With their debut album 'The Day's War', Lonely the Brave delivered on the potential they'd hinted at since their first EP in 2008. Since then it's been a rocky road for the Cambridge band. After a two-year victory lap brought them to new audiences, the darker follow-up 'Things Will Matter' hinted at the personal struggles that eventually led vocalist Dave Jakes to step back from the band in 2018. Promptly recruiting Jack Bennett, aka Grumblebee, to front Lonely the Brave, they roared back in 2019 for a euphoric clutch of sold-out shows. Now they're back with surging single 'Bound', their first new music in four years, and their first with Jack on the mic.
"For our first song back it's familiar enough to be us and yet different enough to be the 'new us'," guitarist Mark Trotter explains "...if that makes sense? The reaction has been great, really positive, we're really grateful as to how it's been received." 'Bound' swirls with the chiming guitars and propulsive rhythm that characterises LTB, Jack slotting right into the mix with a howling vocal befitting the band's reputation.
"Yeah, I mean it's alright. It's not that shit! That's what I keep saying to people," Jack laughs. "I am trying to push myself on certain things just to basically try and prove a point," the singer admits. "'Bound' is just insanely high... I like when my voice breaks, like an amp or a valve or whatever, it's just pushing it a bit more. I'm making sure my vocal didn't just sit on top of it, actually was within the music, not just like plonked on top."
Meeting up to work on material at Jack's Manchester home studio on free weekends (the rest of LTB work full-time to support their art and their families), what initially started as demo sessions have ended up with Bennett helming production a new record due out this year.
"Look, it's a really weird thing," Mark confesses of those first tentative rehearsals. "We've been a band as we were with Dave for ten-plus years. It wouldn't have mattered who was coming in and singing, it's going to be weird. From the very first time we tried with Jack, we knew it was right. We've always had a very strong vocalist and want to maintain that, but we didn't want anyone that was just trying to replicate what Dave does. We want someone to bring their own thing to it."
Jack, dialling in from his studio up north, feels the same way. "The band don't want me to be a copy of Dave, they have said it so many times. But I still gotta be somewhat respectful to people who've listened to the previous band, and although they aren't expecting a carbon copy, I don't think personally I will feel comfortable just coming out like 'Cool. Fuck you guys. This is how I sound'. I'd like to do some sort of homage to what has been in the past."
"I have to say our fan base has just been so supportive," Mark says of their time away and lineup changes. "It's not like everyone's had a massive bust-up and people are falling out. That's not what this was ever about. It's about our friend [Dave] and doing what's best for him. We all support that and our fan base support that. Because of that, our families have supported us through this transition as well."
With Bennett taking on the responsibility not only of providing the lungs of the band, he's also penned the lyrics for the new songs. Despite discussion of drawing inspiration from Lonely the Brave's journey, Jack didn't feel it would ring true for him.
"I feel like if you're in a band where you're allowed to play music, and someone will listen to that music, you're lucky enough anyway," he argues. "People like my mum [who works in a nursery] do proper jobs. I get to play music, right? It's pretty insane that I'm lucky enough to do that. So for me personally, I couldn't sing about a struggle of being in a band. I mean they've been through a struggle which is for themselves, which I can see objectively, but for me personally, I can only really write about what I care about. Which is basically like, I've got a Husky, a girlfriend who lives miles away down south.
"Distance, people being very far away and the sort of annoying metaphors that come with that."
That yearning from across a divide sprawls from the speakers on 'Keeper' another unreleased song from the new album, which cements Lonely the Brave's new form, Bennett belting out another urgent vocal.
Although 'Bound' is inspired by the commodification of veganism as it gains popularity (Bennett has never eaten meat), he's more focused in the music connecting with people than digging into his words. "The melody and how you phrase the words, that is more interesting to me, that's the way that somebody in Spain or wherever, who has no idea what I'm singing about can enjoy it. You can still enjoy it, and you don't have to worry about whose dog I'm talking about," he jokes. "It's not isolating people, it gives them a chance to listen to music and just fucking enjoy it. People don't have to not eat meat to like 'Bound'."
While Jack tinkers with recordings holed up in his studio, drummer Mo and bassist Bush are at the time of writing working on the frontlines of the Covid-19 response. Mo is helping with patient delivery to and from hospitals while Bush is a nurse at a Cambridge hospital triaging those suspected of carrying the virus. "Bushy's this amazing character, he can take anything on his shoulder and just deal with it, you know. He's so stoic but in the best way, and talking to him about this is…" Mark sighs. "You feel it, you really feel it. We've been through a hell of a lot together as a band, and I know him better than I know most other people on this planet. Seeing him taking this on is massively inspirational, but it's really getting to him as you'd expect."
If and when the mist clears, the focus is on getting the album out and taking it on the road. "There's always gonna be loads of judgement, which is fine. I'm more than happy to take that on," Jack says of the pressure involved in replacing such a unique talent as Jakes. "I only had one goal, which is to make the band happy with what they were producing. I'd rather them be able to look back and think yeah, this is exactly what we wanted to do and it sounded really good at the time. We're happy with this."
With both songwriters hinting at a more accessible release than the darkness that shrouded 'Things Will Matter', there's a sense of triumph that it's almost time to step out of the shadows. "The music is more important than any one of us," Mark affirms. "It's not about the people in the band per se. It's about being creative and making music. It's always been an evolution, it's always a moving thing. It's been too long as a project for us to abandon. That was what we wanted, to just carry on because it's all we've known for so long."
Taken from the June issue of Upset. Lonely The Brave's third album is due later this year.
Featuring Creeper, Palaye Royale, Lonely The Brave, The Used and more.