By on 10 September, 2011


There are very few movies around today which manage to successfully blend music and a story, let alone one which is filled with young a cast of British talent. But before you roll your eyes with disapproval, I would advise that you give ‘POWDER‘ a chance!


Adapted from Kevin Sampson‘s novel of the same name, the story centres on a band called The Grams, whose lead singer Keva (Liam Boyle) appears to have hit a songwriter’s block. Manager Wheezer (Alfie Allen) has tried every trick in the book to encourage Keva to get back in the recording studio. Whilst at a music festival, Keva bumps into Guy de Burret (Jefferson Hall) and he manages to persuade him to record another track. The band head on a journey of self-discovery, and troubled frontman attempts to hone in on his past experiences to produce a hit record. Unbeknown to Keva, this turns out to be more of a therapeutic return to the music scene, as he hopes to leave a terrible shadow behind him.

I caught up with two of the cast members – Liam Boyle and Jo Woodcock (who plays Victoria Turnbull), and Starsailor‘s James Walsh – who provided vocals for Keva and wrote the material for The Grams. With Walsh‘s fantastic vocals, I was keen to find out why he chose this as first movie project, and what the actors thought of some of the complex characters and their view on breaking into today’s music scene.


TN: Tell me about the characters you play in the movie.

LIAM: “I’m Liam Boyle, and I play Keva. He’s kind of the protagonist in the film.”

JO: “My name is Jo Woodcock and I play Victoria Turnbull. She is co-owner of the record label that Keva’s band The Grams are on.”

JAMES: “I’m James Walsh, and I provide the music in the film and Keva’s singing voice.”


TN: Liam, is it fair to say that Keva is very troubled – more so than your average musician?

LIAM: “I can relate to a lot of people who I’ve looked into over the years who have a troubled past, and Keva’s one of them. The thing about him is that he’s not suicidal at all, he’s just really depressed about something and he really wants to overcome this. The film really goes on a journey to kind of help him recover, but I tried not to model him on any musician out there today.”


TN: Taking Amy Winehouse as an example, who focussed on her experiences and channelled that into her music. Would you say that Keva did that with his songwriting?

LIAM: “I’d say yes. The loss of Amy Winehouse was a massive tragedy to music; she’s a great talent. In a different way, I know that music really affects people. All artists throughout the years, music is a really big deal to someone like this and the process to make this music. With Amy Winehouse’s music, I’m sure it had affected her. With Keva I feel the same, as he’s one of those individuals who has really been affected but I wouldn’t really like to compare him with Amy.” 


TN: Jo – would a viewer be wrong in saying that the character you play is a bit of a groupie?

JO: “Well hopefully they wouldn’t think that she’s that much of a groupie, because she’s involved in the band from a very early stage. There’s a back-story with her putting them on for a gig at her university, and she gets involved really not for the band in a sense. She actually gets involved for Guy de Burret, because they’ve been friends for a very long time, and she adores him. So she gets involved because that’s his passion, and she turns his passion into her own and she’s good at it. She spots The Grams from a very early point, much before the film is made, and I think she has a genuine passion so I hope she’s not much of a groupie. I know that there’s nudity in it [the film] but because it’s an all-male band, you see this girl tagging along and you might think of her as a groupie.”


TN: Victoria really gets involved with the band. Would you say a little too much, maybe? 

JO: “She’s a business woman and she invests money into the [record] label, and into the band. She wants to help get them [The Grams] to where they should be, but by doing that and getting involved in the wrong way, emotionally she’s involved far too much. She is almost rejected by the person she loved and she realises she’s in over her head, and she  very quietly fades away. When they [the band] go to Ibiza it’s very apparent that she’s destroying herself, in a way, and then…well…I don’t want to say anymore [laughs].”

JAMES: “I think it’s a great depiction. Like you say, probably to some of the characters in the film she is a groupie, and it’s a great view of how patronised most of the women in the industry still are. You can tell that she’s strong-willed, clever and a big character.”


TN: So was Victoria’s focus more on GUY or THE GRAMS?

JO: “Well her focus from a very young age has always been on Guy. There’s part of her which loves him like a brother, but she’s passionate about the music – that’s the angle I always took when approaching role as an actor. There’s a sense of a set of scales and the balance shifts when she needs to step-up and prove herself, but she’s also emotionally torn up inside.”


