The Lightyears are an internationally-renowned four-piece band based in London. In 2012, Lightyears pianist Chris Russell completed a book inspired by the band’s tour diaries, entitled Mockstars – the first ever full-length novel by a band, about the band, with its own original soundtrack.
On National Libraries Day 2013, The Lightyears are headlining at Westminster Reference Library where they will be previewing extracts from Mockstars along with songs from the album that accompanies it. Ahead of the gig, we asked Chris to tell us about the band’s favourite books…
Stories have always played an important role in The Lightyears. The band started back at school, when we were thirteen, and I’d been asked to read out a story I’d written in English class. George (our lead singer) was, so he tells me, sufficiently impressed with my linguistic skills that he took it upon himself to immediately make me his best friend, and we haven’t looked back since. We were actually writing plays and books together before we ever began writing songs. Eighteen years on we’re still in the same band, and lo and behold we’ve found ourselves gravitating back towards stories.
When you start touring as a band, you learn a lot about your fellow musicians from the books they read. My Lightyears novel tells the story of our first international tour together in the French Alps, and while we were out there John (the bass player) was studying for a masters degree in philosophy. This meant that the vast majority of the time he had his head stuck in one hefty tome or another, and in honour of this I’ve made it a running joke in the book that, almost every time his character appears, he’s reading a different philosophy textbook (I’m pretty sure it would be impossible for anyone to actually cover the canon John does in Mockstars, although I’ve always seen that as part of the joke!). Drummer Tony, on the other hand, confused us all by turning up for the Alps tour armed with a copy of The Ladybird Book Of Kings & Queens. When asked why he was carrying around a child’s hardback book, he explained that he always read this on tour as it was part of his lifelong mission to acquire a huge database of trivia in order to impress people at dinner parties. These days Tony can name pretty much any monarch in British history, which would be fantastic if the combination of Google and smartphones hadn’t rendered this endeavour almost entirely pointless.
Anyway, I asked the boys to reveal their favourite books (and the reasons behind them) for this article, so here you go:
GEORGE (lead vocals and guitar)
“I like epics over many volumes – Lord Of The Rings, Song Of Ice And Fire, His Dark Materials. I’m just finishing up Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. And I’m a big fan of audiobooks for long journeys to gigs…!”
TONY (drums and vocals)
“Endurance by Alfred Lansing…
the greatest adventure story ever told”.
JOHN (bass guitar)
“I want to say War & Peace (because it’s amazing) but you can’t really list that as your favourite book, so I’m going for The Old Man And The Sea by Hemingway. Incredibly simple, powerful story, effortlessly stylishly written”.
CHRIS (piano and vocals)
As for me, it’s The Picture Of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde’s only published novel. Macabre, chilling, grotesque, and blackly comic… so many of my favourite things. I’d also submit honorary mentions for Catch 22, A Clockwork Orange and American Psycho.
Like I said at the beginning, stories are an incredibly important part of this band. Stick us in an airport, or a hotel before a gig, and I guarantee we’ll end up re-telling our own stories to each other over a beer. Once, backstage at Wembley Stadium (yes, it happens to have been Wembley Stadium), we whiled away three hours recounting a list of every gig we’d played since 2004. I’ve never laughed so much in my life, partly because, to be honest, we embellish those stories even to ourselves. In that tradition, Mockstars isn’t a memoir exactly, but more like Lightyears ‘fan fiction’ that happens to have been written by the band. For, as Tony always says: ‘You should never let the truth get in the way of a good story…’.