“We want to live a life less ordinary now/We want to take a bite and taste the cherry now” – ‘Shake The Cage’
To think: triumph of defiant self-belief, this inspirational, pan-global tale of refusing to accept failure and pile-driving through all adversity – not to mention this dizzying, ecstatic modern rock music – all began in the working class routine of North London
How Morning Parade got from plastering walls to top 20 in the US charts with their supersonic space pop epics is a story of frustration, bloody-minded determination and, ultimately, of sheer talent winning out against the odds.
Back in 2007, Steve was helping out Phil on his labouring jobs while they figured out their next musical move. The pair had been in several bands together – a school band playing covers and a Biffy Clyro style technical rock band called Anotherstory, who split amid intense label-heat, shortly after self-releasing their debut single in 2007.
Moving to Bristol in 2008 to study music, it was clear that Steve only had one thing in mind. “I thought how can I get time to write songs without the pressures of full time employment? I wanted to commit to song writing full time, I spent that year writing songs, trying to get better at it and making connections in the hope of starting a new project as a vehicle for the music I was starting to dream up”
Emerging from university with a song called ‘Headlights’ under his belt and inspired by those big rock acts as well as more expansive acts like Mew, Sigur Ros and Explosions In The Sky – Steve and Phil recruited guitarist Chad Thomas from their Anotherstory days, keyboardist Ben Giddings and drummer Andrew Hayes around 2009.
They named themselves Morning Parade after the dawn journeys they made to their jobs on weekdays and the dawn journeys home from raves on the weekend and, with the experience of their previous bands behind them, leant towards concentrating on their song-writing rather than relentless gigging. Still, within a year and having played barely twenty live shows, they’d built a formidable buzz on the A&R scene.
“We had got to the point where we were playing shows and there would be three record labels in a pub, and we would move from table to table to meet them all before soundcheck” Steve recalls. “As soon as someone said Parlophone… The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Blur, Radiohead, all the bands that I grew up with, As soon as they showed interest, that was it, I only had eyes for them.”
Over the next two years Morning Parade played extensive European tours with The Wombats, The Kooks and 30 Seconds to Mars and slots at major festivals. Then, despite promises of a long term commitment to develop the band over numerous records, Parlophone pulled all of their budgets weeks before the release of their debut; Morning Parade’s fight for survival began.
“We fought to put the album out,” Steve says, “and the day of its release I remember there was just one copy of it in my hometown’s HMV. That’s a town where we had sold 1000 tickets a few weeks earlier there was huge demand for the record and none available to buy on release day”
Down but defiantly not out, the day after the album was (sort of) released in March 2012, Morning Parade decamped to the US and set about touring like hardened troopers. “We worked America hard, in a van doing fifty thousand miles in four months,” Steve remembers. “We did forty-two states the hardest way possible. We never said no to anything. We would drive through the night to be at a radio station at six o’clock. We did everything we could.”
And their American slog began to pay off. A write-up in Rolling Stone turned the spotlight their way and the album’s driving, harmonic fourth single ‘Headlights’ became a hit, reaching Number 16 on the alternative rock chart and staying in the Top Forty for 37 weeks. Radio played the track 38,000 times and it sold over 100,000 copies. “It still blows me away” Steve says. “I think we’re one of the only bands in the world that’s sold more records than we have likes on Facebook!”
High-profile appearances on US chat show The Tonight Show with Jay Leno followed (“one of those life-defining moments”); calls came in for them to support everyone from Walk the Moon across the continent’s club circuit to Smashing Pumpkins on their US arena tour. “The original plan was to only be out there for ten weeks, but we ended up doing nine months,” Steve says, “We had a really good time in the US. It kinda saved us really, we’d had some dark days in the UK forcing out a record we believed in and here were fans in every state in the country telling us they believed too”
Then, just as they were about to release ‘Under The Stars’ in the US as the big follow-up and set out on their own headline tour there in January 2013, Parlophone was sold to Warner Brothers and Morning Parade got lost in the handover.
“All of our team in the US weren’t allowed to work with us anymore. So we came back to England like ‘what the fuck do we do? We’re screwed’. I always remember people saying the harder you work the more you get, but we never got a break.
Their American buzz wasn’t dissipating though, and Morning Parade wouldn’t give up that easy. “I remember certain people around us just saying ‘it’s over, it’s done’, but I already had a bunch of songs that I thought were good, and I had the attitude that was like ‘no, fuck you guys, we’re going to do this’ so we decided to go down fighting.”
Navigating their way out of their deal, they set about writing furiously from January 2013 until June while hunting down a label for their second album. They eventually settled with the independent SO Recordings, who funded two months of recording in Atlanta with producer Ben H. Allen (MIA, Animal Collective, Bombay Bicycle Club) before they’d even signed to the label.
They emerged with a second album, ‘Pure Adulterated Joy’, that’s set to send them stratospheric. Adding a powerful alternative crunch to their trademark sweeping epic pop, it straddles the very best of alternative rock, electronic pop and wild sonic experimentation, all lashed together with some of the most infectious song-writing and lyrics of the year.
Full of uplifting morals about striving for “love that is everlasting, the kind of love Hollywood sells” and “live with no regrets for everything you do”, these songs seem like inspirational open letters to his family and friends not to be sucked into the inertia of their local surroundings.
Ultimately, ‘Pure Adulterated Joy’ is an optimistic album full of anticipation for the good life Morning Parade have undoubtedly earned, and they’re set to take their next bite of the cherry.
This spring the glorious electropop rampage of ‘Alienation’ hit the US Top 40 once more and the band have spent the year touring the US with Biffy Clyro and on their own 25-date headline tour of the East Coast. With worldwide shows being prepared around the release of ‘Pure Adulterated Joy’...
Wake up, Britain, it’s a beautiful Morning.