VILLAREAL (2002- )



Villareal are a band that originally formed in Brighton, East Sussex and who have made four albums as of 2016. Focusing on a melodic and melancholic sensibility, the group has built up a loyal following with glowing press reviews such as this one for ‘Unravelling’ (2013).

The bands nucleus comprises Jim Duncan (White Star Liners), Ali Gavan (Sparrow) and myself. ‘Unravelling’ is the bands most pastoral release and the one which I am most proud of. Special mention must be made of Luke Ellis (Turncoat) who composed and performed the beautiful string sections that decorate this album. ‘Low Cloud Revisits’ was chosen as the stand-alone single and featured a video made by Ocean Reid. This involved me having to walk up and down Brighton’s notorious clubland strip on a busy Saturday evening. Weirdly, just as we were filming the last take of the night, at around two in the morning a massive thunderstorm erupted, sending everyone running for cover. A fitting end to a tension-filled evening!

Low Cloud Revisits video:

You can listen to Unravelling here:



Villareal’s third album was made with the ‘classic’ three piece line up which also featured Sean McDonough (Thousand Yard Stare). More guitar-orientated than the other records, this set features some of the bands best loved tunes such as ‘Cindy 65’ and ‘Dead Air/Abandon Ship’.

Cindy 65 video:

Dead Air/Abandon Ship video:

Hear the album:



‘Blue Snakes’ was the bands second album recorded with Rowland Prytherch at Truck studio’s in Steventon, Oxfordshire. This line up included Turncoat’s Al Hobden and Luke Ellis. The supercharged string and brass sections were supplied by Joe Bennett (Goldrush, now Dreaming Spires). Shifty Disco released ‘Ghost Train’ as part of their singles download club and the track ‘The 7th’ was the albums official single. This has since gone on to become Villareal’s most requested tune.
By the way, ‘Blue Snakes’ are those jellied sweets that I discovered whilst performing at Truck Festival in Oxfordshire circa 2004!

The 7th promo video:

Blue Snakes can be listened to here:



Villareal’s debut album was recorded by Phil Vinal (XTC, The Auteurs) and Rowland Prytherch (The Epstein). The bands line up included Joss Lindey, Beau Barnard (The Upper Room) and Al Hobden (Turncoat). Backing vocals were supplied by Jennie Cruse (Lumina and Fruit Machine). The song ‘Haunted Dancefloor’ was later covered by Tom White (Electric Soft Parade) whilst ‘Just Like An Aeroplane’ was released as a single by Dave Newton at Shifty Disco records (Beulah).




Lightning Dept is a side project to Villareal and generally gives me the excuse to write and record short, fast songs that are brief and to the point. Once again Ali Gavan and Jim Duncan are my Captains of Industry. These albums are always fun to make-not least since we only have a few days to record and mix everything!
As of 2016 there is a new Lightning Dept album entitled ‘Hello Iceberg’ due to be recorded this summer. I will post info and the odd track or two as things progress in the studio.



‘Things Keep Blowing Up’ started life as a series of song titles in my diary. These swiftly became fifteen indie pop newborns written in a two week burst of activity and then recorded in three days at Ali Gavan’s Transmission studio in Brighton. The album is a lively affair with barely a pause for breath. Lightning Dept don’t tend to think about stuff-they just get on and do it. And sometimes that’s just what music needs because too much procrastination can spoil the energy of a song.

Hear here:


I have played in groups for just about all of my adult life. During the 1990’s I was signed a couple of times and lived a very nomadic existence. The band that created the most amount of interest/bad luck was FRUIT MACHINE (1995-98) who merged sixties pop sensibilities with Cardigans indie know how.

Video for Fruit Machine ‘Baby Needs You’

Running before and then parallel to Fruit Machine was COLOURBURST (1993-97), a band who changed singers at an alarming rate (until out of frustration I finally decided to give it a go (circa 1994). Colourburst were inspired by New Wave, Punk and the then burgeoning Brit Pop scene. But as this video proves, we were also inspired by Wham!

Watch the ‘Last Christmas’ video:

Colourburst was a lot of fun and along with James Portinari, Gary Capelin, John Smith, Steve Trier-Tett and Matt Cooper this period inspired some of my best songs.

Listen to Colourburst ‘Planet’ here:

Listen to Colourburst ‘Bender’ here:

Listen to Colourburst ‘Minor Character’ here:

Before moving to Brighton in 1993 I was still living in my hometown of Chichester in West Sussex. During this time I was part of a very creative but ultimately unruly bunch called THE VIOLET TRADE (1990-93). We played some truly amazing live shows and had a very special relationship with our audience. Life in sleepy old Sussex (1990) was frustrating at times, but the band was a catylist for parties, gigs and other indie bands to start playing in and around Chichester. Great days indeed…

Violet Trade ‘Twelfth Of Never’

Prior to Violet Trade I was part of the ridiculously named ‘Onion Johnny’ (1988-89). Along with Ian Wheatley, Dick Salmon, Jake Tully and a never ending succession of mentalist drummers we only ever made succeeded in making one demo and had to use a synth drum kit on the day because the studio was so small that the drum kit wouldn’t actually fit in through the front door!

Onion Johnny ‘The Return’

My first musical experiences were shared with school friends Phil Bennett and Jake Tully. Progressing from terrible to mediocre almost overnight and (!) ‘OCTOBER FALLEN’ (so called as Phil mistook the album title (‘Fallen’) as part of the band name whilst hand-drawing the sleeve we recorded sporadically over a couple of years when we weren’t too engrossed with the ZX-81.

October Fallen ‘Silver’

Before October Fallen there was The Wasps, Night Boys and a lot of imaginary bands. My school days were spent dreaming of conquering the charts and living a life in rock and roll. I got the second bit, but it was a pity about the charts…


Villareal (live 2013) Photgraphy by Sue Marsh


Villareal (2010)


Fruit Machine (1996)


Colourburst (1995)


The Violet Trade (1993)


Onion Johnny (1988)


The Wasps (1984)


The young pretender (1981)


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