Massive queues, online hysteria, millions of views and frantic engagement – LOVEJOY are already a phenomenon. Now, with their third EP landing with a bang, it’s time for the indie establishment to wake up…
Words: Abigail Firth.
Photos: Sarah Louise Bennett.
Squashed into a tour bus somewhere in Berlin are the biggest band that – unless you’re as chronically online as us, Dear Reader – you’ve maybe never heard of. With sold-out tours across the UK, Europe and North America, millions of monthly Spotify listeners and a spot in the UK Top 40 with their latest single ‘Call Me What You Like’, Lovejoy could be mistaken for veterans.
Far from it. Their first proper bit of press is, well, this very cover interview. They’re gearing up to release only their third (or maybe fourth, depending how you count their just dropped ‘From Studio 4’ collection, released under the name Anvil Cat) EP, ‘Wake Up & It’s Over’, and those sold-out tours? The first shows they’ve ever played. It’s rare this amount of hype surrounds a guitar band these days, so who the fuck are Lovejoy?
Formed during the early 2021 UK lockdown, Lovejoy consists of Will Gold as the frontman, Joe Goldsmith on lead guitar, Ash Kabosu on bass, and Mark Boardman on drums. Seemingly brought together by sheer luck, their epic ascent is the result of a lifetime of individual hard work and some serious fan devotion over the past couple of years.
It’s taken a while to pin the band down, and we catch them just after their first full UK tour as they embark on the European leg. It’s all been a bit of a whirlwind.
“I think it was our 32nd show yesterday, which is just nuts,” says Ash, who introduces himself as the one who doesn’t talk and proceeds to lead the interview. “Literally every show we’ve played, we’ve been like, ‘That was the best one!’ Then the next one, ‘Oh, that was the best one!’”
“I’ve especially been enjoying acclimating myself to not knowing where I’m going to be falling asleep every night,” says Will, “which is a very hard thing to get around. But it’s a lot of fun. I’m really enjoying it. And I love seeing everyone’s faces because we’ve been somewhat of a lockdown band. To now be able to put faces to the numbers is great; it’s lovely to see and speak to them.”
Describing their very first live shows at the end of 2022 as “teething”, Lovejoy admit they’re still getting to grips with it all. Although the size of their fanbase means they could’ve easily sold out bigger venues than the humble Electric Brixton they headed up on this tour, they didn’t want to skip steps for a good reason.
“Rock music has always been what me and Joe were the most interested in”Will Gold
“We didn’t want to be bad,” says Ash, frankly. “It’s a completely different ballpark to just, you know, playing guitar in your bedroom, and there are so many moving parts and so many things you don’t think about that you need to learn and understand. We didn’t want to deliver a show to the fans that wasn’t good enough, so we’ve been deliberately ramping it up step by step and going through the process as naturally as possible.”
“It’s so much more personable and fun to make mistakes in front of a crowd of a couple hundred people who are along with you for the ride than when you start to get into the larger crowds,” adds Will. “Making a mistake, at least for me, really gets to me, but if I’m in a room with less people, and they’re there for the story, I feel more ready to make mistakes.”
Will and Joe cut their teeth playing with a folk punk band a few years prior to Lovejoy forming. After what Will describes as a “very dramatic first gig”, they went their separate ways, but his lust for live never went away. Finding one another at the beginning of the pandemic, Joe came to visit Will before the lockdowns kicked in and decided to sleep on the sofa rather than risking taking public transport back and forth to London.
“We wrote our entire first EP in my basement and very quickly decided we’re going to need a drummer and a bassist because all the stuff we were writing was band stuff,” Will explains. “It wasn’t our normal folk stuff that we were used to – and rock music has always been what me and Joe were the most interested in; even when we were in that folk band, we used to implore the lead singer if we could write some indie music please, and he would always be like, nah, not really into Arctic Monkeys actually.”
So they set out to find both a bassist and a drummer. Fate did its thing, and upon walking into a Smashburger in Brighton, Will met Ash, bass guitar in tow, and asked him if he’d like to be in a band.
“Ash is not one to say no to many exciting adventures,” says Will, “so he said yeah, and I gave him my address. Joe was very sceptical at first when I said I found a bassist in a burger shop.”
“I think for me personally,” adds Ash, “I’m living in Brighton – which is kind of a young, creative place – you often have conversations in pubs and places where people are like, we should do this, we should do that, and I genuinely thought that this was just another one of those conversations. Like, ‘Hey, I’m in a band, do you want to play?’ I never thought in my wildest dreams anything would even come of it. I didn’t even think we’d practice, let alone be playing shows in front of thousands of people.”
As for Mark, he was booked for the day via the freelancer hiring website Fiverr. When they couldn’t pay him the fee he was owed, they instead offered him a spot in the band.
“I said, look, you’re sick at this, do you want to just join the band?” Will explains. “Mark thought about it for a good five seconds and then said yes.”
