Life & Culture

Meet The Rhythm Method, the Band Counting Elton John and Matt Healy as Fans

As their debut album How Would You Know I’m Lonely? is released this week, Dean Mayo Davies talks to The Rhythm Method about making a cult classic

A couple of years ago, Elton John played The Rhythm Method’s bittersweet pop-reggae jam Cruel (featuring Zoee, produced by Mike Skinner) on his Beats1 radio show. For the self-perpetuating, unsigned band, it was understandably a ‘moment’. Later, their track Something for the Weekend played on ITV2’s I’m a Celebrity: Extra Camp as Joe Swash waved a dismembered kangaroo tail around. Not quite the right trajectory, you’d think. But combine the polarities and you might just get the essence of The Rhythm Method’s skewed world. To borrow the trope of a Rolls-Royce in a swimming pool, they’d be the one covering Be Here Now, not Keith Moon’s. Their music has all the feeling of classics you don’t know yet, driven by keyboard in the finest pop manner, taking from genres as they please: house, garage... airing cupboard.

Hailing from London, the band are Joey Bradbury (lyrics/vocals) and Rowan Martin (top liner/multi-instrumentalist). Their album How Would You Know I Was Lonely? – from the lyric “How would you know I was lonely if I didn’t tell everyone?”, about the art of the attention-seeking Facebook status – arrives via Moshi Moshi. Created in rooms across Mile End, Archway, Camberwell and Hornsey, if the record sounds like something of a greatest gits, it is, with eight of the 12 tracks already heard in one way or another. A best of as a debut? Very The Rhythm Method.

“We want to make How Would You Know I Was Lonely? a cult classic,” Martin and Bradbury gasconade. “It really feels like there is no cult anymore. Stuff is totally massive or completely anonymous. We want to find the weirdos in every town and recruit them to our cause: be smart, be entertained, take care of one another.”

Steadily building a fanbase pregnant with devotion, they’ve shared stages with the likes of Shame, Wolf Alice and Cabbage. Pretty much everyone they’ve toured with has become friends. The characters they’ve collected run through their Twitter @s.

It’s a sunny Thursday afternoon in May and we’re set to do an interview in south London – but the band’s plans change last minute. With The Great Escape looming and a few shows in France afterwards – imagine those – we take to email instead. When Joey and Rowan’s responses come back, written collectively as ‘we’, it’s unexpected. But revealing. The gesture marks their almost sacrificial belief in each other; all-for-one attitude their way of owning this big, weird thing they’ve crafted together.

Like Bill Murray, The Rhythm Method don’t have a manager, but it’s probably more like Kanye West – they can’t be managed (easily). The band began as a series of “bizarre, outsider-music iPhone demos” for themselves while living in a Thameside squat protection scheme. After sharing with friends, they broadened out to whoever else might care. I first met the band in 2015, after hearing their debut Local, Girl, an ode to the pub that sounded like a B-side to the Minder theme. At a gig in a Clerkenwell basement, the duo gave out CD-Rs featuring a favourite track of Martin’s, Salad Cream. Which is not about the condiment but creating emotional demand for oneself – as Heinz did when they threatened to retire it.

“The first time we ever toured we were terrified that our music wouldn’t travel well,” they explain. Clever and odd isn’t always a winning combination, but in this case it’s the definition of their brilliance.

“We quickly realised that despite our voices, the themes are universal. Everyone gets down sometimes, everyone feels lonely. Especially in the times we live in. We had the same anxiety about having female fans, thinking we were very much talking about the male experience. But nowadays the crowds are 50/50 and it turns out we’re talking about the human experience.

“Every song we write is another scene in a strange biopic. Much like one of our biggest influences, a musical documentary called Feltham Sings. [Our influences] have been broad and bizarre from the start and they’ve certainly broadened over the last few years. Mornings in Travelodges whilst on tour, watching Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares USA, listening to Joe Rogan, getting into 70s and 80s wrestling from both sides of the Atlantic; characters like Adrian Street and Dusty Rhodes. It’s all bled in, that’s hard times baby!”

It turns out lyrical signposts to Britney’s shaved head; Robbie Williams’ blond era; yellow label dinners (see the album’s cover) and the sound of foxes fucking are something like touchstones. Their French shows went well, undoubtedly down to their particular metropolitan English charisma. Squeeze’s Chris Difford, one of their songwriting heroes, guests on Joey’s favourite track, Wandsworth Plain. It’s their Waterloo Sunset. It isn’t madness that Suggs is bigging them up too. 

“Something about the ultimate truth of the band lies in our live set up,” they pinpoint. “It’s still a backing track, two vocals and a keyboard. Part of us thinks it will always be that way. Rowan has started picking up the guitar now though, as you do when you run out of ideas.”

Half of The Rhythm Method’s YouTube views are credited to endorsement from The 1975’s Matty Healy. (Yes, Denise Welch is a Methodist too.) 

“We’ve met him once, he was wearing all Gucci everything and looked great,” Bradbury and Martin recall. “I’m not sure how he first heard us but he’s been there pretty much since the start, which we are incredibly grateful for. He’s a proper rock/pop star, a genuine lover of music, a great performer, underrated writer and some times a bit of a pretentious wally. But I for one really respect that. There’s not enough of it nowadays. You should see our DMs to him, mostly just sent messages. It’s getting a bit King Of Comedy if I’m honest.” 

And there you have it. The Rhythm Method: absolutely shameless. 

How Would You Know I Was Lonely? is out June 21, 2019 on Moshi Moshi.