In our viral day and age, the Internet has become an increasingly important aide on the path to stardom. Every day, thousands upon thousands of wannabes upload their acoustic covers of chart toppers, detailed dance routines and carefully edited comedy spoofs hoping to be lifted out of obscurity and into to mainstream through the powers of the world wide web. Initially, the plan might work out quite well. Your snippet gets emailed, retweeted and posted on millions of facebook walls, and in return your view figures skyrocket. Sadly, for many, that’s it – fifteen seconds of online fame, before being dispatched to the barren wasteland that is the home of the YouTube has-beens. Every now and then, however, you do get the occasional success story. The acts that manage to break down the viral wall and take their first cautious steps into the mainstream. Acts like The Midnight Beast.
The trio, consisting of Stefan Abingdon, Dru Wakely and Ashley Horne shot to YouTube fame last year with their parody of Ke$ha’s inane, but annoyingly catchy TiK ToK. The video currently boasts over 9 million views, with the numbers still increasing. This was likely helped by Ke$ha herself tweeting its praises (she would later admit that she wished they had directed her video) and it featuring on the front page of the MTV website. Cashing in on the massive Internet exposure, the boys have now set their sights on conquering the real world. They’ve released their first EP, Booty Call, they’re currently hosting a regular segment on Alexa Chung’s Gonzo report and over the summer they hit the festival circuit, culminating in a slot at Reading and Leeds. Recently, they also wrapped up their first headlining tour, complete with impressive stage production and even backup dancers, selling out all seven dates.
When I caught up with the boys before their Leeds gig, they definitely seemed most excited about the live performance aspect of their newfound fame. “It’s been amazing, to be going to different places that we haven’t been before and seeing people singing the words,” says lead singer Abingdon. Impressive as it might be to have an hugely popular YouTube video, it’s a far cry from being able to fill up a venue like the Leeds Cockpit, a point which has in no way escaped the group. “Obviously on the Internet it’s amazing, but at the end of the day it’s just numbers and you don’t really think that that’s gonna translate into real people. We played a gig in Brighton and I think 2000 people just turned up on the beach. To see that after just looking at numbers on your computer screen over the Christmas holidays is mental,” he elaborates. “It kind of brought it home and made it a bit more real,” adds Wakely.
Despite their ever-growing popularity, they’re adamant that they never believed it would go this far. Abingdon does however admit that releasing a parody of such a well-known track definitely helped kick things off. “Dru and I had written Ninjas before we did TiK ToK, but then once we’d done TiK ToK with Ashley it just kinda went through the roof.” The attention garnered from the TiK ToK success allowed them to gradually start releasing more and more of their own material, which has arguably become an even bigger hit amongst their by now, relatively sizeable fanbase. “It was just amazing that people got the original stuff as much as they did the other peoples.”
Though they’ve now started to make their name as a comedy act, that wasn’t always the plan. Abingdon and Wakely have both been in a number of more serious bands, including Clik Clik, an inide four-piece that generated considerable buzz among music pundits a couple of years ago. Horne on the other hand was pursuing an acting career, landing small parts in Eastenders, Foyle’s War and Doctor Who. (Speaking of the latter, I was asked to make a point out of most of his lines being viciously cut out. So, to any Doctor Who editors reading this: for shame!). They stress that it was never a conscious decision on their part to stop doing what they were doing and move on to comedy. “It would be so weird if we though we were funny. All we were doing to each other were private jokes, and the fact that everyone else got it was brilliant!”
Looking at their videos it is indeed clear that it all must’ve started out as insider jokes between boys, with song topics ranging from dropping your trousers in public, to girls who don’t fancy you being lesbians. In print it seems somewhat bizarre and even childish, but there is no doubt their sense of humour has caught on, with their combined YouTube channel views currently at around 25 million. Abingdon explains that a lot of their inspiration comes as a reaction to the pop music of today. “You just think how can it really be possible that that’s in the charts? Why is everyone writing about going to clubs when they’re clearly not mental?”
“And DJ’s! There are so many songs about DJ’s!” Horne pipes in.
In the end, the guys believe their popularity stems from not trying to be popular. “A lot of artists write for other people and think about what’s gonna sell but we’re just writing to make each other laugh.”
And their strategy seems to be working. Queuing up outside, I met people who had travelled up from London solely for the show, people decked out in merch from head to toe, chanting “TMB”. The boys seem somewhat embarrassed by the newfound and sudden fame. “Recently it’s started to go a bit mental,” Horne admits. I mention screaming girls, and he apologetically retorts “we’re the biggest geeks you’ll know!”
In addition to the above, the guys can tell of especially devoted fans bringing gifts to gigs. Abingdon has been given bras (standard rock star), while Wakely is regularly showered with Twixes (watch their tear-jerker “Daddy” to get the reference). Horne on the other hand is getting a brand spanking new pair of shoes. “They’re bringing them to me on Monday, so I’m looking forward to that,” he says with a grin.
So, with such a loyal fanbase and an already impressive CV, I wonder what the future holds for the Midnight Beast. They seem positive, saying they would love to cross over into other mediums. “We absolutely want to do both TV, music and film, whether it’s our own indie way or on a bigger scale.”
As they step onto the stage, facing a horde of screaming fans, with another tour already lined up for February, it seems clear that this viral wonder is well on its way to conquering the real world.