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The Lunar Pull’s Alex Riley Discusses Their New Album, Louchecore Genre, and Old Phone Boxes

The Lunar Pull’s Alex Riley joins us to dive deep into the band’s debut album ‘The Workings Underneath’ with a few laughs along the way.



The Lunar Pull’s Alex Riley, photo by Alex Nicholson
The Lunar Pull’s Alex Riley, photo by Alex Nicholson

Before their first headline gig at Birkenhead’s Future Yard, Del Pike gets the lowdown on The Lunar Pull’s debut album. Some readers may recognize Alex Riley from his numerous TV adventures on such UK shows as The One Show, The Car Years, Britain’s Really Disgusting Foods, and Top Gear (before it got too big for its boots). He has also served his time as a writer, comedian and radio presenter. His particular style of modish fashions and hairstyles mixed with resolutely Yorkshire humour (hailing from Sheffield), along with his trademark large glasses, make for a figure once seen, never forgotten.

More recently, Alex has become the lead singer for The Lunar Pull, a band based in The Wirral, a mere ferry ride from Liverpool, and they have just released their debut album, The Workings Underneath.

The album is a refreshing slice of indie rock that touches on real-life issues but not in an overbearing fashion. Tracks like the Riley penned “I Don’t Regret Us Splitting Up” may have a title like a Smiths song, but it does turn the break-up song on its head (more on that later).

The band sometimes sounds remarkably like The Kinks and the lyrics echo Ray Davies’ tales of suburbia and the characters therein. Album opener “Camden Lock” is a case in point with more than a distant echo of “Waterloo Sunset.”

Despite being in his mid-50s, Riley sounds remarkably youthful and with a teenage drummer, they certainly avoid sounding like pub rockers. An upcoming gig at Birkenhead’s Future Yard on July 5th will allow fans to hear this stellar set of songs given a live airing.

I caught up with Alex to chat about the album and the long and winding road that has led to him finally forming a band.

So, tell us a bit about your musical background.

Alex Riley: “I’ve always been interested in music and performing and over the years I have made various attempts at making music. I was in a band with my brother and some of the neighbours in the late 1970s, a punk new wave sound, but none of us could play any instruments. We literally had combs and paper as our musical backing. There was one I wrote called ‘Dead Bodies.’ It was a horrific talk about going to a football match and basically murdering people for no good reason (laughs).”


“We had another one called “Oh What’s Going?” It was like, ‘Oh what’s going – whatever it is! – What’s going.” There was a line about ‘If you find half P (pence) on the back of the bus, don’t hesitate – GIVE IT TO US! – What’s going!” (laughs). I always loved that line.”

A long-lost classic, then?

“I used to try and write songs when I was a kid. I got a guitar when I was seven and a book Learn How To Play Guitar, but I just didn’t know how to do it. But then I got another guitar in my 20s and had a few lessons. Then I met a lad in Birmingham who had a set of drums and we started to jam but my guitar playing’s not great and we didn’t even have a bloody microphone. I tried to plug a mic into my amp and it just didn’t work, the whole thing was just crap.”

The Lunar Pull’s Mike, photo by Alex Nicholson

The Lunar Pull’s Mike, photo by Alex Nicholson

What happened next?

“Well, I started a band in Sheffield with this lad on a guitar and this girl called Claire on the drums, but she just couldn’t keep drumming through an entire song (laughs). She’d just run out of steam, and halfway through a song, she’d be like ‘ahhahhahah’ (wailing noise).”


“It just didn’t work up until a few years ago on the Wirral and a lad I knew who was vaguely involved in music. He knew I wanted to be involved in guitar stuff and just to get better, so we got in the studio. He invited some people he knew, and eventually, we started rehearsing proper songs. We did some gigs doing covers and then decided ‘Let’s do a few of our own and record them.’ So, we collected together ten songs and made an album.”

It’s a good selection of songs.

“Well, we’re all contributing to writing them, That’s what’s really good. Mike (Corcoran) had loads that he had lying around, Vinny (Woodward) just writes and records demos all the time, and I thought well I’m not flipping getting left out here. So I’ve got two on the album, a bit like George Harrison. So in the gig, we’ll play a few new ones too.”

Which songs are yours?

I Don’t Regret Us Splitting Up.”

I thought that might be yours; I really like that one.

“Thank you. You know, sometimes splitting up isn’t just a disaster. Break-up songs either tend to be, ‘I’m devastated, I thought we were in love, I’m in so much pain, It’s terrible, I’m not going to let you bloody get one over on me! I’m going to go out and get myself another bloke!’ It’s usually women singing those bits (laughs).

“Or it’s like ‘I will surviiiive!!”’ (in a scouse accent). But actually, it can be like, ‘I enjoyed it while it lasted, but we were never really going to end up together, and I’m glad we didn’t get bogged down with each other and ruin our lives.’”

