Interview - The Pigeon Detectives: Homing instinct behind a gig in a good cause

The Pigeon Detectives returned to Leeds this week with a special charity gig. Chris Bond spoke to lead singer Matt Bowman.

The Pigeon Detectives made a triumphant return to Leeds this week.

The five-piece indie outfit were back on home soil with a charity gig at The Cockpit – and it was as if they had never been away as their high- octane performance ignited a sell-out crowd.

It marks the beginning of a hectic few weeks for the Leeds rockers which sees them supporting James on a mini UK tour in the run up to Christmas, before releasing their eagerly-awaited third album early in the new year.

The gig was a chance to blow the cobwebs away before they hit the road. "It's two years since we last played in Leeds and rather than go straight on tour, we thought what better place to start than with a gig in our home town," explains lead singer Matt Bowman.

But as well as putting on a show for their fans, there was a more serious side to the concert with all the proceeds going to Smile – The Chloe Tate Foundation.

The charity was set up by Chris and Jenna Tate whose daughter, Chloe, died just three days after she was born in September last year.

Chloe suffered from Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH) which affects about 5,000 babies every year; around half do not survive. The Tates, who are friends of the band, set up the foundation to raise awareness about the condition and raise 10,000 for the neonatal unit at Leeds General Infirmary.

Matt says he and the rest of the band were happy to help out. "We wanted to get involved in raising money for this cause as Chris and Jenna are both good friends of everyone in the band. The courage they and their family showed through a difficult time and a tragic loss was an inspiration to everyone who knew them.

"Seeing the dedication, passion and energy they have put into raising awareness of the illness, and also a substantial amount of cash for a baby incubator, propelled us in to wanting to be involved."

All of which gave the concert an added significance. "First and foremost it's about raising money for this charity, because it's something close to all our hearts. We knew they needed some more money to reach their target and we knew we could sell out the Cockpit, which we were given for free so that all the proceeds would go to the charity."

Such benevolence and generosity isn't always associated with the music industry, but the Pigeon Detectives are a band that have always stayed close to their Yorkshire roots.

The five friends – Bowman, guitarists Oli Main and Ryan Wilson, bassist Dave Best and drummer Jimmi Naylor – all grew up together in Rothwell, just outside Leeds.

"We've known each other from the age of six; we went to the same primary school and secondary school. We played football together and then we decided we'd try to get a band together," explains Matt.

Their first gig came in 2004 when they sold out The Pack Horse pub in Headingley – although Bowman admits that the audience was mostly made up of "a lot of friends and family".

By the following year they had a growing fanbase and were supporting the likes of the Arctic Monkeys and the Kaiser Chiefs.

However, it was their decision to quit their office jobs and join the Dirty Pretty Things on a UK tour that proved to be a crucial leap of faith.

"It was a case of we either became a proper band and quit our jobs and went on tour, or we stayed where we were," Matt remembers.

It proved a smart move as they enjoyed rave reviews for their performances at the Reading and Leeds Festivals in 2006, and were tagged "the band most likely to leap to the main stage in 2007" by the NME.

In 2007, the band's debut album Wait for Me stormed into the top five in the UK charts, with their second single, Romantic Type, becoming a top 20 hit, and their follow-up, I'm Not Sorry, earning praise from Radio One's musical kingmaker Zane Lowe.

Their brand of melodic indie pop takes its cue from the likes of the Buzzcocks and The Strokes and earned them a loyal following and their first two albums sold more than 500,000 copies. In 2008, they continued to grow in popularity, performing their biggest shows to date at Oxegen, which was beamed around Europe on MTV.

By now they were a hot ticket, having performed at Glastonbury and toured to such far-flung places as the United States and Japan.

After finishing the Emergency tour at the back end of 2008, and following a whirlwind couple of years, the band took a little time out.

Fresh from their sabbatical, the Leeds quintet are back and if their effusive gig at The Cockpit was anything to go by, they have lost none of their characteristic verve.

Led by their charismatic frontman, they play from their hearts and are still capable of whipping an audience up into a frenzied cacophony.

"We love playing live, it's what this band is all about," says Matt, and he's not wrong.

And with having recorded and mixed their third album, fans can expect to see a lot more of the Pigeon Detectives in 2011.

"It's all ready to go, we just wanted to let all this X-Factor nonsense run its course so we can bring out some proper music," says Matt.

"With every album we try and create a different sound and pick up some new fans along the way.

"We're really pleased with the new album and hopefully it will be another step forward to us becoming a bigger band because that's what everyone starts out tryingto do."

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The Pigeon Detectives

The five bandmates went to the same school in Rothwell, near Leeds.

The Pigeon Detectives formed in 2002 and were soon championed by DJs Steve Lamacq and Jo Whiley.

Their first gig was in 2004 when they sold out The Pack Horse pub in Headingley.

The band's debut album, Wait for Me, reached number three in the UK charts.

By the end of 2008 their first two albums had sold more than 500,000 copies

in the UK.

In December, 2010, the band play a sold-out charity gig at The Cockpit in Leeds.