Don’t look now, but The Lottery Winners could be about to pull out an incredible chart upset. The Leigh band have spent more than a decade building up their fanbase, writing songs that speak to people in a language they can understand. And now the message is clear – the band are breaking barriers, and they could get to No. 1 in the charts.
New album ‘Anxiety Replacement Therapy’ is out now, and it’s racing towards the pinnacle of the charts. A brave record, it deals with mental health issues and experiences with ADHD, gaining assistance from guests such as Frank Turner, Shaun Ryder, and Boy George. Currently, doing battle with the likes of disco queen Jessie Ware and revered American indie rock outfit The National, The Lottery Winners are more than holding their own.
Clash hopped on the phone to singer Thom Rylance for the inside track on their new album, the unlikely chart race, and what Shaun Ryder keeps in his pockets.
How does it feel to be in the middle of an actual chart battle?
It feels a bit surreal and abstract and I’m not sure if I’m still dreaming it all. Like, is this real life…?
Or is this just fantasy? Caught in a landslide…
Exactly! It’s overwhelming. The support that we’ve got off this record has just been completely overwhelming. It’s so hard to process.
A huge amount of work has gone into getting you to this point – you’ve developed a really loyal fanbase.
Absolutely. We’ve been gigging for 15 years. Playing pubs in Leigh to Scary Ste – and he’ll always ask for ‘Wonderwall’ and kick off if he doesn’t get it! That’s how you learn to become a musician (laughs) It’s been a wild ride. We’ve built it from the ground up, with no help from anyone else. None of our families can help us out. I mean, my Dad’s a joiner – and not a very good one!
This could be the first No. 1 album to emerge from Leigh, which is a neat fact.
Absolutely. And Leigh as a town has done a lot for us. It’s a really proud place. They want us to succeed. Keely Hodgkinson is from Leigh, and when she did so well in the Olympics they painted a mural of her on a wall. Now I want a painting of me on a wall! (laughs) We’ll be on the side of a building if we get to No. 1!
You’ve had a pop-up shop in town all week, how’s it been down there?
It’s been amazing! The whole town must have come out to see it. It’s weird to stand there, and look at your entire body of work – across the whole 15 years – sitting on shelves. It was surreal. I mean, it’s part of what used to be Argos – I think those little pens are still somewhere around here, I should grab some!
Sell them for a tenner with a download code.
Frank Turner is on here, and he’s a long-time champion for independence in music.
He’s a massive inspiration to me. The way he works is how we want to work. We aspire to that. He’s relentless, he’s always playing shows or recording – I really look up to him.
So he’s on ‘Letter To Myself’. I have ADHD, so going to school was tough. I got expelled from two schools, and grew up feeling like I was broken. Like I didn’t fit in, or I was a bad person. I wrote this letter to myself acknowledging all that, a letter to the child I bring everywhere inside of me, just saying… you know what? It all worked out. So to have one of my heroes on the chorus was beautiful, actually.
He’s not the only legend on here – Shaun Ryder is there, too! What is he like in the studio?
Being in the studio with Shaun Ryder is… exactly what you would imagine it’s like! (laughs) For his rider, he asked for four packets of McCoys, four cans of Guinness, and some Celebrations. He came in, laid it all out on the table, and poured the Celebrations all over the place – then he sifted through, and took out his favourite ones. We looked at each other, then he pulled a conker out of his pocket, and put it on the table. “There you go,” he said, “it’s a fair swap!”
(laughs) I couldn’t believe it! It wasn’t even conker season. Where the fuck did he get a conker from?!
Right now, Shaun Ryder is traversing the country with a bag of conkers in his hand.
I am absolutely convinced of that.
Boy George – gentleman and scholar – is also on here.
Well, that one was just sheer persistence. I was researching pop songs, and how they’re written, and what makes them iconic… so I sent him a message on Twitter. And he wrote back, and sent us a number. He said, “darling, I love the song… let’s get in the studio and do it!” The session was actually my birthday, and he brought card. It was actually the only card I got that day – and it was from Boy George! I’ve got it framed.
You have to cherish these memories as they happen. In a note about the album, you called it a self-help tape – what did you mean by that?
Well, this record is a lot more personal. I’ve opened up a lot about my issues with mental health, and my experiences with ADHD. It’s opened up this dialogue, where people come up to me after shows, and telling me how much it means to them. We help each other out through talking.
And we forget sometimes that music can be really, really important. In this day and age, music has become a bit disposable. And we need to remember that really, it isn’t. It can last forever.
The reaction to the chart race is quite funny, isn’t it? For some people, this is their first exposure to you!
Ha, it’s crazy. We’re a 15 year overnight success story! But I’ll take that. We just announced a show at Manchester Apollo, which is crazy – that’s where I saw my first show… Sum 41 in 2002. I’ve always wanted to play there, so for it to finally happen… I can’t believe it.
Fundamentally – for me – being in a band is about being onstage and creating those moments. The audience, that combination of people, and that performance… it only happens once. You’re experiencing something that will never happen again. I feel so grateful to be a part of that. Maybe that’s why I keep crying onstage! (laughs)
So, have you had a chance to check out this week’s opposition?
I have actually… but I wish I hadn’t! (laughs) Jessie’s album is so, so good. The National are amazing. My favourite album this week is actually by Reverend and the Makers – he’s a total inspiration to me. It’s a good week for music… and a very nerve-racking one.
What will you do if you get to No. 1? Will there be a party?
Oh, I don’t know yet. Tell you what… if you get to No. 1 they give you a gold trophy – I’m wearing that round my neck! I’ve been manifesting it. I’ve put the trophy as the background on my phone, just to remind myself. If you want something, believe it, and manifest it… and it’ll happen.
‘Anxiety Replacement Therapy’ is out now.
Words: Robin Murray