Style Council: The Gallery's
The Gallery’s get retro with their licks and modern with their kicks mixing fashion with music, like it’s supposed to be
Arguably the golden era of UK bands was the 1990s, when Britpop and ‘Cool Britannia’ were the buzz words and the battles between Oasis and Blur were on every screen in every home. Pulp, The Charlatans, Suede, Menswear, Garbage, Elastica, Ocean Colour Scene, The Verve… the list could go on.
But they wouldn’t exist without the 80s forerunners of The Stone Roses, The Jam, Squeeze etc. And they wouldn’t exist without the punk movement in the 70s and the first inklings of mod culture in the 60s with The Faces and The Kinks.
But there is one thing that ties them all together; the importance of fashion and style. Like a velvet glove over the iron fist of punchy unforgettable songs, the striking clothes have become just as iconic as the outstanding music.
If you can fit those two items together, you have framework of creating a band that is memorable.
The Gallery’s are a three-piece outfit from Tunbridge Wells and Maidstone, all in their early 20s. They have all the swagger and confidence needed to perch on a moped on a packed Margate beach during our shoot with Rat Race. But they have more than that. They have proper authenticity.
Dan Maggs, drummer, is smashing out shifts at two different bars in-between recording sessions, mini tours and rehearsals. James Woods, guitarist, is an apprentice carpenter and Craig Barden, bass guitar, is headfirst into an online music business. It is f**king refreshing.
“You’ve got to do it if you want to get there,” says James.
“It’s a lot of late evenings and early starts. with rehearsals, gigs, writing and recording as well,” chimes Craig.
How many legendary bands in British musical history have come off the Simon Cowell production line? None. They all grafted. Playing sh*thole pubs to people who hate them, until one day someone in a big chair sat up and listened.
The world of music has changed, partly because of Cowell and his singlehanded attempt to destroy the feat of having a No.1 hit record, but mainly because of technology. The world of social media and instant online music tools like Spotify mean that record deals are no longer the same promised land that they used to be. There are other ways for bands to get to their audience.
“The way music is at the moment, many signed bands have said if you can fund it yourself, then fund it yourself,” says James. “If it is for a long term and benefitting you as band, then that’s different.
“But we have got social media, we have grafted and are lucky enough to have built a fan base ourselves.”
Their Facebook page boast 12,000 fans as does their Instagram. Their single Over The Bridge has had more than 41,000 listens on Spotify. There is real interest.
But while The Gallery’s have their feet firmly on the ground, there is still ambition and have a goal of the next steps to take.
“We have got new songs that we are definitely going to record and we will keep plugging away with the gigs,” says Craig. “Maybe we won’t get signed, but hopefully, the next stage is that we will get a booking agent.”
James adds: “We want that progression.”
Dan and James met at West Kent College in Tunbridge Wells and formed the band with their original bassist two years. But after he left for university, Dan was introduced to Craig through an old girlfriend. One jam session later, and it all clicked into place. See.. authentic. How bands are meant to start.
There is an obvious link to Margate and to our AUT18 edition style gurus Rat Race. The historical ties between the mods, skinheads, rockers and the seaside town are many and varied, hence why we decided to shoot the chaps there.
From the Paisley/Pretty Green-style band logo through to the haircuts, there is a theme to The Gallery’s. Their clothes listed Fila, Fred Perry, Gabicci in their music videos and they clearly speak to the mod community. The gigs they take reflect this; The Lambretta Store in Manchester, Isle of Wight Scooter Rally, The Cavern Club in Liverpool and even Mod & 60s Festival in Margate itself.
They have provided support for Dr Feelgood, From The Jam (fronted by The Jam’s Bruce Foxton), Tom Hingley of Inspiral Carpets and The Rifles.
They were even listed on the painfully desirable Fred Perry Subculture list, where they were asked to name their favourite songs as well as their favourite venues.
“That was a great question. We have played loads great venues,” Craig says. And he’s right.
They can tick off Thekla Bristol, O2 Shepherds Bush. Rock City Nottingham, Dublin Castle, Camden and many more.
But with the last lights of Britpop extinguished before any of these boys were born, where did their love for the music and fashion come from?
“I was brought up on SKA music; Madness, The Specials, The Selector, all those bands,” says Craig.
James adds: “We were all into the music and the style that goes with it. So, when we started the band, we wanted to head into that mod genre.”
But while the clothes suggest where their loyalties could lie, The Gallery’s are far from Paul Weller love-in. Their track Paisley is akin to early Stone Roses, while Imperfect Perception is Oasis mixed with The Who. There is 60s Beach Boys surf sound mixed with The Kinks in Doctor Friend.
“We all like 60s and 70s music,” says James. “But then I wouldn’t say we are strictly a mod band either. There’s no niche to it. People can take what they want from it.”
Craig adds: “We take from different musical cultures and try to splice them up into our own things. The indie sounds and Britpop sounds, even blues is in quite a lot of our songs.”
Surely it helps, though, to identify with a particular audience?
“It does help, but we are also very diverse. We have influences from everything,” says James. “Like, we play The Skins, and we are nothing like The Skins. We love them as a band and people who heard us play our version liked it, too.
Dan adds: “It’s our own sound as well, so it’s different to what people would expect from a cover of song by The Skins.”
The reasoning behind their songs these boys give is well beyond their years, while their songs still feel fresh. Perhaps that’s why they speak to a range of generations, and probably why they have been picked to support Madness in huge gigs at Detling Showground, playing to more than 12,000 people.
“Yeah that’s easily our biggest gig,” says Craig. “It was pretty special.”
Just when I thought the boys had gone a bit coy, a bit star-struck, James pipes up to restore the rock and roll edge.
“That day I woke up well late; only about half an hour before we were due to go play to 12,000 people. I paced it down there in my car, missed sound checks, the lot,” says James.
“We are lucky enough to have supported Madness twice. The second time we met Suggs and he was a bit hungover and took his glasses off and said ‘I recognize you boys, you’re really good’. That was surreal.”
The Ordinary Boys and The Enemy have shown in recent years that the desire for moderns indie and mod/ska sounds remains high, and The Gallery’s are certainly working at reaching the masses.
“We’ve done well over 100 gigs as the three of us,” says Craig,
Dan adds: “I think it was 23 gigs in the month of May last year and around 115 in total in 2017. We had a week-long tour with The Bluetones recently, and that was amazing, but so tiring before going back to work.”
I can’t help but think that making sacrifices and tirelessly working the circuit at such a young age will stand The Gallery’s in good stead for a prolonged career in music.
“Yeah I think we drove about 700 miles that tour week,” says James. “We went from York to London, then down to Tunbridge Wells for another show and then back to Norwich the next day.
“But it’s good though. It’s what we want to do.”
You can see The Gallery’s at a number of gigs in Kent over the next few months, check them out on Instagram and Facebook @TheGallerysUK