With two consecutive Top 20 studio albums in the bag, the time is now for Lancaster based rockers Massive Wagons to rule the rock world. The band’s latest album – House of Noise was released during the lockdown and entered the Official UK charts at an impressive #9.
Having charted successfully with their previous album Full Nelson, the group had their hopes set on a Top 20 return, but it wasn’t until early sales figures started to roll in that they realized their dream was within reach. “I think the goal was to sell as many albums as possible. And then after a time, you start looking at the figures, and you think, oh – we’re in for a chance here,” explains guitarist Adam Thistlethwaite. “We want people to buy the album because it’s good, not because it’s going to make us a Top 10 band. We genuinely believe it’s good, but having that on your CV, it’s in black and white.”
Having a Top 20 album can help to open doors within the music industry. When the Wagons reached #16 with Full Nelson, a lot of things changed. Frontman Baz Mills states that: “Immediately people were interested in you that you would never have heard from before.”
However, after the success of Full Nelson, did the band feel the pressure to follow up or surpass the chart position gained by their previous release? “We always want to better the last one without a doubt,” said Mills. “I never really felt any pressure with ‘House of Noise’ – I was just more excited for it. I felt a little more pressure at the start of writing the new one, which hasn’t been recorded yet. I was like – we’ve had two Top 20 albums; what the hell do we do now? What direction do we go in? Rather than naturally do what we’ve done before and go with it – I was trying to overthink it.” Speaking of the band’s forthcoming album, Mills adds: “Once we got past the first couple of songs and realized they were sounding alright, the rest of it just came along.”
Whilst a lot of groups avoided releasing new albums during the lockdown, Massive Wagons threw caution to the wind, and the decision certainly paid off. However, the possibility of holding back the release was contemplated. “It was definitely mentioned, but we didn’t consider it for very long really because we just weighed up the advantages of doing it either way,” explains Thistlethwaite. “As there was no certainty to when it was all going to end, we thought, well, let’s strike while the iron is hot. Quite a lot of other acts did reschedule, and it opened a space in the release calendar. There weren’t many albums coming out at that time, so it was a bit of a no brainer. And with promoting it, we were held back a bit by the lack of touring and the lack of in stores and that sort of thing – but so was everybody at the time. So, it was a level playing field.”
With House of Noise Massive Wagons were committed to bringing mental health to the forefront of the conversation. Speaking on the subject, Mills said that: “I think it’s a big issue for a lot of people. It’s hard to know what sort of role social media plays in mental health. I think it’s a double-edged sword. I think it causes a lot of problems and I also think it’s great for people to contact other people and to air their issues and talk to people about it. So, it’s kind of hard to understand really. I just wanted to shine a light on it a little bit. And really, I think a lot of bands have done lately, and I think that’s only a good thing, to be honest.”
On the other hand, the group were also able to inject their humour into tracks such as The Curry Song. “It’s a very Terrorvision sort of riff, I thought,” declares Mills. “I’ve always loved their Tequila song – it’s genius. I love commercial music; I think it’s great. And I just thought well they’ve obviously written about something they love doing, and people love doing, and can identify with. So, I thought, what else do people love doing? And I was like, eating curry. So, I thought we will write a song about that then. It’s just a logical thing.”
Subsequently, the group went on to invent a new word, or so it seems, via their song title Hallescrewya. The latter is a shoo-in to be included in the next revision of the Oxford English Dictionary. Speaking on how his colourful choice of language and the song itself was born, Mills said that: “We were playing in Dover; we were playing this gig. And then this guy just left halfway through the gig, and I was singing. I remember thinking, where is he going? He never came back in. And I thought – I wonder why he’s left. He looked like: ‘I’ve come to check these guys out, and they are not what I thought they were, so I’m going’. So, I thought, I’m going to write a song about him. And then I thought, how can I write the chorus – f**k you? Or screw ya? It probably just came like that – Hallescrewya.”
It may have been a long time coming, but finally, with the return of some semblance of normality, the Wagons have been able to return to touring. “The first one back really was Download [Pilot]. It was kind of like being thrown in at the deep end a little. Your first proper gig back is a big event. It was a real celebration, as corny as that might sound,” concludes Mills. “I wouldn’t say it was emotional; we’re not really like that. We didn’t ever cry or anything like that,” adds Thistlethwaite. “But it just felt good. This is our bread and butter – playing live. And that’s kind of how we got wherever we’ve got, was always through the strength of our live performance. It just feels like we’ve got that back again.”
It won’t be long until Massive Wagons return to the HRH stage, as the band will be headlining HRH NWOCR in Leicester next January. Speaking of the band’s appearance, Adam said: “I think the last thing we did was the HRH Awards in 2017, and I think it was the first HRH awards. Since then, other than the Road Trip the following year, we haven’t done anything. So yeah, it’s a long-overdue return to play.”
Following the band’s current UK tour – what’s next for Massive Wagons? “The next looming thing is the recording of the next album,” explains Thistlethwaite. “That’s all pencilled in, and the producers are locked in place. The same as last time – Colin Richardson and Chris Clancy, and we can’t wait. The songs are there. We’re going to have a few more to squeeze in before we go in. But yeah, that’s what we’re all focused on once this is done.” Something to look forward to for fans of the Brit rockers.
Words and Photos by Adam Kennedy
You can see Massive Wagons headline HRH NWOCR at the O2 Academy Leicester on the weekend of 22nd and 23rd January 2022. Although the event is officially sold out, for cancellations or upgrades.