Ipswich: The Magnets out to pull in the crowds at the Regent

The Magnets return to Ipswich

The Magnets return to Ipswich - Credit: Archant

Steve Trowell spends a lot of time in planes, jetting around the world as part of acclaimed a cappella group The Magnets. Had he stuck with his childhood dream, he’d have been flying them.

“Through the whole of my school life, even though I was very much a part of the music scene, I was going to be a fighter pilot, that was my main focus,” says the tenor, who moved to Ipswich when he was four.

He was even awarded a flying scholarship, then a cadetship to go to university.

“All my musician friends were saying ‘you won’t become a pilot, you’re going to do music, you’ve got to music’. I was like ‘no, I just want to fly fast jets’.”

In the middle of his interviews for the cadetship, he suddenly realised maybe he was going to be a singer instead.

“I was pulled more towards rock and roll rather than the very tight discipline the air force would give me.... then I had to pay all the money back and went off and did music at university so that was a big career choice in my life.

“I sometimes wonder what the other path would have been like. I think it occurred to me that being a rock star would be a lot more fun,” he laughs. “So the plan was to become a rock star, make loads of money and then have my own aeroplane. It hasn’t worked out quite that way yet... I’m still working on that bit.”

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Steve only got home an hour ago, following a straight in and straight out corporate gig for a whiskey makers in Turkey. It was quite a late night, quite a lot of whiskey and great fun.

He’s been to 15 countries this year already, not bad going considering it’s only May when I catch up with him about The Magnets’ visit to the Ipswich Regent on June 14.

“It’s been a couple of years since we were in Ipswich so we’re really looking forward to it,” he says. “It’s great coming back, we have great support in the town and my mum is always fantastic about going out putting posters up, bringing people along.”

The group will be celebrating five decades of British music, breathing new life into classic hits featured on their new album, All This Time, as well as some live show only treats.

“It’s big, loud and fun. There’re some songs they won’t know because we do a few originals in there as well and some slightly quirkier covers,” says Steve. “There’s a lot of choreography, a few jokes, a few stories and it’ll put a smile on people’s faces – they’ll be singing along by the end of it.”

The album, out now, features their take on songs by the likes of Peter Gabriel, The Jam, Adele and Dire Straits. It, and the current tour, represents Steve and band-mates Nic Doodson, CG Fraser, Andy Frost, Callum McIntosh and Michael Welton’s experiences over the last 16 years.

“It seems appropriate because you never know what the future holds or how long we’ve got left as a band. We’re getting older, people have families...,” he says.

“We have our ups and downs and the music business at it’s best is pretty fickle. If we’re feeling a bit depressed about the whole thing you just realise you’re touring the world with your best friends, touring every night, doing our own songs and stuff... it’ actually a pretty cool lifestyle.”

It helps that, thanks to Glee and movies like Pitch Perfect, a cappella is a lot bigger now than it was when they first started; going up against boy bands and so on who just mimed their way through live gigs.

“We’d turn up to all these festivals and nobody was geared up for any kind of live music, let alone six singers. Vocal music (has been brought) a bit more to the fore, a bit cooler than it was when we were trying to do it,” he laughs.

Not cool enough for Radio 2 though.

“They just said ‘we don’t play it (a cappella)’. That’s a flat thing they’ve decided so it’s really hard for us to get any kind of major radio play; that’s why the focus has been on the live show. As long as people who come to gigs love what we do... that’s the main thing.”

The live show aims to continue the spirit of last year’s London Olympics, celebrating the best of British. Albeit in a subtle, often quirky way.

“We’re doing Led Zepplin, a bit of One Direction right at the end. I’ve arranged this medley where the audience can choose what they want between the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd or Wham, Dizzy Rascal or One Direction... it was a hell of a thing to arrange and to learn.

“I give myself all the lead vocals,” he laughs. “I have a duty to give some of the other guys some lead vocals occasionally but I give myself all the good stuff yeah. The show is a good fun night... I call it a rock and pop gig but with no instruments.”

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