New Band Of The Week – How Hooton Tennis Club Got A Helping Hand From Robbie Williams

Wirral newcomers Hooton Tennis Club are carving out a niche all of their own – with a little help from an unlikely source, finds Gary Ryan

In his day job, Hooton Tennis Club bassist Callum McFadden is a hydrographic surveyor, whose tasks involve mapping the riverbed along the Mersey. Today, the band are on his boat, filming a potential video for their single ‘Kathleen Sat On The Arm Of Her Favourite Chair’, as Journey’s ‘Don’t Stop Believin’’ blares out of the speakers. But rather than power ballads, the fast-rising quartet are purveyors of lo-fi slacker brilliance. “We’re inspired by the new garage explosion and the way Deerhunter and Ariel Pink work,” says singer Ryan Murphy. “Just press record and make it up as you go along. It doesn’t matter about mistakes – keep them in, because that’s part of the charm.”

The school friends were in various teenage bands together, before deciding to record “scuzzy, Jesus And Mary Chain-influenced noise” in the summer of 2013. The poppier, Pavement-esque ‘Kathleen…’ – originally on an EP of “overly long song titles with girls’ names” – started life like several of their current tracks: it was an idea sung into Ryan’s phone when he toured Europe with Robbie Williams. “I was working for this company recording bands live and then selling the CDs straight after,” he explains, adding: “I went hiking with Robbie, got pally with [support act] Olly Murs. Taught him the difference between ice cream and sorbet.”

Scouted by The Farm’s bassist Carl Hunter, and signed to Heavenly after three gigs, Hooton gained attention with debut single ‘Jasper’, all chiming Byrds guitars and somersaulting melodies. Bill Ryder-Jones – tagging along today and miming oral sex on a nearby pirate statue – is producing their debut album, ‘Highest Point In Cliff Town’, for which the quartet are attempting to retain their DIY spirit. “We used to do vocals in a wardrobe and made a snare mic out of a coat hanger,” recalls guitarist James Madden. “Going into a studio was intimidating, but Wild Bill built up our confidence by having us re-record ‘Kathleen…’ at his mum’s house, surrounded by her chinchillas, geckos and dogs.”

And that name? It’s from a road sign for the Little Sutton-based tennis courts. “None of us are particularly good at topspins,” admits Callum.

HOOTON TENNIS CLUB: NEED TO KNOW
BASED The Wirral
FOR FANS OF Guided By Voices, Parquet Courts
SOCIAL twitter.com/hootontennisclb
SEE THEM LIVE Brighton, Great Escape (May 15), London, Field Day (June 6), Nottingham, The Rescue Rooms (July 6), Liverpool, LIMF Summer Jam (August 31)
BUY IT ‘Kathleen Sat On The Arm Of Her Favourite Chair’ is released by Heavenly on July 6
BELIEVE IT OR NOT Ryan was nicknamed the “child of peace” – he was born in Berlin on the hour that the Wall came down

Listen: ‘Kathleen Sat On The Arm Of Her Favourite Chair’