The Lathums: "Keeping it cool and keeping it real” with a number one album

Credit: Kieran Macadie

For most young guitar bands, a number one album is merely a dream away. For Wigan four-piece The Lathums, it’s reality. After releasing their debut record How Beautiful Life Can Be last week, they battled Drake in the UK album charts for the number one spot – and victory was theirs.

Only two years ago, the band were simply a local name on the streets of Wigan, where they’d play to small crowds in the local pubs. Now, with a number one album under their belts, they are set to embark on a huge UK tour and are climbing the festival line-up bills for next year. Four lads from Wigan have captured the hearts of their listeners and have become a force to be reckoned with. Following their great escape from the town, the four-piece get by and continue to fight on across the county to prove how beautiful life can be. Rickenbacker-wielding guitarist Scott Conception caught up with us to show us in depth.

As he answered the phone, the jangly guitarist seemed in good spirits despite being terribly busy in the wake of the album release and the beginning of their huge UK tour. “I’m a bit relieved to be honest,” begins Scott on the topic of their debut album being out in the world. “We’ve been sat on it for ages, so it’s been nice to see everyone’s reactions and have it finally out. It’s all very exciting.”

Since the band embarked on a UK tour supporting Blossoms in August to warm up for their huge headline tour, the band haven’t stopped. “We’ve been mad mad busy, and we had to cancel some stuff yesterday to go a bit easier on Alex’s voice. He’s fine, he just belts it doesn’t he.” At the time this interview was recorded, it was unconfirmed if the band would get to number one that week, but the figures were looking promising as they continued to battle Drake for the number one spot. “It’s unreal!” Scott says about the prospect of a number one album. “It feels a bit surreal I reckon. Someone I see very often, their favourite person in the world is Drake – so I’m enjoying rubbing that in.”

With the record out in the world and listeners having time to digest the tracks on How Beautiful Life Can Be, the reaction has pleased them – but what do the band want listeners to take away from the record? “Joy,” replies Scott. “And something relatable. We want people to really relate to the tunes.” The band brought more joy and relatability to the listeners merely days after the album release, as they surprised their fans by dropping an extension of the record with 7 additional tracks – hilariously titled How Beautiful Life Can B-Sides. “We just had too many to put on the album,” says Scott on the extended tracks. “They were all recorded for the album during the album sessions apart from the Squeeze cover and the Pagan’s Delight acoustic. We recorded all of the tunes acoustic – so you’ll hear those at some point too. The extended tracks themselves are the size of a full vinyl, so if they were on there it would’ve been a double album!”

One of the most interesting components of The Lathums’ sonic palette is undoubtedly Scott’s guitar playing. Featuring jangly tones and arpeggiated chord sequences, it’s extremely reminiscent to the likes of Johnny Marr from The Smiths, bringing back the original indie rock style of blissful guitar playing. “I don’t really know how I do it,” Scott explains, “sometimes something will just happen. When Alex wrote ‘Fight On’, the part for that just happened immediately. As soon as I heard his vocal, the part was already there, I just started playing it. Sometimes I come up with a part and it just won’t be doing it for me, so I just try and come up with one in my head what I think would be ideal and work out what I’m thinking of.” Scott shadows Johnny Marr by using a Rickenbacker guitar, being Marr’s signature axe, it creates a unique jangly sound that is defined by the likes of The Smiths and The Lathums. “They’ve got a completely unique sound. I love them.” Says Scott.

Alongside The Smiths, The Lathums have a range of collective influences. “There’s definitely some Beatles in there, and I think a bit of Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits guitarist). We’ve all got different tastes though. Johnny (Bass) and Ryan (Drums) are similar in the sense they like a bit more heavier stuff. With me and Alex, our tastes are a bit different as well. They cross over a bit, but he’s not into his music as much as I am. I’ve been into all the British bands throughout history. Anything I like, I just try and take a bit of inspiration from it. For example, on the album, the final track ‘The Redemption of Sonic Beauty’ which I wrote on piano, the main influence was Queen. I wrote that just after watching the Queen film and decided I wanted a piano. Funny story with that, I told the Italian lady I worked with that I wanted a piano, she couldn’t speak much English then suddenly she gave me £50 for Christmas to put towards one! I wrote the music to that tune as soon as I got it.”

