Brigade have been living in the shadows for far too long. Anne Waites talks to frontman Will Simpson about the trials and tribulations of fulfilling his lifelong dream before they head out on tour across the UK.
Brigade kick off a new UK tour this week, so with the prospect of airing tracks from their ace new album Come Morning We Fight – independently-released and crammed with catchy highs – you’d think they’d be swaggering back out on the road to show the world what they’re made of. But the new tour begins with frontman Will Simpson suffering a crisis of confidence.
“I’m in a bad place right now,” he confides. “I’ve had a bit of a confidence blow. I’m trying to get out of it at the moment, but I’m nervous. I’m going out there thinking are there going to be people there at the shows? Are they going to appreciate it? Are we going to pull it off? There’s a lot of pressure that’s knocked me slightly lately.”
Will Simpson is a born worrier, a character trait he says he gets from his mother. He grew up in Suffolk, the eldest of three brothers, and he realised that he wanted to be a musician (and not, as he’d previously thought thanks to Top Gun, a fighter pilot) when he had an epiphany watching a school band play Nirvana’s Sappy. He’d spend hours in his room pretending to be Axl Rose and learning grunge classics on his guitar.
Watch the video to ‘Pilot’ by Brigade
For the last five years he’s been fronting Brigade (completed by guitarist James Plant, bassist Naoto Hori and new drummer Andrew Kearton), fielding lazy comparison to his brother Charlie’s band Fightstar, building up a fanbase whose tastes in music are informed by something a little bit more in-depth than whatever the flavour of the month may be.
“They’ve been so supportive,” he smiles. “They see something in this band, and I think they’re not any way scene-orientated. There’s no bullshit, it’s just all about the strength of rock music. It might not be the biggest fanbase in the world but I’m proud to say they’re our fans, and I hope it grows.”
The new album finds him viewing the day to day horrors of living in London, with its weekly murders and increasingly perilous grasp on common decency. But as he worries about whether his lifelong dream is panning out in quite the way he hoped, it sounds like album number three will find him looking inward and, possibly, finding deeper inspiration.
Watch the video to ‘Magneto’ by Brigade
“Everyone gets down but I’ve had periods lately where I’ve had real low points that I’ve never experienced since I was very young,” he admits. “I had some issues back then that I had to see a psychologist about. So I think maybe it’s time to delve into that. Not do the whole clichéd ‘Oh I’m so tortured, let’s sing about it,’ thing, but trying to be hopeful through the lyrics.”
And that’s the point – there is plenty to be hopeful about. Brigade are in the tradition of British rock bands with integrity and their own personality. To lose them, as we lost the much loved but eternally underground Reuben, would be a sad thing indeed.
“What my bandmates keep reminding me of is that so many people would kill to be where we are,” nods Will. “We’re lucky. The fact is we’ve done it ourselves. And that’s a wonderful feeling. So we’ve just got to keep going.”
“I’ve just got to work on the self-belief,” he realises. “I think the most important thing is I’m trying to do something about it rather than wallowing in self pity. So I might go out there and I might struggle and I might not sing my best, but I’ve got to enjoy it and say next album I’m going to nail it and people are going to prick up their ears and say this band have really fulfilled their potential. That’s what I’d really love.”
Brigade summer 2008 UK tourdates with Slaves To Gravity
22 Colchester The Twist
23 Norwich Arts Centre
24 Southampton Joiners
25 Oxford Zodiac
26 Nottingham Rock City
27 Cardiff Barfly
29 Birmingham Bar Academy
30 York The Duchess
31 Glasgow Garage
01 Manchester Roadhouse
02 Newcastle Academy 2
03 Stoke Sugarmill
05 Cambridge The Portland
06 London Barfly