A kaleidoscope of emotion and genre, The Jonny Oates Band epitomised the undiscovered richness of the Preston music scene when crowned the Last Band Standing last weekend.
Webbing together various threads of feeling, the band offers a rich sound mirroring the complexities of life: darkness cocooned in jazz; tenderness charged by rock; all layered with indie and alternative vibes.
It’s the equivalent, vocalist Jonny Oates said, of “a singer-songwriter with a rocket strapped to their back.”
But perhaps it was their insistence on slowing down to tease out the deeper nuances of life in a world obsessed with speed and novelty that etched the deepest impression when named the winner of last Saturday’s finals at The Ferret, Preston.
Their lyrics are cut with emotion, darkness and honesty, all enveloped in country, blues and jazz.
“Looking out to the audience, everyone was static and taking it in,” said Jonny. “That’s the sort of response our music hands itself to. It shows we’re doing OK.”
“It’s important people can relate to our songs but they don’t have fables or hidden meanings and we don’t try to be political – we don’t want to divide people. The songs are factual, dark and straightforward. Music and song-writing make people think and look at things differently – it’s probably why I do it.”
The band is over the moon to win – the prize including air time on BBC Introducing – but they maintain a healthy definition of success.
“It didn’t hit me at first: I wasn’t expecting to win. It means a lot and we’re grateful that everyone liked our stuff, even though we’re slightly different.
"But the most important thing was people connected to the music and took something from it. It was nice to play to a venue full of people who cared about what we’d made. Everyone was in harmony.”
Perhaps their success is not merely down to talent but is also an equation of passion and maturity beyond their years.
“I laid myself bare so to have lost would have been difficult. But if we went in expecting to win, we wouldn’t have gained anything.
“We didn’t shut ourselves off from others in order to win. It was about having a good night and chatting to the other bands.
“We tried to keep it chilled. If you over-think things, you make mistakes and leave disappointed in yourself. That would have been the worst outcome.”
This ethos of togetherness, of championing other bands, is vital for the survival of Preston’s live music scene. The band is riding high on a wave of music-lovers recharging the scene. Gigs like the Last Band Standing are ripples in those tides.
“The Preston scene is dying but certain people are pushing to keep it alive,” Jonny added. “Events like this give you hope it can be salvaged.
“I don’t know if people are taking music for granted or if it’s not in the culture [to go to live gigs] anymore but it’s hard for bands to gain support and momentum.
“That’s the thing with labels now. In the past, bands used to have contracts for five albums. Today, they’re only signed if they can guarantee record sales.
“It’s just ruthless because there’s no real money in selling music these days. But The Last Band Standing is showing people that Preston has a groovy music scene.”
This passion and richness is rumbling through the city – and right now, The Jonny Oates Band is standing at the crown of that surge.
* Their next gig is on Saturday, May 6th at Factory 251, Manchester. To find out more, visit www.jonnyoatesband.com or check out their material on Soundcloud.