Six Things You Need To Know About
They’re Quo fans, playing live is where they’re at, their songs are less frivolous than you might think…
Interview: Henry Yates Baz Mills is considering what I’d need if
I wanted to join Massive Wagons, the band he fronts. “Loads of shit jokes, bad body odour, and you can’t take yourself too seriously,” he says.
It’s the kind of criteria you might expect from a band whose name was inspired by the fullsome bosom of a barmaid in the local pub. But for all their outward frivolity, these Lancaster rockers have a knack for coming up with stadium-sized tunes, as evidenced by their new album, Full Nelson, hitting No.16 in the ‘proper’ UK chart. “It’s been nine years when you felt like nobody was listening,” Mills reflects, “but now it feels like things are taking off.”
They’re a band for the good times.
Like their key influence, Airbourne, Massive Wagons trade in rabble-rousing livewire shows. “This is feelgood rock music,” says Mills. “The whole mean-and-moody thing, standing in front of a wall with your arms folded, you just look like an idiot. As a frontman, I’m making it up as I go along, whether I electrocute myself or fall off the stage. Actually, that happened recently. I’d been reading about Dave Grohl and I thought: ‘What an idiot. How do you fall off a stage?’ But that night I fell on my arse, skidded off the stage and landed on my back. I kept singing, though.”
The title of the band’s new album was inspired by school bullies.
The Wagons’ fourth album is full of crunching choruses and ear-boxing melodies. When it came to naming it, Mills cast his mind back to the school playground of his youth. “I must have written down a thousand album titles. Then I thought, I’ve been in a few full nelsons [the aggressor’s arms under your arms from behind, their hands clasped over the back of your neck] in my time. Back at school I was the smallest in my year and the kid who always got beaten up.”
They write about real life.
You wouldn’t call them political, but Massive Wagons touch on weightier themes than their song titles suggest.
“Billy Balloon Head is about intolerance,” Mills explains. “China Plates is about social media; people don’t walk down the street and shout: ‘Fuck off,
you’re an idiot’ in your face, do they? Yet people do that to you on Facebook. Robot (Trust In Me) is about some very angry conspiracy theorists I’ve encountered online, who take great offence that you don’t share their opinion that the Queen is a lizard. They pissed me off, so I thought I’d write them a song as well.”
One of their best songs is a eulogy to the late Quo guitarist/vocalist Rick Parfitt.
The band’s biggest break to date was opening for Status Quo – and they salute the fallen guitarist on Full Nelson’s anthemic standout.
“At our first practice in 2017, our guitarist Adam had this Quo-inspired riff,” Mills recalls. “Sadly, Rick had died that Christmas. There’d been a lot of high-profile deaths. There was a lot of stuff about Lemmy and George Michael in the press, but there didn’t seem to be a lot about Rick. We’re big fans of Status Quo. So we thought we’d do our bit for Rick. And that was Back To The Stack.”
They’re even better live than on record.
If the Full Nelson material sounds like it needs to be heard from the front row, that’s down to Mills’s quirky writing process.
“I watched a Foo Fighters documentary,” he recalls, “and Dave Grohl said that when he’s writing a song he imagines people jumping up and down, and that would become the tempo and the beat. So now I imagine people singing along to our songs, whether that’s in a stadium or a pub.” They can’t believe their luck.
Mills admits that after almost a decade of thankless graft he was short on hope. Then came a deal with Earache Records, that unlikely chart placing – and a new lease of life.
“I’ve always been a bit of a cynic,” he says. “I’ve always been the guy going: ‘Nobody’s gonna sign us. They’re not gonna play our songs. Don’t get your hopes up, lads.’ I keep saying it and then I keep getting proved wrong. As far as this band will take us, we’ll do it. We’re not scared of success. There’s other things to be scared of – like spiders.” Full Nelson is out now via Earache. Massive Wagons support The Dead Daisies on their U K tour in November.
Massive Wagons: “No we’renot fans of big trucks!”