The Lottery Winners on their love of Portsmouth, making lockdown TV and going viral with Nickelback ahead of their Wedgewood Rooms gig | Interview

With their usual creative avenues cut off, there have been many projects born out of the pandemic that might never have otherwise happened.

Thursday, 5th May 2022, 2:05 pm

The unexpected rise of the sea shanty and an unusual cover choice by a fast-rising indie-pop band, combined with the social media platform of the moment, gifted us with a rather surreal song.

And so we have The Lottery Winners’ cover of the 2005 Nickelback’s global smash hit Rockstar, in a sea shanty style. With contributions from the Canadian hard-rock act themselves.

‘I'm still not sure how that happened,’ laughs The Lottery Singers’ frontman Thom Rylance. ‘I'm still not sure if it actually did happen or if I dreamt it, but it was a bizarre time.’

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The band, who hail from Leigh in Wigan, had been looking into TikTok, and Thom was on the phone with guitarist/vocalist Robert Lally, suggesting, given their popularity, that they try a sea shanty.

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‘So he said, do a sea shanty of what? I just happened to be cleaning my house at the time, and I had this Spotify playlist on called Cleaning Bangers, and Nickelback's Rockstar just happened to be on, so I said, just do this one man, I think it'll work...’

Their version imstantly went viral, bringing it to the attention of the song's writers.

The Lottery Winners are at The Wedgewood Rooms on May 5, 2022

‘Nickelback got in touch the next day and were like: “Let's do this together”, so we did, and theirs went viral as well. They wanted to release it properly, and that will now forever sit at the top of our Spotify most popular songs chart,’ Thom laughs – the song currently has just shy of 10m streams on Spotify.

Although still popular, Nickelback are often reviled as terminally uncool. Were the Winners ever worried about teaming up with them?

‘They're one of the biggest rock bands on the planet, so we were never going to say “no” to it! We’re really serious about what we do, but there's always a tongue-in-cheek outlook in our band.’

The band's second album proper, Something To Leave the House For, hit 11 in the charts on its release last December, and the hard-working band have been tipped for the top since they were signed by the music mogul Seymour Stein – famed for signing a who's who of acts, from Madonna to The Smiths.

And although they hail from the north-west, the band have a close affinity with Portsmouth.

They are managed and produced by Tristan Ivemy, who is from Portsmouth, and they also played a memorable opening slot on the main stage at last year's Victorious Festival, where they were joined on stage by Portsmouth-based singers Amba Tremain, Leonie Gale, Olivia Haggarty and Faye Carpenter.

‘It feels like a second home now,’ says Thom. ‘I love Pompey, I really do. It reminds me of home, I think people are really proud to be proud from Portsmouth, and that feeling is quite common in working class towns and where I'm from. We fit in in Pompey.

‘We had a great Victorious festival. We didn't know what to expect – when you get those early slots, you could end up with nobody there. But it turned out we were playing to loads of people and everybody said it was amazing.

‘Those ladies were on the album too, It's a pleasure to share the stage with them.’

With the band now on tour, they hope to make up for lost time. After all, they released their self-titled debut just as the first lockdown was announced in March 2020. It made it to 23 in the charts, but the band had a lot of follow-up work planned to build on that initial success.

‘That first week of lockdown was supposed to be the week we broke through, went out on tour and made a difference, you know?

‘It would have been really easy to get disheartened – everybody was going through it obviously – but we had the choice of whether to stop and mope or to throw everything into it and we did the latter.

‘We wrote so many songs, we made our own TV show with crazy guests which ended up on Sky TV, we put a covers album together by pinging over audio files to each other. We really just didn't stop.

‘I wanted to go to bed every night of that lockdown having created something and brought something into the world, or I wouldn't be able to sleep.’

As part of LWTV, the band showcased a series of covers by acts as diverse as Joy Division, Dolly Parton and Rick Astley. They turned this into an 11-track album, Sounds of Isolation, which was released in summer 2020.

‘We were taking suggestions from our fans of what to do,’ explains Thom,’ and they kept suggesting these huge, uncoverable songs.

‘I was just like, "Yeah, no worries!” Bear in mind we were doing these daily, so each one of those was arranged, recorded and filmed in one day. It kept me busy.

‘I like to think we did them on our way.’

And work on the next album is already well underway – including collaborations with Boy George and Happy Mondays’ Shaun Ryder.

‘The new record is the best we've done so far.

‘We've worked with Frank Turner, KT Tunstall, Sleeper, The Wonder Stuff, and now these guys – it's great for me as a songwriter, as it's kind of a challenge.

‘I sat down and thought: right I'm going to write a song for us and Shaun Ryder, and I'm going to write a song for us and Boy George, and it's all going to go on the same album, and it's all going to work!

‘I'm really proud of the way that both songs have come out.

‘It's absolutely bonkers that I sent both of those songs over to them – and they both said: “Yes”!’

All being well, Thom reckons the new album will be out early next year, but we should start hearing new singles from the summer.’

Although the band’s name suggests someone incredibly lucky – this is clearly one band not willing to sit back and let others make their luck for them.

‘We all love it,’ says Thom, ‘so it doesn't feel like work, or laborious in any way.

‘We feel lucky every day that we get to wake up and play music or get in a van and tour – we don't take a second of it for granted.’

The Lottery Winners are at The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea on Thursday, May 5. Go to wedgewood-rooms.co.uk.