Electronic and chirpy. Two words used to describe the music of the anthemic and infectious four-piece band Lisbon. The boys that are just full of surpises. We soon learn about Matthew’s alter ego Judith, a secret love for Katy Perry, Game of Thrones inspired music videos and cow bells. We learn all about what’s behind their creative drive and discover the heart behind the music. You can't help but admire the boys brilliant sense of humor and affinity with the industry.
Their style is clean and up beat. Lead singer Matthew Varty’s voice glides over a much busier base, as though he’s holding together the depth brought by the guitars and drums. The electronic edge to their music finishes their sound off, they aren’t just boys with guitars, and their humor is transparent in their songs.
Conversation begins and the boys immediately relax. The words start to flow around the room as they share their entertaining stories and unusual tales. They talk us through their unique journey as a band and their even more unique journey as friends. Lisbon are clearly extremely passionate about their music, but above all, their friendship. If one thing could be taken from this interview it would be that these boys are clearly the four best friends that ever were. Throughout the shoot they laughed and joked over each others funny narratives, chatted away about yesterday’s cool endeavours and plotted tomorrow's mischief.
Photographer Cleo Glover beautifully captures the boys and their laid back, humorous personalities, and not to mention their brilliant boyish charm. Their creative talents and love for music seem to know no bounds. The boys have a busy schedule ahead of them and their journey is not one you want to miss, trust us.
Would you guys like to introduce yourselves?
Matthew: My name is Matthew, and I am lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist.
Gaz: I’m Gaz and I play bass.
Alex: I’m Alex and I play drums and sing.
Matthew: Like an angel.
Joe: I’m Joe and I play guitar and cow bell.
The cow bell?
Joe: I do play the cow bell. Grade four as well!
How would you guys describe yourselves as a band?
Matthew: Just a bunch of lads having a fun time.
Gaz: I don't really think we are your typical band. We have met and played with a lot of bands and I think we are just a bunch of idiots really.
Joe: If you look at a lot of bands and how they dress or act, I don't think we are really like that you know. I think it's probably because of where we came from. There isn't really a scene going on, we are just four lads who have just accidentally fallen into doing this. We were best mates and this is what we have bonded over. It could have been anything, football, or whatever, but it just happened to be music.
Alex: We get along well with other bands, but we just don't quite fit in.
Joe: Yeah if you had seen us on the street you wouldn't think we were a band haha.
Gaz: Yeah we don't typically dress like a band. Outside of music we are idiots. It’s not all about music.
Joe: It is more about our personalities. Obviously we love our music but the most important thing for us is not fitting into the stereotypes of looks.
Alex: I think just not following the stereotypes of the industry right now and just being us. We are not going to change for anyone. We are really weird man.
Matthew: We all have different personalities though don't we. We all have like three names each now, our alter egos.
What are your alter egos?
Matthew: I’m Matthew and Judith. Judith is quite a sophisticated woman and she is the serious one.
Matthew: Yeah. When I have something serious to say they always say that Judith comes out. Gaz has got a few alter egos too.
Gaz: I’ve got Gwen and Gordy.
Matthew: And Gazza. Gazza is for when he is angry.
Alex: Gordy is more like "Hey man. Thanks for the sound bro".
Joe: Alex has Allison. She is a very kind woman.
Alex: And then Joes is Peaches Aldatory.
Joe: Haha, yeah, I’m not really sure how that one was acquired.
Alex: To people reading this, this will make no sense at all, but to us it does haha. To us that is what our band is about. We do play and write music and we are all serious about that, but at the end of the day we are four best mates who have known each other for ten years and so of course we are going to be a bit stupid at times.
How would you describe your style of music?
Joe: Currently it all fits in with the whole EP thing. Our EP is called "Life Is Good". That is the ideology behind our music. We try and make feel good music. If I had to put a genre on it I would say old pop. It has the tenancy to be alternative music and still have a good guitar crack. I think we aim towards a pop genre, because we like the music that is catchy and making music for a wide variety of people rather than focusing on a niche is great.
