It’s been an exciting twelve months for Wayward Sons. The release of their debut album, headline shows, a stint opening for Steel Panther and now an appearance at Download Festival have helped cement the band’s status as real contenders. Led by Toby Jepson, the veteran singer may have done it all before, but that doesn’t mean he’s complacent; “the music means more to me than it’s ever done before”, he tells us. We caught up with the former Little Angels front man following the band’s Donington Park show to discuss the band, the next album, and a possible return for his former act. Little of the past; Eamon O’Neill.
Hi Toby, welcome to Download Festival!
Oh, thank you, thank you. How wonderful to be here. I’ve literally just come off stage, and I’m dripping.
It’s Wayward Sons’ first appearance at Download; how was it?
It was absolutely awesome. We played the Dogtooth stage, and there was a wonderful, absolutely incredible reaction from the audience. I mean, we’re a relatively new band; we’ve only been around a year-ish. I mean, we hadn’t even released the album this time last year, so to get that kind of reaction today was absolutely out of this world.
The band were so popular that people were having trouble getting into the tent to see you.
I know! It was like, five deep outside or something, so that was really brilliant. I’m really chuffed with that.
It’s a second wave for you, in terms of doing the whole band thing, isn’t it?
Totally, and I think there’s nobody that knows that more than me. I think at the end of the day, having had a career in a band like Little Angels, which was like twenty-five years ago now, it is amazing to be standing backstage at a place like Download having just played the new band tent. I’m fifty years old, I mean, how ridiculous is that! But you know, the thing is, rock and roll isn’t ageist any more, and I don’t think it probably ever was. People react to the music, and I feel as good as I’ve ever felt in my entire life; I feel more ready for it now, more focused, I’ve got more of a grip on myself, I know what I want to say, I know what I want to do, and so the music means more to me than it’s ever done before.
You’ve had a successful career as a producer in recent years; what was it that drove you to do the band thing again?
Well, I started out in bands. My main area of, I guess, I consider my expertise, is song writing, and I spent a lot of time doing other things; I was in Gun for a while, I worked with Fast Eddie Clark in Fastway, and I was and Dio Disciples for a while; all of those experiences were amazing, but I was singing other people’s songs; I wasn’t singing my own tunes. So, I just came to a point where I thought, “You know, what? If I can’t go out there and sing my own compositions, I’d rather not do it”. So I gave up those situations apart from Fastway – I did work with Fast Eddie Clarke until he sadly passed away earlier this year – and I thought, I’ll only do it if someone comes knocking on the door, and actually, that’s exactly what happened; Serafino [Perugino, founder] and Mario from Frontiers Records knocked on the door and said; “We’d love to help you get back on the horse”, and I was like, okay, it’s got to be under my rules, and they let me just get on with it, which was wonderful.
The reaction to the band, and the album 'Ghosts Of Yet To Come' has been quite phenomenal.
It really has. I put that down to the fact that making records is really difficult, and the one thing you have to do is concentrate your efforts on writing the songs. I’ve always believed, wholeheartedly that the only thing that really matters is the songs, and so we spent a lot of time honing that craft. And also, I just felt completely compelled to do it; I feel as excited about being in a band as I’ve ever felt in my entire life, and so that feeds into the music, and I think people just feel that off the record. It’s very hard to sum it up, but I’m just pleased that we made that record.
Did you have any sort of agenda, musically or otherwise when you were going in to make the album?
The only agenda I had was that I was going to speak the truth as I saw it, I was going to be as honest as I possibly could, and I was going to do what I wanted to do. That was my agenda, and so, I felt that the music that I was going to create had to embody everything I felt about my belief in music, and what music does to people. Interestingly, when I started to examine the music that had compelled me to be a musician in the first place, it wasn’t just the usual suspects from hard rock; a lot of it was punk artists, a lot of it was the indie scene, and the post-new wave scene in America, like Blondie and things like that. So I brought all those things to the table, and I think what happened was, it all melded together in this kind of like mixing pot and came out in a way that I felt really demonstrated me as a person. And it’s as honest as it can be. This is the best record I’ve ever made.
There seems to be a lot of support coming from your former Little Angels band mates too, for what you’re doing with Wayward Sons.
We’re all great mates, the guys from Little Angels. Bruce [Dickinson, guitarist – no, not that one) is a real close friend of mine. He’s a wonderful supporter of classic rock with the Waterbear [College] situation he’s got going on, and I’m involved in that as well, and we just love the music. When it comes down to it, we’re just fan boys; we just love the music, and I will do until the day I die. It’s just great to have that level of support around me from the people I love.
Little Angels played at Download in 2012; what was it like revisiting that period for that show?
It was brilliant. We hadn’t played together for seventeen or eighteen years, so to get on that stage again and feel that emotion was incredible. The thing about Little Angels that people forget is that we all went to school together. I knew Mark Plunkett [bassist] since I was seven years old, and I met Bruce and Jim Dickinson at Sixth Form College, so we were all friends. We dragged ourselves out of Scarborough and made a band into a worldwide successful act, so that was special.
You’re clearly focused on Wayward Sons, but is it at all likely that Little Angels will ever do it again?
Well, you know what, never say never. There’s been conversations. Whether it actually ends up transpiring to anything, I don’t know. I wouldn’t be averse to it, but the conditions would have to be right, because the great thing about the Little Angels was that we left on a high, and the integrity of that band is fully intact, and so anything that we do has to have the right complexion, so that’s all I’ll say about that.
Maybe that’s the goal for Wayward sons too; a Royal Albert Hall show, and then to go out with a bang?
You know what, actually, I think the thing about Wayward Sons is that I love the guys in the band, we’ve got such a great sort of camaraderie going on, but we’re all older and wiser. All that kind of bullshit about falling out for stupid reasons, I don’t think that will ever happen again, because we just want to play music, and so I’ll keep doing it until I fall over on stage, probably.
Looking to the future, when can fans expect album #2 from Wayward Sons?
We’re literally going to start writing that. I’ve started writing, but we’re going to get in the studio, and start putting some stuff together over the summer, actually, because we haven’t got any summer festivals this year apart from Download. We start playing again in September, and so we’re going to use the summer to start working on new material.
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Wayward Sons' 'Ghosts Of Yet To Come' is out now, via Frontiers Music.