Leon Meya told his career officer, he was going to be in a band and he was going to be on Top Of The Pops. One year later and at the tender age of 16, he had done it.
As the British music scene gained full momentum in the mid 90’s, Northern Uproar were catapulted from school hall to festival status in the blink of an eye. Chris Gorman is now a full time member of the current Northern Uproar line up, but he was only ‘as and when’ back then. A jovial presence, open and honest, he admits that his participation back then was only the tip of the iceberg, he recalls “Most of the bands around at the time were professional muso’s, they’d had a few years experience under their belt. These guys were just 16, Leon was 16 when they signed their first record deal. They’d been doing it since they were 13 but it all happened very, very young. I was 15 when I played my first gig, in front of 10,000 people at T In The Park. I was absolutely bricking it, hearing the roar and seeing all those people was amazing and the upside is, I’ve never been nervous since. But then I went home, as did the other lads. We were picked up, did a gig and dropped off home afterwards to carry on as normal, it was Leon that was left to contend with the spotlight and be the front man, do the interviews and write the songs”. Leon, clearly reflective interjects “It was a lot to take in, looking back it was probably too much, too much information. The effects of being in a band it’s like mental torture, it’s only now you realise when you look back. It’s like people who don’t make it in football and then it gets taken away, it’s a funny game to be in, very detrimental to the mind. But I love music, I always have and I’ve never stopped. We’ve got fond memories but you have to look forward and just do what you’ve got to do, make that your business and not get bogged down with what you’ve done”.
Leon’s attitude is admirable, in a fickle business such as the music industry where fame and longevity are in short supply for most artists, it’s all too common to see artists come and go in the blink of an eye, but to keep on keeping on takes resolve, and you cant blame most bands from the era for throwing in the towel. This was never an option for Leon, as band members came and went, 2 years was the longest the band was ever actually apart.
The new album ‘All That Was Has Gone’ was released in June via pledge music, an increasingly common platform for new music, but a medium that is tinged with frustration for Leon “It’s good that we’ve been able to do it and get the album out, but it is a bit annoying that it has come to the point where this is how we have to do it. But y’know, we’ve done it and we’re happy with it, there’s a lot of love gone into this album”. Leon, also a Latin guitarist, has drawn on those influences for this album, and it shows, as Chris explains “We play in a Latin band also, I don’t want to go too much into that but that’s Leon’s thing. Leon’s got albums worth of Latin songs, and we’ve spent ages trying to work out how we can combine the two and this has worked. We’ve touched on different things in previous albums but this one does have a heavy Latin vibe to it. We just did it how we wanted it to be done. We didn’t have a huge budget obviously, it was recorded on tape and there just wasn’t the funding to do everything perfectly, but we’re really pleased with how it’s turned out, we’ve got genuine affection for it and the feedback has been really positive too. It was a real experience trying to get it all together, and we did it…just”.
As the band prepare to start gigging again, it’s clear that time has mellowed the lads and their attitude to touring, as Chris explains “We’re past that stage where we have management that give us a list of 60 dates and tell us where we play, I mean, these places just roll into one after a while, now we play where people want us to play, there’s about 10 dates in the pipeline and 5 of them are in Italy back to back. The whole Britpop thing in Italy was huge, obviously they embraced the mod scene so they really picked up on Britpop. But surprisingly we never played there back then. A lot of bands have management organisations that have kept the fires burning for them one way or another with regards to touring, we never had that as ours just went to shit so we just picked the pieces up bit by bit. But ours is like little pockets of fans here and there, add them all up and there are loads of them. With regards to a set, the tour is going to be whatever we want to do at the time, Jeff can’t do this next slot of live band gigs so they will be done as a 3 piece. Ideally we’d have done about 50 dates before the next album but we just don’t have the man hours. Personally we’d rather do it acoustic or semi acoustic. It seems much more natural, we take a very laid back approach to touring now too, if it’s just the two of us we probably skip the sound check altogether, we’ve be known to just let venues know we’re coming and to have two guitars ready”.
Chris and Leon look back on the 90’s as only a very small chapter in the bands history, so much has happened in between that has not been released to the press and time has matured their outlook, as a result they are upbeat and positive about the future. As much as their hearts are in the band, time has taught them the importance of keeping a level head and a varied lifestyle. Chris is a tai chi instructor as well as guitar tutor, Leon is embracing his hobby – motorbikes, along with teaching guitar. Chris explains “You have to do things other than music or you become a really boring person, it wears you out. We know musicians who talk only about the music business and it gets tedious”.
They have taken the pressure off themselves and made the whole process about doing things right for them, what feels natural for the band and things are beginning to gain momentum “As of this week we are re-releasing the 3rd album and the live acoustic album, they’ll be available to download. Also work will start next year on the next album and that really is going to be different”.
As time ticks on and we head back on the 142 into the City, I’m contemplative about the band. Thrown in at the deep end at such a tender age is something very few non-manufactured bands have to deal with. But dealt with it they have. Listening to the new album, you can still tell Leon’s voice from a mile away, and every now and then you hear a flicker of how they began, but they have grown and gone forward to produce a record that not only encompasses everything that was great about the 90’s, but they’ve done it whilst staying true to themselves.
Albums available to download now from iTunes