Viola Beach

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Viola Beach
Viola Beach album.jpg
The members of Viola Beach in 2016
Background information
OriginWarrington, Cheshire, England
Years active2013–2016
Past members
  • Kris Leonard
  • River Reeves
  • Tomas Lowe
  • Jack Dakin
  • Frankie Coulson
  • Jonny Gibson

Viola Beach were an English indie rock group, formed in Warrington, Cheshire, in 2013.[1] The band's final line-up consisted of Kris Leonard (guitar and vocals), River Reeves (guitar), Tomas Lowe (bass guitar), and Jack Dakin (drums). All four, along with their manager Craig Tarry, died when their car fell from a bridge in Södertälje, Sweden on 13 February 2016.[2][3][4][5]

In the week following the crash, their single "Boys That Sing" entered the UK Singles Chart at number 80 and their previous single "Swings & Waterslides" entered at number 11, following a public campaign to boost sales.[6] In the same week, "Swings & Waterslides" also entered at number three on the sales-only chart (which excludes streaming data) and "Boys That Sing" entered at number 27 on the same chart.[7] On 29 July 2016, the self-titled album was released.[8][9] It reached number one on the album chart on 5 August 2016.[10]


Viola Beach in 2013

Viola Beach formed in Warrington, Cheshire, in May 2013, the original members being Kris Leonard (guitar and vocals), Frankie Coulson (guitar), Jonny Gibson (bass), and Jack Dakin (drums).[11] The band's final line-up was formed when Coulson and Gibson opted to leave the band in 2015 in order to focus on their university studies,[12] and were replaced by River Reeves (guitar) and Tomas Lowe (bass) respectively.[13][14]

By September of their formation year, their track "Daisies"[15] was featured on Bandcamp's The Indie Cassette Player's (now known as The Mill Records) second compilation album, with "Love My Love" being featured on the website's third compilation album in October.[16] The band's Twitter profile tweeted on 16 September 2013 "Daisies is being featured on @IndieCassPlayer compilation vol 2 this month which is dead lovely!" [17]

The band self-financed the recording of their first single, "Swings & Waterslides", releasing it on their own record label Fuller Beans.[18] The track was produced by Ady Hall and Lee McCarthy of Sugar House and recorded at Catalyst Studios in St Helens.[18] "Swings & Waterslides" was added to the BBC Radio 1 playlist in September 2015.[19]

The band were supported by BBC Introducing, a platform for emerging musical talent, which described their songs as "infectious anthems" with "hints of slacker pop".[19] They performed at the BBC Introducing Stage of the 2015 Reading and Leeds Festivals.[13][20] In November 2015, the band recorded a live session for BBC Radio 1.[21] They released their second single, "Boys That Sing"/"Like a Fool", on the Communion label on 22 January 2016.[22]

On 17 June 2016, the band's self-titled debut album Viola Beach was announced for release on 29 July, to consist of nine tracks including "Boys That Sing" and a BBC session, and released on the band's own Fuller Beans Records label. The announcement was accompanied by a statement from the members' families.[23] It reached number one on the album chart on 5 August.[10]


When asked about his musical influences, singer-guitarist Kris Leonard said, "I'm definitely not consciously influenced by anyone",[13] but mentioned the Coral, the Zutons, the Beatles and Hooton Tennis Club as being among his favourite Liverpool bands.[13] He also said the Kooks' debut studio album Inside In/Inside Out played a big part in him becoming a musician.[24] BBC Introducing recommended the band to fans of Coasts and the Kooks,[19] while other critics drew comparisons with 1990s Britpop.[25]

Leonard told Wonderland magazine that much of the band's lyrical content was inspired by their "very grey and industrial" hometown, where there was "nothing to do other than drink cider and smoke rollies on a park and chase after girls".[24]


The bridges over the Södertälje Canal. The accident took place on the centre bridge.

In the early hours of 13 February 2016, all four band members together with manager Craig Tarry died in a road accident on a lift bridge along the E4 motorway at Södertälje, southwest of Stockholm, Sweden.[3][4][5] At around 2:00 am, witnesses saw the band's car, a Nissan Qashqai, clipping a stationary vehicle, driving through closed barriers and falling through a gap in the bridge, whose middle section was being lifted to let an oil tanker pass underneath. The band had played the previous day at the Where's the Music? festival in Norrköping, and they were returning to the hotel at Arlanda Airport.[2][26]

The Swedish Police opened an inquiry. Among their initial findings was that the driver, whose identity was not disclosed, had no traces of alcohol nor drugs in his blood.[27][28] It was also found that the car had braked before reaching the bridge, which, as the Police stated, ruled out the possibility that the driver had fallen asleep. However, the accident ultimately remained "completely inexplicable".[29]

