Rixton Interview: Recording Naked, Ed Sheeran’s Advice + More [EXCLUSIVE]
If we’re totally honest, we wouldn’t have been surprised if Rixton were completely exhausted when we met them. After all, the night before, the band had just performed an insanely energetic show to an equally enthusiastic audience. However, when the four Brits stopped by the PopCrush office in New York the day after the concert, they were cheerful, upbeat and totally adorable as they hugged us hello.
Rixton — that’s Jake Roche, Charley Bagnall, Lewi Morgan and Danny Wilkin — are currently taking the U.S. by storm with their massive hit, ‘Me and My Broken Heart.’ Earlier this year, the band dropped their debut EP and now they’re gearing up to hit the road on their first headlining tour and to release a full-length album. The guys chatted with us about advice Ed Sheeran gave them, stripping down to record and, of course, their awesome fans.
Do you prefer to write and perform love songs or breakup songs?
Jake: Life songs. We like talking about true things that happen to people in life. ‘Appreciated’ is about appreciating someone, like when we were writing and recording it, I was thinking of my mother. It’s a universal meaning, which is good. It can be about love … It’s just whatever we feel at that moment in time, isn’t it?
Is there one that you’ve found draws a bigger reaction from fans?
Charley: ‘Hotel Ceiling,’ the entire front row [at the concert] were just –
J: I was like ‘Sing!’ and [making crying sounds] … sobbing, pools of mascara. But yeah, I think they do love a good breakup song. But I think that I love a good breakup song. [To Danny}: You love a bit of Boyz II Men, don’t you?
Lewi: I like aggressive songs. If I’m going through a breakup or anything, I just put some metal on. Like, awesome Shwayze. Shwayze is always good during a breakup.
It sounds like there may be some surprising inspirations in your music.
L: Me and Charley grew up in a pop-punk, metal scene.
J: I come from a singing family, like the Von Trapps, and we all used to line up on the stairs. I come from a singing family so we listened to a lot swing stuff and it was very diverse. When I started to grow up, I listened to Michael Jackson and stuff like that. People like Justin Timberlake, Maroon 5, OneRepublic.
Danny: Yeah, I’m kind of the same. I played piano from an early age, so I used to listen to Elton John and Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder. Anybody I could learn things from.
Speaking of ‘Hotel Ceiling,’ which Ed Sheeran wrote, can you talk about how you came to work with him?
J: Well, he works very closely with our producer, Benny [Blanco]. I know they’ve been doing stuff for Ed’s new album, and I think Benny played him our stuff and then they went into a session together and Ed was like, “I’d love to write for them.” So he did, and that’s how it came about, really. It just fit in so perfectly on the album.
L: As soon as we heard it, we loved it.
J: So, yeah, we’re very excited about it and now he’s become a very close friend. We’ve become very close with him. He traveled down from San Diego to L.A. in a van and he’s such a lovely humble guy. He’s only a year older than me and he’s much richer and more successful. It’s upsetting.
Watch Rixton Perform ‘Hotel Ceiling’
Has he given you guys any good advice?
J: I spoke to him the other day, actually. I woke up really ill and we had a full day of promo and stuff, which we love doing, and I just felt like I couldn’t get out of bed. I was just like, “Do you still have days where you’re just like, ‘I just want to go home. I miss family and everything’?” And he was like, “Yeah, cause you’re human. Of course you do.” He was saying that his label kept sending him to Germany and he was like, “My music isn’t picking up over here,” and then he went back like the ninth, tenth time and it was number one over there, and that’s like, you have to fill these small markets to eventually build a bigger and better career. He’s always on the other end of the phone for all of us, which is good. He’s just one of them superstars who you can just feel you can be really close to. And it’s just because he’s a normal guy from Britain.
C: Yeah, he just treats you like a normal person.
J: Yeah, which is great. We’ve learned a lot from him, definitely.
You guys are about to embark on a headlining tour. Do you get into any trouble backstage?
J: Well, to be fair, before we go onstage, we just put on loud music and dance around. We always put on British classics. Last night — do you know the band Take That? We just put Take That on our iPad, played it out loud and danced around, did silly stuff and walked out onstage. We haven’t had stints of rock n’ roll yet. Like, there’s been no TVs out the window.
C: Nah, they’re too big these days, aren’t they, mate?
J: Yeah, they are.
You also have a debut album coming out this fall. Are the songs from the EP going to be on that as well, or is it all new material?
J: I don’t think we’ve fully decided. I think some people, obviously more people will buy the album than then EP, and I think it will be a shame if they miss out on songs on the EP, like ‘Hotel Ceiling’ and ‘Appreciate.’ All of them, really. So I think we may include them, maybe in a deluxe or we don’t know yet. With the album itself, it’s like 90 percent done, so we’re in New York now to just put the finishing touches to it and stuff. It’s very exciting.
Is there one song you’re especially excited for fans to hear?
J: Yeah, well all of them. There’s lots they haven’t heard yet. There’s a song that me and Dan wrote five years ago, and we finished it collectively for the album. I can’t say much, but it’s like this four or five minute completely a capella song where it’s just the four of us singing and then it goes into some crazy – I don’t know. It’s just full of surprises, which is good. So we’re excited for them to hear that, definitely.
Is there any reason it took five years to finish?
J: We’re lazy. [Laughs.] Couldn’t be bothered.
C: We’d sort of forgotten about it for a while.
J: It’s just because it’s not a hit. When we wrote it, we never wrote it for the radio or anything.
D: We did it for fun.
J: Yeah, the band. We just did it because it was us two. We put down a load of harmonies and vocals and stuff and then when Benny and Scooter [Braun] heard it, they’re like, “You need to finish this. In an hour. For the album.” So we just sat down, totally finished it, re-recorded everything and yeah, made it on the album, which is insane.
Speaking of the album, you’ve talked about how you recorded it naked.
C: There are videos somewhere – which can never get out.
L: Most of it was naked, yeah. Everyone was a bit tense, so we’re like, “How can we relax?” So we lowered the lights, put on some candles, put on some Barry Manilow … No, no, no. So we just got naked. There’s nothing we can hide now.
Did you make the people behind the booth strip down as well?
L: No, it was just us. Nobody else was naked.
J: I don’t think they even wanted us to be naked.
L: No, the second we were all naked, like 12 cameras appeared at the window.
So it’s not a requirement for your collaborators to get naked?
J: Well, it depends who it is. Beyonce? “Beyonce, love, step into the booth.”
Are there any collaborations to look forward to on the album?
C: There might be, yeah. Possibles.
J: I think there will be, but we don’t know who.
You guys have a very enthusiastic fanbase. Do you notice a difference between fans in the U.S. and the U.K.?
L: I think the U.S. fans are a little more – they’re not afraid to grab you and drag you around. Stick a camera in your face and stuff. In the U.K., they just kind of wait outside the hotel for seven hours to tell you that you look like shit.
C: They’re more chilled. They’re cool. They think by standing back, they think they’re more cool. In the States, they just jump on you.
J: They’re both so supportive of each other. We’ve been spending a lot of time in the U.S. and the U.K. fans miss us, and we miss them. They’re both really supportive.
Calling all Rixton fans: You can now order pre-sale tickets for the band’s U.S. tour here!
Watch Rixton’s ‘Me and My Broken Heart’ Video