In a surprise turn in 2015, the big piano power ballads are making a comeback. Sort of. “It’s a bit of a dead art,” sulks Stewart Brock. With his band of dream-pop merchants Callum Wiseman and Lewis Gardiner, who make up Prides, he’s trying to spearhead the piano ballad revolution. With little success. “There’s not many ballads out there. That was why I was really keen to get some on the album. I love ballads,” he gushes. “I’ve grown up playing the piano, and listening to Elton John, and Billy Joel - and all these guys who are the kings of ballads. It’s nice to throw my hat into the ring.” Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, he goes in for the headline: “We’re going to exclusively do power ballads from now on!”
It’s a niche market, but if anyone can capitalise on it, it’s Prides: they’re throwing down the gauntlet to be arena conquerors. “Well, I don’t know about arenas!” Stewart erupts with laughter. “But we’ve naturally always written songs that we want people to be involved with, and we want people to enjoy live. I think, as soon as we started playing songs live – because it’s such a big thing for us – when we were back in the studio, we were naturally thinking, ‘How are we gonna do this live? How is it gonna come across?’ You start writing parts for the crowd!’ We also love that element of what we do. Maybe not arenas, but we definitely wrote it with the audience in mind! How many of them remains to be seen!”
Stewart’s infectious laughs are a mix of excitement and dread, but it’s understandable. Like a groom’s pre-wedding nerves, however neurotic you wind up being – from legging it from the altar, to smashing up a wedding cake - it’s all entirely justified. It’s Prides’ debut album, after all! Even if you don’t believe in luck and jinxes, or that pride is a dangerous thing, it’s not worth the risk.
But at least we’re in the green: ‘The Way Back Up’ is a continuation of form for a band who are already at the top of their game. It boasts enough lofty skyscraper anthems to qualify as a greatest hits, married with the amateur schoolboy charm of a debut. “We produce and record everything ourselves, so it’s not so much that we went into the studio for a couple of months and recorded the whole thing. There’s some songs, like ‘Out of the Blue’, which is one of the first songs that we wrote.”
“We definitely wrote the album with the audience in mind - how many of them remains to be seen!”
— Stewart Brock
Either way, at least they have their fans at their side. At any show they play – be it big fishes headlining the BBC Introducing Stage at last year’s Reading & Leeds Festival, or tadpoles playing in the ocean of the Commonwealth Games Closing Ceremony – Prides always stand out from the crowd. Which is ironic really, because the crowd are practically recruited into the live show. “We wanted to have a section of a song where everyone could sing along to it – even if they’d never heard it! I really love the fact that people can sing along to our songs, even if they’d never heard it.” Finally, Stewart confesses to their arena-sized ambitions. “Having played live, I guess ‘Messiah’ was the first song we wrote with that in mind.”
Either way, despite never having stepped foot in Henham Park for Latitude before, they’re more than qualified to headline Huw Stephens’ Lake Stage. “I cannot wait. I’ve had friends go every year, and they always say I have to go.” Recruiting loyal followers, both across the globe and on Twitter. Prides will be the pied pipers of this summer’s festivals.
But even if you’re a die-in-the-wool Prides anorak, there’s still so much to be uncovered on ‘The Way Back Up’. “There’s some that we wrote in the last... erm... month!” The newest songs in question are the modestly titled ‘It’s Not Gonna Change’ and ‘Same Mistakes’, which Stewart believes are “definitely pushing the Prides bracket as wide as we can push it with this album.”
But, as the album’s name suggests, this is ‘The Way Back Up’, and there’s no gain without pain. It may eventually translate into arena-ready to tender pop bliss, but before that - as you can only imagine - crafting your debut album takes hours of agonising, fretting, and painstaking perfectionism to make.
“Not at all!” Stewart chortles. “It’s been a joy!”
“I think...” He pauses. “When we started, I was in a bit of a writing dry patch.” If Prides sound itchingly familiar from somewhere before, it may have been in their former incarnation of pop crooners Midnight Lion. Having signed a deal to Island Records, it all looked promising. “It never really came together, and we didn’t know what to do with it, so we were in the major label black hole, of just artists that were just sitting there. And that’s when we started writing with Callum, and became Prides.”
“Once we started Prides, I don’t think we’ve written anything that hasn’t gone on the album. We’ve constantly had to bump songs off - we’re writing better and better tracks. We’ve always had loads of songs, and we’ve always been putting our best foot forward. I mean, hopefully we’ll get through this one,” he chuckles, “and be able to make a second, and when we get to the notorious difficult second album - maybe by the next time I speak to you. I might regret saying this, but the first one was easy!”
Taken from the July issue of DIY, out now. Prides will play Latitude (16th - 19th July), where DIY is an official media partner. Tickets are on sale now. Visit diymag.com/presents for more information.
Get your copy of the latest issue
More like this
The trio-turned-duo feel like genuine contenders once more.
They’ve also shared a new track, ‘Let’s Stay In Bed All Day’.
They’ve also got a trio of UK tour dates in store.
Prides, Trudy and the Romance, Will Joseph Cook and Eat Fast joined us for ‘Are You Tufnell Enough?’, an all-day musical extravaganza.