Bros on making a comeback and being better together
Let us immediately put our cards on the table. This time last year, Bros on the cover of Balance would never have been considered. Yes, When Will I Be Famous? is a sugary slice of pop perfection, as is Drop The Boy. And you can’t beat I Owe You Nothing…Enough. That was 30 years ago. Come on, guys.
Then, something happened. A BBC documentary was released towards the end of 2018 and chronicled the return of Lewisham-born, US-based twins Matt and Luke Goss as they prepared for comeback shows at London’s O2 Arena. We couldn’t get enough. Bros were, once again, a phenomenon, and people were talking.
After The Screaming Stops has been hailed as the greatest music documentary of all time; the tale of the toxic, yet, ultimately utterly endearing, pop twins became a smash hit and reminded the world these guys were huge. No1 hits, sell-out shows, screaming female fans, tabloid press monitoring their every move… If Take That are enduring the marathon, the blond-haired, blue-eyed south Londoners enjoyed one heck of a sprint.
And now, aged 50, with the sort of return that would cause even Lazarus to stand and applaud, Bros are back, baby! They play Brixton in July, with the gig paving the way for bigger shows around the world, plus there’s new material looming. Not bad off the back of a single 90-minute documentary, right?
Luke, the drummer, likens its impact to taking a ‘magic pill’. “Matt and I have always been artistic individuals and often said, ‘Is there such a thing that will make this easier?’ The documentary made people say, ‘F*ck this, I’m making up my own mind. I’m done hating these boys.’ This is the first trip [back to the UK] in 30-plus years that has been entirely positive, friendly, supportive and enthusiastic. Frankly, I didn’t think it was possible. But, f*ck me, here we are. I’m very grateful.”
Singer Matt is equally positive. “The movie shows we are compassionate people, but also passionate people; we care about what we do and how we treat others.”
And that’s part of the appeal: passion. The Goss boys positively fizz with the stuff. Indeed, having spent a good while chatting with both chaps across a couple of days, Balance would say Matt is the heart, and Luke is the head. Each word that passes Matt’s lips is drenched with emotion. He’s sensitive, putting it all out there, laying it on the line. Luke, on the other hand, is more grounded, measured and considered; the thoughtful Spock to Matt’s impassioned Kirk. And still, both crackle with energy, positivity and enthusiasm.
Take the passing of their beloved mother, Carol, in 2014. This is the woman who maintained a steady hand on the tiller as the boys negotiated impossible levels of fame in the late 1980s, who made cups of tea for fans who’d camped outside their house and who, adds Luke, was the embodiment of “civility, manners, politeness, kindness, compassion. If there was somebody who wasn’t polite, they would be reprimanded very clearly in a kind of guidance.”
Luke sought to process the grief by pursuing meditation and headed for the Mojave Desert with little more than a tent. Across four days and nights in 2018, the solo trip proved an expedition of body, mind and soul, and resulted in a book, Desert Conversation. “It was a cathartic exorcism of pain.”
On the other hand, Matt’s pain still feels raw. “What I learned from the loss of my mum is that I feel more like a son now, more than ever. I wrote a song recently called Grace Under Pressure and I think the way you behave under pressure is very telling. A ‘good morning’, ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘goodnight’ goes a long way with me. I feel that sometimes Luke and I have looked each other square in the eyes and are at our best together. We are unbreakable, but we can hurt.
That hurt was plain for all to see in ATSS as years of simmering resentment boiled over. After all, their 1992 split was acrimonious: Luke walked out and would successfully pursue an acting career in Hollywood. Matt became a singing sensation in Las Vegas. One key moment sees Matt enter a rehearsal space, only for Luke to struggle to make eye contact from behind his drum kit, such is the seething toxicity. It was akin to watching two north magnetic poles being pushed together.
“To do 170 shows last year and to come to the UK to do two (shows), enter a room with no opinion, and feel guilty about having any opinion, was challenging,” admits Matt. “I felt like I had to continuously apologise and I really did want to make it work, but I didn’t want to suddenly go ‘Oh, I want to do this.’ You have to be allowed to be able to say that I may know more about the industry or performing at the moment. It was challenging because I could see a clearer path for the end game.
“But to finally get to a point where we could make it to the venue and actually, really have genuine love for each other was more than rewarding, it was a relief. I felt like we’d walked through a minefield and I had to check on all my parts to make sure I was still intact… I’m talking in analogies again!”
DOCUMENTING THE FUTURE
This is where you want to throw your arms around Matt. He knows all about “Matt-aphors”, the now-famous quotes from the documentary that launched a million memes. Yet he also knows how to hit the bullseye. During one chat about the thought of a higher power, he says, “If we were less focused on religion, and more on faith, we’d have fewer problems.” Amen to that.
As a fellow lover of a good, rambling metaphor, I empathise. “Language is meant to be colourful and talking via analogies is a more beautiful and enjoyable way of speaking,” he says. “I love descriptive language.” He’s currently applying such colour to an upcoming musical adaptation of Upstairs, Downstairs. Take that.
And that’s not all Matt’s working on. Bros fans can rejoice, as the boys have started laying down new tracks, and will also re-record seminal 1988 debut Push as a thank you to the fans. “We are obviously going to do a new album, and we want to close a chapter by re-recording the way we would now, plug in and play, live-live-live, crunchier versions of the originals,” Luke admits. “Not re-vamped, but played hard. That support we had is the reason things are going so bloody well – sonically and phonically. Let’s give the fans something they can still enjoy, and another album of entirely original material. I’m so excited.”
Before we go, there’s one crucial thing you must know: Bros made this comeback happen themselves. Or, specifically, Luke’s wife did. Shirley proactively reached out to Fulwell73 (the red-hot production company part-owned by James Corden) to flag the boys’ comeback. It’s the sort of shrewd decision that puts the business into show business. They know exactly what they’re doing.
“Shirley made a call and said, ‘Why don’t we document this?’,” explains Luke. “They made it clear very quickly they wanted to document our lifestyles and bring everything back together.
I could smell the integrity. This was the right company, who ended up making the right film, so credit to her. Shirley got the deal done and we’ve all become family now, we’re great friends.”
Balance is now spoiling you with an extra nugget of good news: it looks like Matt could be swapping Vegas for London for good. “There’s something about being in London, walking in St James’s Park, being in the sun, hopping in a black cab. There’s something really glorious my mind, body and heart craves. It feels really good to me. I love having my boots on the ground in London.”
And London will love having the Goss boys back. When will you be famous? Forever and ever.
Bros perform at the O2 Academy Brixton on Friday 5 July. Tickets are available at LiveNation.co.uk