Clitheroe can wait: unknowns vie for Grammy

Jonathan Brown meets the unsigned band leaving the Burnley club scene to compete for glory in Los Angeles
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The Independent Culture

They may be unsigned and little heard of beyond the pubs and clubs of their native Burnley, but Shakeys Brother, five young musicians with day jobs and big dreams, could be about to join the world's rock'n'roll élite after winning two nominations for this year's Grammy Awards.

The group have been together in their present form for only 12 months, rehearse in the cellar of a disused shop, and can normally rely on a hardcore fan base of around 50 people. Now, they may have to put planned gigs at the nearby villages of Clitheroe and Pendle on ice in order to make it to the Staples Centre in Los Angeles in time for the glitzy annual ceremony.

Their brand of catchy Northern guitar pop will be lined up alongside such behemoths as U2 and Kanye West for the prized gongs, dished out each year by the industry's biggest stars at a televised ceremony played out before a global audience numbering hundreds of millions.

With influences from The Smiths to Arctic Monkeys, the band has been nominated for two categories – best pop vocal album and best pop performance by a duo or group with vocals – bringing them directly into competition with acts including Seal, Pink, Lily Allen, Keane and Il Divo.

The band said they have already been to see their respective bosses to discuss taking sabbaticals should the fantasy become a reality. The 7,000 members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (Naras) in the United States, a body of voters that includes some of the most famous artists, producers and sound engineers in the business, are convinced that they are worthy of continuing to the next stage of the selection process.

That result will be revealed in a special nominations ceremony at downtown LA's Club Nokia in December, during a prime-time concert special shown on CBS.

The Grammys themselves will be held a month later at the end of January, when the winners in 109 fields and categories will be announced.

The lead singer, Mark Capstick, 25, from Sabden, near Burnely, was digesting the news yesterday during a break in work at his job at Calderstones Hospital in Whalley. "It is unbelievable. We didn't really take it in until we got the confirmation email which had a link which allowed us to log on to the Grammy site. I suppose honestly speaking we don't really expect to win, but we would love to be there and give it a go. Just being on the list is great."

Whether or not a band is on the nomination list is normally a closely guarded secret, but news of Shakeys Brother's inclusion leaked out in their local newspaper the Lancashire Telegraph. "The cat is out of the bag now I suppose," said Capstick.

The breakthrough came after the band signed with the US promoters Big Noise, a full voting and nominating member of Naras which has a track record of getting its artists on to the Grammy ballot.

Until now, the group's finest achievement was making it to the regional semi-final of the Surface Unsigned competition, a showcase for up-and-coming talent. They have recorded a five-track EP which is available on the internet and are currently in talks with a record company, and hope to have their first album on sale next year.

Their bassist, Jimmy McNulty, a 21-year-old Burnley student, said: "At first we thought it was a wind-up. To see our name up there alongside modern artists like Keane and Lily Allen, as well as established artists like Seal, is amazing."