Born out of small town frustration, desperate to escape monotony, and to achieve their ambition of playing music to as many people as possible, The Ordinary Boys are a crystallisation of virtually every single decent British guitar band since year dot: we’re talking The Jam, The Kinks, The Smiths, XTC and many more, but they aren’t averse to a spot of Stevie Wonder or even Tom Waits neither.
DiS caught up with frontman Preston (he doesn’t do surnames – we asked) and bassist James Gregory (that's them in the photo) before their jam packed show at Northampton’s Soundhaus and found out why they rebel against celebrity culture, how they rally against hollow optimism, and that they aren’t afraid of sticking the boot into their peers still stuck in a rut back home in Worthing (which won’t win them any new fans in the seaside town, we can assure you!).
DiS: How did The Ordinary Boys get together?
Preston: “The usual kids with not a lot to do and instead of going out and getting pissed in bars where they serve 13 year olds, we just stayed in and played music. We were in a hardcore band in our early teens before it developed into this.... this... beast!”
Am I right in thinking you take your name from The Smiths song of the same name?
Preston (bluntly): “Morrissey. Sorry that sounded terrible. (affects posh accent) ‘It’s Morrissey I think you’ll find young man!’ I just couldn’t believe no one had used it as a band name before.”
James: “We’re big fans of The Smiths and Morrissey, very much so in fact we’re playing with him soon at ‘Meltdown’ at The Royal Festival Hall. He’s a fan of ours, we’re a fan of him so - hey! - it’s a perfect match!”
What’s your favourite Morrissey or Smiths song?
James: “My favourite Smiths song is ‘Handsome Devil’, as for Morrissey it’s ‘Sister I’m A Poet’.
Preston: “My brother brought me ‘Boxers’ on 12 inch, it was one of the first records I owned and it hasn’t gone stale for me at all.”
What inspires you to write music?
Preston: “For me lyrically it’s almost a social commentary on how mundane people have let their lives become.”
James: “Musically, it just... happens. That makes me sound like a hippy doesn’t it?”
What are you listening to at the moment?
Preston: “I listen to an unhealthy amount of Stevie Wonder and I really like the early Tom Waits stuff. As for contemporary bands I really like The Cribs and Mower; I like that scuzzy, dirty thing and those two are brilliant at doing it.”
Tell us about your recent single ‘Week In, Week Out’. To me it sounds like it’s rebelling against something. Is it?
Preston: “It’s a song about this obsession with television and magazine culture where people don’t have any ambition anymore because they think they’re going to win what they want, or at least think what they want, on ‘Pop Idol’ or by playing ‘The National Lottery’. People just sit around and wait for things to happen. It’s only when they’ll hit 65 will they realise it doesn’t work that way and they may as well just shuffle off and die.”
I take it you don’t read ‘Heat’ or ‘Hello’ then?
Preston: “I’m as guilty as anyone else, it’s just that I can see it for what it is and I can see past it. I mean I read The Sun everyday but in a tongue in cheek fashion. It just annoys me when people don’t try and do anything, they don’t try and achieve anything because they think it’s going to be handed to them on a plate.”
James: “Or they strive to achieve celebrity but it doesn’t mean anything like Jordan or someone like that, they’re famous because they’re just… there.”
Preston: “Tara Palmer Tomkinson’s another one. What the hell is she famous for?”
What can we expect from your debut album ‘Over The Counter Culture’ (recorded with Stephen Street, due for release in June)?
Preston: “It has its punk element much like the last two singles but there are one or two surprises, there’s a few trumpets on there, a bit of Hammond organ, some soul, some dancey stuff . I think people will be surprised... or at least I hope so!”
What pigeonhole do you think people will dump you in? For example, the NME, who love lumping bands in categories their marketing men make up, claim you’re part of the ‘Brit Pack’ movement sweeping the country…
Preston: “Brit Pack is my favourite genre of music...”
James: “You can’t go anywhere nowadays without hearing Brit Pack.”
Preston: “It’s nice that we did that tour (with The Delays, The 22-20s, The Zutons among others).
James: “We did a photo shoot for the NME at the end of last year (with various bands including Keane and Kid Symphony) that was supposed to be the Brit Pack but none of those bands were on that tour!”
Preston: “So we were the only original Brit Pack band!”
What constitutes a good night out in your hometown of Worthing?
James: “Not getting your head kicked in!”
Preston: "I wouldn’t recommend going there... ever! It’s one of those seaside towns where the kids are addicted to arcade machines and they need to kick someone’s head in to nick their wallet to feed their addiction.”
James: “There’s a lot of weekend heroes there who are up for a fight.”
I think we’ll give it a miss then. Preston, we’ve been taking a look at the message boards on your website ( www.theordinaryboys.com) and apparently you’re considered to be the pin up boy for the band...
Preston (shifting uncomfortably on the sofa): “Am I?”
James: “Pin up boy? Short arse, more like!"
Preston: “Fuck off! Seriously though it’s nice to meet people and chat to people who come to our gigs, we’re the sort of band who spend the night on the merchandise stall so we can see what sort of people are into our music. (DiS can vouch for this - at their show later that evening Preston and James take turns flogging t-shirts and are happy enough to spend time with people. So don’t be bashful, go say “Hello”!)
Do you think it’s important to retain that link with your fans?
Preston: “I don’t understand these bands who just stay backstage for the whole night then come on, play their set then walk off again. You’ve got this opportunity to meet people and you should just grab it, do it.”
What does the future hold for The Ordinary Boys?
Preston: “We’re really enjoying what we do at the moment and long may it continue.”
‘Over The Counter Culture’, the debut album from The Ordinary Boys, is due for release on June 28th on B-Unique records.