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Once Upon A Dead Man: “These relationships are quite special”

From Busted, Brigade and Fightstar to More Dangerous Animals, Union Sound Set and beyond, the Simpson brothers are involved in a very different mix of musical projects. Despite their busy schedules Edd, Will and Charlie Simpson, alongside old friend Simon Britcliffe, have formed a new band and it sees all four breaking new ground. Once Upon A Dead Man has been on the cards for “a couple of years properly and in our minds for a lot longer,” explains Edd. “With schedules, it’s been difficult to make it a more regular commitment but then a couple of years ago we said ‘right, let’s get together at least once a month and try and make some progress with it.’”

The result is ‘Concepts and Phenomena’, a jagged, buoyant and beautiful six track EP. Written in Simon’s kitchen and Charlie’s loft, the record came together in “fits and starts” with no one having a defined role. “Everyone was bringing ideas in and developing things, it’s been a really organic process so to finally be here with the EP is really exciting. It’s become everything we hoped it would be, which is brilliant.”

From Charlie drumming in Will’s band when they were still in school to all three brothers playing Cat Stevens’ ‘Father & Son’ at their Dad’s 50th birthday and onto Edd’s first gig in London which saw all four members of the band, alongside Jesse Quinn who helped record ‘Concepts and Phenomena’ on the same stage – this group have a long and winding history of playing music together. Once Upon A Dead Man sees them finally put it to tape. “There’s always been an intrigue whether we could do anything together that was any good. It’s lovely to have done it, have taken time over it and made music that we’re all really proud of it. While the EP is pretty eclectic sounding, hopefully we’ve come up with a piece of work that fits together.”

The only criteria for the band were that it had to be different to anything they’ve ever done before. “We didn’t want it to sound like a Charlie, Edd, Will or Simon record. It took a long time to come to a place where we liked what we were doing and felt like we’d achieved what we set out to achieve in terms of finding something none of us had done before.” At the start the band sounded a bit like Phoenix which they “loved but it didn’t feel right.” Another track ‘Arrogant Love’ came out sounding like Union Sound Set which forced the band to ask themselves “are we being a bit lazy this? Do we need to push it further?” It wasn’t until ‘Rush’, the second single from the EP, that the band found the direction they wanted to pursue. “It just felt right and from there we had our grounding. Once we found where we wanted to be, it became easier to challenge ourselves because we weren’t looking around for what we were trying to do. At times it felt like we could settle. If we had stayed where we were it would have sounded like a band that sounded a lot like someone else. I hope we’ve avoided that while doing what we wanted to do, which is essentially trying to avoid sounding like anything we’ve done before.”

Born from their history, there’s a comfort in Once Upon A Dead Man that can be felt across the record. However, that relationship also let them fully abandon their collective comfort zones and head into pastures new. Well, once they’d moved away “from just sitting drinking beer and wine.”

“We challenged each other,” explains Edd of the creative process. All four members have loved all their bandmates in their respective projects but “first and foremost, you start as bandmates and friendships evolve. It was a very different experience being with your brothers who first you love dearly and then you make music with. That was challenging because there are times where you don’t agree or you start coming up against things and you think, actually these relationships are quite special and you don’t want to do anything to the detriment of them. It never got to that point but there’s that added pressure of the relationships being more important than the music.”

For all the risk, there’s also massive reward in Once Upon A Dead Man exploring their relationship through music. Will and Edd joined Charlie onstage during Fightstar’s recent gig in Manchester to play ‘Mono’ and “that was amazing. There is something incredible special about it.” With the band members in no danger of drifting away from each other, “I have to see those bastards all the time,” the release of the ‘Concepts and Phenomena’ in a few weeks isn’t the end of their journey. It’s hopefully just the beginning. “I think we’d all love it to be the start of something bigger. We’ve all started writing some more and there’s definitely the aim to do more but it’ll all come down to timing. I think it’s going to be a case of this band being a band as and when we can bring our schedules together but there’s definitely a willingness to make more music.”

The band have talked about taking the band from the studio to the stage, “if the demand’s there” but first they’ll “have to work out how the fuck to play it live. It would take a bit of work but we’ve all sat there when making this record and said, ‘God wouldn’t it be the best thing ever to tour with each other. Just the thought of playing songs together that we’d written together to other people,” says Edd before pausing. “In terms of what I’d ever want to do musically, nothing could ever top that.”

‘Concepts and Phenomena’ is out now