Alex: I think as well we have all always written pop music and that’s just the way it was. We haven't gone out of our way to be a grunge band or a crazy band we just want to write pop music.
Matthew: We appreciate so much music though.
Gaz: We listen to everything don't we.
Matthew: Yeah. We are all pop writers and it is hard to get rid of that. The pop just comes out you know haha.
How would you describe each other?
Gaz: We are just the craziest people ever in the world.
Alex: We would describe ourselves differently depending on who we are talking to and situations.
Gaz: That is where the whole alter ego thing comes in.
Matthew: In this interview a lot of our serious egos have come out, so like Judith has been speaking for a bit.
Joe: She is talking right now.
Matthew: Yeah I am Judith right now.
We are not seeing the real Matthew right now?
Alex: You might be getting flashes of Matthew, but what your really getting is Judith.
Gaz: If someone says something that is very not them then they get the eyes.
Joe: You know when you're out with a mate and they aren’t acting themselves, it is like that and they get the side eye.
Alex: Yeah man, just get out the room now, leave. haha
It’s time for Matthew to step back into the room. What has been your band highlight so far?
Matthew: Probably this tour for me. It’s been like a year and a half just full on now, but the end of this tour and the release of our EP feels like a sort of homecoming. We haven't really had a chance to pat ourselves on the back. I don't want to get ahead of myself, but getting to the end of this tour and having a night of releasing an EP, it is nice to finally get something back and to just feel happy about what you are doing.
Gaz: I would say that and also when we played T in the Park. I was actually on holiday and flew back to play T in the Park and then I flew back to my holiday after, so it was really crazy.
Joe: For me the best thing about it all is the buzz you get from playing the shows and the reaction. To have people interested in your music and invest in you as a person is just such a massive thing. The music is our soul and it is crazy that people actually like it and want to invest their time in listening. It is crazy man.
Did you guys meet at school?
Matthew: Yeah we all met at school and we have all grown up together pretty much.
Gaz: We have known each other too long, which is why we have created alter ego’s haha.
Alex: I think that is why we are all so similar, because we have all had quite similar lives and are from the same town.
Joe: Me and Gaz look similar, because we have the same kind of environment. We have been moulded together haha.
Matthew: I think as well it helps coming from a small town, all of our other mates are really into football and sport and we just fell into music, because it was something different and we were able to do it. It was nice having a scene where you weren't influenced by anyone and you can just do your own thing.
Gaz: And you don't get many bands from Newcastle that are full on pop. We got told we were the biggest thing from Whitley Bay since Sting.
Sting was from Whitley Bay?
Alex: Yeah he lived in Whitley Bay for a bit, and Dire Straits.
Did you guys bond over music then or were you mates before hand?
Alex: We were always mates before hand, but bonded more over music.
Joe: Yeah definitely, brightened together haha.
Gaz: We weren't actually always in the same band. We were in different bands and then for whatever reasons they ended and we came together. We would have been friends regardless though. If we weren't in a band we would still be best mates.
Joe: As I said before we would be playing on the same football team or I don't know, the same darts team haha.
How long has this band been together?
Matthew: We have been trying to make this our career for a year and six months now.
Gaz: We thought we would give it a go. We did our A-levels and started writing songs and then it all kicked off really. We started getting on Radio 1 a lot and thought we might as well stick with this.
Joe: Yeah everyone was finishing sixth form and I was a bit like what am I going to do now? And we were like, well why don't we try this you know.
Gaz: And it seems to be working so yeah haha.
Matthew: We just really enjoy it as well.
What do you guys do in your spare time?
Joe: I got asked this question the other day and I absolutely couldn't answer it. My mouth was just wide open for like five minutes haha. I pretty much do music 24/7. When we come off tours I write music. We just eat and sleep music you know.
