A glimpse toward everything the young band had to offer, with a joyous indie heartbeat running throughout their music. Their positivity-inducing lyrics make the grave realisms concerning the album release even harder to digest.
Viola Beach’s self-titled album, released posthumously, shows the inherent potential of the quirky indie four-piece, who provide an unmistakeable joy and optimism through their music. Supported heavily by the BBC Introducing platform, the Cheshire band grew in prominence to perform at Reading and Leeds Festivals in summer 2015, just two years after their formation. Their popularity increased with feel-good indie hits striking a chord with many, resulting in the band scheduling a six-track EP for later in 2016.
In February, the band was involved in a road accident while on tour in Stockholm, Sweden, with all members passing away. The immediate aftermath of the tragic death of Kris Leonard (vocals), River Reeves (guitar), Tomas Lowe (bass), Jack Dakin (drums), and Craig Tarry (manager) led to a chart push from the likes of Liam Gallagher and Kasabian, amongst others, resulting in debut single ‘Swings & Waterslides’ reaching number 11 in the UK in the following week. “This is their legacy and we know deep in our hearts that the boys would want the world to listen to the music they poured everything into,” read a statement in June from the band’s families confirming the release of an album. “We hope that it brings you as much happiness listening to it as we know it did to them making it.”
Full-on opener ‘Swings & Waterslides’ sets the bar high, with lyrics focusing on having a good time and loving every minute, of which aptly sums the jovial band up to a tee. Lines such as “It’s summer all the time / With you, you make me feel alright / All swings and waterslides / We’re summery and pretty high” ooze those trademark indie festival vibes.
Brighton-based The Kooks were publicly known to be a major influence on Viola Beach, with ‘Like A Fool’ taking a leaf out of their book despite being one of the weaker songs on the record. Less energetic than the rest of the album, the song feels a little empty in places. The following ‘Go Outside’ has a similar riff to the previous song, but at a higher tempo and more energy. With the style and composition of the endearing chorus, it is somewhat reminiscent of Coldplay’s Parachutes opener ‘Don’t Panic.’
A throwback to 90s indie pop, ‘Cherry Vimto’ concentrates more on the music, with the vocals providing an endearing backing to the strong guitar and drums. The absorbing ‘Drunk’, which uses amplifying instrumentals to convey their abundant quirkiness, is personally evocative of the characteristic refrains from Foals’ album Holy Fire, especially the song ‘Everytime.’
Highest of highlights from the album, ‘Really Wanna Call’ induces uncontainable foot-tapping with an sincere hook that builds and builds before calmly bursting out into an explosion of joy and ecstasy. It’s a song that I’m sure would’ve sounded incredible live and surely would have been released as their next single.
The slower tempo ‘Call You Up,’ the closest thing to a ballad you’ll get on the record, hinges on desperation amongst other similar emotions, the track gives the impression of a personal number focusing on Leonard’s strong vocals. The tempo builds again with the live ‘Get To Dancing,’ taken from a BBC Introducing Session, which once again shows off their gleeful Foals-esque sounds with its underlying riff.
With ‘Boys That Sing,’ Viola Beach ends with a track that symbolises everything vibrant and fresh about the band. The final lyrics – “And she told me that she loves a boy who knows how to sing / So I learnt how to sing” – shows their intentionally quirky and relatable lyrics and another can’t-get-out-of-my-head hook – the simple recipe that makes people happy. It also provides an unintentional circumstantial reflective undertone, with the fading out of the guitar along with the cheeky adolescent lyrics bringing the album to a close.
To close Glastonbury this year, Sunday headliner Coldplay brought their A Head Full Of Dreams world tour to the muddy fields of Worthy Farm. During their usual set, they have tended to perform the iconic ‘Heroes’ in tribute to the late David Bowie. However, for that show the band decided to instead create Viola Beach’s “alternate future” by covering ‘Boys That Sing’ in their Pyramid Stage set. Frontman Chris Martin told the crowd that, “[Viola Beach] reminded us of us, and of all the other bands that come through here – the excitement and the joy and the hope – and we really felt that in them.” With footage of a BBC Introducing session from the late band being played on the big screen along with the members of Coldplay playing live, this moving moment will not only go down in Glastonbury history, but serves as the perfect tribute to the young band, with arguably the biggest band around playing their song at the world’s most famous music festival.
The support and adulation expressed by the likes of Coldplay, The Kooks, The Stone Roses, and Blossoms not only showed the universal recognition of such a tragic loss of one of their own but a nod towards the success that surely would’ve occurred for Viola Beach in the near future. Viola Beach shows a glimpse toward everything the young band had to offer, with a joyous indie heartbeat running throughout their music. Their positivity-inducing lyrics make the grave reality concerning the album release even harder to digest.
Viola Beach is released on July 29th via Fuller Beans Records