Current billboard favourites The Boxer Rebellion gained notoriety when they signed an exclusive deal with HMV to release their second album 'Union'. Packed with anthemic indie winners, their music is matched only by their fascinating rock 'n' roll story. Lead singer Nathan Nicholson took some time out from his permanent on-tour status to chat to us about the music industry, his favourite London pub and Drew Barrymore.
To say that it's been a long road to success for you seems like an understatement. Did you ever feel like giving up at times, and does it finally feel like things are coming together?
Giving up has never been an option for us. We've always had a blind faith in this band that has kept us going, but it does feel like things are on the up after some pretty turbulent years. It certainly looks as though we will be able to continue making music, which has always been the point first and foremost.
There's been lots in the press about your deal with HMV, and in a way you're kind of making musical history. Are there definite benefits to staying 'independent'?
For us everything is much smoother now because we are the ones that are ultimately making the decisions. We just have to be smarter with the money we do have and avoid the incredible and nonsensical wastage we witnessed when we were signed to a major. Luckily we've got great mangement but it’s an ongoing battle to stay level and break even. Every ounce of the struggle is worth it for a bit freedom though, which is what we needed at this point in our careers.
Have you fallen under the Spotify spell? Has it encouraged you to indulge in guilty pop pleasures - power ballads, Sugababes hits and the like?
Probably not Sugababes, but I do checkout albums or bands sometimes that I'm not initially sure about. For some reason a 'The Boxer Rebellion' search on Spotify comes up with our bio, but the tunes of an American country-western group. We’re still working on trying to get that sorted.
Tell us about your the best gig you've ever been to.
The first time I saw Radiohead at Victoria Park in 2000. I had just moved over from Tennessee and went by myself, which I tended to do back then. It would have been nice to share the experience with someone, but it was pretty exceptional all the same. When I was younger I had the patience and enthusiasm to stand alone for hours with 15,000 pissed strangers, a desire that I distinctly lack these days.
And what about the bands you've toured with? You've supported some pretty amazing artists.
It's a really nice to play with bands like Biffy Clyro, Editors, and Oceansize. All of those shows have given us something to aspire to in one way or another.
How does it feel to make a living making music? Is it always what you wanted to do?
To say we are making a living at it would be a stretch (!), but we are too busy to do much else and we seem to be getting by alright. As long as we can continue doing what we are doing I'm a happy boy.
Yours is a pretty DIY, rock-and-roll story and we think there's a biopic in there somewhere. Who would play each of the band members?
Todd would probably be played by Michael Keaton, Adam by Val Kilmer, Piers by George Clooney and I suppose Christian Bale would play me. All former Batmen. It could be a retrospect.
We hear you're soon to be in a film with full time cute girl Drew Barrymore. What was the experience like? And is there anything you can tell us about her that won't get you sued?
It was a pretty surreal but very cool experience. The film’s director was the first to approach us with the idea just after a gig in New York, and we read through and even amended the script to make it comfortable for us to be a part of. We definitely subscribe to the idea that there’s more to life than radio when it comes to getting your music heard, so we were receptive and intrigued from the outset. Drew and Justin Long, who play the lead characters, are lovely people. They’re both music lovers and were very complimentary of our music. For me personally, meeting co-star Charlie Day (from the TV show ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’) was great. He’s a very funny guy both on-screen and off.
Tell us about some new London bands we should be watching.
We are touring at the moment with a band on Fierce Panda called The Molotovs. Strong, energetic, pop songs with atmosphere.
Nathan, you're from Tennessee. How does London compare?
Tennessee is a really beautiful place. I grew up near the mountains so wherever you look you'll have a pretty nice view. I love to visit and partake in some great Southern food, but for the most part my hometown is just a little too small. London has an excitement to it and an other-worldliness that I didn't grow up with.
Where abouts do you all live in London? What's ace and what's rubbish about it?
We all live out east and Piers lives in Essex. It's a little cheaper out my way and I live just off the Central Line so I still feel close to everything. On the downside, I have found that no matter how nice an area I've lived in it is never too far from a fairly scummy rundown dump.
What little-known London haunts would you recommend?
I'm not sure how little known it is, but we as a band we frequent the Royal George on Charing Cross Road. It is known to us as the Office. We have hired people there, sacked people there, and at least two of us have been sick there.
What are your plans for the immediate future?
To try and find a DIY shop enroute to Liverpool. Something is always broken or in need of mending and Todd decided to throw his guitar last night. The plan at the moment is gigging, writing, gigging, recording and more gigging.
The Boxer Rebellion play the Relentless Garage tomorrow night.