Alex: It is a full time job and we are at the stage where the team is still quite small. It takes every single person so if you are awake then really you should be working for the band. But I do play playstation now and again haha.
Matthew: To be fair we do try and arrange a football match once a week.
Alex: We are so unhealthy on tour though. We just live on the motorway haha.
Gaz: You right short stories.
Alex: Yeah I write short stories. I’ve actually been writing a novel for the past year.
What is your novel about?
Alex: It is set in a different world and there is this guy called Ricky Slim who is a red neck cowboy in a different world. It’s about his journey. It’s pretty fucking weird and doesn't make sense.
It sounds great.
Alex: I think it is just for my mind and to get things out.
What is your favourite song that you've written?
Joe: 'Native' is a big one for us as we wrote it when we were picking up. It was an important time for the band. Lyric wise it is about this whole journey, so that is quite important to me.
Alex: I think as well we are really excited about the new stuff that is coming.
Gaz: The direction seems to be going in a really positive, fresh way. That is what is exciting and that is what our favourite thing is right now. It’s the buzz you get when your in the studio with everyone and you think god we have something good here.
Joe: That’s a great thing. You get that moment in the studio, you can spend days in there and then it just clicks and just hits you right in the face. It is amazing.
What bands inspire you and what do you guys listen to?
Joe: Lionel Richie. My dad loves soul music so he used to play me that when I was younger. My mum is a musician. She played the cello. She used to listen to quite a bit of classical music, but for years I used to go towards the soul thing. I remember, because my uncle used to put on a night in wales and he would get loads of people to play soul music and covers. I used to love it, to hear it all together was amazing. The feeling behind it was what really inspired us. We take quite a lot of inspiration from electronic music too. When you hear electronic music it is quite nice to listen to and think what that could sound like on a guitar. It’s interesting if you can get a different vibe from it and take from that.
Matthew: Also a lot of pop music. I know it is not cool to like Katy Perry or Taylor Swift, but we actually really do.
I love Taylor Swift.
Matthew: The way she writes her tunes is absolutely amazing.
Gaz: I would definitely agree with Lionel Richie though. He is amazing. I’ve actually seen him in Newcastle, as my mum always bangs on about how much she loves him.
He is great and his set was amazing at Glastonbury. Tell us what you guys have coming up?
Gaz: It sort of depends on how we are feeling and what goes on in the next few months. We have got a plan of doing another EP. We want to bring a new single out, maybe come Autumn and then have that as the first track of an EP.
Joe: And then we are going to head out and do some supporting tours, but we can't say anything yet.
Matthew: And then I think we are going to do a headline in January again. We are just going to live it you know. It sounds clique, but we are just going to go for it and just play as much as we can, because we love playing.
How can people find you and where can they watch you?
Alex: On Twitter and Instagram our name is @wearelisbon and our website is www.wearelisbon.com. On Facebook it is just Lisbon and on Youtube our channel is LisbonUK.
Gaz: We have a few festivals coming up too. We are playing Kendal, Why Not, Forgotten Fields, Close Up and Underground Festival in Gloucester.
Joe: Yeah we are playing loads of festivals, so come and see us and just keep an eye on our social media channels as that is where we will be announcing things.
Alex: It’s normally all over Twitter.
Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?
Gaz: Hmm Alex has a six pack haha.
That’s a good ending haha.
Matthew: As well we have a new music video coming up, we are really excited about that as it’s wild. It is for a song called Khaleesi. Do you watch 'Game of Thrones'?
I love Game of Thrones.
Matthew: We love 'Games of Thrones' too, so we thought we would do a song about it. For the video though unfortunately we couldn't get the crew in, but we did get a member of the knights watch haha. The concept of the video is basically us four trying to find Khaleesi.
That sounds really fun. I am definitely going to watch that when it comes out.
Joe: It comes out really soon, this week I think after we finish the tour.
Great, thank you very much guys.
Listen to Lisbon here.
Interview by Cleo Glover.
Words by Katy Thomas.