Before the pandemic, The Lathums name was starting to become familiar, and the band signed to the major label Island Records at the perfect time. Across the duration of the pandemic, the band released various singles and EPs to keep their listeners sane – and this only grew their audience. Now we’re at the other side with the return of live music, The Lathums are selling out venues and bringing in enormous festival crowds that they could only dream of a mere 18 months ago. “The crowds are mad!” exclaims Scott. “In comparison to before the pandemic to now, just the sound of the band has improved. All the gear has improved and stuff like that, the venues have tripled in size – it’s madness. But we just keep it cool and keep it real - that’s how we go about everything. We don’t want to go mad and think we’re gods. Maybe at album 2!”

At present, the band are embarking on their enormous 22-date headline tour across the UK, beginning in Newcastle and finishing all the way up in Scotland. At the time of this interview, the lads are preparing for their first show of the tour at the Newcastle 02 Academy. They’re all excited, especially with the addition of their very own tour bus. “We’re so excited for after the gig to be able to go to sleep and wake up in the next city without having to get comfy in the van. The bus is huage!” Scott utters the final word with added strength to his Wigan accent. “It’s the dream. You walk in and there’s mosaic tiles on the floor that looks like some villa in Spain or something. There’s a toilet then a chilling area with loads of seats where you can sit a telly at the bottom, then some stairs that lead up to all the bunks and another chilling area upstairs with a telly that comes out of the side and that, and there’s a PS4 in there.” It’s safe to say you’ve made it when you can travel the country in the comfort of a tour bus playing PS4.

Despite The Lathums receiving national attention and selling out venues across the country, the lads are still proudly from Wigan and wear the town brazenly on their sleeves. The place anyone grows up in will always feel like home, but for The Lathums, home is the best place in the world. “My Dad was in the army,” explains Scott. “So, we moved around the country a lot growing up but my family were always in Wigan, so it was always home. It’s also the people. The estate I live on, there’s just loads of familiar faces that have been there all the time – and everyone’s just dead nice. We look out for each other and stuff like that.” Within the music, the band are trying to project a comforting feeling of home and a sense of community. The best medium for them to do that is by proudly paying homage to Wigan, but anyone can relate to that transcendental feeling.

The Lathums are clearly living the dream with sold-out venues nationwide, being famous local faces in their hometown and now having a number one album. However, as great as success might seem, it always comes packaged with various challenges. “We’re now having to do things a lot harder and also proceed with caution.” Explains Scott. “COVID thankfully didn’t hinder us too much, we were tested regularly and recorded the entire album in lockdown. Honestly, the main problem I’m facing with lockdown lifting and being back on the road is just being tired. The Blossoms tour was rough because we didn’t have the biggest budget, we were travelling to the shows and travelling back to Wigan every night. It got heavy with being picked up dead early then dropped off dead late. The furthest one for that was London and we stayed over for that one, but a few times we were travelling back it took about 9 hours. I think one night might have even been 11!”

Most artists starting out will tell you that the entire first part of their career leads up to the release of the debut album. A debut album is always special because it’s the entire career of an artist up to that point embodied in a record. This is especially true for The Lathums, and now their 2-year career has reached this point and is embodied in a number one album, what can we expect in this new chapter? “More tunes I reckon.” Scott says excitingly. “We’ve got a massive, massive back catalogue of tunes that were written in lockdown, and we’d go in and record one tomorrow if we weren’t on the road. We’re on the main stage at Neighbourhood festival next year as well, so we’ll definitely keep smashing the gigs and hopefully the shows get bigger and bigger, we can get a better production going and put on better shows.” Regardless of where The Lathums go next, it’s certain that they will continue to prove to everyone just how beautiful life can be.