2005 was a boom year for British indie. Inspired by The Strokes, The Libertines and Franz Ferdinand, the revival of sharp-edged, skinny-jeaned guitar music was in full swing. Bloc Party were thrust into the limelight with their thrilling debut ‘Silent Alarm’; Kaiser Chiefs enjoyed one of the biggest-selling albums of the year with ‘Employment’; Pete Doherty managed to behave himself long enough to record Babyshambles’ ‘Down in Albion’; and fuelled by the new phenomenon of social-media sharing, Arctic Monkeys exploded on to the scene.
Bands took over quiet pubs from Brighton to Glasgow and turned them into indie discos. Every week, the likes of Soho’s White Heat and Leeds’ Brudenell Social Club showcased a gaggle of new post-punk hopefuls or scuzzy grot’n’rollers keen to make their mark. NME was responsible for championing plenty of them.
Yet for every long-term success story, there were scores of bands whose moment came and went before the decade was out. What happened to them and what are their key members doing now? NME tracked some of them down.
Singer, The Rakes
Active from 2003-9, The Rakes combined a Franz-style post-punk strut with wry social commentary on catchy singles such as ’22 Grand Job’ and ‘All Too Human’.
“Being in The Rakes was an insane rollercoaster, but singing the same songs for seven years got boring in the end. And if you’re doing something just because you can’t imagine an alternative then you’re not really living.
“Afterwards I was a bit lost, but I’d developed tech before so I went back to it. People call me a ‘developer’ or a ‘digital creative’ but old-fashioned types would say I was a programmer. I work for a company in Brighton and one of my colleagues used to be in Utah Saints. Sometimes I jokingly tell friends that tech is where rock stars go to die, but in many ways it’s a lot more creative and interesting than rock’n’roll. I’d enjoyed writing music that people connected with, but this work provides an intellectual challenge that music lacked.
“Being able to make enough money to give up my day job and play music was a liberating experience for everyone in The Rakes, but that chapter’s over for me, and I’m happily into the next. I still do festivals, it’s just they’re more like tech festivals these days.”
Singer, The Long Blondes
Formed in Sheffield in 2003, stylish indie five-piece The Long Blondes were tipped by many as natural heirs to Pulp’s arch retro-pop throne.
“The Long Blondes finished in 2008 because Dorian Cox, our lead guitarist, had a stroke. It was devastating. Being in that band was my life. Now I’m a visual artist and I’m currently in residence at Smiths Row gallery in Bury St Edmunds. Before the Long Blondes started, art had been my first choice of career, but when things took off, I didn’t have time to pursue it. However, during tours I collected images of places we’d visit, some of which have become reference points for my work. I’m still preoccupied by the same things I used to write lyrics about: themes of place, belonging and the British landscape.
“I’m still playing music. Later this year I have a record coming out with Bernard Butler from Suede called ‘British Road Movies’ and I’m also in a couple of bands called The Wrong Moves and The Wilsons. But I wouldn’t want to go back to being a full-time musician. I enjoy being an artist, even though I do miss recording. Ideally, I’d like to do both. In the future, I think more musicians are going to need second jobs to survive. But they shouldn’t be ashamed of it. It’s always been the case that even musicians in well-known bands have had to keep their day jobs.”
Drummer, The Dead 60s
Liverpool’s finest purveyors of ska-punk and dub-rock, The Dead 60s offered a unique take on Noughties post-punk obsessions.
“Whatever happened to The Dead 60s? Well, we burnt out with debts of £1 million and an unreleased second album – typical story! We split in 2008 and by that point we’d lost our collective energy so decided to pursue other projects. These days, I’m the director of artist services at Spotify. My team is the main point of contact for the artist community, acting as their voice within Spotify and representing their interests to the wider company.
“After the band finished, I became increasingly interested in the business side of music. The late Alan Wills was an inspiration. He was the drummer in Liverpool bands The Wild Swans and Shack, then went on to set up Deltasonic Records. During my post-Dead 60s wilderness years, he’d call to remind me that you don’t have to be sat on a drum stool to make a impact on music and the careers of artists.
“I’m occasionally still on the road drumming with Cold Specks and others, although I’m 100 per cent focused on my role at Spotify. The drive I have for it is the same as when I was solely playing music. There are no plans to reform The Dead 60s, but never say never.”
Singer, Towers Of London
Mad-fer-it rockers whose antics regularly toppled over into self-parody, Towers Of London are probably more famous for their TV documentary series than the two albums they released in the mid-Noughties. In 2007, frontman Donny spent 48 hours in the Celebrity Big Brother house before climbing the wall to freedom.
“Before the band got big I used to work as a sound librarian for BSkyB. It was a great job – I got to listen to music all day. Then, after we bankrupted our second record label, I decided to do some soul-searching and travelled around India for two years. I found inner peace and became a yoga expert and taught classes to keep me going, but I haven’t taught it since because I find it hard to accept money for helping people spiritually.
