Billy Lunn shuns rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle as The Subways hit the road again
- Credit: Archant
He doesn’t drink, he still lives in his home town, he even runs in local elections as a Labour councillor; as the old adage goes, Billy Lunn is the most revolutionary rock star you could hope to meet.
Having started punk rock three-piece The Subways alongside Charlotte Cooper and brother Josh Morgan roughly 12 years ago, the born-and-raised Hertfordshire man has ridden the highs and lows of three albums, countless tours and the break-up of an engagement with Cooper back in 2008 that – oddly enough – has never threatened the group’s future.
The Subways seem to have an almost impenetrable resolve – one that is now seeing them warming up at Camden’s Dingwalls on Wednesday for a new tour to support their upcoming (and as yet unnamed) fourth album. For Lunn, since breaking through with hits like Oh Yeah and Rock & Roll Queen, the trio’s close-knit nature has never been in doubt.
“Charlotte and I broke up during the recording of All or Nothing out in Los Angeles and even then, it was like, ‘You know what, the music is what keeps us together, the music is what binds us in our relationship.’
“And the same with Josh: we’re brothers, but in a way music has always been there as the thing that directs us. We realise just how important this band is in our lives; how integral it is; how much happiness it provides us; how it keeps us together all the time. Even though we’re living so apart, it’s music that keep us together and keeps the relationships moving forward and, well, stops us from killing each other.”
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There is a pure, almost boyish enthusiasm about Lunn that you have to admire after so many years in the industry. He seems genuinely confused when confronted by a band who doesn’t love touring, since the group’s own love of the road is a major reason why each album takes so long.
After The Subways’ previous records were produced by the legendary minds of Ian Broudie, Butch Vig and Stephen Street, the 29-year-old took it upon himself to record and produce the band’s newest effort. “It’s been a real learning curve, it’s taken a while, but it’s been amazing,” he says, before laughing, “Unfortunately I am starting to go grey because of it.”
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While continuing to write and perform The Subways’ established brand of melodic guitar music, the singer simultaneously balances several other lives. For the last three years, he has been married to Rowena Lewis, who he met shortly after breaking up with Cooper, and he is studying for an English literature A-level in his spare time.
“There are periods where it’s absolutely crazy in the music business, then you’ve got gaps of time, of absolute nothingness, where you can sort of go stir crazy. I think that’s why a lot of bands spend time down the pub, going to parties or doing the wrong thing. So I just thought, ‘Let’s channel this frantic energy you have inside and do something really positive.’
“It kind of added to elements to the songwriting as well. As pretentious – as f***ing pretentious – as this sounds, I’ve been slipping literary references into the songs, which is actually quite fun.”
As if this isn’t enough, Lunn – who, in accordance with his proactive lifestyle, has been teetotal since completing January’s Dryathlon charity campaign – is also a member of his local Labour party in Ware, where he lives with Lewis. “Coming back to Ware after all those years of being on tour, it was a nice way of getting involved with local issues and the community,” he says, adding that he’ll run again for the council come May.
Quite how he fits all this in is anyone’s guess, but you can’t help admire the frontman’s unique ethos. How many rock stars, after all, would care about society enough to actively canvas their entire town’s doorstep? Come to think of it, how many politicians would either?
The Subways play Camden’s Dingwalls this Wednesday (Sept 24). Tickets £15 adv. Visit dingwalls.com.