They had what they needed to make it
– Eliza and the Bear
Genres(s): Indie/ Rock
Viola Beach were formed in 2013.
The band’s final line-up consisted of Kris Leonard (guitar and vocals), River Reeves (guitar), Tomas Lowe (bass guitar), and Jack Dakin (drums). All four, along with their manager Craig Tarry, were lost too early in a car crash in Södertälje, Sweden, on 13 February 2016.
They were riding a wave of popularity which had seen the band make their Reading & Leeds Festival debut in 2015 on the BBC Introducing Stage, as well as support slots with The Courteeners.
In the week following the crash, their single Boys That Sing entered the UK Singles Chart at number 80 and their previous single Swings & Waterslides entered at number 11, following a public campaign to boost sales. In the same week, Swings and Waterslides also entered at number 3 on the sales-only chart (which excludes streaming data) and Boys That Sing entered at number 27 on the same chart. On 29 July 2016, the self-titled album was released. It reached number one on the album chart on 5 August 2016.
When asked about his musical influences, singer-guitarist Kris Leonard said, “I’m definitely not consciously influenced by anyone”, but mentioned the Coral, the Zutons, the Beatles and Hooton Tennis Club as being among his favourite Liverpool bands. He also said the Kooks’ debut studio album Inside In/Inside Out played a big part in him becoming a musician. BBC Introducing recommended the band to fans of Coasts and the Kooks, while other critics drew comparisons with 1990s Britpop.
Leonard told Wonderland magazine that much of the band’s lyrical content was inspired by their “very grey and industrial” hometown, where there was “nothing to do other than drink cider and smoke rollies on a park and chase after girls”.
Following the bands passing, on 14 February, the day the news was announced, there was a round of applause for the band at the Premier League match between Manchester City (of whom Manager Craig Tarry was a huge supporter) and Tottenham Hotspur. Tributes were made at The Lounge, the club where they began their careers, and Warrington Town Hall flew its flag at half-mast in the week following their deaths.
The band had been scheduled to support Blossoms on a tour of the UK and Ireland throughout February and March 2016, and to play at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, in March 2016. Other scheduled appearances in 2016 included The Great Escape Festival and T in the Park. Viola Beach had also been booked to play Warrington’s Pyramid Arts Centre and Parr Hall, in March and October respectively.
Following news of the band members’ deaths, it was announced that all proceeds from their latest single would be donated to the families of the band members and of their manager. On 18 February Blossoms, who had performed with the band in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, two days before their deaths, announced they would play a recording of the Leamington concert at a gig in Bournemouth that evening. They also planned to showcase the band’s material on the tour where Viola Beach were scheduled to support them.
On 2 April 2016, a tribute concert was staged at Warrington’s Parr Hall, with performances by several of the band’s friends and influences, including the Coral, the Courteeners, the Kooks, and Blossoms. The Zutons also made a “rare live appearance” at the event.
The Viola Beach tribute nights here in Warrington is unbelievably emotional and affirming. What a night! A lot of tears and a lot of guitars
— Phil Taggart (@philytaggart) April 2, 2016
On 26 June 2016, Coldplay, led by Chris Martin, paid tribute to Viola Beach at Glastonbury Festival 2016 during their set by covering the band’s song, “Boys That Sing’ and, subsequently, encouraged fans to buy the single.
All WArringtonMusic.co.uk posts about Viola Beach here.
Links for further reading on the Warrington Guardian website.