Miles and The Chain Gang are a York based band that play original songs, covers, and good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll. Influences include Van Morrison, Thin Lizzy, Bruce Springsteen, Del Amitri, Counting Crows etc. Anything that has a heart, basically. Miles himself fills us in on the background of the band, as well as his own personal musical memories.
What are the origins of the band, how long have you been playing together?
I’m Miles, I’d been writing songs for a long time. Had kids, was married and the music took a back seat for quite a few years. Went through some big life changes and thought ‘what do I want to do’? One of the answers was music, and I started to play at open mics in York. The band (Billy, Tim, Alan, myself) came about through a series of coincidences in 2018, meeting the guys. It was odd how it happened. Synchronicity, maybe. We started playing together in September 2018 and played our first gig the following February.
How did you feel performing your first gig? And how was it?!
The first proper gig was February 2019 at The Crescent in York. I was chuffed but we were a bit ropey, looking back. We went back there in December 2019 and were a lot tighter. It takes time to settle in with the people you play with, get used to each other and learn to play as a unit.
What should people expect when they check Miles and the Chain Gang out? How would you describe the group?
If people like good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll (The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, The Who, Thin Lizzy, Van Morrison, Chuck Berry etc) they will really enjoy what we do. We try to not be pretentious but focus on playing good songs, really well. We like to interact with the audience. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. Our gigs should just be fun, raucous, a chance for everybody to go a bit nuts for an hour or two. Music is very cathartic. Life is stressful. We all have our struggles. Gigs are an amazing way for people to unwind and celebrate and dance and spontaneously combust. Let’s dance, as David Bowie said.
The new music scene is bursting at the seams with fresh talent, in what ways do you feel that a band has to stand out from the others trying to
build a name?
I think you have to know what you’re about, stick to your guns, and work really hard to build an audience. Do the best work you can – songwriting, recording, gigs, videos. I can’t bear it if things are a bit amateurish, and I get annoyed when I make mistakes. It happens, but I try not to. Also, understand how marketing and publicity work. The bands that cut it will be talented. But they will also be very savvy. Gene Simmons (Kiss) said ‘There’s no substitute for hard work’, and he was right.
What are you working on at the minute that people can check out?
Our first video came out in February 2020. ‘When it Comes To You’ is a brisk song about the pros and cons of unrequited love. It has a bit of a new wave feel – which is great cos we like that era a lot. We’re recording some songs in June 2020, and hopefully get a new video out soon.
What band out there at the minute do you feel that you would be best suited to open for?
Anybody who plays stadiums. Ha! I don’t know. We’re not fussy at the moment. We’ll play gigs with anybody, as long as they’re reasonably good and it’s not a thrash.
Who do you feel is the next band to break out?
In York, The Howl and The Hum are doing well. They’re an interesting band. I’m not sure they’ve got the hooks to be huge – time will tell. The act I loved recently was Sam Fender – I really like his album. Other than that, most of what I listen to was made between 1966 and 1980!
What are your first musical memories? And what was the light bulb moment that made you go “I want to do that”?
My Mum played Abba in the car. I was very young, maybe six years old, and I thought those songs were magical. The voices, the words, the pulse, the clever arrangements, the singing. Words about how men and women relate to each other – it was all very exotic. That lit the fuse, I think. Later on, 1986, I saw Queen at Wembley Stadium. That was the first gig I went to and it was pretty overwhelming, in a good way. The power of music. The way it lifted people out of themselves. I think it was a slow burn for me. I wasn’t very confident when I was younger.
What was the last gig that you attended as a fan?
The last gig I went to as a fan? I saw Michael Kiwanuka in February 2020 and it was fantastic. He’s really got soul, and great songs. ‘A Black Man In A White World’ has been on my mind a lot, recently, with the Black Lives Matter campaign. I’m a white man from middle England, so I guess I’m very privileged.
The album that you have in your album collection/spotify playlist that would surprise most people?
I like Taylor Swift a lot! I have a real penchant for good pop music. I grew up with pop music in the early 1980’s. The first few years of the 1980’s were fantastic. That pop-new wave-synthesizer thing produced some great stuff. I also love a bit of AC-DC from time to time. For me, it’s all pop music, really. As long as it’s not extreme metal or dreary or inscrutable jazz, I’ll listen to almost anything. Good songs come in many different forms – from Handel to Metallica.
What are your plans for the rest of 2020?
We’re going to record some songs, get another video done. Build an audience. That’s the plan. More gigs if at all possible. Get out there.
How active are you on social media and where can people connect with you?
The main hub for Miles and The Chain Gang is Facebook. All our gig news, videos, photos (etc) is there. Our page is here.
Header image – Kippa Matthews
Live image – Jim Poyner Photography