YOU know you’ve made it when two girls come up to you in Morrisons and ask you to sign a reduced packet of sprouts,” joked Bernard Thresher, at 27 the youngest member of comedy folk band The Lancashire Hotpots.
And now the band look set to reach a whole new level of fame — having secured a booking for not one but two shows at this year’s Glastonbury Festival This time two years ago, few people had heard of The Lancashire Hotpots and those who had thought it was just four blokes having a bit of a laugh in their spare time.
Even the band themselves thought their appeal would be short-lived and Bernard admits he gave them three months before the jokes would start to wear thin.
But somehow singing about sat navs, chippy teas, emos and pints of mild has won them fans not just across Lancashire but the length and breadth of the country — and it has even caught on in the celebrity world.
Bolton comedian Paddy McGuinness is one supporter, who loved the Hotpot creations so much he invited them to support him on his national tour last year. And when they met him it was clear he wasn’t the band’s only well known fan.
Bernard recalled: “The first time we met Paddy McGuinness he recalled being backstage at the Manchester Arena having Chippy Tea sung to him by the Kaiser Chiefs, The Feeling and Shaun Ryder from the Happy Mondays. It made us feel a little odd to have such famous fans.”
And it doesn’t stop there. The band — Bernard (vocals, guitar), accordion player Dickie Ticker, bassist Bob Wriggles and drummer Willie Eckerslike —have gained a loyal following of Hotpotters on a variety of levels. They are probably the only band to have had their music played on MTV2 and had real ales named after them.
Their latest album, Pot Sounds, has made it to number one in the iTunes comedy download charts and they are proud to boast that Bowland Brewery, Clitheroe, has brewed a Lancashire Hotpot Ale in their honour.
“More than two years on, it’s bonkers that people are still turning up to gigs. We’re booked up ‘til Christmas already this year — it’s odd, very odd,” said Bernard.
Formed in St Helens in 2006, The Lancashire Hotpots follow in the footsteps of the Houghton Weavers — but with a particularly modern twist to their lyrics — greeting crowds with “How do, cockers?”
And Bernard admits he is in shock that the band, who have nearly 5,000 fans on Facebook, have come so far since then.
“Getting Glastonbury is the best news. It was a shock to get it. It’s my birthday the week before so it’s the greatest present ever. We get offered loads of gigs and things and we get excited about all of them but when you get Glastonbury that’s something really special, isn’t it?” he said.
At this point in our conversation Bernard asks me to hold the line a minute while he explains to a man in a fluorescent jacket that it will be 20 minutes or so until the lorries are unloaded. Bernard might be part of a successful band by night but by day he still drives a forklift truck for a living.
So what is it like to have two such diverse identities?
“It’s very strange,” said Bernard, who lives half of his week with his girlfriend in Coventry. “I drive all week. The others lads are all around the country, working for a living, then on a Friday afternoon we all get on the bus and head for our next gig where the fans are cheering for us. We don’t really stop 'til Sunday night then it’s back to normal again. It is a bit mad.”
But although the lads have just as much fun performing the songs as their fans do listening to them, they are still very nervous about their biggest gig to date — the prestigious Glastonbury Festival, where they play two stages on June 28.
“Our first set on the afternoon of the Saturday is the one we’re most nervous about. It’s the folkie stage at Glastonbury. It’s an hour-long gig in the middle of the afternoon. I just hope people turn up,” he said “And the next one is later on in the evening, somewhere else at this Mad Hatters place, and that should be more relaxed as by then we’ll have had a few sherbets. We’re just gonna let our hair down on that one.”
From the very beginning the band were on to a good thing. Their first album, Never Mind The Hotpots, reached number two in the BBC6 charts with national support from Radio 1’s Colin Murray and Rob Da Bank.
But Bernard says he still has to pinch himself that the Lancashire Hotpots ever took off at all, recalling how a few years back they were DJ-ing at all-night raves in underground clubs across East Lancashire.
He said: “We never thought we’d get to here when we started writing about meeting girls on Myspace and great Lancashire institutions such as chippy teas. Not that people would so much take us seriously — because we’d never want that — but to think us good enough to be put on Glastonbury. That’s crazy talk isn’t it?”
Now the band are currently working on a new single and video which will be released at the end of June, followed by a new album to be released in the autumn. Plus they have high hopes for a Christmas number one.
“I have got it in my head that we’re going to have a Christmas number one and I’m thinking that’s going to be the golden goose egg,” said Bernard. “If you can get a Christmas number one you’re set up for life and maybe then we’ll be able to give up our day jobs. I’ve still got to pull out a little gem from somewhere, though, as nothing is written yet.”
While the group are happy to be regarded as a comedy act for now, Bernard revealed that in the future they would like to be taken a little more seriously as musicians.
“It would be nice one day get recognition for the musicians we are. Willie the drummer is the most incredible piano player and Dickie has such a producer’s ear it's unbelievable. People might not know both records we’ve done we’ve done ourselves, and its something we’re very proud of.”
“But at the minute we’re happy giving The Hotpots a good run. If you combine singing and dancing and having laugh, you can’t lose with that.”
l See The Lancashire Hotpots live a little closer to home at The Lowry, Salford Quays, on July 24. For tickets contact 0870 787 5780.