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Underline the Sky
By Richard Haugh
Energetic five piece from Ipswich with a talent for crafting short, sharp pop-punk nuggets. The band won the 2009 Road to V Festival competition and opened proceedings on the 4music stages in Chelmsford and Staffordshire.
Underline the Sky (by Jen O'Neill)
Underline the Sky began life at the start of 2008 when singer Bronwyn Cooper, inspired by a love of US band Paramore, joined forces with Dan Oaten (guitar), Tom Bryce (guitar and vocals) and James Hicks (drums).
"When we first got together it was a case of jamming together and seeing what happens," said James. "We get on so well as friends but musically we clicked straight away."
Drama student Bronwyn had experience of performing in front of an audience, having sang at weddings, but James says her potential in a more raucous act was clear to see.
"We knew how good her voice was and thought if we could get that in a band we'd be able to get a long way. There's something a little bit different about Bronwyn which makes her so special."
Bassist Chron Richardson-Todd completed the line up and after a few months James says Underline the Sky were "churning songs out" and playing regularly around Ipswich.
Along with Paramore, the band take influence from the likes of Blink 182, All Time Low and New Found Glory. But equally important is the input of other Suffolk bands.
"We get influences from all over the place," said James. "All the classical pop punk bands but also other local bands we play with, because that's how we learn more about our own songs.
"We'll pick up things like how to make the songs more catchy, what to take out etc.
"We used to have big instrumental sections but we realised in a pop song there's no need for this - you need lots of catchy, poppy hooks. Being told that sort of thing is pretty helpful."
Road to V winners
From practising in James's garage - "it's been bodged soundproofed" - and playing regular live shows, Underline the Sky have built up a strong following in Ipswich.
Looking to take the next step, Hicks' dad Steve thought it would be a good idea to enter the Road to V competition, which offers an opening slot at the V Festival to the winners.
They progressed through the early rounds thanks to overwhelming public voting and eventually were crowned winners of the competition, alongside Swansea's The Last Republic.
James (photo by Jen O'Neill)
"I cried like a baby," singer Bronwyn told BBC Suffolk about the moment they found out the news. "So did James.
"We were at the Steamboat Tavern and we'd been told that our gig was going to be filmed as an episode for the Road to V programme, just a look at what each of the finalists are up to.
"Then suddenly out of the middle of nowhere a woman in a cowboy hat turned up and said 'special delivery'. Inside was a letter from Just Jack, a bottle of champagne and artist passes for the V Festival with our names on it.
"It didn't really sink in at first," added Dan. "But hopefully it will sink in closer to the festival.
"It's such a massive opportunity and being that close we didn't want to miss out."
Underline the Sky will follow in the footsteps of fellow Ipswich band Rosalita, who won the competition in 2007.
Although their musical talent was praised by the organisers, James says the band's hardwork and promotion played a big part in their success.
"By the end of the campaigning we must have handed out about 4000 flyers. We spent every night for about two months on the computer, on Facebook and MySpace, telling people about what was happening."
"We were the band that got through on the public vote, so it proves that you get back what effort you put in," added Bronwyn.
Playing in front of thousands of people and sharing the bill with Fatboy Slim, The Killers and Lady GaGa has its own substantial merits, but Underline the Sky hope the festival will act as a springboard for further delights.
"Hopefully it will give us a chance to play bigger venues around the country, as we'll have that backing of being Road to V winners," said James.
"I'm hoping it will be a huge step into what we want to do," added Bronwyn.
"We hope there's someone there watching to say 'we want you on our label' or 'we want you to do these bigger gigs'."
last updated: 26/08/2009 at 13:14
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