In the United Kingdom, inquests into the deaths were opened and adjourned on 3 March at Warrington Coroner's Court by Cheshire coroner Nicholas Rheinberg, who also released the bodies of the five men so their families could make funeral arrangements.[30] In December 2016, the coroner recorded a verdict of "road traffic collision". The official cause of death of Tomas Lowe was drowning, while the other four victims died of head injuries.[31]

After analysing the video from a traffic camera, the police offered a reconstruction of the events. After the bridge barriers were lowered, two lorries were standing in the right-hand lane of the carriageway and two cars were standing in the left-hand lane, in front of the first set of barriers. The band's car arrived in the left lane, braked and then swerved left, narrowly passing the first car before driving on. The driver in the stationary front car estimated the speed of the band's car at 60 km/h (37 mph). He said their car then drove through both sets of barriers without braking. It subsequently struck the middle section of the bridge, which had been lifted by 1.5 m (4 ft 11 in), and fell down 30 m (98 ft) into the canal. It was suggested that the initial impact against the bridge may have been violent enough to cause the death of the car's occupants.[32] The inquest heard that the car's speed was 108 km/h (67 mph).[31]


On 14 February, the day the news was announced, there was a round of applause for the band at the Premier League match between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.[33] Manager Craig Tarry was a Manchester City supporter.[33] Tributes were made at The Lounge, the club where they began their careers, and Warrington Town Hall flew its flag at half-mast in the week following their deaths.[34]

The band had been scheduled to support Blossoms on a tour of the UK and Ireland during February and March 2016,[35] and to play at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, in March 2016.[36][37] Other scheduled appearances in 2016 included The Great Escape Festival and T in the Park.[35] Viola Beach had also been booked to play at their hometown's Pyramid and Parr Hall, in March and October respectively.[34]

A social media campaign was initiated by fans to get the band's single "Swings & Waterslides" to the top of the UK Singles Chart. The campaign later drew support from former Oasis singer Liam Gallagher, Ian Brown of The Stone Roses and rock band Kasabian.[38] The single appeared at number 39 in the Official Chart Update published 15 February 2016, and climbed to number 11 by the end of the week.[6][39][40] On 18 February it had briefly reached number one on the iTunes chart.[41]

Following news of the band members' deaths, it was announced that all proceeds from their latest single would be donated to the families of the band members and of their manager.[22] On 18 February Blossoms, who had performed with the band in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, two days before their deaths, announced they would play a recording of the Leamington concert at a gig in Bournemouth that evening. They also planned to showcase the band's material on the tour where Viola Beach were scheduled to support them.[42]

On 2 April 2016, a tribute concert was staged at Warrington's Parr Hall, with performances by several of the band's friends and influences, including the Coral, the Courteeners, the Kooks, and Blossoms.[43] The Zutons also made a "rare live appearance" at the event.[44]

The band had recorded songs for a five- or six-track EP, which was scheduled to be released in 2016.[45] When asked about the possibility of further recordings being released, the band's agent was quoted as saying, "There's a lot of music, a lot of demos, a lot of amazing songs, and it'd be great if it got out, but at the moment, everybody's still grieving. We need to sit down and work out what we do with it."[45]

On 26 June 2016, Coldplay, led by Chris Martin, paid tribute to Viola Beach at Glastonbury Festival 2016 during their set by covering the band's song, "Boys That Sing" and, subsequently, encouraged fans to buy the single.[46] A tribute was also scheduled into the first day of Leeds Festival 2016, with a short documentary originally heard on Radio 1 played on the TV screens of the main stage.

On 13 February 2017, Arriva Buses launched five buses in the band's home town of Warrington, each vehicle bearing a picture of one of the band members and their manager. Arriva collaborated with the River Reeves Foundation, an organisation founded by Reeves' family, to produce the vehicles, one of which would be a mobile recording studio.[47] In September 2017, Reeves' father, Ben Dunne, organised RivFest 17, a music event aimed at inspiring those with a talent for the arts to follow their dreams. The concert was held at Warrington's Priestley College on 2 September, and featured headline appearances by Maximo Park and Billy Bragg.[48][49]


  • Kris Leonard – vocals, guitar (2013–2016)
  • Frankie Coulson – guitar (2013–2015)
  • Jonny Gibson – bass (2013–2015)
  • Jack Dakin – drums (2013–2016)
  • River Reeves – guitar (2015–2016)
  • Tomas Lowe – bass (2015–2016)



Title Details Peak chart positions Certifications
Viola Beach 1 29 1


Year Title Peak chart positions Album

2015 "Swings & Waterslides" 11 1 6 Viola Beach
2016 "Boys That Sing" 50 22


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  51. ^ "Discography Viola Beach". Irish Charts Portal. Hung Medien. Retrieved 8 August 2016.
  52. ^ a b Peak positions in Scotland:
  53. ^ "BRIT Certified - bpi" (To access, enter the search parameter "Viola Beach" and select "Search by Keyword"). British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  54. ^ Peak chart position on the UK Indie Albums Chart:

External links[edit]