State Magazine (14 January 2009)

8 March 2013

ALBUM REVIEW: London, England by The Lightyears – 4/5
14 January 2009
Phil Udell, State Magazine, Ireland

When The Feeling made the graduation from playing covers in bars in the Alps to becoming the soft rock band of choice, it was three-piece The Lightyears who filled the gap. Now on their second album, the experience is long behind them but like their predecessors, the importance of making their own material as memorable as possible has hit home. The good news is that they’ve become more focused than in the past, less likely to sound like a bizarre compilation of different acts. They’re at their best making bright and breezy pop in the Jellyfish mould, tracks such as ‘Emily’ and ‘Sleepless’ floating along on a wave of harmony-filled choruses and rolling pianos. ‘This House Will Burn’, meanwhile, sounds like Babyshambles with less drugs and better manners.

The Lightyears still can’t help themselves though and feel the need to push off in different directions, fortunately not without some success. The clunky ‘She’s The One’ and ‘Filmstar’ aside, their attempts at a harder, more rock edge work well, especially the opening instrumental ‘Firefly’ and the short, Beatles-y ‘That Was Us’.

The grandeur of the album title never really translates itself into the album itself – and lyrics about Primrose Hill and the Tube can be a bit grating – but on ‘England’ they reach for epic and manage to pull it off. In a world of passing fashion, fake credibility and media hype, The Lightyears are able to stand out for all the right reasons, but that might just make their task all the harder.


The Cape Argus (8 February 2009)

8 March 2013

“Light years ahead of the pack”
8 February 2009
Evan Milton, The Cape Argus, South Africa

The Lightyears are a hardworking indie pop group with a special link to South Africa…

British indie-pop band The Lightyears are in Cape Town to play the Cape Town Tens afterparties, hang out with their South African flatmate Andy Skinstad – and launch Johannesburg, a song inspired by a tale of two Zimbabwean refugees.
The Lightyears’ pianist and songwriter Chris Russell saw a BBC documentary about two young Zimbabwean brothers who had fled the crippled country after their parents were killed, allegedly by government militia, and trekked on foot to Johannesburg. Leaving with nothing – mugged, beaten and with their shoes stolen along the way – the boys, younger than 15, sustained themselves on their trek with little more than the hope that South Africa’s City of Gold was rumoured to be a place where they could get food and shelter.

“Even though this story was obviously a million miles away from anything I’ve ever experienced, and told of hardship I couldn’t hope to understand, something about it struck a chord with me,” Russell wrote on the band’s online journal, noting that it reminded him of the story behind one of his favourite songs, The Hollies’ He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.
The origin of the 1969 ballad lies in a tale associated with Father Edward J Flanagan, the founder of Boys’ Town: a street urchin staggering along carrying a younger child on his back is asked about his heavy load and replies, “Why Mister, he ain’t heavy, he’s my brother”.

Described as “Toto meets Graceland-era Paul Simon via classic Bob Marley, sung by Crowded House”, The Lightyears have crafted a moving indie-pop slow song in Johannesburg. When Russell played it to his London flatmate, a South African, he suggested that the band should get to South Africa and launch the song here. The flatmate just happens to be one Andy Skinstad, brother of local rugby hero Bobby Skinstad, and one thing led to another.

It’s not The Lightyears’ first music/sport pairing. Last year, the band re-recorded Posh We Are, the football anthem for their local club, Peterborough United.

“The original was written 30 or 40 years ago,” explains Russell. “A local charity wanted to re-record it and update it to raise money for kids and sport. We were thrilled to do it, and then we did a lot of press in the local area to launch it. We played the stadium, in one of the last season matches – thrilling again.”
Russell is speaking via cellphone from one of Cape Town’s beaches.

The Lightyears are Russell, brothers George Owens (lead vocals, guitar) and John Owens (bass player), and Tony Lyons (vocals, drums). Described as “Babyshambles without the drugs – and with better manners” by one Irish reviewer, the band found themselves winning a British Indy Award in 2007 for “Best Pop/Rock Act”.

“We were stunned to be nominated as we weren’t expecting it at all,” says Russell. “We really didn’t expect to win, which is what I think people generally do in these situations. We were on tour in New York and we were listening on the phone… Then we won, and our friend Andy picked up the award. It was great, because it meant we were recognised for what we were doing, and we’re an independent band with no record label, managing and repping ourselves.

“A couple of months after that we got to record a few tracks with Hugh Padgham. He’s produced for Sting and sold 50 million records with Paul McCartney and Genesis. Not a lot of bands get that opportunity when they’re up and coming.”
It’s not all sunshine and roses for the band, though. “In the UK it almost seems like there are more bands than fans. On the one hand it’s great because people are really hungry for live acts. But, because of the UK’s thriving music scene… it is very competitive.

