by Ryan McKeeman
The Villanovas have recently been making waves in the British rock scene, and we had the good fortune to speak with the quartet a few weeks back and hear about how they came together and their approach to making music. Laid back and easy to talk to, their combination of maturity, humility and just straight-up joy - both in their general approach to music and their curated sound - is impressive. It's not everyday that you come across a group of four 19-20 year olds that seem to truly "get it."
The Villanovas have a passion for their craft and are organizing their lives to pursue it with vigor. They dig music above all, and they're running down this shared dream of theirs while studying together at the British and Irish Modern Music (BIMM) Institute in London.
The band originally formed in May 2014 at the Academy of Contemporary Music (ACMR) in Bournemouth, UK after lead vocalist and guitarist Brett Smith-Daniels nicked Connor Fox (bass), James McBride (drums) and Jamie White (guitar) from another singer-songwriter at ACMR. In September 2014, after just a few months playing together, the group decided to pack up, transfer to BIMM, and cohabitate, sharing meals, classes and rehearsal schedules in an effort to immerse themselves in their musical endeavor.
Although they've only been together for a little over a year, the group has already propelled themselves into the spotlight, recently winning the 2015 Larmer Tree Breakthrough Music Awards, which earned the young band a spot at the Larmer Tree Music Festival last month in the UK alongside headlining acts like Rodrigo y Gabriela, Jimmy Cliff, and Tom Jones.
Their inaugural release was a self-titled EP, the first single of which, "Burning Planes" was featured as one of London Unsigned's "Songs of the Week" last year and earned them a nod from UK's Blues Magazine as one of the "2015 Bands to Watch." Now working on a full-length LP, the band is starting to really settle into their parts, spending more time in the studio tightening up production. In a recent BBC interview with Katie Martin, you can hear a casual combination of confidence and youthful enthusiasm as this band really begins to hit its stride on their musical journey
While the band has certainly raised some eyebrows across the pond, it's clear they are not seeking individual fame or recognition. These chaps are in this together with a common goal as a band, putting everything they have into creating a quality product - which can be heard both in the "electric onstage energy" of their live performances and the layered detail of their early studio work. From what we can tell, this humble drive is exactly why they're getting so much attention.
The Sound Floor was able to get a sneak peek at a new track called "Honest Man," which is the first single from their forthcoming LP and includes "She's Trouble" on the B-side, as well as a bonus track called "Talking To Strangers" - just for good measure. These bonus tracks are only currently available on the CD, which had a limited release in the UK. Expect to be able to purchase the record on their website soon.
From the first beat of the first measure, "Honest Man" hits you with a tight rhythm that's disciplined throughout. James holds down a solid backbone on the drum kit, complimented quite nicely by Connor's smooth, well-rounded bass line. Over the driving groove, the band's talented guitarists are free to shred solos and fills, exemplified by Jamie's lead guitar line that evokes the greats from the 60's and 70's. Smith-Daniels' lyrics seek to unite us all in the ubiquitous contemporary challenges of society - from the widening gap between the rich and the poor to the agist views preferentially amplifying "the elders'" voices until the youth "come of age."
The greatest thing about this single, though, is how these elements come together in a way that's not whiney or overly critical. The song's music rocks its way into the hopeful, while the lyrics look ahead to meaningful change, encouraging the start of the "era of today." All the while rocking your socks off.
The Villanovas are making waves following their dream. And you can feel that each of them is really happy about it when talking with them. To this point, they have achieved all this on their own, using gig money to pay for recording time and media production in between booking their next show and entering the next competition. They are bringing us a rough-edged DIY sound that is ready to take it to the next level...what that is, exactly, we are excited to find out! Dig it.