The music scene is definitely alive and well in Preston and one rock band looking to take advantage of the spotlight is The Jonny Oates Band who this month were crowned winners of the Last Band Standing at The Ferret.
Beating more than 30 local bands to the prize spot, the five-piece from Chorley are now set to receive a promising platform to break into the wider industry with BBC Introducing airplay; festival slots and professional studio recording time.
Vocalist and guitar player Jonny, 20, from Brindle, near Chorley, says the win ‘still hasn’t really sunk in’ but adds it is more the impetus he and the members needed to put themselves out there.
The annual competition itself wasn’t something they had considered before being encouraged by one of the staff at the popular city music venue after a gig there last October.
Jonny, Jordan Bates (drums), Connor Kaminski (guitar), Ben Lawton (bass) and Zoe Stirzaker (saxophone) have only been playing together for eight months.
Jonny says: “Since I started playing in a band, I’ve worked with great musicians but with this set-up, it just works so well.
“We come together and play and all have a great time but we’re also really close and great mates.”
The rock-inspired group take their influences from across the decades from Bruce Springsteen to Led Zeppelin, John Mayer to Artic Monkeys. Jonny says there is even a little country thrown in to the mix.
He describes their sound as a modern/old-style rock and their win at The Ferret shows there is still a strong appetite across all ages for the music.
Jonny confesses his own musical interests didn’t match with the chart-topping tunes of his peers while at school.
“I was brought up on The Boss, (Bruce Springsteen) Rush, Led Zeppelin all the stuff my dad was into.
“So our sound is a modern twist on Springsteen and John Mayer or Dave Matthews’ Band
“But I’m also really into Arctic Monkeys, The Vaccines and the Gorillaz.”
Jonny says he doesn’t particularly hail from a music background.
“My mum played a little piano when she was younger and my dad loves his music but doesn’t play.
“I picked up a guitar and started lessons in Year 6 at St Laurence’s and it spiked my interest.
“I got an electric guitar when I started at St Michael’s but I didn’t sing or write songs at the time.
“I just sort of fell into it – we had an open evening at school and with my best friend we were asked to play a bit of something but we didn’t have anyone to sing.
“He said ‘why don’t you do it? so I was forced into it really, I’m not the best singer even now but once I started that is when I began writing songs and it’s gone from there.”
Despite studying music at GCSE at St Michael’s CE High School in Chorley, Jonny didn’t pursue it at A-level, with a view to go on to study medicine.
But his time is currently spent between working at a GPs surgery, Speed Medical at Buckshaw Village, and the band. He also volunteers at St Catherine’s Hospice.
It was through work he met 21-year-old drummer Jordan, and sharing a love for music they decided to ‘have a jam’
“I asked him if he wanted to join my band and that was it”
Jordan is studying music at Salford University, along with Connor ,19, from Leyland.
Ben,19, from Clayton Green joined the group on recommendation of their previous bass player and 18-year-old Bolton Sixth Form student Zoe is the newest addition.
Jonny says: “We all bring something different. It’s quite intricate, but not on a surface level. That uncertainty is really cool. We do it for ourselves – we don’t try to mould ourselves just because we think people would like that.
“Zoe has really been a great addition to the group.
“She is also very social media savvy, which has been really helpful.
“We get together when we can usually at my house in Brindle or the music rooms at Salford University.
“I write whenever I have an idea and then I’ll bring the song to a session and together it grows from there
“I tend to write about darker subjects. I try to avoid break-ups and tend to focus on particular points and places in relationships: how little things have a big impact over a long time. I like to think people can put their own spin on the songs.
“We do work on covers as well but like to add our own twist so mainly we concentrate on working on our own material.”
The plan for the group following the competition is to work on their songs ahead of their recording and add to the year’s gig calendar.
“It is about being pro-active now, trying to work on our following and create more of what people want to listen to.
“We have played some really good gigs but the final night at The Ferret really was something else.
“We had a lot of support from friends and family over the heats but the atmosphere and response from other people and other bands was amazing.
“Everyone really got in to the spirit of the set and that is really important for us to make that connection with the audience, if they’re enjoying it, it makes it more enjoyable for us
“It’s a natural feed – it works both ways.”
The Last Band Standing Final took place on April 15 and the three other finalists on the night included SOLDATO, Deepshade and Empire Police.
The bands beat more than 30 other bands over the heats, before battling it out amongst the crowds for the competition crown.
The Ferret’s search for the best musical talent in Lancashire began in 2014. Promoters looking to offer a platform for unsigned bands.
Recognised as one of the north wests best small venues, The Ferret regularly attracts artists of all genres.
The prize on offer for the Jonny Oates Band includes professional studio recording time.
Jonny says: “We regularly put our music out there on social media, YouTube but the chance to have some quality recording time is a massive bonus and something we really want to take advantage of.
“It was such an experience to be part of the competition. I couldn’t really believe it when they called us out as first place -my immediate thing was to congratulate the other bands, who really deserved as much of the recognition.
“Everyone there was just so supportive – it was nerve-racking but exciting.
“This year we want to put on more gigs in the local area and hopefully fix another date at The Ferret.
“We have a gig in Manchster at the Factory 251 on May 6 and Penwortham Gala on May 20.”
Looking further ahead the band are also hoping to travel outside the UK, heading to the music city of Nashville in the USA for three-months next year.
Jonny says: “I did some travelling in my gap year and spent a month in Nashville and just loved it.
“It is such a unique place and people live and breathe music there – everyone seems to be on the same wavelength.
“We’re all trying to save so hopefully it will happen.”
n For more on the band visit www.jonnyoatesband.com or www.facebook.com/jonnyoatesmusic