The story of LewRey is one not so much of defiance in the face of adversity, as defiance in the face of probability; for theirs is a musical partnership that circumstances and logic would dictate appear utterly unlikely.
Comprised of boyhood friends Ian Walker and Lewis Reynolds, and hailing from Huddersfield, the two were the only ones in their childhood friendship group to defy peer pressure to conform to the usual teen angst and indifferences. As Ian himself puts it “We were the only two in a large group of mates who ever really showed any desire and pride in our own education.” Further eschewing the obvious, the lads bonded over their burgeoning passion for jazz, swing and classical music. As is so often the case, the boy’s relationship developed faster than their earlier musical collaborations.
Lewis had been accepted into Yorkshire Young Musicians, an academy for exceptionally talented musicians, and immersed himself into the rigid world of classical music education. A sure sign of things to come, the free spirit sought its voice. Says Lewis “I have so much to thank YYM for, but maybe the biggest lesson they taught me was something they actually never intended. The organisation very much focuses on classical training, but unfortunately I was never interested in doing the same as everyone else…”. It wasn’t all non-conformity though.
The infamous Yorkshire sporting passion was evident for both in their teens. With Lewis a keen footballer, and Ian attracting the attentions of professional cricket clubs, their paths seemed set. Yet fate was to intervene, and in so doing, presented an otherwise unforeseeable opportunity.
With Lancashire and Yorkshire County Cricket Clubs keen to put pen to paper on the young Ian Walker, his life was to alter abruptly when he was struck down with encephalitis, a particularly serious condition whereby the brain becomes increasingly swollen. Long periods in intensive care followed before the young man pulled through, learning to come to terms with the realisation that his sporting ambitions were never to be fulfilled. Desperate to find meaning elsewhere, he turned to music, and in particular to his old school friend. Needing a drummer for a New Year’s Eve gig at the end of 2013, Ian stepped in to play with Lewis once more, and as the lads state bluntly themselves; ‘something just clicked.’ LewRey was to be the upshot, as each recognised the depth of ambition and musical vocabulary in the other.
The music they made differed greatly from that which they first bonded over. Instead, they moved further away than ever from the virtuosity and rigidity of their musical training and embraced pop music in all of its glorious simplicity and emotional capacity. If the musical direction seemed implausible from the outside, the reality was quite different within. Says Ian “Our surroundings don’t conform to this genre of music. During our youth, we had mates trying to shove The Arctic Monkeys and Kaiser Chiefs down our necks, yet we were obsessed with the power ballads of Queen, and songs about real situations and heartache.” Such reference points were to become keystones of theirs as well as the unashamed and upbeat pop brilliance own songwriting of The 1975
LewRey quickly came to appreciate the value of melody as well as the notion that song can relay or magnify emotion. Allied to their exhilarating live performances, which bring to mind the dynamism of the likes of Swedish pop funk combo Dirty Loops, it proved to be a heady mix.
Yet even the fact that the band are ‘only’ a two piece is not some desire to reject band line-up norm; it’s simply because no-one else met their high expectations. Improbable as it may have seemed, two classically trained jazz-loving youths stepped out of a sports-mad Yorkshire town, and turned to pop music as an immersive space for friendship, expression, and creativity alike.
Anyone spending time in their company is clear about one thing; LewRey is a bond as much as a band, a club of two, defying the odds, defying expectations. And in a sea of conformity, thank goodness for that.