Little did Jeremy Wills know when he set up the ‘New Wave of Classic Rock – NWOCR’ Facebook group back in October 2017 that it would attract such a large following, but within a month of going live it had already gained 2,000 members and that number steadily increased, tipping the 12,000 mark just a few weeks ago. Assisted by a dedicated team of like-minded rock music lovers who knew each other mainly through moderating other groups, Jeremy set out to prove just how much outstanding new rock music was being produced by grassroots and unsigned bands on our very own doorstep – having become frustrated at hearing the old adage “there is no good new music anymore” constantly bandied about on other Facebook pages.
NWOCR very quickly became a place where musicians and fans alike could post about new music and interact with one another – enabling bands to promote themselves and fans to engage with the musicians and fellow rockers. Overnight, the group became a valuable resource for those looking to expand their listening repertoire, with members often posing questions such as; “I like bands X, Y and Z, which other bands would you suggest I check out?” – a question that could literally receive hundreds of replies as recommendations of new music would come flooding in.
Within a year of its inception, NWOCR had already been defined as a movement, and even as a genre in itself by some, but most consider it to be a family – and its friendly, community foundation is undoubtedly one of the key reasons for the group’s overwhelming popularity and success. Exactly what NWOCR encompasses is hard to define. Jeremy’s intention was that all genres of rock and metal should be included, but how ‘new’ does a band or their music have to be in order to be considered NWOCR? Jeremy explains, “The Hardest thing was having a cut-off date but we felt we had to in order to keep it new and fresh, so we went for after 2010 as a guideline for the bands’ first release”. It has been argued that using the terms ‘new’ and ‘classic’ together is an oxymoron, and to some extent that’s understandable, so perhaps the title should be taken to mean this: that today’s wave of new bands are creating the classic rock of tomorrow – rather than saying that all the music that falls within the definition necessarily has to emulate the classic rock sound of yesteryear.
NWOCR has even introduced its own line of merch and band members can often be spotted wearing their NWOCR logoed T-shirts on stage and being snapped with fans (sometimes wearing matching shirts) afterwards. With NWOCR having become so visible, not only on social media but out in ‘the real world’, promoters have been quick to respond to the growing demand and have started billing tours and even festivals as ‘NWOCR Presents’ events – showcasing bands that feature heavily in the group’s threads and championing the groundswell of new talent coming through, which in turn is helping to sustain many of the UK’s small live music venues.
However, the challenge moving forward will be promoting these bands to a younger audience, as it’s evident that the majority of people attending your average NWOCR gig and engaging in the Facebook group are predominantly older than those making the actual music. According to Jeremy, “Rock has been ignored by mainstream radio for a long time now so kids are not getting to hear it, but younger bands are now out there and it’s bands like Ethyrfield with teenage members that can get the teenage fans involved again. The older generation, which I guess I’m part of now, grew up in a time – ‘70s, ‘80s and early ‘90s – when rock was everywhere and we will always love the rock scene”.
Whilst some have put the resurgence of the rock scene down to the influence of US bands such as Greta Van Fleet (and the column inches that have been devoted to them in the music press), the vast majority of bands that crop up in the NWOCR group are home-grown and hail from all corners of the British Isles, with bands from Wales (which has always been renowned for its musical aptitude and excellence – although not necessarily within the genre of rock) being particularly well represented and boasting some outstanding new artists.
The UK hasn’t been shaken by such an influx of standout bands since BritRock took hold in the early ‘90s, but unlike the quintessentially British raw, heavy and punk-inspired sounds that were the hallmark of that era’s rock and metal, the current wave has embraced a decidedly whiskey-soaked slant, with some truly exceptional Southern and Blues Rock artists featuring prominently among the NWOCR talent. So high is the caliber of UK acts rising through the ranks in these genres, that we’re now arguably beating our American cousins at what has long been considered their own game.
The last couple of years has seen ‘New Rock’ and ‘Rising Bands’ stages added to some of the UK’s most well-known rock music festivals, giving up and coming acts vital exposure to the masses – something many of them could only have dreamed of until now. Following this trend, radio stations and podcasts have also been keen to give an extended platform to new rock bands and in February 2019 Hard Rock Hell Radio decided to dedicate a two-hour monthly slot to NWOCR, giving the group’s admins an opportunity to each present the show on a revolving basis.
Speaking of the collaboration, Jeremy says, “Jay McGuire at HRH Radio has been a big supporter of what we do from day one and when he offered us this slot we thought it would be a great way to get these bands some air-time”. HRH have already been spotlighting many of the NWOCR bands at their festivals, with most fitting comfortably into the CROWS, Sleaze, Blues and AOR lineups.
New Wave of Classic Rock is a rapidly growing movement that is exerting real influence where it matters, helping the vibrant UK rock scene to thrive. It has garnered support from industry professionals across the board and has been going from strength to strength – the Facebook group recently added a seventh administrator to their team in order to cope with the sheer volume of traffic. Gifted young musicians are cropping up in abundance all over the country, making this the most exciting time in decades to be a British rock music fan.
Hard Rock Hell Radio’s monthly NWOCR Show is on the air Mondays from 9-11pm as part of The Monday Night Takeover: