The Midnight Beast: From web sensations to musical soap stars

Sarah Morrison on the rise of an unsigned "gimmick rap band"

They have been compared with The Monkees, Beastie Boys, Flight of the Conchords and the Inbetweeners gone musical – quite an accolade for an unsigned "gimmick rap band". But with more than 48 million YouTube hits, two sell-out tours and their own forthcoming E4 series, the comedy trio The Midnight Beast now hope to swap cult status for mainstream success.

The musical journey of three London twentysomethings, Stefan Abingdon, Dru Wakely and Ashley Horne, sounds like any other modern rite of passage: the schoolfriends posted a home-made parody video of Ke$ha's No 1 single "Tik Tok" on the internet, acquired thousands of fans and even got the star herself to say their version was better than the original.

But while most viral claim-to-fame stories end there, Midnight Beast's fan base has taken on a life of its own. The band swapped parodies for original songs, and they soon became the fastest unsigned band to sell out Koko, one of London's live music venues. Now, their "scripted" comedy series, chronicling their highs and lows as they find fame, will be broadcast on E4 early next month.

"It started off as a random bit of fun," says Abingdon, 23, from south London, who, as a guitar and keyboard player, is known as the "most serious musician" of the group. " 'Tik Tok' was done in four days on a budget of a Bacardi Breezer, a Barbie doll and a piece of A4 paper. There were no tripods: cameras were placed on my parents' lampshades, or handheld. It was mega cheap."

The show, called simply The Midnight Beast, is produced by Warp Films, the company that brought us the Bafta-winning TV series This is England and the critically acclaimed film Submarine. The storyline of the show is that they are three young men sharing a dingy east London flat, trying to impress girls and coping with a creepy neighbour.

The band members, who are personally championed by Jay Hunt, the chief of Channel 4, will perform music videos in each episode, which will then be available to download.

While the characters on the show live a world apart from the real-life boys – who all have homes in south and west London – the trio say the series showcases "elaborated" versions of their true identities. Abingdon insists he is a "control freak", Wakely is a "game-console nut who likes to drink" and Horne, an actor who has appeared in EastEnders and Dr Who, says he is in the band only "for women and fame".

Nerys Evans, the commissioning editor at Channel 4 who was sent a link to the band's YouTube page nearly two years ago, says Midnight Beast represent "the voice of a generation".

"They are in between Skins and The Monkees. They are cheeky and young, but it's definitely not a kid's show," she says. "They are classic underdogs. They have their flights of fancy in their videos and then they go back to their own shitty flat."

For Mary Burke, a senior producer at Warp, the series is breaking new ground in a visually led genre of TV. "We're living in really tough times and people of their age don't have lots of prospects," she says. "To think you can do something from nothing, in your own front room, is pretty aspirational.

"I was attracted to the DIYness that sprang up: they sold out Koko with no marketing label; they were just this funny little parody band."

Midnight Beast will be releasing an album at the end of the six-part series on their own label – run by Abingdon's parents – and will go on an 11-date UK tour in October. A Channel 4 spokeswoman says it will not be receiving any royalties from the music.

Wakely says the fans like the band's "potty-mouthed sense of humour", but they insist that "it is music first and comedy second".

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer is to leave The Apprentice after 10 years

TV review Nick Hewer, the man whose eyebrows speak a thousand words, is set to leave The Apprentice

Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas