Viva Brother interview

Swaggering singers from Slough talk vegetables, arthritis and Morrissey


Slough’s swaggering braggadocios have a debut album out, called Famous First Words. We spoke to singer Lee Newell about vegetarianism, arthritis and not meeting Morrissey.

Newell has arthritis.
My bones are weird. I have arthritis in my feet. The doctors said my bones were super-bendy. When I stand up straight my knees bend backwards. I walk like an ostrich.

There’s some sensitive stuff on the album.
‘Time Machine’ is about someone I lost. A lot of people think we’re very two dimensional and throwaway, but there’s real heart and soul on the album. These songs were inspired by being desperate to be something, to be relevant. These songs were written before anyone knew us and they do come from a real place.

The last time he cried wasn’t that long ago.
Things do get to me, but the fact we’ve managed to stay sane is fair play – especially with the amount of backlash we’ve had. There’s been positive stuff, too but things do get on top of you. So I don’t know when I last cried exactly, but hopefully not again for a long time.

Before Viva Brother they were totally emo and in bands called Kill The Arcade and Wolf Am I.
The songs weren’t very good, and the hardest thing for me was admitting I was wrong and needed to work on songwriting. I was into a band called Boys Night Out, which wrote a concept album, but I got to the point where I thought: I can’t deal with this music any more. That’s why I had to look back further, and that’s when I started listening to The Beatles, as cheesy as that sounds. Then I went through the ’60s all the way to mid-’90s.’

They have many tattoos between them. Many of them are bad.
Josh has a mayonnaise jar on his arm. I don’t know why! For a while he was defined by the mayonnaise jar. I’ve got my own name on my wrist. The first one I got when I was 16 was a Transformer on the back of my arm. It was £30 and looks unbelievably bad.

He didn’t tell this to Morrissey when they toured with him.
I didn’t meet him. That whole tour was very strange. I don’t want to go into it because I still somehow really like him. I want to appreciate him from afar. The man is never as good as the myth, is he?

If he could be in anyone’s body for the day it would be Barack Obama’s.
I’d access official government papers. It’d be nice to know what really happened in Area 51. I like my conspiracy theories.

He’s a vegetarian.
When I got my dog, Oscar, I’d never had a pet or liked animals, but I became really attached to him. I kept putting his face on food I was eating and it put me right off. I thought if I could survive without animals being hurt, then why should I eat meat? Also, listening to Morrissey made my mind up. Now I do loads of work for PETA. Am I going to do one of those: I’d rather go naked than wear fur ads? Yeah right! Can you imagine?

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