and error, and a lot of push backs; but, the more you do and the more you try, the better it’s going to be.
For example, if you’re releasing a single, get PR, get a video, have a detailed release plan, get a radio pusher. Have everything in place and then, if it doesn’t work, you can see where it went wrong.
Sound advice. What’s next for Brixton Alley?
We're busy promoting our new single ‘Happy Isn’t Possible’. The song is a conversation between someone and their head that, no matter how well they think they’re doing, always comes and shits on them.
We've just played our hundredth show in Australia, at Tomcat in Brisbane. That was an amazing night!
And we've got a load of shows coming up.
And where can people go to support you?
Thanks for getting up early to speak with us today.
It’s been a pleasure. You guys have the sickest tees. I love my Jaws Tee. But my new favourite is the Bone Heads Tee. That graphic is right up my alley, and the back print is mean as. The details, like the tags, just finish it off. Badass!
You’re very kind, and you have exceptional taste. Hopefully we’ll all get an opportunity to meet in person, somewhere, sometime soon.
For sure. We’re coming home for Christmas. Would be sick to catch up for a beer!
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