Last year was a whirlwind year for Bournemouth’s indie-rock newcomers, Air Traffic.
They signed with EMI and supported Snow Patrol, and then early this year they were selected for the BBC's Sound of 2007 poll - a top ten of the hottest new music talent in the opinion of critics and broadcasters.
But how did they get to this point? Guitarist Tom says: “We met in school and just formed a band through that. Luckily we managed to keep it going through university, and here we are.”
And indeed they are here, a mere 18 months after first ‘deciding to take it seriously’.
With an average age of just 21, the band are already on their second headline UK tour, including a stop at Portsmouth's The Wedgewood Rooms.
After the tour, they fly off to gigs across America and Europe before releasing their first single for EMI records, Charlotte, quickly followed by their debut album.
But if it was just that simple surely we’d all know friends’ bands in their position? Well it wasn’t quite as straightforward as they may make it seem.
Capital Air Traffic
|"We met in school and just formed a band through that. Luckily we managed to keep it going through university, and here we are. "|
Tom explains: “We know that the majority of music industry people don’t really come down to Bournemouth,” he says, “so we applied to universities in London so we could carry on doing the band as well.”
After arriving in the capital at three different universities – to maximise their potential fanbase - Air Traffic played a number of famous London venues such as The Highbury Garage and The Water Rats.
“We tried to maximise our exposure by making sure if we played a gig we’d get as many friends as we could to come down.”
After about eight months, such was the clamour from fans for more material, they left university and released 500 copies of their debut single, Just Abuse Me. It sold out in a matter of days.
“We just tried to create a bit of a buzz,” bass player Jim, adds modestly.
And make a buzz they certainly have.
When we saw the band - who took their name from the air traffic control signals they'd pick up when they used to rehearse near Bournemouth airport - take to the stage at Portsmouth’s Wedgewood Rooms the atmosphere was electric, and with some justification – the band’s performance belied their tender years.
Their music, a quirky blend of piano and guitar, like mid 90s Blur, The Feeling or Elton John, was well received by the near-capacity crowd.
So was it any of those who inspired the band to form?
Jim says, “It was British guitar bands really, from The Clash, The Stones and Pink Floyd, to early Supergrass and Radiohead."
And based on their performance, they're set to be worthy additions to that list of classic British acts.
On the coast
But with so few bands from the south coast making it, is there anyone else they think has the potential to follow their lead?
“There’s a band from Portsmouth called Rolling Dog, who are meant to be coming on nicely,” says Jim.
But as touring means they’ve not seen much of the south coast in recent years, they don’t know much about the local scene anymore.
On the road
In fact they’ve not had the chance to visit home town Bournemouth much at all; making it more of a surprise when they say that one of the benefits of touring is they still get to see old friends.
Says Tom, “A lot of our friends are at university, so it’s actually quite nice to be touring around the country as we get to bump into them every now and again!”.
So, do they ever wonder what life would have been like if they’d stayed on at uni?
“We only really went to university to buy us a bit more time to get the band going,” says Jim - there’s certainly no regrets from him.
“Being in a band is what we’ve always wanted to do and it’s everything we expected it would be. It’s really hard work, but it’s worth it.”