Sometimes in life we make mistakes before we come good. Just check out Matthew McConaughey mugging around in The Wedding Planner and Sahara before winning an Oscar for his role in Dallas Buyers Club. Musicians are no different, with many a great band coming with baggage from past attempts at making it in the industry. Luckily for us, thanks to the internet, those moments are stored forever in an online cache. Here are ten examples of bands and artists who have pasts they’d rather forget.
Sam Smith is riding a wave of success that even chart titans Pharrell and Ellie Goulding would envy. Having scored number ones with Disclosure and Naughty Boy in 2013, Smith began 2014 by winning a Brit Award, the BBC Sound poll and then topped the charts with ‘Money On My Mind’. So where did this young Christopher Maloney lookalike come from? The answer, it seems, is the set of a CBBC drama in which a kid from school defies the bullies by becoming a pop star – uniform and all.
Skaters – The Paddingtons
Skaters may present the image of four cool dudes from NYC but lift up the sunglasses and pull down the hats and you’ll see guitarist Josh Hutcherson is formerly of Hull’s finest The Paddingtons, last seen third on the bill at a Libertines gig which Pete Doherty forgot to turn up for and The Others were too busy playing a guerilla gig on the Central Line to attend.
Fat White Family – The Metros
Fat White Family may well be Brixton’s squat-dwelling, Maggie-reviling oiks who’ve come to drag indie rock n’ roll away from the clutches of Bastille and The 1975 – and let’s hope they do – but let’s not forget guitarist Saul Adamczewski’s past as a member of The Metros who enjoyed brief fame in 2007 when they released singles like ‘Education Pt. 2’ and toured with The View.
Haim – Valli Girls
It’s well known that Danielle Haim spent time as a guitarist in Julian Casablancas’ (other) band before making it big along with her siblings Alana and Este but let’s not forget the first time the sisters dipped their toe into the musical waters. Back in 2005, Este and Danielle were part of Valli Girls a sort of Mary-Kate and Ashley version of The Jonas Brothers inspired by Blondie and Pat Benatar.
Sleigh Bells – RubyBlue
Alexis Krauss met her Sleigh Bells partner Derek Miller while waiting tables and trying to make it in the music industry. One of her attempts at making it big before combining pop melodies with insanely loud guitars was as a member of RubyBlue. Dubbed the ‘female-Hanson’, RubyBlue’s career never got off the ground with the pop world in 2001 unwilling to ditch Britney and Christina in favour of songs like ‘That’s What Girls Do.’
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Drake – DeGrassi
When Drake says he “started from the bottom” he isn’t talking about the projects and drug-dealing lifestyle of some of his peers. He means Degrassi, a Canadian TV show on which he starred as Jimmy Brooks from the age of 15. You would think that Drake, a man whose every action is mocked online, would have nothing left to feel shame over and yet here it is.
Willis Earl Beal – X Factor USA
Willis Earl Beal is a maverick, but his time auditioning on The X Factor USA is a weird chapter in his own mad story. Sadly Willis never made it in front of Simon Cowell, cruelly denied his chance of becoming Melanie Amaro or Tate Stevens.
The Vaccines – Jay Jay Pistolet
There was a time before all the double denim and arena shows when Justin Young of The Vaccines was a travelling singer-songwriter in the vein of Frank Turner. Travelling from gig to gig like a proto-Llewyn Davis, Young eventually started his festival-owning band and, as they say, the rest is history.
Lana Del Rey – Lizzy Grant
Believe it or not, Lana Del Rey was not born as the heroine of Hollywood’s faded glamour. Lizzy Grant first emerged in the music industry back in 2008, years before she would release debut album ‘Born To Die’. If you go even further back, Lana also released an album in 2005 under the name May Jailer.
(Aluna)George Reid – Colour
2006 was a simpler time. If you wanted to make music all you had to do was use a few off-kilter time signatures, talk about math-rock and namecheck Q & Not U album tracks. Colour were one such band and on guitar was George Reid. Fast forward to 2014 and the memories of Meet Me In St. Louis b-sides have faded and it’s all Mariah Carey samples, Jackmaster mixes and Reid is one half of house-pop duo AlunaGeorge alongside Aluna Francis (who herself has a secret music past as lead singer in My Toys Like Me).