Milburn Interviewed

Put four Yorkshire lads in a pub on a damp afternoon with a big telly showing football and what do you get? Well, the conversation was more left-back than Left Bank, but England's World Cup hopes were still afloat and Milburn were in a well-oiled mood. A celebration was overdue halfway through a year already spent supporting The Rifles in the UK and Arctic Monkeys in Europe, followed by a headline tour of their own. They'll be off to the major festivals this summer, this time as crowd-pullers rather than campers, having warmed up by playing last month's MySpace's MyFestival in their home town of Sheffield (“It were crazy” according to drummer Joe Green, a.k.a. Greeny).

July 10th sees the second single to come from this period of hard graft: 'Cheshire Cat Smile' has extra bounce on top of their normal indieness with a South Yorkshire swagger that has led to unavoidable puns about aping the Monkeys. Schoolmates, proper mates and apparently distant relations, the parallels between the two bands run further than you might think. Both have devoted and industrious fanbases – Milburn's staunch supporters are very vocal on the subject of who formed first and are summed up as 'nice' by lead singer and bassist Joe Carnall. It doesn't mean the band aren't sometimes fazed by the levels of enthusiasm. Lead guitarist Tom Rowley's remark that “It's as much their band as ours” may be less tongue-in-cheek than he meant it to be.

Down to earth lyrics and stories of lads, lasses, love, nights out and fighting keep the fans happy, though the band only grudgingly concede that violence seems to be a bit of a theme, from the occasional punch-up in 'Lipstick Lickin' to the full-blown hostage situation of 'Send In The Boys'.

Being so close in age to its fanbase certainly adds to Milburn's appeal. With three of its members still in their teens, questions about the current crop of young bands and the pressures of early fame get shelved as belching, a few rounds of noughts and crosses and jokes about Tom's Mum show that they haven't exactly been railroaded into maturity. Joe trounces older brother and rhythm guitarist Louis at the pen and paper games, though Louis' poor form and general reserve might have been due to his innards (“I had an Indian last night” is just the beginning of his explanation). Greeny puts the win down to Joe: “He's just naturally clever”. This good sense and quiet determination should help determine Milburn's success. Recruited into his brother's band at fourteen years old, Joe firmly believes in gigs being well-rehearsed and professional: “I don't see the point of doing it badly. We do it properly on stage and then muck around afterwards.” And on the obvious self-discipline he comments: “We've got a tour manager who keeps us organised but we don't really need to be told.” No surprise then that Joe adopted the same no-nonsense approach to his future. Offered a place at Cambridge to read History, he chose instead to stick with music, regardless of what his parents thought: “I did what I wanted to do anyway. I'd made my mind up before. They didn't really say anything cos they knew I'd already made my mind up. I'm sure my mother would have loved me to go to Cambridge.”

The surprisingly sober attitude extends into the realms of music – the recently-axed Top of the Pops is written off as 'down the pan' a long time ago, and there's genuine nostalgia as Joe remembers “When Top of the Pops were good, when I were a kid, when Pulp and Oasis were going for it”. The rest of the band are straight talking on the same subject. Pete Doherty is dismissed as wasted talent while others aren't credited with having any at all. Milburn may have got used to the 'Gangs of New Yorkshire' tag alongside Bromheads Jacket, but the latter's support band The Oxfam Glamour Models are more than just geographical outcasts. Their instrument-smashing antics don't go down too well with Tom, who considers guitar destruction a sacrilege: “I worked for mine and paid for mine.”

After a half hour of good humour and beer, I end up with more information than I needed about the state of Louis' guts, a diagram of the offside rule and a portrait of Peter Crouch. Shame then that England didn't win the World Cup (or even reach the semi-finals, as predicted by Joe and Tom), but Milburn's summer is looking good regardless.

Cheshire Cat Smile is out on Monday 10th July

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