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The Lathums: From a sold-out tour to clowning around in a circus

By Ian Youngs
Entertainment & arts reporter

Published
image copyrightSam Crowston
image captionThe Lathums chose the historic Blackpool Tower Circus ring for their live return

After tours, festivals and support slots with Paul Weller and Blossoms were wiped off their summer schedule, rising indie band The Lathums raised their spirits by playing their first gig since March alongside clowns in a circus ring.

"Everything."

That's what The Lathums frontman Alex Moore says was meant to have happened for his band this year.

After finishing a sold-out tour in February, the Wigan group were supposed to be gigging with Blossoms and Weller, and building their buzz by taking their highly-strung indie poetry around the UK. "Just literally up and down the country just playing here, there and everywhere," Moore says.

It was meant to be non-stop. "Now it's non-start," quips guitarist Scott Concepcion.

Every artist has been in the same boat, of course, and The Lathums have managed to make some progress during the pandemic.

They made the UK album chart top 20 without releasing a proper album - The Memories We Make, which reached 14 in July, was a compilation of EPs. They have started recording their proper debut; have recorded a single to raise money for Wigan Athletic FC; and on Friday made their debut on BBC Two's Later... With Jools Holland, performing their new single I See Your Ghost.

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And they have managed to play one gig - albeit one without a live audience, or for that matter in a regular gig venue. The show in the circus ring at the base of Blackpool Tower was filmed earlier this month and will be streamed on Wednesday.

"It was nice to get dressed up and get back in the van and get ready - you know, getting back into the routine," Moore says. "Even though it wasn't a proper gig, it was really exciting."

The routine of "mooching about in the van and that, gigging and doing our thing" is what the singer and songwriter had missed most over the previous seven months. Being on tour pre-Covid "was brilliant", he says. "Meeting loads of new people who love the music. That is a really good feeling."

'Time to reflect and focus'

The Lathums had fast been building a following among fans thirsty for bands who tap into the joy and pain of finding your place in the world, while also making you leap around.

With its melancholic but defiant tones, the track Fight On positions a relationship as a guerrilla war, and has become their most popular tune.

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When lockdown began, Moore, 20, went from the life of a rising rock star to living back at home. "Me and my mum didn't go anywhere," he says.

"Didn't see anybody. It was pretty grim. And then when things eased up. I remember the first time I went to see Scott to do some writing. It was dead exciting and I was dead happy."

image copyrightSam Crowston

The enforced break from the road did allow the band to take stock, he says. "In a weird way, with how the world halted for a little bit, we had time to reflect and focus and see what we needed to do and have a bit of time to write. In fact a lot of time to write."

Although he says he has used his songwriting "to escape from it all" in recent months, the mood of the band - and the world - have crept in.

"Now that none of us can do anything at all - it's been taken away from us - it's thinking about what really matters in life and how we take things for granted. I wrote a tune about that actually."

What do we take for granted? "Just little things. Just a basic thing, like a hug, or meeting up with people, and talking and that."

The Lathums are the first band to play in the Blackpool Tower circus ring since Madness in the 1990s. It is normally the domain of clowns and acrobats - and its two resident clowns, Mr Boo and Mooky, pop up during the concert.

image copyrightSam Crowston

The historic venue, which opened in 1894, also appeals to the band's nostalgic side. Their yearning for a bygone era can be seen in everything from the song Villainous Victorian to the braces Moore wears on stage to their love of vinyl.

"We've got a very nostalgic view of the world and a nostalgic musical influence, and we feel like the vinyl was of that time, of that era. Very physical. And it's nice for people to have something to physically touch," Moore explains.

"Instead of clicking a button on your phone and it plays, you've got an actual physical record that we've signed - it's a lot more sentimental isn't it? A lot more value."

The mini-album The Memories We Make came out on vinyl, and they have also recorded a one-off seven-inch pressing of Al Wilson's northern soul classic The Snake to raffle off for their cash-strapped hometown football club.

But it seems records are better as objects to own than to play. Moore doesn't own a record player, while Concepcion says: "I borrowed one off a family member when we did the vinyl, just to have a listen to it. But then I gave it to my nan. She's not very good with the phones and all that."

image copyrightSam Crowston

The band, completed by bassist Johnny Cunliffe and drummer Ryan Durrans, may use digital devices to listen to music - but the music they listen to is often also from the pre-digital age. "I have always liked older music - 40s, 50s, 60s," Moore says.

"I like Patsy Cline, I like Elvis, The Everly Brothers, The Beatles, The Kinks. A more modern one is Jake Bugg, but I feel like he's got more of a nostalgic vibe to be fair. From being dead young I've always loved history and older times."

So where do The Arctic Monkeys - their most obvious modern bedfellows - fit in? "I was really into those when I was a bit younger," Concepcion says. "They were my favourite band."

However, the singer, despite admitting an admiration for Alex Turner's way with words, insists he "didn't really get onto that scene".

'Light at the end of the tunnel'

Another modern band who sounds like they have had an influence are The Coral - which may be down to the fact The Lathums are now recording their debut album with the Cosmic Scousers' singer-turned-producer James Skelly. Which is keeping them busy until they can go back on the road.

"It's obviously proper gutting thinking about what could have happened this year," Moore says.

"But at the same time we've got to think about what's in store for us next year, and what this whole year is going to climax to.

"There's a give and a take with everything in life. This is a pretty big take, so there's got to be some nice light at the end of the tunnel. So I reckon it's going to be even better next year."

The Lathums: Live From Blackpool Tower is being streamed for free on Wednesday at 20:00 GMT.

Related Topics

  • Wigan
  • Blackpool
  • Music