Ipswich-bound The Overtones talk fighting their way to chart success

From singing to brawling alcoholics to entertaining millions, entertainment writer WAYNE SAVAGE talks to Mike Crawshaw of doo-wop boy band The Overtones about how they’ve been hoping for success for the longest time.

THERE are tough crowds and then there are TOUGH crowds. Just ask Mike Crawshaw of The Overtones.

Weddings, street corners, the London Underground, bus stops and one pub in Kentish Town spring immediately to mind.

“Shortly before we got signed we were in this pub; it smelled, there were sticky floors and the beers were so cheap the local homeless would come in to get drunk,” he remembers.

“We’re singing on stage and this huge fight breaks out between these homeless guys; we’re looking at each other going ‘sing through it’.”

Did they consider switching from Billy Joel’s The Longest Time to the Stone’s Street Fighting Man?

“No, no, no,” he laughs. “Absolutely not.”

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The ex-model is giving up part of his lunch break to talk about the band’s tour, coming to the Ipswich Regent on October 27.

“It’s all rush rush before the tour. It’s literally non-stop at the moment, sleep’s a thing of the past but we’re loving every minute of it.”

No time to try to trump each other’s scores on their new iPad and iPhone gaming app?

“That’s exactly what happens, it’s brilliant,” he laughs. “I’m quite good on Mark’s crazy maze.”

Moving to London to pursue their dreams of becoming performers, Mike, ex-dancer Mark Franks and ex-stage actors Darren Everest, from Essex, and Timmy Matley were brought together by their love of music; particularly the doo-wop sounds of the 50s mixed with RnB and modern pop.

Hence their natural leanings towards their now famous vintage sound.

“Modelling for me was something to fund that desire. We met on the music circuit, at open mic nights and things like that. We decided to have a bit of a sing together and it grew from there,” he says.

Several years later Timmy met Lachie [Chapman, from Sydney] while both handing out promotional leaflets in Selfridges. Finding it boring they started messing around and singing, where Lachie’s incredibly deep voice came to the fore.

“Without knowing it he was our missing link and our lucky charm, really, because only a few months after we were in talks with Warner Brothers.”

The group have been sold as singing decorators and painters made good, but setting up the company was a means to an end; a way to stick together and rehearse regularly for a change while paying the bills.

Sat singing on the steps of an office block they were working on just off Oxford Street during their tea break, a talent scout walked by wanting to know their story.

Explaining they were rehearsing for a gig that weekend she gave them her card. A few days later they met with execs, which led to a demo deal to record five songs for Warner Brothers. That soon turned into a five album deal.

“It wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination like ‘here’s the golden pen, sign on the dotted line’. We very much had to prove ourselves but thankfully it all went to plan,” sighs Mike.

Talk about a musical fairytale.

“It was very fortuitous. A lot of people were going ‘really, that’s how it happened?’ But you know what, we’d sing everywhere - Tubes, Covent Garden, walking up the street, at the bus stop, anywhere. We hoped it was only a matter of time before somebody of importance noticed us. We know how lucky we are.”

With their debut album Good Ol’ Fashioned Love certified platinum, with more than 350,000 sold, they are releasing a new version boasting three new songs; including latest single Second Last Chance.

There are also three bonus tracks the five performed while serving as house band on ITV1’s Dancing on Ice; among them their cover of The Four Seasons’ Beggin which got the thumbs up from one Frankie Valli.

“We met him backstage after watching Jersey Boys [the story of Valli and the Four Seasons] and said ‘one of our first a capellas was Begging’ and said ‘can we perform it to you’.

“After we said ‘God we were really nervous singing that song to you’ and he said ‘when you sing as good as you guys do there’s no reason to be nervous’. That was really high praise. It was something you got in bed that night and thought ‘what just happened’,” Mike laughs.

They must have been nervous performing on Dancing on Ice; a tipping point for the band he says.

“It’s insane; we’re a band that four or five months before nobody had ever heard before so to be asked to sing not only on a big show but nine songs on a big show like that was an absolute turning point for us.

“Singing in front of 11 million people live, not to mention Phillip Schofield, Holly Willoughby and all the contestants. It did some incredible things for our chart position; we were in the top five for more than a month and it was just a very surreal, nerve-wracking experience. Unbelievable.”

The group are thrilled the label allowed them to spread their creative wings and include their own material and that the album as a whole has been so well received. After all, a new act, especially one that’s doing something not really being done right now, never know if it’s going to work and what the public’s reaction will be.

“We feel very touched that so many people were enjoying what we were doing. It’s really important for us to keep grafting and keep showing people what we’ve got.”

They can’t wait to see fans, promising a great show and a great laugh.

“We’re all going to be performing and dancing together; we’re going to make sure everybody that watches gets up and has a boogie as well.”

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