EXCLUSIVE: As singer and creative force behind Little Angels, Toby Jepson has already reached musical heights most would dream of. With No.1 album, a string of hit singles, and sold out shows behind him, he’s got little left to prove. But the love of music has always driven the singer, and following the last few years working as a respected producer for the likes of Saxon and The Answer, he’s ready to do it all again with latest project Wayward Sons: “This feels like my first ever band”, he proclaims. We caught up with Toby and Sons’ guitarist Sam Wood at Download Festival for a chat about the future, and a little of the past. Wayward child; Eamon O’Neill.
Good day guys, you’re really looking the part today at Download festival.
Toby Jepson: Ah you know, we do what we can. We wear all these things because if we took it off, we’d look terrible.
Surely you’re rock gods, or young gods, even?!
TJ: Well, slightly older gods. As I was saying to Sam, I think I was 21 when he was born, which is a bit shocking.
Sam Wood: When Little Angles’ ‘Jam’ was at No.1, I was 3!
How did Wayward Sons come about?
TJ: I got offered a great deal by the great people at Frontiers records. Serafino [Perugino] and Mario [de Riso] called me and just said; “Look, we’d love to make a record with you”. I’m going back a couple of years now, and first of all I said; “No, it’s not really what I want to do”, mainly because I’d made this decision that I didn’t want to make another rock record unless I actually had the support and a label. It’s hard to make great rock records without having a label to properly put it together; it costs a lot of money, and being a producer, I know that. But we kept talking, and eventually I thought; “Actually, you know what? This could work, but I want to make sure it’s a rebirth, and I want to do it properly”, so I thought we’d completely mix it up, and get some new folks involved.
Is that when you came became involved, Sam?
SW: Well, my band Treason Kings, Toby had produced a couple of EPs for us, and I obviously got to know him through that. Then, out of the blue, at the beginning of last year, Toby rang me up and said; “I’m putting something together, would you like to be a part of it?” And it’s just been uphill from there, really, it’s brilliant.
You recently released your first video, for the song ‘Until The End’.
TJ: Yeah, we shot four videos back to back, and it’s got a narrative running through which connects back to the album. The album’s called ‘Ghosts Of Yet To Come’, and that will be coming out on 15th September. So we’ve dropped the first single, and I think it’s a good example of a centre-ground song for what the album is about. But yeah, we’re really pleased, and reaction so far has been absolutely fantastic. We’re not in any rush, we want to take this nice and slow, and build it properly.
Obviously, you’ve been through all of this before Toby; does it feel like you’re starting all over again?
TJ: It’s like going back in time, like this is like the first band we’ve ever been in. I personally feel really reenergised. I mean, Phil Martine, the drummer in the band, he plays for Jim Jones and Joe Elliot, Spear Of Destiny – he’s got a few things – but he’s really committed to the band, and I think everyone feels really connected to this band. We just can’t wait to get out there and start playing it.
You’re no stranger to Download Festival, are you, Toby?
TJ: The reformation of Little Angels was in 2012, and I’ve done it with Dio Disciples, I’ve done it with Fastway, and I’ve done it acoustically. It’s like coming home every time I come here.
The reception Little Angles received in 2012 was pretty special.
TJ: It was incredible. It was absolutely amazing, and you know, in a way, that experience was a massive part of the reason why I wanted to do this again. I thought; “You know what? There is an audience out there for that music, and what I need to do is make a great record, and allow people to rediscover me as an artist, and have a new project that surrounds it”. It never ceases to amaze me how wonderful the community of rock fans is actually, when you come here.
The reunion of Little Angels was short but sweet; did part of you not think; “I want some more of this”?
TJ: Well, we’re all doing different things; Bruce [Dickinson, Little Angels’ guitarist] has largely been involved in education for years, the same with Jimmy [keyboards] his brother. Mark Richardson [drums] has obviously been in Skunk Anansie and that continues, so what we said was; “Well it’s the anniversary of the release of the ‘Jam’ album; we want to go out, have some fun, and take care of a bit of unfinished business”. But I have to say, it was largely inspired by the sad death of [former drummer] Michael Lee, who was simply one of the greatest drummers that ever lived. He was our mate, and it was sad to see Michael pass away, and we wanted to reconnect and just go; “We were good, and we were good mates, and here we are, we’re still alive, and we need to do this!”
Did you enjoy the tour that followed?
TJ: It was great doing the tour. We did the reformation tour, and it was great fun, but I think we came to the end of that, and I can remember standing on the stage in London thinking; “Okay, this was fantastic, but I am done – I don’t want to do any more”.
For some, it’s still quite staggering that Little Angels bowed out at the top of your career, with a sold out Royal Albert Hall show.
TJ: I know. I mean, it was a really difficult time, and it’s something that I’ve wrestled with for many, many years. But I think the truth of it is; everything runs its course, and even though to the outsider it might seem crazy, nobody really knows what’s going on emotionally amongst the people that were involved. We’d been together, solidly touring for nearly ten years, and it had taken its toll. We just reached a kind of impasse with the whole situation, not least of all the fact that music was changing so much. It’s why I feel ready to do this now; we’ve done that, that shadow isn’t over my shoulder any more, and I still feel young enough, and just as vital as a kid, so I want to get out there and carry on.
Is it nice to be part of a band identity once again?
TJ: Yeah, totally; it had to be a band thing; there was no way this was going to be a vanity project. We talked a lot about this. I’ve always been in bands; when I go and do the acoustic thing, it’s great fun, but I always feel totally lonely. I want to be out there doing it with a bunch of friends, and that’s what feels so wonderful about this.
What’s happening going forward, for Wayward Sons?
SW: Well we’ve got these festival dates coming up; Rock N Blues in Derby, Ramblin’ Man Fair [Maidstone, Kent], and Steelhouse Festival [in Wales], and then, moving on from that we’ve got some touring that is going to be going on at the back end of the year that we can’t really say much about at the moment. It’s really exciting. At this point now, we just want to get out there, because we’ve not hit the stage with each other. We just want to get out there, and get on and do it.
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Wayward Sons' 'Ghosts Of Yet To Come' is released through Frontiers Music on the 15th September 2017.
Pre-order the album here:
Wayward Sons 2017 Dates (click the links for ticketing information):
26 July - Bristol, Louisiana (Headline Show)
28 July - Derbyshire, Rock And Blues Custom Show Festival
29 July - Kent, Ramblin’ Man Fair festival
30 July - Ebbw Vale, Steelhouse Festival