Time to rattle your eardrums with another Band of the Day…
We are from York, UK.
How did you and The Chain Gang meet?
We met through playing at Open Mic night in York in 2018. I went to Ruby Tuesday (an open mic night) one night and ran into Billy and we jammed a couple of things. I’d seen him play around town with King Courgette, another York band, and after we played together that night and I asked him to do a music and poetry gig together at City Screen Basement Bar in September 2018. Tim Bruce (bass) happened to be at the basement that night and we got talking in the pub afterwards. Alan Dawson (guitar) was on his way from Scotland to Brighton to go to Love Supreme festival and he walked into the Three Legged Mare pub for an open mic one night when I was there. I thought he was fantastic. It was all a bit weird, really, in a good way. Synchronicity. Something was going on.
How long have you been playing as a band?
2019 has been our first full year together, but we did start playing a few months that, in September 2018.
Before you get sick of being asked… where does the band name come from?
I’m Miles and I wanted a band name that worked. It’s a bit like ‘Florence and The Machine’ or ‘Martha and The Vandellas’ or ‘Eddie and The Hot Rods’ etc etc. ‘The Chain Gang’ was a reference to the Pretenders song ‘Back on the chain gang’ and the Sam Cooke song ‘The Chain Gang’, which came out in 1960. The Chain Gang was a bunch of prisoners who had to hard labour in the states. The name suggests a bunch of hooligans who are up for anything. We’re not hooligans, though! I like the name. It’s hard to find a name that works.
What are your influences?
Singer-songwriters like Bruce Springsteen, Van Morrison, Neil Young. New wave stuff like The Police, The Pretenders, Elvis Costello, The Jam. Classic soul – Sam Cooke. Tim likes a bit of disco and funk but he also likes Pink Floyd. Billy likes The Stone Roses. There are loads of influences. I think the common denominator is good songs. Songs you can hum. Hooks are really important. It’s the only thing that everybody from Hank Williams to Metallica have in common.
Describe your music. What makes you unique?
It’s a bit presumptuous to suggest we are unique. I think it’s pretty hard to be unique, especially in 2019, but we do have a brilliant rhythm section, good songs, and a slightly ‘new wave meets soul’ vibe going on. Plus, there’s a lot of energy. I like to think that comes across.
Do you have any particular lyrical themes?
The usual stuff, boy meets girl. A bit of spiritual yearning. A bit of existential angst. A bit of poetry. A touch of urban mythology.
What’s the Miles and The Chain Gang show like? How many shows have you played?
I think we’re about to do our eighth gig. It’s still fairly early days. I think we come across as a bunch of guys having a good time. We want to involve the audience in the gigs, so there’s usually a bit of audience singing. I always like to do that because it feels good to connect to the audience. I don’t like bands that are up themselves. Be fun! Take the audience with you! It’s about a relationship!
What’s the wildest thing you’ve seen or done at a live show?
The wildest thing? I once saw Southside Johnny nearly deck a bloke in the audience. That was a bit odd. Bryan Adams once got people out of the audience to play with his band at a gig I was at in Sheffield. That was brilliant, and slightly risky. I’ve never seen anybody else do that. I’d love us to have that sort of audience engagement. You know, the gig will only happen once!
What kit do you use / guitars do you play / etc.?
I play a Fender Stratocaster with a Marshall amp. Not too many effects – I keep things simple. Tim has got loads of bass guitars, including a Rickenbacker. Billy likes to collect old drum kits, he’s really into it. He’s got some stuff from the USA from the 1940s. I couldn’t tell you exactly what he’s got but if you come to a gig you can ask him. Alan plays a Gibson SG. We have a couple of electro-acoustic guitars as well.
What are your plans for 2020?
Lots of gigs! I’d like us to record an EP or an album – not sure yet. And we are working on a video, that should be online by the end of March at the latest.
If you were second on a three-band bill, which band would you love to be supporting and which band would you choose to open for you? A chance to plug someone you’ve toured with, or a mate’s band we’ve not heard of before!
King Courgette are a lot of fun. We are playing with them in York in December. Billy plays with them. They’re good and they don’t take themselves too seriously. Otherwise, I’d love to support Del Amitri or Counting Crows. Or The Who. That would be great. Or Van Morrison. Or The Pretenders. The list goes on…