As the splitter van approaches the venue, the view through the window is one that I’ve been familiar with for as long as I can remember. We leave the M1 and within a few minutes we’ve arrived at the Cockpit in Leeds. It’s no coincidence that I’m wearing a replica Leeds United shirt and an official scarf that I’ve owned for almost a decade.
Being a Wakefield lad, this is the closest date on the tour that resembles a hometown show. It won’t be the first time that I’ll be wearing a Leeds scarf on stage, but it’s probably the only time that I’ll receive a cheer for doing so.
Since a young boy I’ve always worn my heart on my sleeve with pride, and even though it may have been a sensible decision to discreetly hide the fact that I’m a massive Leeds fan, I wasted no time in informing the world by choosing a picture of legendary Scotsman Billy Bremner on the sleeve of our debut release ‘The Thrill of Thirty Seconds’. They’re a club that have meant everything to me for my whole life, and will always be a part of who I am.
Coming from a rather unorthodox (bordering on non-existent) musical background, I suppose it’s only natural that I gather influence and experience from other areas - Leeds United Football Club being the primary source. From the age of fourteen, I’d travel the country on a weekly basis with a hardcore following of a couple of thousand. We were visiting towns and cities that I’d never been to before; the likes of Burnley, Crewe, Plymouth, Ipswich and Wolverhampton.
I quickly fell into a family of people – the same faces every week, cracking jokes and owing pints. We were a gang, and there was a great sense of belonging and brotherhood. Many of the people that I was now associating with were considerably older than me, and travelling the country with no direct guidance soon helped me to gain independence and responsibility.
Being football supporters, drink was obviously quite an important factor and there were quite a few occasions when I’d take it slightly too far. We’ve all been there - an adolescent desire to impress your peers and indeed your elders, with alcohol consumption being the natural tool in order to achieve such things. Obviously it didn’t quite work like that, but I had an awful lot of fun in trying!
Being such a hardcore supporter taught me about devotion, commitment and passion. I didn’t blink an eye-lid at making a fourteen-hour round-trip to watch ninety minutes of football in Plymouth on a Monday night – despite the fact that it was being shown on television. These kinds of journeys are the set you up perfectly for going on tour.
Driving from London to Leeds, straight back down to London in the same night and then off to a gig in Southampton. A typical thirty-six hour routine when you’re on tour. The demise of Leeds United, taking them from the Champions League semi-final in 2001 to the Third Division six years later, also taught me to be realistic as opposed to optimistic.
It’s been quite a torrid time since I became a season ticket holder at the beginning of the new millennium. It’s an important part of who I am, which is why I decided to talk about it in this Blog. Since the Skint & Demoralised campaign started, I’ve been lucky enough to strike-up an official partnership with the club, which even entailed sponsoring the match ball for our home game against Southend United on Tuesday 27th January.
They played the single at half-time, which was quite overwhelming for me, and we even had a twenty-foot long advertisement board with the band’s logo on it. I’ve attached a video clip – it was a crazy experience.
So as I draw towards the end of my first ever UK tour, I feel a lot more confident about Skint & Demoralised. I’ve loved having the opportunity to bring the music directly to the people who are curious for more, and this has enabled me to really bring the songs to life and emphasise the narrative origin of them.
Tonight’s show in Leeds is going to be the crowing moment. Some good friends of mine, new Wakefield band Jonny d’Pedalo, are supporting us. I can’t wait. Best dash for sound-check, cheers for reading.