“Once you’ve come to fully understand the universe and the power of your creation within it, one need never work another day in one’s life. However, while all this has been going on me, Dirk [Tourette, Towers guitarist] and Tommy [Brunette, Towers bassist] wrote a sitcom that BBC Worldwide just signed up. It’s rock’n’roll too, like the new Young Ones. And it’s funny as fuck!
“Five years ago, Towers of London imploded. But now we’re back with a new drummer and a new guitarist. This weekend we’re playing our first gig in over five years at our old stomping ground, Nambucca. We’ve also got a single coming out in October, and we’ll be touring Europe around the same time. Watch out for the album next year.”
Bassist, The Paddingtons
Hull’s finest, The Paddingtons were favourites of Pete Doherty, who took them on tour with Babyshambles in 2005. Signed to Alan McGee’s Poptones label, their debut album ‘First Comes First’ was produced by Owen Morris, who also tweaked Oasis’s ‘Definitely Maybe’.
“I guess The Paddingtons just fell out of vogue. By 2008, new rave was in fashion, and we didn’t fit that. By 2010 we’d split. During our last few tours I started volunteering at a community organisation in Hull called the Goodwin Development Trust. I was teaching young people guitar, and it just went from there. After that they got me on to a degree, and I’m now working for them as a youth and community practitioner.
“In the future I’d like to study more and teach others to become youth workers. I love what I do because it involves helping people and it’s political too – I’m working in and against the state!
“I miss playing music for a living, but for the time being I’ll have to put up with being a weekend musician. At the moment I’m playing in a folk punk band called Hillbilly Troupe, but last year The Paddingtons played a reunion gig for old time’s sake. It was fun.”
Bassist, Sons And Daughters
During their decade of existence, Glasgow’s Sons & Daughters released four albums of gothic indie-rock and toured with Morrissey.
“Once upon a time I played bass in Sons And Daughters but I’m currently a weaver for a tweed mill on the island of Iona in the Hebrides. I’ve always been a frustrated art-school type, so working with textiles was a no-brainer. Weaving is great. It requires skill, ingenuity and innovation. Plus you get to fanny about with spanners. Mind you, it gets bit nippy in the workshed in winter.
“I moved here with my husband Roddy, who’s the lead singer in Idlewild. Although I keep threatening to make music I never seem to get around to it, but Roddy and I have started Iona Village Hall Music Festival, so music is still a big part of my life.
I came here because I wanted a break from being a musician and so I could learn new skills and have a family. Touring didn’t fit with having a kid and living out here, and the band hadn’t left me time for my other interests. And for that reason, I wouldn’t want to be a full-time musician again. Plus the industry’s changed a lot, and I don’t know how anyone makes a living out of it. Weaving seems much more straightforward.”
Bassist, Black Wire
The Leeds noise-punk outfit scored an NME Single Of The Week in 2005 for their debut release ‘Attack! Attack! Attack!’. Known for their rowdy gigs, they inspired the Kaiser Chiefs song ‘I Predict A Riot’.
“When musicians say their band broke up because of drugs, musical differences, or arguments about boyfriends or girlfriends, it sounds like the ultimate cliché – but that’s what happened to Black Wire in 2007. After that, I was in a band called Albert Albert with Nick Hodgson from Kaiser Chiefs, Juanita Stein from Howling Bells and Danny Prescott, the drummer from Black Wire. But we were so good we ended up splitting up, too.
“That was around 2013, which is when I became an art teacher. I just kind of drifted into it, really. I got kicked off the dole and no one wants to be that 30-year-old in the pub talking about how great their band used to be while asking people to buy them a pint.
“I’d prefer to still be playing music, although I run a small label with Nick Hodgson called Birthday Records. I think it’s hard for musicians nowadays. The ones people have heard of are from backgrounds where they can financially afford to develop. The cost of living in London is a huge problem, too. People should start looking at other cities.”
Singer/guitarist, The Cooper Temple Clause
Berkshire alt-rockers The Cooper Temple Clause combined a grungy sound with Britpop attitude to sizeable effect on albums like ‘Kick Up The Fire, And Let The Flames Break Loose’, which reached the Top Five in 2003.
“Towards the end of the band, around 2007, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease – a chronic bowel disorder. My irregular lifestyle wasn’t helping, and everyone was growing apart: we hadn’t had a break in nine years. That’s when I knew I wanted to try something new, so I did a degree in occupational psychology at Goldsmiths College. Right now, I work for an organisation that mediates dialogue between employers and workers to improve their relationships.
“Looking back, I can see that some of the problems of being in a band like recognition and breakdown in communication seem to happen in all workplaces. My job’s about getting employees to become more engaged with their company, and when I do that I go home happy.
