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Matt Jacobson meets with George Richards – Singer / Guitarist with The Illicits

Congratulations on what seems like a “whirlwind “beginning to your career – how has the journey been so far?

We’ve loved every minute of it. This past year has flown by, it seems like two minutes ago that we were playing in empty local venues, and now we’ve just come off an arena tour with Liam Gallagher!.

Signed by Alan McGee, and Creation, how did you find out about the interest and what were your initial thoughts?

I found out through our manager Gary, he rang to tell me that Alan had heard our single ‘In What World’ and wanted to come up to Blackburn to see us and meet us. Our initial thoughts were the same as they are now – Alan is up there with the likes of Tony Wilson in terms of iconic label bosses. So for him to have the same level of faith in us that we have in ourselves means we must be doing something right.

Your music has been described  as “ Terrace Punk” –  could you expand on this….. ?

I think it was actually Alan that coined that term, it makes sense though! It’s a combination of how we look and how we sound I think. Where we’re from and in towns and cities similar to ours, football is a huge part of the culture and you can see that in how we look and the clothes we wear. And I think in order your music to feel real and credible you have to write about what’s around you, which is what we do.

The early years, the early illicit years, who were your main influences?

We all shared some similar interests in certain bands that led us to start the band, but really we’ve all had different influences and all listen to different kinds of music. For example, Matt (our drummer) is into his metal and you can definitely see that in his style of drumming and it sets us apart from a lot of bands. Brad (our guitarist) is really into the Pistols and our Joe (our bass player) is a fan of psych music like The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Being that we all write together it’s great to be able to call on so many different influences.

You document life in post-industrial Northern towns, to me there is so much poetry in Northern towns and cities. I also feel there is a conveyor belt of influences in the North, is this a true reflection……?

Yeah I think that there’s a lot to be said about towns and cities like Blackburn, which is why there’s been so many great bands from the North of England. The best bands have all been able to articulate what life is like in their town.

I’ve always thought there a huge bond between Northern Towns, especially in the music world, is this true?

Yeah I think there is, at the end of the day we’re all pretty much in the same boat in these places and so we should stick together. We’re proud of where we are from and I think it’s something that people from northern towns have in common.

The debut single “In What World” sold out on pre sales alone. And word of mouth I believe was king in increasing the bands profile. To control this aspect and avoiding streaming – must have felt very rewarding to you?

It was a great achievement for us and we have to thank the people that bought it and spread the word about us. It was really good to see that a physical single could still sell out at a time where so many people only listen to music via streaming platforms. But going forward we will be using streaming platforms so that everyone can listen.

The latest single “Left Behind” features Sex Pistols legend Steve Jones, how did that come about, and what was it like to hear the final version?

Similar to how we heard about Alan coming to see us. We got a phone call from Gary and he said that Steve had heard the new single and would love to play a solo on it. Obviously for us it was a huge honour to have someone who we look up to, to then say they like our tunes enough to play on one of them.

And supporting Liam Gallagher, how does it feel to be on the road with him, and has he offered any advice to you?……..

It’s been amazing, when you start a band you dream of playing arenas and we’ve been able to do that on this tour and Liam has been ace with us. He has offered us some advice, he said just to work and work at it. We know we’ve got an incredible opportunity and so we want to give 100% in everything we do. He also said to savour everything that’s happening now because the first time is always special.

What next for The Illicits?

Up next is the release of our 2nd single ‘Left Behind’ as well as supporting Primal Scream on their sold out tour, before heading back to our headline gig in Blackburn on the 21st December.

Last Question; here we are in Liverpool at the M & S Arena, a city full of musical history……do you have favourite bands from the area?

Liverpool like a lot of northern towns and cities has a great musical heritage. We recorded our 2nd single with Bill Ryder Jones and we’re all fans of Bill’s work, he’s a brilliant musician and songwriter. We also toured with The Zutons earlier this year, it was our first proper tour with an established band and so we hold a lot of great memories of them and their music.

READ MORE: Explore Liverpool Music Writer Matt Jacobson interviews singer-songwriter Louis Berry

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