If ever there was a band that personified the phrase “good things come to those
who wait,” it’s Massive Wagons. Whilst the Lancaster hard rock quintet have been active for a decade now, 2018 was the year the band truly made their mark on the music industry, touring with the likes of Status Quo, Dead Daisies and The Wildhearts, and landing at No. 16 in the UK Top 20 with their fourth LP, ‘Full Nelson’. “We’ve always been a band that wanted to be on some kind of upwards trajectory, and if it wasn’t going places, we’d probably knock it on the head,” begins vocalist Barry Mills. “The other years have all been brilliant, but this one’s been much more productive and professional. We’re really hitting our stride at the moment, it feels great.” Massive Wagons have come a long way since their humble beginnings as a pub band.
Whilst they’ve maintained a keen work ethic and steady release schedule since day one (chalking up an impressive discography with 2011 debut ‘Fire It Up’, 2014’s ‘Fight The System’ and 2016’s ‘Welcome To the World’), the thought that they’d one day be sitting pretty in the charts alongside their childhood heroes seemed like a far-off pipe dream, even just 12 months ago.
“Our goal when we started was to get a gig in the local rock pub we all drank in,” Barry beams with his trademark humility. “We used to go and watch cover bands in there every week and stand there, drinking beer and getting starry eyed and thinking ‘imagine playing in here! This would be amazing, wouldn’t it? Imagine writing some songs and playing to some people in the place we drink, wouldn’t that be incredible?’
It wasn’t even in the realms of imagination.”
Fast forward to 2019, and not only have Massive Wagons managed to get numerous gigs in said local rock pub, but their ‘Full Nelson’ artwork has also been immortalised in mural form on the side of the building – much to the local council’s chagrin, who demanded it was taken down. As testament to the band’s loyal and growing fan base however, a petition to keep the mural garnered 10,000 signatures in a matter of hours.
“The people round here have really got behind us, it’s absolutely amazing,” says Barry, clearly humbled by the huge amounts of support. “It’s really fantastic, the same faces from round here have been watching us for ten years. The difference now, is when we do play a home gig, there’s people coming from Scotland, London, the Shetland Islands or wherever, they turn up in Lancaster to watch us.” Whilst enjoying huge success with singles like ‘Under No Illusion’ and ‘China Plates’, an anthemic but biting critique of social media, the band’s initial breakthrough hit came in the form of single ‘Back To The Stack’, a triumphant but heartfelt tribute to Status Quo guitarist Rick Parfitt, who passed away in 2017. Having toured with Quo and after growing up on their music, the band felt a certain kinship with Parfitt, identifying with his no-nonsense, working class approach to hard rock.
“The amount of high-profile deaths that year, they were dropping like flies; Lemmy, George Michael, Prince,” Barry sighs. “Rick was a massive shock. Prince and all these people were megastars, and they were so cool and just awesome, but Rick, you felt like you could relate to him. Whenever you saw them on TV with all the other megastars, they never looked like they quite fit in with them, and I liked that.
They looked like they were the jokers that had gatecrashed the party, they never looked like they should really be there. They were fish out of water, they had their own little gang going on, and they just looked like normal guys, writing honest music and sticking to what they love. They got shunned by people left, right and centre – I think in the early days they got the respect they deserve, but then it became uncool to like Status Quo, and I kinda like them for that. They weren’t really bothered, they just carried on.”
It wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest Massive Wagons have picked up the torch Quo left behind. Unconcerned with being fashionable or jumping on the latest trend, the band share a similarly unpretentious outlook, and are eager to bypass any extraneous bullshit that gets in the way of what ultimately matters; the riffs.
“This is the only band we’ve all ever been in. None of us came from other bands oralready had any experience of the industry or what bands do. We were completelygreen from the word go, we didn’t know what a promoter was or how you got a gig, or anything, so the whole thing’s been exciting, we’ve discovered this all from nothing. We didn’t expect to get anywhere to be honest,’ Barry admits with a booming laugh.
Unsurprisingly all their hard work has paid off, and the band have accomplished more than they’ve ever dreamed of in 2018 alone. And the key to their success? As far as Barry is concerned, it’s simple; good old fashioned hard work.
“Things that are worth doing don’t happen overnight, they take time – and it’s taken a long time, but here we are,” he grins. “That, and write good songs. We’ve always just written what we liked, we’ve never tried to be anything we’re not, and we’ve landed on our feet. We’ve always stuck to our guns, and luckily, it’s worked for us.”
And with a full German tour with Thunder in March, a UK headline tour in April, plus headline slots at major UK festivals like Steelhouse and Winter’s End, and a brand new album already close to completion, 2019 looks set to be an even bigger year for Massive Wagons.
“When it’s going well, you’ve got to keep going, you can’t have a break from it.
Especially when you’re working, you’ve got to be disciplined and keep going. If you stop for too long, you just sort of seize up,” says Barry. “You just gotta keep going, keep practicing, and keep gigging!”
Massive Wagons are:
Barry Mills – vocals
Adam Thistlethwaite – guitar
Stephen Holl – guitar
Alex Thistlethwaite – drums
Adam Bouskill – bass
March 25 München, Backstage
March 26 Aschaffenburg, Colos-Saal
March 27 Ludwigsburg, Rockfabrik
March 29 Berlin, Frannz Club
March 30 Hamburg, Knust
March 31 Bochum, Zeche
April 02 Nürnberg, Hirsch
April 03 Köln, Kantine
April 05 Dover Booking Hall
April 06 Thekla Bristol
April 12 Asylum Birmingham
April 13 The Dome London
April 19 The Garage Glasgow
April 20 Academy 3 Manchester