When The Twang leapt onto the indie scene in 2007, music journalists were desperate to discover a new hard man of rock – a strutting front man who would rival the likes of Liam Gallagher.
For singer and guitarist Phil Etheridge, a working class lad from Sheldon, Birmingham, it was all a bit of a shock to the system. Yes he openly talked about drug taking and admits he was a bit “rough and ready” but a barrage of media attention was a surprise.
“We weren’t very cool kids when you look back – that is why we were in a band when we could have been chatting up girls.
“We had some good tunes and they are always after this kind of lad band. Even though we thought we were more like The Coral, they wanted this working class hero, they wanted the next Liam Gallagher but I wasn’t like that. I just wanted to go into my local and not get chinned. The press wanted the boy done good and they got so excited about us,” says Phil.
There was much media hype surrounding the band when they launched their debut album, Love It When I Feel Like This, in 2007.
Phil gave up his job as a sports development officer at the University of Birmingham, bass player Jon Watkin quit his job selling lawn mowers and vocalist Martin Saunders left the ill-fated HP sauce factory in Aston.
Guitarist Stu Hartland and drummer Matty Clinton also concentrated on their music full time.
Six years on and a fourth album pending, much has changed for 35-year-old Phil, who now lives in Harborne with wife Cassie, their daughter Indigo, aged three, and their son Manny, aged one.
Far from being a hard man of rock, he returns exhausted from an afternoon with the children at a Wacky Warehouse when we catch up. He reflects on the band’s rise to fame, the expectation heaped on them by an over enthusiastic music press and what they hope will be a hectic 2014 for the band.
The group are also looking forward to playing two special home Christmas gigs at Rainbow Warehouse next week.
“We made some bad decisions. We were given a lot of money and we were going mad,” Phil explains of their early foray into the music world.
“We quit our jobs and got drunk every day with everyone patting us on the back saying how we were going to be the biggest band. We never thought it was going to end and then you think you going to be massive. And we did do well. We headlined Glastonbury and sold out Brixton.”
Their debut album landed at number three in the album charts and they toured, selling out at venues across the country. And whilst a second and third album did well, the band were never quite catapulted to mainstream musical success.
“We thought we were great and didn’t have time to think and you only realise years after that this happens to every band. That is when I realised that we had done well – we have done album number four and still sell thousands of tickets at gigs around the country.”
The Twang arrived on the scene well before Birmingham was dubbed B-town for being the home of emerging indie talent, which has most recently brought us bands such as Peace, Swim Deep, Superfood and Jaws.
When Phil was busy strumming away as an enthused young guitarist, he was listening to other home-grown talent from The Wonder Stuff to Ned’s Atomic Dustbin (both formed in nearby Stourbridge).
“When we started we were quite a weird bunch, we locked ourselves away and never ventured into town and never hung around with other bands.
“We didn’t really get the scene then. Now there is Superfood, Peace and Swim Deep. It is great to have them. We have had Peace play with us and this year we will have support from Jaws.”
The band also have a new drummer – Ash Sheehan – after a dispute with original tub thumper Matty Clinton. And the five-piece have all remained in their home town of Birmingham rather than heading off to the capital to seek their fortunes.
“The idea of leaving has never appealed,” says Phil. “We all have families and when we got signed we all had girlfriends.”
They have been recording their new album, due to be released in February, on a converted barge in London’s Docklands. Phil reveals the album will be called Neon Twang – after the band’s original name.
“I kind of regret changing our name from Neon Twang to The Twang,” admits Phil. “It was a managerial decision.”
The name change also confused fans during a tour of Germany, when it emerged there was a German county music group of the same name.
“We we were playing in Hamburg and the band actually came on stage with these papers they wanted us to sign because we had the same name,” says Phil.
“They were dressed in cowboy hats and had mad moustaches.”
For now, Phil is enjoying being a stay-at-home dad for the day and loves juggling fatherhood with his music.
“It has all changed a lot. I can’t be a 21-year-old racing around anymore but I get to see my kids loads. I have got friends with normal jobs who go out at 7am and get back at 7pm and I get to spend so much more time with my kids.”
Phil has also discovered a new love away from music – home improvements and a passion of interior design magazines.
“I read those design magazines,” he whispers, as if it is some guilty secret a frontman of an indie band should never divulge.
“We have converted our cellar into a kitchen.
“And I love those Smeg fridges. Everyone in Harborne has one and I want one of those red ones,” he laughs.
* The Twang play Rainbow Warehouse on December 22 and 23. The December 23 gig has sold out. For tickets visit www.therainbowvenues.co.uk