TN: James – as your first movie collaboration, what made you want to get involved with this project?

JAMES: “I love Kevin Sampson and I loved the book. Kevin and Dave Hughes [producer] approached me, and they were incredibly enthusiastic at the thought of me potentially being involved and it came at a good time. Starsailor had released the fourth album and it had done ok, but maybe there were a few signs that we should call it a day for a while, and get involved with different projects. When the email came along, asking if I would like to write the songs for The Grams, I was like ‘Yep, definitely’. It’s a big stepping stone into the next phase of my career.”


TN: Watching THE GRAMS deal with some band rivalry on screen, you as part of STARSAILOR experienced a public spat with OASIS, particularly with Noel Gallagher. Were there any kind of parallels you saw in the story, with this experience in mind?

JAMES: “Yeah. I think that the Gallaghers are more talented than HELMET, but Noel Gallagher, in particular, has a bit of Keva and a bit of HELMET in him. But he’s also got a sensitive side to write those amazing songs – and the kind of gamesmanship and the ‘who you looking at?’ playground behaviour as well. Anyone who makes music with meaning has got to be a little bit strange and upset about proving themselves in some way, and that never goes. I think part of Noel Gallagher’s attitude to new bands is that he doesn’t want his status and his legend to be given to someone else – in a ‘this is my patch’ kind of way. I think we’re all like that a little bit.”


TN: Did you relate to the struggle that Keva felt with trying to make a success of his band, with your time in STARSAILOR? 

JAMES: “It’s quite a fickle world that we live in. One minute you’re the coolest band in the world, and the next minute you’re ignored. That was depicted in the film really, when one minute he’s on the bus with HELMET taking the p*ss, and the next minute The Grams are on the main stage. That’s very true to life; everyone has their time and they have to seize it, and then when things start to tail off a bit they just need to dig their heels in and survive.”


TN: You mentioned the fickle world we live in, and there are bands out there throwing themselves at reality TV shows, trying to make it in the music industry. Are the days of handing in your demo tape to record producers still here, or do you think reality talent shows the way forward?

LIAM: “I do believe, that POWDER will be one of those films where we look back and go ‘That’s the last film that shows how a band makes it’ because things are moving on. Music is now much more different than just a few guitars and a piano.”

JAMES: “The main thing missing from music, for me, is TOP OF THE POPS – that kind of focal point. Bands like Mumford And Sons, and Arcade Fire are amazing groups and they’re selling huge numbers. But the only relevance to music TV now is THE X FACTOR or some guest appearance on STRICTLY COME DANCING. There isn’t that focal point which TOP OF THE POPS was.”

JO: “I think programmes like ‘THE X FACTOR’ are not very representative – you could call it artificial and a lazy way of achievement. On the other hand, it’s a great opportunity for people who wouldn’t normally have that opportunity. Talent will out, and if someone wins and they’re not talented then or they didn’t really want to do it in the first place  then it’s not going to happen for them.”

JAMES: “I’ve done some work recently with Matt Cardle, and he was an artist who was struggling for a long time, and it was kind of the final straw for him going for THE X FACTOR. He’s a hugely talented artist, and it’s given him the platform to release a record – largely on his own terms. It’s not all bad.”

JO: “It’s only an opportunity to prove yourself really, whether you win or not. It’s almost like the winning isn’t the everything, it’s the proving yourself afterwards.”


TN: James – what advice would you give to bands struggling to get noticed by the music industry?

JAMES: “My advice would be to always dig your heels in and keep going. There are too many who listen to others and go ‘That’s cool now so I’d better go and make a record like that’. If that’s what compels you then by all means, but if you’re doing it just to fit in with what’s going on then you’re going to fall flat on your face. 

“Dig your heels in! There will be time when everyone loves you and there will be times when certain people don’t get it. Just enjoy it.”


Check local Picturehouses for listings.


About Ed Bonilla

Ed is an entertainment news writer, and founder of TOMORROW'S NEWS. He always keeps a watchful eye on who and what's trending in the entertainment world. His articles focus on tomorrow's news today, including celebrity news, film news, music news and so much more!

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