Stylophone satirists release their debut album

They love stylophones and thanks to YouTube their songs have gone global. Mark Butler meets the brains behind the Brett Domino Trio.

WHEN unconventional Leeds musician Brett Domino uploaded a video to YouTube in January 2008, he could never have guessed how much of a phenomenon it would become.

The three-minute clip – which featured the awkward, bespectacled Domino performing a medley of 80s hits on a stylophone – was soon emailed around the world, and became one of the most talked-about videos on the web.

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Three years on, his band The Brett Domino Trio have an international fanbase, boast celebrity admirers as diverse as Justin Timberlake, Chris Moyles and Kraftwerk, have just released their debut album on iTunes and have done it all without so much as a whiff of a record deal.

“You can work hard for years as a serious band and never get any attention,” ponders Domino, “and yet someone can film something unusual in five minutes, put it on YouTube and get a million views.”

Indeed, the so-called “DIY music movement” is booming. Pop acts such as Little Boots and Justin Bieber were snapped-up by major record labels after reaching audiences via the web, and, while once A&R men spent their time trawling clubs for new talent, now they fire up their laptops and surf the internet instead.

“For a video to go viral it needs to have something unique,” says Domino. “I can’t imagine a really good but straightforward band just putting a video of themselves on YouTube and becoming huge. People want to see something surprising or different.”

The Brett Domino Trio certainly tick those boxes, with their knack for covering classic songs using obscure instruments, including keytars, ukuleles and kazoos.

Entitled Songs Off YouTube, the band’s debut album features their most notable covers as well as original tracks including Gillian McKeith, which reached the Top 30 last November on downloads alone.

Sitting in a sparsely- populated Leeds pub on the eve of its release, Domino is accompanied by bandmate Steven Peavis. Both are in buoyant mood. Their third member, Mitch Hutchinson, has now left the band to return to his native Kendal, but they decided to keep the ‘trio’ tag anyway.

“So many people play guitar and piano, but there are plenty of obscure instruments out there – and using them makes it more interesting,” says Domino. “Because there’s very little production, our web footage is essentially just home video,” adds Peavis, “and it feels more real and accessible to people.”

It is only once you delve a little deeper into the world of The Brett Domino Trio that you begin to realise just how clever their act really is.

Domino insists that they “met at a Scalectrix conference on the outskirts of Leeds,” but according to his videos Domino has also been 27 for the last two years.

It just might be that Brett Domino is the comedic alter-ego of former Leeds College of Music student Rob Madin. And it isn’t beyond the realms of possibility that Peavis could actually turn out to be one Steve Anderson – his old university friend. Some people think The Brett Domino Trio are passionate nerds who take themselves utterly seriously; others believe it’s all a big, post-modern joke.

This was never more evident than when they appeared on Britain’s Got Talent in 2009, playing their version of Beat It on keyboards and keytars. Simon Cowell looked utterly unimpressed, perhaps sensing he was the butt of the joke – only to be left fuming when the other three judges put them through to the next round.

But whether The Brett Domino Trio are satire or not, the success of their material is certainly not in doubt. Last month they got to promote their album on primetime Radio 1 at a special live lounge event for Chris Moyles’ birthday.

“So far we’ve not had any plan at all,” says Domino – or should that be Madin? – “we’ve just done whatever we felt like and we haven’t needed to go looking for projects. People have found out about us and then got in touch.

“It’s snowballed over the last few years quite steadily. We’re managing to take all the attention in our stride and not get too carried away, but I’m sure in a few years we’ll look back and think ‘that was amazing’.”

DiY music movement: the musical stars of Youtube

The Brett Domino Trio aren’t the first musicians to make their name through YouTube.

OK Go were formed back in 1998, but it wasn’t until they released a video for Here It Goes Again on the site that they went global. Featuring an elaborately choreographed dance routine on treadmills, it was viewed by more than one million people in six days.

And who can forget Susan Boyle? When footage of her audition was posted on YouTube it attracted a staggering 1000 million views in just nine days.

Songs Off YouTube is available now through iTunes.