As New York Tourists geared up to go on the road in support of new single Feels So Good, Tom Welsh went to their Darwen base to get the story behind their growing reputation.
“We’ve not gone soft or owt,” insists the voice and face of Blackburn’s New York Tourists, Gary Taylor.
“We’re still a loud, hard-hitting band, it’s just that the songs have taken a different direction – more poppy basically,” he says of the band’s falsetto-heavy sound, which has come a long way since their blues-rock beginnings in 2009 but retains a hard-enough edge to keep old fans happy on infectious new single Feels So Good.
“Gaz bought a Scissor Sisters album,” offers bassist Adrian McKenzie by way of alternative explanation for the evolving sound, an accusation evidently levelled at Gary before given his derisory look as the band laugh it up.
“They’re a great band…” Gary argues, unconvincingly.
New York Tourists’ journey began nine years ago, but the current line-up have just celebrated their second birthday.
Singer/ guitarist Gary Taylor and guitarist Carl Rutherford are the ‘OGs’ (as Adrian puts it), who came together through an ad placed for a singer. A few personnel changes later, the band seem certain that this is the definitive line-up, with bassist Adrian McKenzie and other ‘internet member’, drummer Joe Mooney (“it’s like match.com innit” – Gary), seeming like the perfect fit both musically and personally.
The band’s latest two singles, Only For The Summer and Feels So Good, are so far the only two products of this new tight-knit unit, but the groundwork was already put in with 2016’s Kickstarter-funded debut album – the rousing You + Me – as well as two previous well-received EPs.
Calling the Kickstarter campaign for the album “the best thing we’ve ever done,” Gary admits they were unsure they’d hit their target, but the band ended up surpassing it through their relentless gigging and army of believers.
“We’ve gained a lot of fans from doing it as well,” adds guitarist Carl Rutherford. “People put their hard-earned cash in – and some still are – just ‘cos they believe in us. It really means a lot.”
The time brought some of their biggest gigs to date, most notably as support to bands such as The View and We Are Scientists, as well playing an outdoor hometown show at Hoghton Tower as chief support to rock stalwarts Status Quo. The most (printable) rock ‘n’ roll story, however, comes from when the legendary outfit invited them back to play Scarborough Open Air Theatre the following year.
“We got a message the weekend before saying someone had dropped out,” regales drummer Joe. “We said we’d do it, but then we realised Carl was in Korea. We had an emergency meeting, panicking, but it turned out that Carl was gonna get back to England just in time, so we had a guy pick him up at the airport and literally got him there 15 minutes before we went on – straight onto the stage in front of six thousand people.”
Carl acknowledges the story, looking somewhat proud. “Literally got there, grabbed my guitar and walked on stage…”
The last few years have seen New York Tourists tick off so many bucket list moments that you wonder if they’ve stopped to let it all sink in.
A sold-out hometown album launch show at King George’s Hall last year was the culmination of years of hard graft, and was a defining moment that confirmed to the band that they were on the right path.
Gary: “It was a big build up – it was like, thank fuck the nights come along now! It was a lot of effort but the gig itself made it all worthwhile. We had confetti cannons and everything!”
“It felt well-earned” adds Adrian. “We worked hard for it.”
The work never really stopped, and the subsequent stand-alone singles and growing gigs have brought the band to the attention of the organisers of the British Sound Project, a high-profile event in September which will see New York Tourists play alongside bands like White Lies and Horrors in a hand-picked celebration of British music in Manchester.
“They’re the bands that we listen to,” enthuses Carl. “It was great playing with Status Quo but it’s my dad’s sort of scene – this is where we wanna be; this is the stuff we wanna be doing.”
Things are definitely coming together for New York Tourists, and after years of hard work the band seem more than ready to embrace it.
New single Feels So Good marks a new beginning for the band, having started to work with acclaimed producer Dave Pemberton.
“He’s done stuff for bands like The Prodigy and Groove Armada,” Carl gushes. “He approached us and said he’d like to work with us – as far as we’re concerned we’ll always work with him.”
A fruitful first session with Pemberton also produced next single Skinny-dipping, which is slated for release in the summer in the run up to their British Sound Project show, and no doubt around some festival and headline gigs too.
The band are also now with up-and-coming promotional company and label Scruff of the Neck, which is proving to be a canny move for the ambitious four-piece who look to be reaping the benefits of all those years of graft.
“We just wanna try and keep as busy as possible, but not just do shows for the sake of it,” says Joe. “We wanna work with bigger bands, try and keep it to key dates and make those the best they can be.
“You get out what you put in.”