“20 questions” is a feature where writer Tom Farmer touches on 20 topics with some of the UK and Ireland’s most promising new acts. It’s a bit like Vogue’s 100 questions, but a lot shorter and a fair bit less glamorous. May contain strong language and shit banter.
From deindustrialisation in Sheffield to personal battles with depression to a global pandemic, Lostboy are a band who seek inspiration and thrive in the face of hardship. Despite their laidback sound, the three-piece pride themselves on honesty and a lack of fear about dwelling on so-called “taboo” subjects.
Their latest work is no different, with latest EP “Bad News” a project focusing on the struggles of millions during the last 16 months. Produced by the Courteeners’ Joe Cross, it is a melange of indie-pop anthems, perfect for the eagerly-anticipated summer of festivals. The lead single “Self(ish)” explores a bandmate’s personal experience with depression and mental health problems, with all funds raised from the single going to mental health charity Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM). I sat down with frontman Max to discuss the intricacies of writing about both lockdown and mental health, the almost-cliched legacy of Oasis and “Made In Chelsea” cameos.
TF: Firstly, “lostboy” is a great name for a band. How did that come about?
Max: As a kid, my mum always had the film “The Lost Boys” on at home. It was one of our favourites. The soundtrack in that film is so good! But also a lot of the songs that we write look at the troubles of being young and the way that people in our generation feel these days: often a bit lost.
TF: Would you call yourselves “indie pop”? I know lots of artists don’t like that label.
Max: We don’t like to put ourselves in a pigeonhole, but I can totally see why people do say that. I leave the genre decision down to the music critics and the people to listen to our music. I’m really into 00s and 90s rock and indie, as well as being a big fan of the Britpop scene when that came about. Whereas, our lead guitarist is more of a metal fan and our bass player loves drum and bass. Our drummer likes jazz and classical. So we've got a real mix of influences and I think. Interpol, the Strokes, Oasis.
TF: More artists than not that I speak to mention Oasis as a big influence. What is it- or what was it- about Oasis that speaks to musicians, do you think?
Max: I think it must be their attitude to it all! We're in a time where everyone's trying really hard to create really good content. And that's been the trend for a long time. I think Oasis, as well other “slacker” rock and roll bands like Nirvana, didn't put much effort into stuff. We’re so used to being inundated with perfection on our phones all day. Then we see a rough lad with a bit of stubble and the guitars sounding gnarly. That’s pretty cool.
“I don't think I necessarily ever write about a topic that I don't understand”
TF: Your latest EP “Bad News” is suitably named given the last year. Did you sort of consciously set out to write an EP about COVID and lockdown, or did that just naturally develop?
Max: It came about naturally. We'd wanted to do an EP for the last year and something about lockdown squeezed out songs that we felt would be really good as part of one project. I headed to Manchester to meet with Joe Cross, the bass player from the Courteeners and we recorded it the next week. We ended up recording it at the last minute, which is just as well because it was just before we got locked down again. It would have been wrong to write about anything other than how we’ve been feeling during the lockdown. It needed to be current and make sense.
TF: How do you feel about writing tracks focusing omething that everyone has been through. Usually, music is about things that are more personal and individualistic, right?
Max: For the title track, I wanted to write a song about how everyone seems to be pissed off with how everything was (during the first lockdown) and how everyone also seems to kind of be inundated by negativity, based on what I read on social media. It didn't help for us really to know about the nitty gritty details. But the last single we put out (Fix) is all about the impact that anxiety can have on relationships. That was more of a personal point of view from my relationships in the past. That was something that I wrote about for me, but then I knew that other people would relate to it. I don't think I necessarily ever write about a topic that I don't understand. I think that's quite important when you're writing.
TF: Your final single release from the EP is a tune called “self(ish)”, all about the effects of mental health on your bandmate. Was that a tough song to write or did that come instinctively?
Max: That was that was probably the toughest song I've ever written. The best songs usually come in 15-30 minutes, fall out the sky and land on your lap. sit down for the best songs will come in, like 15 1530 minutes. Normally, if a song hasn't happened, it's probably gonna be shit and I probably wouldn't use it. Whereas “Self(ish)” was a lot more difficult because it would like trigger a lot of feelings when I was writing. So I needed to kind of take my time on it and not do it all in one go. Because I think that it wouldn't have been quite as like, balanced if I'd done it all in one in one go. And I was also conscious of giving away what it was about. I wanted people to kind of read into it and take what they want from it. S
TF: Did you almost feel a bit guilty writing about someone else's struggle, as if you were speaking out of turn?
Max: Yeah! During the whole thing, it was really important to me if I was going to write a song like that, I was gonna do it with whoever it was about. Before I wrote the song, I had my bassist essentially write a couple of pages about how he felt during the time. And then I was able to pick themes from that. So I was making sure that when I was writing, I was basing it off things that had actually happened rather than stuff that I was making up. And I think in doing that, we’ve inadvertently made it more personal to us, which is quite good.
TF: You talk about the British “keep calm and carry on” spirit during the EP. What inspired you to talk about this?
Max: I think that we don't give ourselves enough credit where it's due. With us Brits, when it comes to us struggles and things like that, we do really have this attitude where we just knuckle down and get on no matter how crap or rundown we feel. And that definitely shone through during the pandemic, for sure. And there's themes of that running through the EP as well. But then it's also having the guts to then kind of reflect on that situation. And if you feel like crap, actually talk about it rather than bottle it up. You’ll see that in the music video- it's a really nice really touching piece of film. But I think, more than ever, we've all just got to talk to each other about how we feel.
TF: On a slightly lighter note, one of your tracks was played on “Made In Chelsea”, wasn’t it? How did that feel?
