The Lathums have had the rise that every kid dreams of when they first picked up a guitar. They became heroes in their hometown of Wigan and soon garnered devotees at every stop they’d make in the UK. Then came a deal with Island Records – home of U2, The Streets and Ariana Grande – and a breakout moment in a not-so-small corner of Kendal Calling when The Charlatans’ frontman Tim Burgess booked them for a last-minute gig. Tickets for their tours would last mere minutes; in January, they scored a Number One single in the UK Vinyl Chart with ‘I See Your Ghost’.
Time stood still for most of us thanks to another arduous COVID lockdown, but for The Lathums, their rise went on at a breakneck pace. They helped their beloved Wigan Athletic FC find their way out of administration, secured a well-earned slot on Later With…Jools Holland, and played one of the first gigs back earlier this summer at Sefton Park in Liverpool. Oh, and caused a bit of bother with Greater Manchester Police.
“Argh it was silly that,” frontman Alex Moore shrugs with a sigh of frustration regarding their run in with the Old Bill, as the band – completed by Scott Concepcion (guitar), Johnny Cunliffe (bass) and Ryan Durrans (drums) – spread themselves across a pub bench on the South Bank in London. “It wasn’t even like it was causing anything that bad…”
“We were just gonna turn up and busk a couple of tunes for people unannounced and they said no,” interjects Johnny. Scott recalls: “It got tweeted at first didn’t it? They were like, ‘Please get in touch with us'”.
They’re being modest. This incident is the latest of many examples of the scale of the Pemberton four-piece’s ridiculous rise and how COVID has done nothing to stop it. “I have to admit it has been getting pretty crazy,” Alex says, a grin across his face, nailing just the right ratio of humility to pride. “We played a gig in London recently and the reaction from the crowd was mental. Everybody was singing every song, word for word. They were even singing Scott’s guitar parts!”
The Lathums were met with similar raucous scenes when they agreed to take part in a government research show into the safe return of live music at Sefton Park in May. They were the first band on at the gig, yet another testament to their ability as performers. “It was amazing,” Alex says. “That was the first time for ages that we got a crowd that was proper there for us. There were flares going off and everything. It was sick.”
The four-piece’s jangly sound takes inspiration from The Smiths, of course, and the band have already caught the attention of the likes of heroes like the aforementioned Burgess and Paul Weller. The band didn’t expect a message in their inbox from the Rocketman himself, Elton John, mind. “Yeah it’s a bit mental,” chuckles Alex. “I’ve heard every weekend he gets loads of records and sifts through them and gives them a listen. That’s how he apparently came across us.”
Away from attracting rock royalty, they spent time putting down tracks for their debut album ‘How Beautiful Life Can Be’ at Liverpool’s Parr Street Studios with The Coral’s James Skelly, who has acted as one of the band’s most fervent supporters and mentors. “It was good working with James and much like the EPs he worked on with us, we just banged it out,” Alex explains. “We laid the album down very quickly because we picked out the songs we felt were the strongest. There were no fights or anything about the songs that needed to go on or anything like that.”
The record, released this Friday (September 24), finds the frontman dealing with a string of traumatic personal losses on the likes of ‘I’ll Never Forget The Time I Spent With You’ and ‘I See Your Ghost’. But he finds some much-needed hope on ‘Oh My Love’ and the album’s title track, the latter of which was inspired by Alex’s mother. “We were just having a chat about life and stuff and she kept saying really profound things to me but not meaning to and I put them all together and made a tune out of it,” Alex says.
Elsewhere, ‘Artificial Screens’ sees the band ditching their jaunty sound for distorted guitar licks reminiscent of The Stones Roses classic hit ‘Made Of Stone’. “I went a bit mad on that one,” smiles Scott. “I think we used most of the guitars in Parr Street on that track, there were about 12 of them playing all the same thing. We were re-doing it [after it originally appeared on their self-titled 2019 EP] so we just thought we’d throw the kitchen sink at it.”
They got an unexpected shock when they filmed their performance for Later With…Jools Holland, the first they’ve not seen coming: “We were performing with an old amp and it weren’t earthed,” the guitarist says. “As I sang into a mic it zapped me dead bad. Thankfully we dealt with it in the practice room before we went live…”
And now, they’ve done the hard work, it’s time to enjoy the spoils of their labour. Several shows for a forthcoming headline tour have been upgraded and the band say they are “itching” to play again after recently supporting Blossoms.
“We’ve not actually played any of the newer tunes off the album yet live,” Alex says. “When we supported Blossoms, we thought it’d be better to play our earlier songs to get people used to us. But we’ll definitely be playing the newer ones for our own tour.”
Like their guitar contemporaries, The Snuts, Inhaler, Sports Team and more, they’re ready to make an assault on the UK album charts, and benefitting from a frankly frightening energy level from fans up and down the country; they are ready, willing and eager to get out to live gigs again. The Lathums aren’t too fussed about chart success just yet, they’re instead eyeing up a follow-up sharpish, and want to join the list of rock greats at their next stop.
“Rockfield Studios is where we want to be,” Alex gushes about the Welsh recording studio, which has played host to Oasis, Queen and more. “That would be a well good experience and it’d be great to do our own thing there. It’s just a dead clear space. Plus there’s stories in those walls…” Theirs is one that’s only just started to be written, and could go on for quite some time.
‘How Beautiful Life Can Be’ is released September 24 via Island Records