Ordinary Boys: News from the Preston front

EMMA LEE Indie rockers the Ordinary Boys, who play UEA in Norwich on Thursday, were catapulted into the spotlight when singer Preston took part in Celebrity Big Brother. Emma Lee spoke to bassist James Gregory.

EMMA LEE

“It hasn't changed that much really. We were selling out these size venues before Preston did Big Brother. Although we've got more young girls screaming for Preston now,” says Ordinary Boys bassist James Gregory. “It used to be men who are fans of Seventies music, because that's where we get our music influences from.”

It's been a manic few months for the Worthing four-piece. In January the band's frontman Preston took part in the fly-on-the-wall-show Celebrity Big Brother. It was a controversial decision within the group.

“Me and the guitarist William [Brown] were against it because we worked quite hard to be musicians and have some sort of credibility and Big Brother isn't exactly the hallmark of credibility,” James says.

“We told him to keep it low key, which was possibly a bit naïve,” he adds.

That's a bit of an understatement. Preston's relationship with fellow contestant Chantelle Houghton has made him a regular fixture in the tabloids and the pages of Heat magazine.

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“People latched on to him and what he does. We didn't set out for it to get this big,” James says.

When the Ordinary Boys burst on to the music scene two years ago they were hailed as one of the most exciting bands around.

They built themselves a loyal following of fans who called themselves the Ordinary Army.

Influenced by the Clash, the Jam and the Ramones and mostly still in their teens, their singles went top 20 and their debut album Over the Counter Culture went gold. They were also a big hit in Japan.

“We played a baseball stadium over there, which held 40,000 people,” says James. “And in between the songs the crowd was completely silent and they'd just wait for us to start the next song and they'd go mad.”

Last year founder member Charles Stanley was replaced on drums by Simon Goldring and they teamed up with acclaimed producer Stephen Street, who has worked with their heroes the Smiths, Blur and the Kaiser Chiefs, to record the follow-up, Brassbound.

Following Preston's stint on Big Brother the ska-influenced single Boys will be Boys stormed up the charts.

They played a sold-out NME show at the London Astoria and their March tour, which was also a sell-out, ended in a packed gig where Madness frontman Suggs joined the band for a version of My Girl while Will Self watched from the stalls.

Their new single, nine2five, is a collaboration with feisty female MC Lady Sovereign.

But as James explains, they're already looking ahead to recording their third album, which is due out later this year.

“Preston's got lots of ideas for the new album, but it changes from day to day. We wear our influences on our sleeves - but we'd say it's casual nod towards other bands rather than nicking stuff! “I listen to a lot of hip hop and Elvis Costello. I bought the new Morrissey album, but I was a bit disappointed with it. My mum used to listen to Sting and the Police, but I don't want to say that's one of my musical influences, because people might think I'm sad.

“I love the Clash. They mixed genres together and wrote just amazing music.”

And then there's a European tour with a certain Robbie Williams to look forward to.

“I think Robbie had watched Preston on Big Brother and liked his style or glasses or something,” he says. “We would be stupid to say no to that.”

But while he can't imagine not working in the music business (“If I wasn't in a band I would be a session musician or a producer,” he says) and loves playing live (“hearing people singing the words to your songs back to you is just amazing”) there's one part that he hates.

“I hate making videos, I'm so un-photogenic,” he says. “It's just embarrassing.”

t The Ordinary Boys play UEA, Norwich, on Thursday April 27. The show is sold out, but check with the box office for returns on 01603 508050

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