Max: Yeah, it was absolutely nuts. We had a week where we cropped up on Radio One and that's the first time that's happened for us. So that was nuts. And then, I think a few days later, it was on that Made in Chelsea episode. It just cracks me up to be honest thinking about it. And then a couple of days later, it was on Googlebox. But Made in Chelsea are class for that. They are so good at supporting bands- yeah, hats off to him.
TF: If I put a gun to your head and said you had to go on a reality TV show, what would you put?
Max: I'll probably go into the Jungle, mate. That looks like a lot of fun. Yeah, I don't think I would mind crunching on beetles and testicles. I would be alright, I reckon!
TF: I hope that isn’t taken out of context. You pride yourself on talking about taboo subjects. what prompted you to take a step into the unknown and talk about things that other people wouldn't?
Max: I found myself listening to a lot of music, especially mainstream music, and thinking “I can totally hear what they're trying to say here, but they're not really saying it”. You look at the really popular artists and, with the exception of people like Billy Eilish, so many artists just aren't really addressing certain issues. It makes me wonder why and I wonder whether it's because it doesn't sell that well because people don't like talking about it. I think we have a duty as the people that are “soundtracking” lives to talk about stuff. If people talk about this stuff in a quite loud and direct way, the more like other people will feel like they can talk about it and less of a problem that it’ll be.
“I don't necessarily really see the point in music if it's not relatable”
TF: It must be scary to talk about certain issues at some points too, right?
Max: Yeah, a little bit. It’s a mixture of feelings to be honest about the EP coming on Thursday (out now!). Either people will pick up on it, because it's different and appreciate it. Or they won't. But at the end of the day, the right thing to do was to talk about it (taboo issues) in the way that we have so hopefully people will see that and hopefully they'll take something from it. That's all it matters to me to be honest. If people are enjoying the music, while on the off-chance it helps them through some shit as well, then I'm winning.
TF: I heard you were from Sheffield. You don’t, for the benefit of the tape, sound like you’re from Sheffield!
Max: Three of us in the band actually grew up down south in the Cotswolds, near Bristol. Yeah. Then the band moved bases when university happened and we ended up in Sheffield. Sheffield has really made us as a band's in the way that you hear us now. So, yeah, Sheffield is where we gravitate to now.
TF: Fair enough. Why do you think Sheffield has had such a well-established music hub, producing acts from the Human League to the Arctic Monkeys?
Max: I think that “Sheff” as a city has been through quite a lot in history with regards to Thatcher and the way that she nearly ran the place into the ground. Yeah. I think that that then probably made people quite tough. And it made people go through hard times, and the best music always comes of those situations. The Arctic Monkeys, the “lads of the street”, produced music that was really fresh and a like bit angsty. Diamonds are made under pressure.
TF: Have you got any unlikely influences? Or someone I wouldn't really think you were inspired by?
Max: As a kid, I grew up listening to loads of weird music. My dad was the “rock and roller” and was into that sort of stuff. But my mom was into The Beautiful South. My mum's side of music is a lot more melodic. And I think that comes across in the singing side of what we do. If you were to take the singing away, is this kind of like straight up guitar music. But something like my vocals a bit more kind of poppy and that's definitely come from that sort of 80s 90s stuff, I think. But if anyone was to listen to The Beautiful South, they'd be like “that sounds nothing like Lostboy!”
TF: You've already had great support from you Radio One, Radio X and consistently by BBC Introducing. But what moment made you the most starstruck or excited?
Max: It's been a couple of occasions. I met Bondi from Catfish and the Bottlemen at a afterparty after a Catfish gig. We were both pissed and I played him one of our songs and he liked it. I remember I was blown away, thinking “I could cry on your shoulder right now!”. I didn’t, obviously. So that was pretty nice. For Radio One, we've been waiting for ages for that to happen. And I felt like it got to the point where it felt like it never would. When it did happen, it was nuts. It was during lockdown, so a bunch of my mates drove round to my road and were honking their horns. I think the other surreal moment probably would have been when we headlined the BBC Introducing Tramlines stage on Saturday. When we came out, we thought there would maybe be 200 people there and there were probably 2000 people stood out there. And it was just ridiculous, we all shat ourselves. More and more often, I’m feeling more awestruck.
TF: You label yourselves “everyman’s music”. How important is relatability to you?
Max: I don't necessarily really see the point in music if it's not relatable. If I feel good, or sad pissed off, I go to music. Hopefully people feel the same way listening to the songs as I felt writing it.
If you could tour with one act. Who would you pick?
Max: The Courteeners is one of them. I chatted to Liam Fray on a video call once and he just seems fucking hilarious. I'd love to tour with Inhaler. They’re absolutely killing it at the minute.
TF: What’s the plan for the next couple of months?
Max: So we obviously got the EP release on Thursday (out now!). So we're going to be pushing the hell out of that. And then July 6th-12th, we will be back in studio doing the second EP. It’s non-stop. We also touring in September. Currently, we playing Manchester at “Gullivers”, “Sydney and Matilda” in Sheffield and we're playing Rough Trade in Bristol. Last time we played Bristol, it was our first sold out show and it was nuts. We had no idea what was going. We were going to play Sheffield the week after, but we got locked down. I cannot wait to get back.
TF: And finally, what one lesson you taken from the last? Well, I want to say year what's going on with nourishment now? So last year, 16 months?
Max: I've taken a lot of faith in what we can achieve. Given that the first EP we've ever put out, we managed to write it and cut it together during a time we couldn't see each other at all, I think it's pretty special. If we can do that, we can probably do anything.