In this Flop Idol-dominated world, where newly whitened teeth, a good set of lungs and a two-minute mall dash will get you a shot in front of a panel of celebrities, it’s refreshing to find that there are bona-fide pop alternatives. Lady Gaga is one (she may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but you have to admire her cojones at flying in the face of convention). Adele is another –amusingly, she was recently covered on American Idol with predictable and drastically dull results.
Heading up the leftfield charge are Hurts: they’re pop, but they’re not man-made, neutered pop. Singer Theo Hutchcraft (above left) and synth player Adam Anderson met of their own accord rather than through the machinations of a music industry mogul. And they didn’t rise to fame by auditioning for talent shows. They did so the good old-fashioned way – by getting rejected, time and time again.
As far back as 2008, the duo, then called Daggers, showcased their synth-pop sound at their third In The City music industry gathering in the UK, and were again overlooked. It was, as they remember, ‘a terrible time. We had no money, we were unhappy and we were really insecure.’ But the duo, oft compared to Pet Shop Boys, never lost sight of their musical goal. ‘We try to write pop music, definitely,’ says Theo. ‘I’ve no real desire to make inaccessible fringe music. Pop makes the world go round. Having never made music before, when Adam and I got together, we thought we could either learn to be proficient by spending four years noodling about, or we could make really good pop music. British pop never used to be as inane as it is now. Great acts – such as Bowie – have always had something unique and are still celebrated. It hasn’t always just been Taio Cruz. Music like ours just needs to be heard and given a chance.’
The band got a big helping hand earlier this year when the UK’s NME named them 2011’s Best New Band, an accolade previously awarded to Kings of Leon and Arctic Monkeys. Not only that, but Hurts’ debut album, Happiness, contains a duet with Antipodean pop princess Kylie, and they toured with Scissor Sisters on their recent UK tour. So far, so pop.
But delve a little deeper and you uncover some interesting oddities. The band perform their live show with an operatic man-giant as their frontman. Where on earth did they find him? ‘I took my nan to see The Pirates of Penzance one night, and it was the most frightening rendition you could possibly imagine!’ laughs Theo. ‘One of the men in particular was just insane, and Adam and I decided to try to get him involved. He’s a fascinating man. And he comes with his own penguin suit.’ Quite.
And then there’s their style. While they may look as though they’re permanently snapped via a saturated monochrome filter, that’s actually just their dress sense, a remnant from their days on the dole in the UK. ‘They’re all second-hand [suits], tailored to look new,’ says Theo to a somewhat disbelieving Time Out. ‘That came out of going to the welfare office every Wednesday and saying, “Hello, I’m a loser. Please give me some money.”
If you’re dressed really smart, you come out of it with a little dignity. You need every ounce of pride going at that point. Also, it helped that we looked a bit like coppers. Nobody ever started on us.’ British pop has never been so odd, yet so appealing.
NME’s ‘Best New Band’ award has launched many a new act, including these hit-or-miss recipients
…or Johnny Borrell’s delusions of Bob Dylan-esque grandeur set to record. We remember when Time Out brought his two bandmates to Dubai for a DJ set at Chi. Who plays Phil Collins during a party set anyway?
Bombay Bicycle Club
Nah, us neither.
Ah, nu-rave. Where are you now, you fluorescent pink streak of noise? The Klaxons may have struck a nerve with their zeitgeist-defining 2007 debut, Myths of the Near Future, but after a five-year wait, follow up Surfing the Void was messier and more confused than a post-concussion Keith Richards.