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Saturday, 01 November 2014

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Pop punk upstarts hoping to have hits

POP punk is undergoing a bit of a revival in the UK, and Willowside Park are flying the flag for Cumbria. KARL STEEL catches up with the band as they head out on their first UK tour

“THE street still beats us on Google”

Surely it’s only a matter of time before it’s the rock band and not the road where they grew up that is the top hit when people search for Willowside Park.

Fans are still mistakenly ‘liking’ the Haverigg street on Facebook, but as they start to get their faces out there with a first UK tour this week, there’ll be no mistaking the six-piece pop punk outfit.

It’s not too far wide of the mark to say that there are very few bands from the Millom area that have ‘made it’, but this young horde are determined to give it their best shot.

With one EP to their name and a host of gigs around the North West under their belts, there’s no doubt they are getting noticed - but they’re finding they have to work extra hard to keep pace in the burgeoning scene.

“I think being based in a city helps,” says frontman Chris McQuire. “When we tell people where we come from, they just say “where!?”.

“A big thing is bands ‘swapping cities’, so a band from one city supports a band in another city and then they switch - we’ve got nothing to swap with.”

“It grinds my gears that just because you’re from a city you get the big shows, regardless of how good you are,” adds Sam O’Donnell, one of three guitarists.

Completed by fellow guitarists Jonathan Turner and Aaron Bisset, his brother Tyler Bisset on drums, and bassist James Day, Willowside Park have already tasted some successes, including making it through to the semi-finals of a prestigious Battle of the Bands competition in Preston, in which their fate is decided tonight. They also have one of their biggest shows to date in Barrow this weekend, lining up alongside the likes of Liverpool’s Carcer City at Defiance Fest on Saturday.

“Hopefully playing these shows and touring all over the country is going to open more doors for us,” says Aaron.

“We know what we need to do and we think we know how to get it, it’s just a case of getting out there and playing. Tours are expensive, and it’s almost like we’re paying to play but it should be worth it in the end.”

Having started out life as Broken Promise - mostly a covers band just for something to do while growing up in Millom - they moved away from the name when they started writing their own stuff. Though most of the members are dotted around at different universities and jobs, they are making the most of all being back together for the summer.

Aaron says: “Summer is our most productive time, but it’s more than just a project in the holidays for us.

“We changed our name when we decided to take things more seriously, and we’re hoping to get together most weekends for gigs.

“We want to start playing around the Preston area more, because that’s where bands like us seem to be doing well for themselves. Nothing against Millom, but it’s not got the population, and nobody really cares unless you’re playing Oasis or Kings of Leon covers.”

While most people would imagine that pop punk began and ended with Blink 182 at the turn of the century, the genre has undergone a revolution in recent years. Hundreds of bands are part of an online social media community, and names such as The Story So Far and You Me At Six are almost on a par with some of their predecessors of 15 years ago.

America has always had a stranglehold on the market, but the Brits are catching up and interest in our scene is pulling in big bucks and plenty of attention. The Willowside Park boys are as stunned as anyone that fans as far afield as Japan are picking up their music.

Chris says: “It’s so surprising how far it’s branched out, and how quickly too.

“We’ve had someone in Brazil asking us to send them a signed CD! It’s crazy.”

With a new EP written and ready to record and some big gigs on the horizon, word is starting to get out. It could be said they’ve already outgrown their modest hometown, but with a name like that, there’s no chance of them forgetting their roots.

  • Catch Willowside Park at Defiance Fest, this Saturday at the New Cons, in Abbey Road, Barrow
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