Cheshire is a lovely place, but it’s not generally known as an area embued with the spirit of rock and roll. In fact, its main claim to fame is probably the fact that Daniel Craig was born there. Oh and it has its own type of cheese, but that’s your lot. Or at least it is at the moment, but things won’t be that way for long if hard working Cheshire rockers Blitz Kids get their way. Their epic brand of melodic rock has been making serious waves on the UK music scene in the past twelve months, and scarcely a week goes by without them gracing the pages of at least one of the UK’s biggest rock mags. So, are they feeling the strain of the workload that comes with being the ‘next big thing’ in-waiting?
Frontman Joe James certainly doesn’t look like a man cracking under the pressure as he sits and chats to The Edge on the band’s rather lovely tour bus, with Family Guy playing on a muted loop in the background. In fact everything looks to be going pretty well at the moment in camp Blitz Kids, with new album, The Good Youth, due to be released on the 20th January next year and a support tour with fellow melodic rockers Mallory Knox currently in full swing.
The seeds of the band that would become Blitz Kids were planted early on, with Joe and bassist Nic meeting way back in primary school and befriending guitarist Jono later on in secondary school. After some initial line up and name changes, the current line-up of the band was completed by drummer Matt around eighteen months ago. ‘We met Matt [drums]on our first ever tour. We were a different band back then though, we were called Rig Up Explosive and we were some kind of stupid indie-core band! We kept in touch with him though, and then when our old drummer left about a year and a half ago we asked him to join.’ It was through those initial school friendships that Joe developed his passion for music in the first place. ‘I was actually into sports a lot when I was younger, but when you go to high school, you often end up listening to music with your friends and that’s how I got into it. For a while I tried to combine both, and I ended up being the emo kid with the long black fringe that played football! I did get the piss taken out of me a little bit for that. I was just getting into music when bands like The Used and My Chemical Romance were coming out, and seeing them play tiny shows started everything for me. It blew my mind how the band would get into the moment with the crowd.’
That sense of being in a moment with the crowd is obviously something the Blitz Kids are keen to preserve, even as their fanbase grows and they progress to ever bigger stages. However, Joe is clearly aware of the need to change his stage presence to convincingly fill the larger stages. ‘When you move onto larger stages, like Download, it becomes harder to engage with the audience as much, and it becomes more about you as a performer and how you entertain and put on a show. That’s the main difference with the larger shows, for me. I love playing big shows, but I don’t like being farther away from the crowd!’
It soon becomes clear that the decision to ape his heroes and transfer Blitz Kids from a project started with friends to a professional band was one Joe always had in the back of his mind, and when the time came, the choice between a ‘9 to 5’ and life in the music business, with all its attendant stresses and strains, was an easy one for the singer. ‘Sometime around the start of 2012, I made the decision that I was going to quit my job, and I was never going to do another job I didn’t want to do ever again in my life. I was very poor for a long time, and I’m still quite poor, but I had several bad experiences with work, and then someone in management just pushed me over the edge once, and I realised I couldn’t take it anymore. I told all my friends and family that I was going to do what I loved and hopefully get paid to do it. It’s kind of working out so far!’ Joe’s quite open about the wide variety of jobs he did before setting out with the band on the road, quite a few of which were less than pleasant, but there’s one in particular that really left its mark. ‘There was one bad job where I had to restock the oxygen tanks of people who needed oxygen to breathe. In some ways it was really good, as I felt like I was helping people a lot, but it could be very stressful. I used to take calls from people who were literally unable to breathe, and I’d have to work really fast to get the oxygen to them, usually within two hours or they’d die. It was terrible, and as many of the clients were older, they’d often forget to order in the supplies they needed and when they called me having trouble breathing I’d have to talk them through working their tank and get them more oxygen. It was a job I hated just because when I was helping people it felt great, but at other times the pressure and responsibility would be over whelming and hard for me to deal with at such a young age.’
Certainly, quitting their jobs and pursuing their dreams seems to have worked out quite well for the Blitz Kids thus far, given the year they’ve had. For Joe, his new status as a bona-fide rockstar still seems to be sinking in somewhat. ‘Some times, at shows, I’ll give a kid my towel and they’ll go absolutely wild! I’m not judging at all, if I met Gerard Way or any of my heroes, I’d be the same, but it does feel very surreal. I don’t feel like I’m anyone special. Occasionally people will cry on me and then I really don’t know what to say. I mean, sometimes on tour I don’t even get to shower every day, and I’m really not that great! Our fans are amazing, especially the hardcore ones, I love them!’
And what does Joe have to say about the sound of his band? ‘ If you’re a fan of the Foo Fighters, or any kind of good rock music that’s built to be heard in big arenas and stadiums, then that’s definitely what we’re going for.’ With all the work they’re putting in, the sweeping, polished and epic sound that characterises their music and the success they’ve had already; it would be a very foolish person indeed who bet against the Blitz Kids achieving their stadium dreams. For anyone who loves homegrown rock, performed with passion, this is definitely a band to keep an eye out for.