“I was really determined, playing acoustic guitar and learning stuff from YouTube and Arctic Monkeys songbooks”Joe Goldsmith
Echoing Ash’s sentiments, Mark recalls, “I thought it would be another band that I’d join that wouldn’t even release on Spotify. Now we’ve sold out tours in the UK, Europe, America….”
Life before Lovejoy was very different for most of the boys. Mark was at university studying editing, hoping to work in visual effects, letting drumming take the back seat. “It would have been a grind for like 40 years to get a good paying job, and Will came along and saved me. So I’m very grateful for that,” he says.
Ash was working in broadcasting as a producer for TV, a job he’d gotten into after studying film production at uni, and had taught himself animation as another means of income. “Unlike Mark, I actually enjoyed it,” he adds.
As for Joe, he was working as a tree surgeon, which is a flashier-sounding name than what the job actually entailed. “I was literally just cleaning up branches on the floor,” he says. “I wasn’t even allowed to go up the trees.”
Will isn’t such a stranger to the spotlight, as he edited for the YouTube channel SootHouse in the late 2010s, later creating his own channel as Wilbur Soot and amassing a sizeable following on the streaming platform Twitch (although the other boys say they had no idea about his following when they joined the band, Ash noting, “I just thought he was quite a tall, handsome man, we’re just here because we fancy Will”).
With the band assembled, they started recording together in Will’s bedroom. In early 2021, the UK was still firmly in lockdown, so with all studios closed, it was their only choice. When they finally made it to a studio, the group had two days to record five songs, the ones that would make up their first EP, 2021’s ‘Are You Alright?’.
“We didn’t get enough done,” says Will, “which is why the first EP actually has scratch vocals. We just used my draft vocals that are then doubled up and thickened out. And also because it would have been far too expensive to just keep going back.”
“Which is why, little easter egg,” adds Ash, “some of the lyrics are wrong. We don’t sing those anymore, so the fans get very confused when we perform some of the earlier songs.”
The whole journey has been a learning curve for all four members. With none of them coming from a proper musical background, there was no one to guide them in the process. “We kind of had to jump headfirst in and see what we can do off the back of it,” says Will.
That isn’t to say they haven’t put the work in, though. With each of the boys picking up their instruments in their childhood or teenage years, it feels like they’ve been setting up their own individual dominoes, hitting the ground running when they were knocked down in perfect formation.
“There’s a photo of me when I was a baby,” Mark begins, explaining where he got his start in music. “I couldn’t even walk, and I’m on my auntie’s lap, who originally taught me drums. I’ve been wanting to play since I could speak, basically, but we could never afford a kit. And then I got to about eight years old, my parents finally got me an electric drum kit, and my auntie started teaching me. I caught up with her quickly, which was crazy. I always wanted to be in a band, but I was thinking more realistically, it’s the same odds as becoming a famous football player or something like that. Then along came these boys, and it all changed.”
“I was really determined from when I was about 13, 14?” Joe recalls, “Playing acoustic guitar and just learning stuff from YouTube and Arctic Monkeys songbooks, working out tabs and things like that. I was pretty dead set on at least giving it a shot to try.”
Ash’s start was similar, learning to play guitar with his dad. “When I was very young, my dad found an old Spanish guitar in the attic of our family home that wasn’t ours,” he tells us. “I’ve kind of always played guitar, and I’ve always been interested in music; my dad is in a band as well, bless him, doing dad rock. It’s always been a part of me, but I never ever thought I’d do anything with it.”
“Not for me,” Will jumps in. “The minute I first started learning guitar, I was like, this is what I want. When I was a teenager, I used to follow around bands and go to all their shows, and I knew from that moment I want this as my creative outlet. This is where I want to put my creative energy. I literally remember I shut myself in my room and practised guitar for like ten hours a day in the beginning. I missed two summers doing that. To finally be in this position I’m in now, thanks to all the wonderful support we’ve gotten from people, a lot of them have come across from the YouTube space, is just absolutely humbling. I’m trying to give it back in any way I can.”
“I like to make rumours amongst the fan base; we’ve made up a bunch of nonsense”Ash Kabosu
It’s fair to say Lovejoy have been pulled substantially further up the ladder by a deeply devoted fan base, but that’s part of what makes their trajectory so exciting. There hasn’t been a new guitar band that’s had venues bursting at the seams like this for a long time. Just two self-released (on their own label Anvil Cat via AWAL) EPs, debut ‘Are You Alright?’ and follow-up ‘Pebble Brain’ garnered enough love to have fans queuing around the block for hours on end when the live shows finally came. It’s reminiscent of what 5SOS were seeing at the start of their career ten years ago, or that other numbers band.
