Lightyear (band)

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Origin Derby, Derbyshire
Genres Ska punk
Years active 1997–2003, 2006, 2007, 2012 and 2015
Labels Household Name Records
Members Chas Palmer-Williams
Neil Draycott
Neil ‘Nelb’ Cowie
Mark Wood (like a tea)
Ben Ashton
Jim Harrison
Richard ‘Bars’ Barling

Lightyear were a seven-piece UK ska punk band, formed in 1997 in Derby.

The band signed to Household Name Records in 2001, and released two full-length albums via the label. During their career, Lightyear also released a split EP with friends Evil Macaroni, a 'demo', and contributed to several international punk compilation CDs.


The band formed in 1997, with their first gig in their hometown of Derby in 1998. Lightyear mixed punk, hardcore and pop influences into their songs and quickly became one of the most dynamic and unpredictable UK bands.[citation needed] The Lightyear live experience was described as "a bouncing, energy driven orgy of jumping brass, diving vocalists, underpinned by infectious tunes that leave every foot tapping",[citation needed] although it wasn't always that way according to vocalist Chas Palmer-Williams:

"Our first gig was at the Victoria Inn in 1998. We were atrocious. I can't believe they even allowed us to play."[citation needed]

Lightyear released their debut album 'Call of the Weasel Clan' in October 2001.

Although Lightyear were committed to the independent ethos of punk rock, they also gained fans and a reputation in the underground scene for their riotous antics.[citation needed], Lightyear's summer of 2002 finished with appearances at the Carling Weekend Festivals with such modern punk luminaries as Sick Of It All and Alkaline Trio; one of the career highlights for the band:

"At Reading and Leeds there were banners and all these people singing along – that has to be up there,"

In contrast, Lightyear have also played with one hit wonders OPM, and in February 2003 they were invited to support Steve-O from MTV's Jackass show on a sell out UK tour.[citation needed] They were later kicked off this tour by a promoter whom vocalist Chas described as 'the absolute bonehead' in an interview with Punktastic.[1][specify]

Second album and 2003 split[edit]

Vocalist Chas Palmer-Williams, Derby Assembly Rooms, 26 September 2003

Tiring of the rock business, and with extensive touring taking its toll on inter-band friendships, Lightyear made the decision to split in early 2003. They decided that the split would take place after recording a second album of original material and touring twice more; once in support of the album, and a farewell tour in August / September of the same year. All of the members maintained that they had no regrets about the band, and simply wished to end the experience remaining friends with one another.

Palmer-Williams stated in an interview with The Week Out, an entertainment column in the Derby Evening Telegraph:

"We have spent most of the last three years touring – 280 shows last year, 180 the year before. We have been almost constantly away from family and friends. We also felt that we had hit a glass ceiling. It seems that you have to be American and have a big label plugging you to go any further. It's hard to make headway on an independent label above the level we have reached.

It's important to us that we finish as friends and look back on it all as good times. When you sit in a van with the same group of people day in, day out, there are bound to be tensions. We could have done another year and made a bit more money but if that's all we were doing it for, would we have still been friends?"

Lightyear entered the studio in April 2003 to begin work on their second album – the oddly-titled Chris Gentlemens Hairdresser and Railway Book Shop (named after the establishment in Derby where band member Neil Draycott in particular – who is bald – supposedly had his hair cut) – with top UK producer Dave Chang (Capdown, 4ft Fingers, Consumed, earthtone9).

Chris Gentlemens Hairdresser and Railway Book Shop was released in July 2003, accompanied by a seventeen-date tour with long-time friends Captain Everything! and Jerry-built (whom bassist Bars joined following Lightyear's split), running from 14 July to 2 August 2003.

Last 'Ever' Gig![edit]

Lightyear played what was supposed to be their last show on Friday 26 September 2003 at the Assembly Rooms in Derby, UK. They were supported by Evil Macaroni, Captain Everything! (who appeared onstage with a polystyrene gravestone reading R.I.P. Lightyear, lightheartedly stating that it was their intention to "dance on Lightyear's grave") and Adequate Seven. The set for the gig ran as follows:

  • Nuff Cuts
  • Three Basics
  • A Twat Out of Hell
  • Life Jacket, Water Wings
  • Blindside
  • Old Acquaintance
  • Data's Double Chin
  • Ooh No, Not Me Arteries!
    • On this occasion, the vocals on this song were in fact performed by three friends of the band hailing from Darlington.
  • That's the Way it Goes, Big Nose
  • Positive Outlook
  • Pre-teen Propaganda
  • Spot Check
  • Whispering Ron Vs. Maz
  • Kid Dynamite


