The 1975, Chvrches, Years & Years: the Sleeperbloke is back

Is a band still a band when the frontperson takes all the heat? In 2018, the blokes-at-the-back format – as pioneered by Sleeper – is as prevalent as ever

In the 1990s, when journalists could be mean to bands without the fear of being “cancelled” by their fans on Twitter, the term Sleeperblokes was invented, to refer to those anonymous men who stand at the back of bands, inspired by Sleeper and their frontwoman Louise Wener. Incredibly, the band took it quite well and even sold Sleeperbloke T-shirts.

Now, in 2018, Sleeperblokes are everywhere. Bastille’s new single Quarter Past Midnight came out last month, but could you recognise the band if they didn’t have high-haired Dan Smith standing in front of them? Chvrches’ Iain Cook and Martin Doherty get all of seven seconds’ screen time (compared to Lauren Mayberry’s three minutes) in their recent video for Miracle. And did you know the George in AlunaGeorge is a real person? Or that Lion Babe isn’t just Jillian Hervey, but also a man called (*checks Wikipedia*) Lucas Goodman? Sometimes, members take a blissful, intentional step back into anonymity. While Years & Years frontman Olly Alexander bears his soul in interviews to promote upcoming album Palo Santo, the band’s Mikey Goldsworthy and Emre Türkmen can do the weekly shop without getting asked for a selfie down the loo-roll aisle. The 1975’s “other” members don’t even have to speak in interviews ahead of this month’s album Music for Cars. Band spokesperson Matty Healy works the press while the rest of the lads knock off early and get home in time for Hollyoaks.

Not for one second is anyone saying that Sleeperblokes aren’t essential parts of a band’s success. In many cases, it would be hard for these aforementioned frontpeople to scale the charts without the heft of the band’s established brand behind them (although The Lauren Mayberry EP feels oddly inevitable in a not-so-distant future). But the key shift is the necessity of being in a band in order to “prove” musical authenticity. It no longer exists as it once did. Instead, an artist needs an interesting story and something to say about social issues to confirm that, yes, Trump is indeed bad. Back in the days of the NME, bands used to need serious-faced members who would confirm that it really is “all about the music”. In 2018, those magazines aren’t around any more and frontpeople have stepped forward.

In the modern day, when fame is toxic and fans can hack into pop star iClouds, being an anonymous Sleeperbloke seems like the best career move. You get paid to play gigs and festivals, then slip off into the crowd looking like every other bloke queuing for a warm Tuborg. They don’t even need to do “outspoken” interviews in which they’re castrated online for holding vague opinions on feminism. Maybe the much-mocked Sleeperblokes were actually the winners this entire time.

Contributor

Issy Sampson

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
This week’s tracks reviewed: Sade, Iceage and Years & Years
The queen of dinner-party soul returns, Sky Ferreira joins the Danish post-punk group for their ‘sell-out’ single, plus Radio 1’s house band are back

Gavin Hayes

16, Mar, 2018 @11:00 AM

Article image
Tracks of the week reviewed: Tove Styrke, Pink and Chvrches
Tove Styrke’s latest is as sweet and shiny as a freshly licked Jolly Rancher, Pink’s bandwagon-jumping and Django Django bristle with nervy energy

Graeme Virtue

09, Feb, 2018 @11:00 AM

Article image
Tracks of the week reviewed: Tommy Cash, the 1975, All Saints
Estonian rapper Tommy Cash keeps it surreal, the 1975 dial it back to the 00s, and All Saints are back back back

Michael Cragg

08, Jun, 2018 @10:00 AM

Article image
Tracks of the week reviewed: Katy J Pearson, Cher Lloyd, the 1975
This week we’ve got a whoop of pure joy, a welcome return of an old face, and a powerful 80s sax solo

Leonie Cooper

08, May, 2020 @10:00 AM

Article image
Tracks of the week reviewed: Bat for Lashes, the 1975, Biig Piig
This week we’ve got some slinky electro, a public-information-style lecture, and a chilled soundtrack for a sunny afternoon

Kate Solomon

02, Aug, 2019 @10:00 AM

Article image
Tracks of the week reviewed: Thom Yorke, the 1975, Bat for Lashes
The Radiohead man drops a dancefloor banger (not really), Matty Healy gets shouty, and Natasha Khan goes 80s

Leonie Cooper

30, Aug, 2019 @10:00 AM

Article image
TRNSMT festival review – Lewis Capaldi is the man of the moment
TRNSMT may be haunted by the ghost of T in the Park, but a new all-female stage and crowd-pleasing performances by Stormzy and George Ezra make for a successful replacement

Graeme Virtue

15, Jul, 2019 @11:42 AM

Article image
This week’s best new music: Loyle Carner’s NO CD rolls back the years
Plus: Green Day are back with more of the same, LeAnn Rimes gets hot and heavy and Zayn phones it in on MIA’s Freedun

Luke Holland

21, Oct, 2016 @12:00 PM

Article image
The 1975, Alt-J and Paramore: this week’s best UK rock and pop gigs
Matty Healy and co take their magnetic pop on tour, Leeds indie trio kickstart the O2’s 10th birthday party and the emo-turned-synth-pop outfit are back

Rachel Aroesti

09, Jun, 2017 @10:00 AM

Article image
MGMT, John Grant, Bastille: this week's new live music

MGMT | John Grant | Bastille | ReVoice! Festival | Mick Coady's Synergy | Les Vêpres Siciliennes

Andrew Clements, John Fordham & John Robinson

12, Oct, 2013 @5:00 AM