To say June was a busy month for British band Hidden Charms would be an understatement. The up-and-coming quartet with a Beat sound has managed to sell out their first-ever show as headliners on Monday night at The Waiting Room in London. And that was even before the release of their first album.
After repeatedly crossing paths as two separate groups, Vinny Davies, Ranald Macdonald, Josh Lewis and Oscar Robertson, bound together by a shared appreciation for the music of the Sixties, decided about a year ago to form Hidden Charms, named for a song by the blues singer Howlin’ Wolf.
“The kind of music we play, there wasn’t much of a scene for it, so we kind of stuck together,” said Robertson, the drummer, from London. “It was a very exciting time for the world, obviously, coming out of a post-war depression, and as things started to pick up again, you had the break through of blues-inspired rock and roll.”
The boys come to their sound honestly. While they haven’t released a debut album yet – an EP is due this summer – a number of singles have made the rounds, including “Dreaming of Another Girl,” which was produced by Shel Talmy, who previously worked his magic on the likes of The Who and The Kinks.
But the group isn’t exclusively retro. “We all like hip hop as well, which not many people expect –we’re not just a bunch of old guys,” Robertson said. Case in point: “We would love to work with Dr. Dre. It’s not exactly what we sound like but it could be very interesting. Him, or Jack White. Actually, I’d like Jack White and Dr. Dre to work together. We could just watch.”
The success of their upcoming first headlining show hasn’t gone to their heads — not yet, anyway. “Even though we’re from London, it’s a hard city to crack. There’s just so much music going on and it’s hard to shine through. It’s a very warm feeling,” Robertson said.
Yet, like many a Brit before them, they have come to fancy a bit of Americana. “We fell in love with New York. It’s a lot like London except, you know, it never sleeps. We would love to go down south, to see New Orleans where music basically began,” Robertson said. “We also love the West Coast scene, everything in California.”
The crowd this side of the pond seems to agree. “Americans tend to respond well to us, being ‘British lads’ — we’re from England, we’re from somewhere else,” he said of capitalizing on the American love of British charm. “In America they’re much more willing to smooth and groove; in England, you’ve got to work a bit harder to really impress them.”
As for fashion, the band has adopted the sartorial mood of the Sixties as much as the music.
“All the bands, the styles, the free-love vibes of the Sixties — as kids growing up, we all were drawn to that,” Robertson said. “We liked how everyone looked sort of outlandish. It’s sort of the same with fashion. You look at someone you like, and you want to look like them, just as we listen to a guitar player we like, and we want to sound like him.”