Perhaps you thought you’d heard the last of the laddish indie rock band The Ordinary Boys when the lukewarm How to Get Everything You Ever Wanted in Ten Easy Steps was released, following frontman Preston’s rather successful stint on Big Brother. For obvious reasons, it was met with mixed reviews. Since then, The Ordinary Boys have got on with their day jobs. It’s 2015, and they’re back to the original line-up from their debut Over The Counter Culture, plus the addition of ex-Spectrals Louis Jones. They have an ‘exciting’ new album out, and are halfway through the 27 date tour.
“Let’s not call it a comeback… it’s just a fucking album.” Samuel Preston, the one-time Big Brother poster boy and tabloid ‘superstar’, starts. “We’re just making music now.” Their new, self-titled LP was “originally intended to be more like the first album. But, it’s not like that, just because it’s not 2004 anymore.” Initially, there’s a retro-pop punk feel to the album, and when asked about their influences, Preston praises the “fucking good pop punk” on the scene at the moment. He refers to Basement and Neck Deep as the “cusp of music”, before praising them for reinventing the brilliance from the late 1990s scene.
“Somehow, we’ve absorbed that, and it’s made the album more honest to what we actually like.” James Gregory (bass) joins in, “the first album is a reflection of what we’re actually like. The second album, well, there was just too much pressure, pressure from the record label. It’s like, your record label is telling you that you need to do this to be successful, and that’s when you start being disingenuous to the music. That’s especially true with us. It was like, okay, we’re on the B-list, or the C-list… But, we need to be on the A-list.”
“So, you’ve got to have, like, a catchy fuckin’ tune,” Preston cuts in, laughing. “But, with the third album, for me personally, I was like, I reckon I can have five top 10 singles on this album. And, y’know what? I fucking did! That’s what happened, I fucking got that. I alienated everyone, and did something that wasn’t true to myself, But-” “-But, did you enjoy it?” “No, not really.” Preston stops laughing, and gives his bandmate a sarcastic smile.
There’s definitely a more mature feel to the new album, and even to Preston himself. During the hiatus, Preston had some notable successes in song writing, co-writing Olly Murs’s ‘Heart Skips A Beat’. I ask if this is what encouraged him to get back into the band. “It just brought up my financial confidence.” After a few moments of hysterical nodding between the bandmates, they calm down. “No, well, I’d tried to sort of do it before, with other people, but it never felt right. But, this feels like an actual thing now. I just want to do this forever.”
After previously contacting ex-Gallows lead singer Frank Carter, but it ending up nowhere, Preston left the project behind. Until 2014, when he decided to put the past behind him and contact drummer Charlie ‘Chuck’ Stanley. “Me and James stayed in touch, but back in 2006, we’d kicked Charlie out, did we kick him out?”
“He left and then we kicked him out.”
“Well, anyway, I phoned him up, and I was like, ‘can we be friends again?’. By the end of the conversation we’d started the band back up.”
So, here they are, with ex-Spectrals (Or, “posh indie music”, as Preston called it) Louis Jones. “I just can’t imagine doing it with anybody else.” Preston met Louis at a Cribs gig, and instantly hit it off. “Yeah… Like, when you said Louis from Spectrals, and I checked out his music… His music is not really our kind of thing. At all. And then, when I met him, I was like, this guy? Really? And, then I got to know him. His musical knowledge is just, like, vast.”
“Yeah, it’s vast, but he still just loves fucking Sum-41 and stuff.” Earlier, during sound check, we all watched as he burst into ‘Adam’s Song‘, by Blink-182, before beginning a melodic rendition of ‘Puppy Love’, substituting ‘Puppy’ for ‘Foxy’—‘Fox’ is their tour manager, I was told later on.
A lot of Preston’s comments lead nowhere, or are stopped before they reach somewhere worth going. Out of nowhere, Preston blurts: “In the 2000s, yeah? My phone was hacked by The Mirror—” before being cut off and repeatedly shushed by James. However, on other topics, he had more than enough to say before being cut off by James, again. “I just fucking love Japanese video games”, says Preston, which was followed by a grunt from James. “There’s something about J-pop, in general. It’s so poppy, and instant. It’s fucking brilliant. Y’know? Like, when you get a really nice fillet steak, and they’ve just hacked it all away until there’s just this pure bit of steak.” Preston continues, with some interesting hand movements. “They get rid of everything that’s, like—” “—that’s so stupid.” James shakes his head at Preston. “I was trying to think of something that you hack away the bullshit from.”
“J-pop is nonsense.” says James.
“All the nonsense needs to exist to make it pure.” Preston looks pleased with himself, and continues with the hand movements. “Oh, and I, um, also like Mein Kampf.”
“Don’t say that, you dickhead!”
The Ordinary Boys was produced by Rory Atwell (Hookworms) and Matt Johnson (producer of 180 by Palma Violets). They’re both successful and prominent figures within the genre, who clearly had a powerful impact on The Ordinary Boys’ new sound. “Maybe, in a way, they were a weird choice for what the album was. But, maybe they gave it something. I think, actually, next time we’ll go for someone less, like, of their own influence. We need people who are less strong, or good… in a way. We want somebody who we can tell what we want, and they’ll just put it all on a record. They put all of these lovely nuances of, like, interesting guitar sounds, and all of this lovely stuff… which probably, maybe, we didn’t need.” Already thinking about new material, Preston seems enthusiastic to get back to the studio.
When playing live, “they’re all a chore” for James, who jokes, before finishing, “Boys Will Be Boys. I like what everybody else likes, if it’s a crowd-pleaser, then I’m happy. I like whatever the fans get into. Y’know? You’ll see what I mean later.” As I left, they were both shining with enthusiasm, pre-gig, with a crate of Carlsberg.
Two hours later, The Ordinary Boys stumble onto the stage, pint glasses overflowing, and were met with a fairly healthy cheer from the crowd. With a gormless grin, Preston rips off his sweatshirt to reveal his “especially bought” James T-shirt. This causes a reaction from some of the older members of the crowd, bringing them up nicely for the start of the set.
They open with ‘About Tonight’, Louis takes the confident lead in an almost dual-vocal between him and Preston. It’s easy to tell from the off just how much the current pop-punk scene (that Preston adores…) has influenced the new tracks, yet, it is reminiscent of their debut, with elements of the original punk influences.
The last of the stragglers leave the bar, to bob along with the others at the front, in an attempt to watch the inevitable downfall (once again) of Preston and Co. And, this time, they’re taking a new guy down with them. “It’s hot in here, but not hot enough” Preston hits off, with the first of several naff lines, to slight applause, before launching into ‘Over The Counter Culture’. This gets a better reaction, and the room begins to buzz with the excitement of what once was a pretty good track. However, you can’t ignore the hollow feeling that watching them produces inside you.
Preston parades around onstage, repeatedly thanking the audience for their response to the run-of-the-mill performance, which jumped between new material, and old favourites. He eventually jumps on top of the speakers, and it all goes a bit over the top for ‘Boys Will Be Boys’. Of course, the fans enjoyed it. But, overall, it was a stale performance from The Ordinary Boys, only saved by the older tracks, which, let’s be honest, were the only reason we were there.