“It’s a true story… well, it’s my version of the truth… obviously. That’s the one good thing about writing songs isn’t it, you are effectively God.”

What other song did you write?

“‘Not Going To Tell You.’”

The Lunar Pull ‘The Workings Underneath’ album artwork

The Lunar Pull ‘The Workings Underneath’ album artwork

Another good song.

“‘Not Going To Tell You’ is an exercise in sexual bravado, undercut with the vulnerability of like, ‘I’ve never been this good!’ I know you’re really into me but really, I’m just enthusiastic and really keen, but I’ve not quite got the moves that you think I’ve got (laughs).”

Rose-coloured spectacles.

“(laughs) Yes, its what you need, though, isn’t it? Its not like the Olympics, where you get like 10 out of 10. It only works well if both of you are as into it as each other, (laughs), but there you go.”

(Here, I found this a good point to tell Alex how I found these songs to sound a lot like The Kinks.)

I don’t like just comparing you to other bands; that’s a bit cheap, but I did think that, and it’s a high accolade.

“I don’t mind being compared to Ray Davies, I mean bloody hell, he’s one of my absolute idols. I’m obsessed with The Kinks.”

The Lunar Pull’s Vin, photo by Alex Nicholson

The Lunar Pull’s Vin, photo by Alex Nicholson

There are worse things to be obsessed with. Camden Lock sounds particularly Kinksy.

“That’s one of Vinnie’s.”

Well, you can tell him.

How autobiographical is the album? A lot of the songs are story-like.

“Most of the songs are. ‘Camden Lock’ is a song about Vin going down to London on the coach because the trains were off. He was meeting his best mate and he had tickets to see Pavement at The Roundhouse. They were drinking in the afternoon and they just had the most amazing night.

“Then he was just lying in bed with all these amazing thoughts whirling around his head. You know life can be so mundane, with the drudgery of all the shit you’ve got to do and then you get a weekend in London with your best mate, you see a great band and have a brilliant laugh and forget all the other shit you have to deal with.”

The Lunar Pull’s Vin & Caz, photo by Alex Nicholson

The Lunar Pull’s Vin & Caz, photo by Alex Nicholson

As a debut album, I feel it’s very accomplished. It’s the sort of album you listen to and immediately want to have another listen.

“Well thank you. It’s a bit home recording still. Tom (Hutchinson) is the brains behind the recording, and he has a mate, a mysterious figure called Kev (Wright)  who also helps with the arrangements and he’s a proper musician and he can arrange string parts. Then we’ve got Tim Brown from The Boo Radleys who brings another dimension to it as he’s not only mixing it but also contributing to the arrangements. He’ll add a synth part or more guitars and it really hugs you in.”

I did notice some horns in there, and I didn’t make the Boo Radley’s connection.

“Sometimes he’ll put horns in, and sometimes the horns are Tom or Kev and it gets quite difficult to unpick. And when I’m singing I’m sort of adding elements too.”

“I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of the genre called Louchecore, Del?”

Can’t say I have.

“It’s a genre that I’ve invented (laughs). I’m trying to add an element of world-weary bohemia to the songs and the vocals. Like in the song called ‘The Bowery,’ there’s a kind of Dickensian squalor, almost dying of starvation in this horrific student flat-share type arrangement… Which I think we can all relate to. And I’m like an unlikely saviour as this person who may or may not call to this phone box. People don’t know about things like that now, do they? Waiting by the phone box.”

No, “What’s a phone box?” They would say.

“(laughs) They usually smelled of urine, and they often had mushy peas or fish and chips smeared into the receiver. They had a smell to them, but there was always an excitement about leaving the family home and having the opportunity to go and phone people.”

With the risk of infection.

“They were always doing things on those old TV shows like Watchdog, or That’s Life where they would swab a public phone box and find fecal matter. And you’d get there and there was like a queue of people waiting to get in. Oh boy!


“Yes, and when you have obstacles and barriers, and you have to find your way around them, it can be creative, can’t it? So yes, the songs are stories or things that have happened to other members of the band.”

“I’ll come back to it Del, Louchecore, its slightly disreputable but sort of rakish.”

I like it, everyone will be talking about it.

“Or no one! But Louchecore does go with my slightly interesting vintage clobber. I’ve already picked out a most remarkable jacket for the gig. Vintage.”

That’s your thing, though, isn’t it? Looking a bit sharp.

“I do try. It’s lovely as I’ve got all this gear and its an opportunity to wear it. To wear dandyish clothes in a public place and express yourself… without fear of ridicule.”

Del Pike is a University lecturer in Film and Media in Liverpool (UK). He writes film, music, art, literature and culture articles and reviews for a number of websites. Del loves nothing more than snuggling down in a dark cinema, getting sweaty at  a live gig or drifting off late at night to a good book. He loves cats. He enjoys promoting new talent online so please say hi if you have something to show.