“In between all this I was also a player-manager for Ashridge Park FC in Hertfordshire. I’ve not got the pace now, but I still play for AFC Oldsmiths in London, and love it. And I’m also in a new band called Type Two Error – we’re releasing our debut album later this month. Being in The Cooper Temple Clause was an amazing experience and we’re still friends, but I don’t miss it because I prefer being a positive influence in people’s lives instead.”
Southampton’s Delays broke on to the scene with their 2003 Rough Trade single ‘Nearer Than Heaven’, toting a bright, retro guitar pop sound reminiscent of The La’s.
“One of the most vibrant memories I have from the Delays was getting motorbike taxis from Top Of The Pops to a helicopter that flew us to a tiny plane that then took us to Manchester so we could play a gig. At the time, you don’t even think about stuff like that, but in hindsight it feels unreal.
“The band’s still going. Last year we celebrated the 10th anniversary of our first album ‘Faded Seaside Glamour’ with a UK tour, and despite some of us having families, we’ve started on album number five.
“However, for the past two years I’ve been focusing on art. I’ve always drawn and painted but I tended to keep it to myself. However, in March 2013 I hired a studio, and since then I’ve had exhibitions in my hometown of Southampton and elsewhere and won an award at the National Open Art Competition. Last year I was selected for the Royal Academy’s summer exhibition, too. Exhibiting your art isn’t dissimilar to releasing a record: in both cases you’re presenting work in front of an audience. And I’ve never thought of music or art in terms of careers, which is why there’s nothing I’d change about being in the Delays.”
Drummer, ¡Forward Russia!
¡Forward Russia! Were prime movers on Leeds’ thriving mid-Noughties post-hardcore scene. Their label Dance To The Radio went on to put out records by iLiKETRAiNs, Pulled Apart By Horses and The Pigeon Detectives.
“When it became clear ¡Forward Russia! wasn’t really happening circa 2008 I applied for an art foundation course. I’d never thought about going to university before. I’d gone straight from school into playing music, and things went very quickly. By the time it got to our second album we realised we were a bit burnt out. Plus the guys were older than me and were missing their partners and a regular lifestyle.
“I’m currently a designer for the marketing department of Huddersfield New College. I’m working as a technician in their design department, too. I’ve been doing this for two years now, but I also design T-shirts. Recently this one I’ve made with Taylor Swift in the style of Sonic Youth’s ‘Goo’ cover has been selling loads, so I’m currently surrounded by postage labels.
“Working at college is great. I get the same holidays as the teachers, and the kids are so funny. Sometimes I interrupt them when they’re talking about music, and they look at me as if to say, ‘As if you know anything!’”
Singer/guitarist, Hope Of The States
Hailing from Chichester, Hope Of The States played dreamy post-rock in the style of Sigur Rós and Spiritualized. NME called their 2004 debut album ‘The Lost Riots’ “an important record”, but the band split soon after the release of its follow-up ‘Left’.
“In 2006 it felt like Hope Of The States had run its course. We’d been through a lot, and being constantly asked about the death of our guitarist, James Lawrence [who committed suicide in 2004], was miserable. People thought we were tortured artists, but really we were just drunk kids trying to play Ennio Morricone songs.
“After the band finished I lived in a shit flat in Holloway growing a beard and drinking vodka, convincing myself I was writing the next ‘Pet Sounds’. Then I met my business partner James, and we started a supper club that turned into Pidgin, a restaurant that we’ve just opened in Hackney.
“At the moment, I’m recording demos for my new band Racetrack Gospel, finishing a novel and arguing over menu ideas. When I’m not in the restaurant I’m playing music, and in the future I’d like to do both. But if it wasn’t for James and my wife, I’d be a Greggs-branded blimp by now.”
Singer, Pink Grease
Sheffield-based glam-punkers Pink Grease were the misfits of the mid-Noughties scene, mainlining the New York Dolls and trashy synth-pop on albums such as 2004’s ‘This Is For Real’.
“Pink Grease were the grumpy sorts who hated everything, especially all those ‘K’ bands: Kaiser Chiefs, Keane, Kasabian. We didn’t like the Libertines and The Others, either. That said, I think our second album ‘Mechanical Heart’ would have fitted in with bands like the Klaxons if our label, Mute, had released it in 2006 as planned. In they end they got cold feet and dropped us, and we all parted ways after a big show in a rollerdisco in Sheffield in 2007.
“Today, I’m in a band called White Witches but my full time gig is as a sub-editor at BuzzFeed. Sub-editing is the art of fine-tuning journalists’ copy: fixing typos and sentence structures, that sort of thing.
“When I stopped playing music for a bit I realised I didn’t have anything to fall back on, so I taught myself how to sub-edit by working for websites and magazines. I’d always been a bookish sort: at university I studied film and literature. I didn’t want to play the larger-than-life manchild frontman any more. I’m actually BuzzFeed’s first UK sub-editor and it’s brilliant to work at a growing company that’s at the forefront of where media is heading.”