The big burning ball in the sky looks like it’ll be a rarity at The Great Escape Festival, but as soon as we do catch a glint of the summer sun, we’ll be crying out for local collective Charlie and the Villas. The Brighton-based newcomers make dreamy melody-rich music that sounds like Vampire Weekend‘s Ezra Koenig fronting The Shins, and double A-side single ‘It Ain’t Easy’ / ‘I’ll Wonder Again’ is the perfect, hook-loaded introduction to their world. With the band set to play a string of sets on the south coast this week, we caught up with band leader Charlie Thomas to get the skinny on the story so far.
‘I’ll Wonder Again’ is a delight. How did the track come about?
“Firstly, thank you very much! Glad you enjoy it. The track stemmed from a conflict I was having in my head. Where you find comfort in sitting on the fence, even though you know you can’t for long. The song is basically me trying to process my life at that point, whilst delaying coming to any conclusion. Fortunately, I had a guitar at hand and 10 minutes later, had the song.”
How did the Charlie and the Villas start out?
“Charlie and the Villas started out as a solo project which slowly but surely more of my friends became involved in, those in the band and those outside of it. After a while I became uncomfortable without recognising the added effort of them and how much they were all a part of it as well. The Villas pretty much represents a collective of people, a “gang” if you will, without the cool nicknames and bandanas. Although we could probably do with some bandanas.. just not the crimes, that might hold us back.”
What inspired your name?
“The name came from the road that I used to live on with some of the original members of the band who were all my housemates. We needed a name for a gig and jokingly I said we were called ‘Charlie and the Villas‘ and then two years later it stuck.”
Who are the Top 5 biggest influences on your sound right now?
“My influences change every week, which results in a lot of different styles of songs and an even bigger challenge when someone says “what’s your band sound like?” But currently, I’ve been listening to loads of Trudy and the Romance and going to loads of grungy gigs. So who knows? Young The Giant and ‘Pet Sounds’ by The Beach Boys all play their part. A friend showed me Andy Shauf the other day and his latest album blew my mind. It was that cliché moment of music coming into your life at the perfect time, restoring the faith of what you love music for. It made me want to study what he was doing that felt so good to my ears.”
Any other new bands that you’ve played with and would recommend?
“TV Dinner are always a pleasure to watch, all incredible musicians that remind you how average you are at your instrument. We’re playing Y Not Festival this year on a stage that includes our good pals Penelope Isles and Atlas Wynd, who have both been one of my favourite bands for ages. I’m slowly accepting that they’re not going to be a secret anymore and I’m going to have to share them with the rest of the world, which is hard but I’ll get over it…”
And finally, what does 2017 hold for Charlie and the Villas?
“Well, the majority of us finish our degrees and are fully into the big bad world. The real reality of facing and accepting the reality of a full time job scares me. So we are going to have a ruthless intensity in living out the childhood dream of becoming rockstars – including playing more shows around the country, writing and releasing what we feel is amazing music and chasing it until we can do it every day. No more commas and pauses, just trying to spread the message and do what we love. It’s already an amazing feeling to be playing some great festivals this summer and getting to see bands you love for free as a result. We have three shows over The Great Escape Festival weekend, which is going to be lots of fun. Only bummer is I have my dissertation hand in the Tuesday after. I’ve already warned my mum a % cap for handing it in late isn’t such a bad thing…”
Charlie and the Villas play East Street Tap as part of The Alternative Escape in Brighton on May 18th, The Fiddler’s Elbow as part of The Alternative Escape on May 20th and the Fender Paramount North Stage as part of The Great Escape Festival on May 20th. You can find a breakdown of all ticket types for The Great Escape 2017 listed on this page.