And the devotion goes both ways, too; Lovejoy play games with the fans, leaving puzzles on social media for the fans to solve, firing confetti with QR codes printed on every other piece out at their London headline show. Their involvement hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“Oh, man, I love them,” Ash gushes. “One of the best feelings for me is when we create something, even if it’s something as simple as a little photo shoot, the response is incredible. And to inspire other people to create through our creativity is just so rewarding. My favourite part of it is seeing the writing, the poetry, the paintings, the drawings, like all the art that comes back to us is incredible.”
Joe adds, “Every single person that I’ve met after a show or before a show, they’re all so respectful and all so lovely. And they’re just so generous.”
Ash continues, “They make such an effort and go out of their way to listen to the support bands’ music and show up for them; they show up on time and fill the place out for everyone. And then they go crazy jumping around and singing to everyone’s music, and that’s just so fucking cool.”
With new EP ‘Wake Up & It’s Over’ on the horizon, it’ll be their first proper release since 2021. A break away from recording to do the touring part of being a new band has led to Lovejoy’s longest writing phase yet and has played a part in shaping the sound of their new material. This time around, being able to take more time to record and more studio options, they’ve fined tuned their sound and brought it closer to their personal ideal.
Aiming for something a little heavier this time, the boys wanted to pull in their individual influences more drastically. For Will, that’s shouty British lyrics and overdriven guitars (he calls Arctic Monkeys the most famous example), with Ash also growing up on the late 2000s indie of Foals and Bombay Bicycle Club. Mark, on the other hand, was introduced to bands like Bring Me The Horizon and Asking Alexandria by his sister at a young age, pushing him into heavier territory when it came to discovering his own tastes and allowing the band to take on the slogan of ‘the only indie band with a double kick drum’. (Joe simply adds, “In the words of Brandon Flowers, it’s indie rock and roll for me.”)
Opening track ‘Portrait of a Blank Slate’ pulls in those influences most brazenly, employing the mathy Foals-y lead guitar, ‘Favourite Worst Nightmare’ era Arctic Monkeys fiddly bass, and wordy vocals a la The Wombats. “I can’t wait to play that for thousands of people,” says Joe.
They’ve been road-testing some of the other tracks too, the poppier (see: jumpier) ‘Consequences’ and ‘Warsaw’, as well as the single ‘Call Me What You Like’, but the rest have been kept a secret, one track particularly well.
Initially beginning the recording of this EP late last year, the boys weren’t 100% satisfied with the tracks. Having already played some of the tracks live, fans developed a particular affinity for one called ‘It’s Golden Hour Somewhere’, and up until the EP drops, have been under the impression it isn’t going to be released.
“I like to make rumours amongst the fan base,” says Ash, “I sort of said yeah, it’s scrapped, we just don’t like it, it’s not up to scratch, it doesn’t fit the nature of the EP, blah, blah, blah. We’ve just made up a bunch of nonsense. And they’ve bought into it. And as I expected, they’re also campaigning to bring it back. We’ve seen signs at shows saying ‘PLAY GOLDEN HOUR’. It’s just a bit of fun, and I think the relief and the excitement they’ll feel on the day that it comes out to just see it in the tracklisting will be worth it. I think for the amount of time that the fans have been waiting, we want it to be as special as possible.”
Even with ‘Call Me What You Like’ landing at No.32 on the UK Top 40 – an enormous feat and a rarity for a new band these days – it’s still what the fans think that means the most to Lovejoy.
“It was very validating to see it go that far,” says Will. “I think that was our longest-ever lyric writing time; we had the tune down for about ten months before I even penned the lyrics that ended up going in the final release. To see that time pay off is amazing, but we had no idea it would get that reception. It’s more important that our fans really love what we’re putting out. We’re aiming to create music that will really connect with our fan base, and you know, we’ll give them back what they’ve given us.”
With formative years that any new band would dream of, a knockout first tour and an audience hungry for more, Lovejoy are keen to maintain the hype. Currently using soundcheck time to write new material, every spare hour is used wisely while they’re on the road, Ash hinting they’ve already got new songs saved up for when they return home. This summer, they’ll be hitting the festival circuit, playing Reading and Leeds for the first time and undoubtedly not the last. The path may not be fully paved yet, but it’s definitely leading somewhere exciting.
Will says, “We’ve felt that wave of energy from the audience singing our words back at us, and that’s really influenced my lyrical style and our music instrumentally, which took a lot longer. 2022 was a sort of foundational year; I feel like this is the launch in 2023 into this next era of Lovejoy.” ■
Taken from the June 2023 edition of Dork. Lovejoy’s EP ‘Wake Up & It’s Over’ is out now.
ORDER THIS ISSUE
Please make sure you select the correct location for your order. For example, if you are in the United States, select ‘Location: US & Rest of the World’. Failure to select the appropriate location for your delivery address will result in the cancellation of your order. Please note: International orders may be subject to import taxes, customs duties, and/or fees imposed by the destination country.