ARTS AND FEATURES — 09 July 2014

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Rixton’s Jake Roche tells Shelley Marsden about success in the States, exuberant fans and celebrity parents

Jake Roche was seven when he decided he wanted to be in a band. He had sprained his wrist playing football with his brother, and walked into the kitchen where his auntie Linda (Nolan – mum is Coleen and dad Eastenders star Shane Ritchie) was playing Aerosmith’s Walk This Way. It proved a pivotal moment.

“I heard that killer guitar riff and all of a sudden I was invincible – I ripped the cast off my hand, and started running around the house like a madman”, recalls Jake, 21. “After the song had finished, I was in hysterics because my arm was killing me and I had to go back to hospital to get it sorted. But I remembered that feeling of being in a band on stage somewhere being amazing.”

Fourteen years later, the Manchester lad is living the dream with Rixton – for whom the overused tag ‘Next big thing’ really does stick. With a big, hot radio-friendly, harmony-driven pop/rock sound, their front-man describes them as “Maroon 5 meets Bruno Mars meets, believe it or not, The Beatles”.

Rixton are making a name for themselves here (an upcoming headline tour is sold out) but, bizarrely, they’ve already found success in America – the Holy Grail that usually comes after recognition back home, and only then for the chosen few.

Jake agrees it’s a bit back-to-front. “It is weird to start out in America and then begin from scratch over here! Our label and management are based out there, but before we signed a record deal last year we were a band three years prior to that.

“Our main goal was to break our home territory first, then kind of venture out. It was the radio stations in the States – they loved the song and started really plugging it, so if you get a glimpse at a bit of successful over there you’ve got to take advantage of it, and we did.”

Their whole career seems fittingly dramatic. Apparently, the boys’ manager Scooter Braun (yes that is his real name) found some of their material online, flew over from LA just over a year ago to meet them and signed them up 24 hours later. Is this how it went?

“Yes! He literally called my mobile while I was in the studio with the boys in London and was like, I’m flying to the UK tomorrow and I want to meet you boys, is it possible? So he flew over for this meeting and then flew straight back. It was an odd few days for us; it still feels surreal. We didn’t sign there and then but there was a handshake, a gentleman’s agreement.”

Things moved quickly, which must have felt too good to be true for a band that, though they were developing a small online following, just weren’t having any luck beyond a few gigs in pubs.  Scooter got the band involved with monster producer Benny Blanco (Katy Perry, Maroon 5) and flew them out to the States to work with him on a debut album, slated for release this October.

Says Jake, laughing: “We just wanted to play live music, have a bit of fun and hopefully make a bit of money out of it, and then this just took off. We’re just taking each day as it comes and having a laugh with it really, trying not to take it all too seriously.”

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They couldn’t quite believe how seriously some of the female fans in America are taking them, however. Jake says they feel like they own you, which means they’ve got their own little fan-based. They’ve had a few hotel break-ins, he adds, something he admits is still to get his head around. He tells me about one instance in New York. “A group of girls found out we were staying there for 72 hours, and they camped outside the whole time. But I felt bad. We were all ordering room services and handing it out to them outside.

“They got up to mine and Louis the drummer’s hotel floor, and we heard this knock at the door, I looked out and it was these girls wanting in. We had to get someone up from reception to get them.  It was like something from Taken.”

Their radio-friendly debut single Me and My Broken Heart went to the top 5 on the radio there and made the Billboard Top 20. Out in the UK on July 13, Jake says it’s an anthem for broken hearts but an atypical one with a cool grove to it.

He explains: “We recorded it out in New York – it was the last song we recorded out there. I had a little bit of heartache before we went out there, so it kind of felt good to get it off my chest.  We’re really excited to get the song out there.”

Rixton have done shows in LA, NY and Chicago, and then a couple of TV appearances, but will be back in a few weeks for their first headline tour. It’s in small theatres, but is completely sold out. Their US TV appearances were also their first, anywhere. One saw them perform live on The Voice USA, and the other The Ellen Show with host Ellen De Generes.

The boys with Ellen De Generes

The boys with Ellen De Generes

“We always want to go for everything head-on”, says Jake. “Meeting the judges and performing on The Voice was wild. Ellen was lovely too. She saw us on The Voice the night before and rang up and said she wanted those boys on her show the next night. We were like, alright! I was really ill as well – I had tonsillitis, bronchitis and a sinus infection, but apart from that I was alright. Our first live TV shows were crazy.”

Before America, what first got people really talking about Rixton was their cheeky music video late last year to Make Out. Never released as a single, it was a satirical homage to the biggest artists and videos of the past year; Katy Perry, Bieber, Gaga, Miley Cyrus et al. It says a lot about their self-effacing sense of humour; let’s hope they don’t lose it.

Jake, who describes the video as “probably the most fun we’ve ever had” doesn’t reckon there’s any danger of that: “There’s a mentality with bands that they want to be ‘taken seriously’, and if you go about things that way people won’t take you seriously, particularly in the UK. If you don’t take yourself seriously and realise you are just doing a job – albeit one that you love – I think people realise you’re cool with and are more ready to listen to the music.”

Has being the son of two well-known personalities – Colleen Nolan of The Nolan Sisters and actor Shane Ritchie – affected his own approach to fame? He’s not bothered about it, and says he’s proud of who he is and where he comes from.

“But I’ve always wanted to do things by myself. Being signed by a big American label and with an American manager helps – they have no idea what Eastenders is! If you ask him whether he’s heard of Loose Women he’s like, sorry?! That feels good. But look it’s my family; I’d never snub that connection. I’m proud of them, and they me.”

See http://rixtonband.com for more including upcoming festival and tour dates.

 

 

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