  • Uri Geller Bent My Heart
    • During the performance of the notoriously long bridge of this song, some friends of the band and members of the support bands took place in an onstage game of "Naked Kabaddi".
  • A Pack of Dogs

Lightyear ...Would Like to Apologise in Advance[edit]

Left to right: Neil Draycott, Ben Ashton and Mark Wood. Leeds Festival, Bramham Park, 26 August 2006

On 9 May 2006, DJ Mike Davies announced on the Radio 1 Lock Up Show that Lightyear would be reforming for a fortnight long tour around the United Kingdom, finishing in their hometown of Derby. Originally dubbed the “Twelve Days of Chaos” tour, it was renamed the “Lightyear ...Would Like to Apologise in Advance” tour as more promoters took interest. Davies, a personal fan of the band, went so far as to invite them to play a set on his Radio 1 Lock Up stage at the Carling Weekend Festivals at Reading and Leeds.

During their Reading set, Palmer-Williams spent the majority of the set naked and Mark Wood surfed across the crowd during "Kid Dynamite", eventually scaling the centre pillar of the circus tent and about 50 feet above the crowd where he played his trumpet. Chas later recounted his delight in making friends with rapper Ice-T.

Lightyear split up on stage for the second time on Saturday 26 August 2006 at the Carling Weekend Festival at Bramham Park, Leeds. During the set, bassist Bars approached the microphone and addressed the crowd:

"We're splitting up today. We were really emotional the first time... but this time we don't give a shit!"

Shortly after their Carling Weekend performances, Lightyear performed a final 'friends & family only' gig at The Vic Inn, Derby.

On 19 July 2007, Chas announced via bulletins on both his personal and Lightyear's official MySpace pages that Lightyear would be playing another 'one-off' show, with proceeds going to help former member Kraig Winterbottom's mother. The venue was the Darwin Suite of the Derby Assembly Rooms, and the benefit show took place on Friday the 2 November 2007.

The band played a final time in October 2009 at The Venue in Derby as a secret show. Not even Bars knew they were going to play as it was a surprise for him. They advertised the show low-key via Myspace bulletins as Bars does not use social networking sites so would hopefully not find out.

2012 – The Last Ever Tour...[edit]

In March 2012, it was announced across social networking sites that Lightyear were going to reform for a mini-tour, sponsored by Big Cheese Magazine. Five shows were initially announced, with a sixth show (Bristol) added to the tour a couple of days later.[2]

"We know this might raise a few chuckles. It's been 15 years since Lightyear began. We started it to simply to have fun. We stopped it because it became not fun. We wanted to stay friends. But we ended up not even seeing each other really. We want to hang out with each other again... ...It would be wicked to see old and new friends."

22nd BRISTOL THE CROFT w Anti Vigilante, Our Time Down Here 23rd DERBY OLD BELL w Anti Vigilante, Above Them 25th NEWCASTLE TRILLIANS w New Town Kings, Above Them 26th MANCHESTER MOHO LIVE w New Town Kings, Above Them 27th BRIGHTON THE HAUNT w New Town Kings, Tyrannosaurus Alan 28th LONDON ISLINGTON O2 ACADEMY w New Town Kings, Anti Vigilante, Tyrannosaurus Alan

Last ever come back 2015[edit]

In 2015, Lightyear played several shows including the Slam Dunk Festival in Leeds.[3][4]


The band have been on tour with Capdown, Mad Caddies, Goldfinger, Slow Gherkin, 311, Mustard Plug, Big D and the Kids Table, Save Ferris, Nerf Herder, The Peacocks, Link 80 and Suicide Machines. They also played at the infamous 'Holidays in the Sun' for two years running (alongside The Business, The Exploited and more).


  • Ben Ashton – Tenor saxophone, baritone saxophone, additional vocals
  • Richard ‘Bars’ Barling – Bass and backing vocals
  • Neil ‘Nelb’ Cowie – Guitar, additional vocals
  • Neil Draycott – Acoustic guitar, trumpet and vocals (also member of Cotton Weary)
  • Jim Harrison – Drums
  • Chas Palmer-Williams – vocals – See also: (also member of Cotton Weary)
  • Mark Wood – Trumpet, additional vocals

Guest musicians[edit]





Music Videos[edit]

  • A Pack of Dogs (2001)

Other projects[edit]

Draycott and Palmer-Williams played together in another band called Cotton Weary.[6] In 2013, Palmer-Williams started a solo folk project.[7]


External links[edit]