“London has a massive concentration of bands… So it’s good to get your face shown elsewhere. We like to get to different parts of the world, and test out different markets.”

The band is starting to see success in America, especially the East Coast, and in Asia, especially in South Korea. “We go to America once a year and I think we have a certain appeal, partly because we are British. We have a loyal fanbase in Philadelphia where it’s as if we’re playing to people who know us really well and always pack out the venues.”
In South Korea, the band was invited to play an annual fundraiser hosted by the British ex-pat community to raise funds for charity.

With the beach wind picking up, and Russell and bandmates needing to prepare for their debut South African gig – at the city’s new Speedway 105 Cafe – the interview draws to a close. “I wish I could conduct all my interviews from the beach,” laughs Russell, and goes on to enthuse about the band’s few days so far in the Cape.

“In Hermanus we had a braai which was fantastic. It’s a bit of a shock coming from winter in England with the worst snow, and to be sat here on a beach in the blazing sun. You probably get used to it if you live here, but for a Londoner, let me tell you that i’s amazing.”

The Lightyears play the Cape Town Tens after-parties on Saturday 7 February and Sunday 8 February at Hamilton’s Rugby Club in Green Point (see CapeTownTens.com). Download the song “Johannesburg” from TheLightyears.com.


Only In Philadelphia (15 July 2010)

8 March 2013

“British Invasion: UK’s The Lightyears performing in Philly”
15 July 2010
Erica Brooke Fajge, Only In Philadelphia, USA

First, it was the Beatles – then later Oasis and Coldplay. Britain’s latest find, The Lightyears, is coming to Philadelphia this Saturday, July 17th, for a show in University City…

The Lightyears, the “hottest band in London” right now according to the London Times, is coming to Philly this weekend as part of their current American tour. They will play at the new Blockley Pourhouse venue, 38th and Chestnut Street, at 8:30 p.m.

The band won “Best Pop/Rock Act” at the Indy Awards last year. They’ve played sold out stadiums all over Europe, including a crowd of 46,000 at Wembley Stadium; they’ve been compared to Queen, Coldplay, and Keane, have appeared in (as well as writing) a TV ad for T-Mobile and were even the musical guests at Queen Elizabeth’s recent Birthday Ball.

Yet, the band is anxious to make its presence known in the states. Their latest release, “London, England,” co-produced by the renowned Hugh Padgham, who produced Genesis, Paul McCartney, and Sting, just hit the U.S. July 13th. You may have even heard tracks played on 88.5 WXPN and 103.3 WPRB.

And making themselves a household name in America won’t be hard to do, what with the band being made up of three cute guys with English accents, including a heartthrob for a lead singer, George Owens, who has already been inundated with a wealth of female fans…

In addition to the Philly concert, the trio is set to play two shows in New Jersey: Mount Holly on Friday, July 16th at 7 p.m. for an outdoor show and Asbury Park on Sunday, July 18th at 8 p.m.


New York Daily News, 27 July 2010

8 March 2013

“Lightyears ahead in Astoria – Energetic British band thrills young and old”
27 July 2010
Lisa L. Colangelo, New York Daily News, USA

ASTORIA PARK was treated to a burst of British pop rock last week when The Lightyears took to the stage for a free concert…

The energetic trio charmed the crowd of 2,000 with a mix of old favourites and self-penned tunes.

“They really won over the hearts of Astoria,” said City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. “I have been going to these concerts for a long time, and I have never seen so many people at the end of the show looking for autographs and buying CDs.”

Vallone, a guitarist, even joined the band for a cover of The Monkees’ classic, “I’m A Believer”.

“It seems like our music has a connection here,” said keyboardist Chris Russell. “Americans are really open to that kind of uplifting, good old-fashioned pop music.”

The band’s eclectic set ranged from “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Hey Jude” to “Great Balls Of Fire” – a nod to the mixed crowd, which included 20- and 30-somethings along with seniors.

“They are really good at gauging what the crowd is looking for,” said Raima McDaniel, a fan who has seen the band several times in recent years. “They really know how to get a crowd going, plus they’re British, so that’s fun.”

The free Thursday night concert series features country, big band and even 1960s bubblegum pop.

But it’s rare for an up-and-coming young band to take the stage.

“It was the first time I had seen or heard of them, and I actually bought their CD,” said Astoria resident Teresa Ciattei, who has attended many of the Thursday performances.

Russell said he and his bandmates love visiting New York City for the people, the culture and the food. The steamy summer weather, however, is a different story.

“We really eat when we come here; the food is great,” said Russell. “We’re British though, so the heat is a bit much for us…”