Following the tragic news that Viola Beach and their manager were killed in a car accident, Getintothis’ Peter Guy reflects on a band with so much more to give.
Friday night was a heavy one. I spent much of it watching Money produce a quite sensational performance at Leaf Tea Shop on Bold Street. Earlier that evening, I’d spent a couple of hours in the company of the heads of Merseyside music debating potential nominees for this year’s GIT Award.
Viola Beach were one of those names we discussed. Everyone around the table had a connection with these hugely talented young men. Yaw Owusu, head of Liverpool International Music Festival (LIMF), had booked them to play last year – and they were scheduled to play again at this year’s Sefton Park event. Christopher Torpey, editor at Bido Lito! magazine, had featured them in the live reviews section and as an introducing feature. Steve ‘Revo’ Miller had booked them for Liverpool Sound City, and more prominently for his own FestEvol festival for an evening slot in the Kazimier Garden. Lauren Jones, creator of Merseyside-based music blog, The Music Manual, had written about them on numerous occasions. Mike Deane, director at Liverpool Music Week had booked them to play a high profile support slot for US hype stars Best Coast [review]. And I compared their trajectory to contemporaries Circa Waves suggesting that if Keiran Shudall‘s young chasers mined influences from the grimy streets of New York, then Viola Beach were the Californian sunshine antidote fizzing with effervescent youth. A quick scan through the Getintothis archives shows our love for the band.
Less than 48 hours later, and I was woken by a text message alerting us to the tragic news that all four members of Viola Beach (Kris Leonard, 19, River Reeves, 19, Tomas Lowe, 27, and Jack Dakin, 24) and their manager Craig Tarry, 32, were killed when their car plunged more than 25m from a highway bridge into a canal.
The accident happened in the early hours of Saturday near Stockholm. The band had played Swedish music festival Where is the Music? and were due to play a gig in Guildford in Surrey on Saturday. It was reportedly their first overseas gig – and gives a clear insight into just how much promise this young band had.
As I wrote in my Liverpool Echo music column, I can distinctly remember the first time I heard the band. I’d sat down to watch an Everton game but muted the pre-match inanities and decided to trawl through SoundCloud and stumbled across three Viola Beach demos – Daisies, Love My Love and All Your Friends.
What emerged from the speakers was rough, gnarly and very, very exciting. A young band oozing with charisma, full-throttle wired energy and underneath the snarl were propulsive, catchy melodies. That was back in late 2013 – push forward just a couple of months and the Warrington quartet had honed those rougher edges imbuing a choppy Cali-pop sound. In essence, it was radio pop gold – and people sat up to listen.
Several months later and the lads had played almost every regional event and venue that mattered. And it was of little surprise that they were added as tour support for one of the UK’s brightest live rock & roll outfits, Blossoms. They were to follow those dates with a trip to Austin, Texas, to play the world’s premiere new music showcase South By South West (SXSW) alongside contemporaries Clean Cut Kid and Hooton Tennis Club.
They were all set to wrap up this first chapter with a sold out headline date at the iconic Parr Hall in their hometown of Warrington. Instead, we’re left with the desperately sad news of their untimely deaths.
Everyone at Getintothis sends love and support to their families, friends and loved ones. All hail the Boys That Sing.
A Facebook page has been set up to try to get the band to Number One – see here.
UPDATE – Members of the band’s label and people who have worked closely with them have commented on the tragic news.
Communion Records – Viola Beach had only recently come into the Communion family, and had everything going for them – great songs, passion, talent, drive… everything that a band should have. To sit down with the band was to sit down with a group of guys whose band you wanted to be in, and to be in the presence of a band who knew just what it would take to make it. This is why the band had been in Sweden, rather than sit back and wait for it to happen to them, Kris, River, Jack and Tom were determined to go out into the world and play every show they could until the world was singing along with them, and now that dream has been sadly taken away from all of us. Equally, Craig, their manager was possessed by a passion to help the band achieve everything they wanted to, and to speak with Craig about Viola Beach, and music in general was an absolute pleasure – you knew he was doing it all for the right reasons. Everyone here at Communion is in a state of total shock and sorrow, and our thoughts go out to the families and friends of Craig and the band.
Mark Bennet, United Talent agency – From your first gig to your last and many in between I was so lucky to be there and I will be forever grateful for you lightning up my life with your infectious, beautiful and joyful behaviour. Craig Tarry could be seen at every gig, head bobbing and just simply and purely loving the music. I must of called him more than anyone in the last 6 months, even Thursday we must of spoke 8/9 times. You started as a colleague and you ended as a good mate. I will miss you dearly.
Ian Grimble, producer – I first became aware of Viola Beach through their single Swings & Waterslides and was very taken by the energy and vibrancy that jumped out of the speakers.
Upon meeting them for the first time, along with Craig their manager, I could soon see why, their exuberance and determination to scream out to the world was overwhelming. This combined with undoubted talent and an incredible work ethic for ones so young made every long hour in the studio from then on very rewarding indeed. It is with great sadness that we will not be able to see them grow from the spark that they are now, into the raging fire that they so desperately desired to become.
They were a young band who wrote about what they knew, a legacy for new young bands I hope.
“And she told me that she loves a boy who knows how to sing, so I learned how to sing” And how they sang.
My thoughts are with their friends and family right now.
Rich Perry, radio plugger – This is the saddest news. Purely from a people perspective, we’ve lost 5 great humans. From a professional perspective, rarely have I been as sure of a band & manager who felt destined for the big time. Craig, Kris, Riv, Jack & Tom you were my friends. It’s an honour to have spent time with you doing what we all love. RIP.