UK’s fun-loving indie punk band Brixton Alley came to Australia for what was meant to be a six-month trip. Little did they know 2020 was about to change their musical and personal plans in an epic way.
Australia may be reaping the benefits of having live music back in the pubs and clubs, but it was a different story 18 months ago when Brixton Alley first set their feet on the sticky carpeted floors of the Australian pub and venue music scene.
The band came to play two gigs in Melbourne, have some fun and squeeze in a holiday. “We did a couple of shows, and we loved the way people reacted to our music. We loved the city and everything about it. When we were coming to the end of our trip, we thought it would be great to come back for an extended period of time,” says frontman and guitarist Jonny Magro.
The experience was so good they went home, quit their jobs, packed up their lives and headed back to Melbourne at the beginning of 2020 for what was meant to be a six-month ‘playcation’ of touring their music and travelling the country. However, as history now shows, 2020 didn’t play nice with anyone.
“When we first came over in January last year, we didn’t know anyone in the city,” said drummer Alex Wells. “We played a heap of shows, and it culminated in our Nevermore EP launch.
“There’s a venue called ‘The Espy’ in St Kilda (Melbourne) that’s quite well-known for live music. We’d been trying to play there for so long and eventually, after two months of just gigging solid, we managed to get a show there for our EP launch.
“That was on the 12th of March last year; Melbourne went into lockdown on the 13th. We felt like we’d just got to the point where ‘OK now things can maybe start to accelerate’, and then that was it. It all just shut down for six months.” Alex sighs.
It began to sink in that they were stranded. They were not only a long way from home, but Alex recalls they also couldn’t see each other.
“We were stuck in winter in Melbourne, not even able to see each other because we lived in separate places. There were movement restrictions, so, for a while, it was like, what are we doing? We can’t go home, and we can’t do what we came here to do.”
The music industry had stopped not just in Australia but also around the globe. At this time, the move from the UK may have seemed like a bad idea. However, 18 months on, maybe not so much.
The band were facing their biggest challenge since they formed back in college. Instead of sitting around complaining about it, they took advantage of the downtime they had and looked into the future.
“The COVID thing was an opportunity to step back from the way that everything’s run.” Jonny points out. “In terms of the band, we looked at what we’d done and created a real plan of attack for when we got out of that situation. How to approach things, whether it’s recording or whatever.
You rarely find yourself in a situation where you’re forced to not do anything, so you can take that time to assess everything with a bigger picture. So that was kind of useful.”
“We made some clear decisions about how we want to do things, what we wanted to achieve over the next year or 18 months,” adds Alex. “I got an electric drum kit during lock down so it was great for me to just sit and play drums for three months.
“The boys had their guitars, so when we got back together it wasn’t like ‘Oh God, how do we do this now.’ We got back together and it all came around pretty quickly and we managed to learn some new songs and get a plan together.”
There was never any looking back, only forward. “I think we made the best of it,” Alex adds. We did as many Livestreams as we could on our Instagram and just tried to keep things ticking over. We were always looking towards the future, and that’s how we ended up coming up to Brisbane”.
As soon as the first taste of freedom reared its head in Australia the boys were onto it. Brisbane was one of the first cities to open back up to live music. Itching to get back out and play, they made some calls, packed up, and did their two weeks of quarantine in Queensland’s capital city. A very small price to pay to get back out and onto the stage.
The Cotswolds natives, brothers Ben and Alex, and Jonny (hailing from Stratford-upon-Avon) may not have been in Australia for very long, but the country’s laidback attitude and party culture had certainly made an impression on them.
Throughout lockdown and beyond, the band never stopped writing music. Their latest EP 303 is influenced by their experiences of living in Melbourne and touring the land down under. The people they’ve met who have made an impact on the lads and the contradictory lows and highs of the last 18 months are evident in the EP’s four tracks.
The title 303, references the apartment number bassist Ben Wells and Jonny shared when they first arrived. The album cover art was also designed by the multi-talented bassist. The artwork tells a visual story of what Brixton Alley have been up to, while living in Oz.
If the EP cover is the visual, the songs are the tales. Each one an insight into the their adventures in their home away from home. The tracks are fun and more than indicate the good times.
Drinking Jokers is the perfect example of Brixton Alley’s indie punk sound. It’s a popular live track with fun and games had by all when this cheeky track hits the crowd.
“That song tends to go down pretty well live,” says Jonny. “At most the gigs, we just grab two people onstage and see who can finish your drink faster. It’s just about people who like going out, like having a drink and, I don’t know, running away. That’s what every Brixton Alley song is about, really,” he laughs.
This Party Sucks speaks for itself. Jonny describes it as “that party where there’s no one really that you connect with or can talk to. You’re not really into the music. Then you kinda click with one person, you spend the whole night attached to them. You have a laugh, then go do your own thing.”
But there’s more to the lyrics. “The underlying thing is it encapsulates the feeling of time in lockdown and just wishing that things were different. It’s just personified in that setting of a dinner party.”
The band are continuing to make the most of their time in their new home. Moving back to Melbourne, where they started their Australia adventure, they have a batch of new singles ready to drop, and they are looking forward to things returning to normal.
“We’ve just been in the studio last week with the drummer of Bugs, Brock (Weston), and have just recorded some new singles. The first one of those will be out around July,” says Ben. “We’re thinking we just need to get things in place but will be releasing at least three new singles this year, hopefully, more. We’re looking forward to getting them up and playing them live.”
So when it comes to being stranded overseas at the onset of a world pandemic, it seems the band have come out of it, not only unscathed but thriving. Do they even want to head back home?
“We’ve just kept extending our stay and really going back home isn’t an option right now,” Jonny responds. “We feel really at home here for several reasons, and with the music scene here, for what we can offer and what we’re trying to achieve, I think we’ll probably stay here for as long as we can really. We’ve got visas for another year and a half at least.”
Brixton Alley’s latest EP 303 is out now on all streaming services.
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Everyone should have a soundtrack playing loudly in the background of their life. I was born moshing to my own beat and have never swayed from my love of music. Spreading my passion through the written word is my soul’s purpose. My punk heart beats loudly with the rhythm of my rock soul. I plan to continue to mosh like no one gives a shit.
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