It all started in a pub…
In 2014 Jan and daughter Stef went along to a jam night in Leigh at the invitation of family friend and former drummer in Manchester-based band ‘Smalltown’ John Gilman. In what was a rock-orientated, and mainly male dominated music scene, Jan and Stef became popular for their laid back acoustic sets, which John and other musicians would frequently join in with.
This little liason led to the formation of The Hats as a 4-piece band with the addition of jam-night buddy and former Doctor Roxx (and currently Rio Gold) bassist Paul Orrell, initially to perform at a one-off charity gig. So the original line-up was Stef on keyboards, guitars and vocals, Jan on vocals and percussion, Paul on bass and John on drums.
That initial gig went so well that we wanted to make The Hats a more permanent fixture. As Paul had other projects underway, local musician and jam night regular Jason Brew (formerly of duo Strange Brew) was invited to join the band on bass and vocals in May 2014.
Shortly afterwards as the newly formed Hats, we performed our first official gig to nearly 1,000 people at the ‘Glastonburrows’ charity beer and music festival in Leyland, Lancashire and were soon in demand from local pubs and clubs.
As The Hats, we quickly became a popular fixture on the local gig scene in Leigh, developing quite a following with local pub goers who appreciated and enjoyed our quirky covers from the 60s, 70s and 80s, which reflected the diverse ages and musical tastes of the band. As one Hat-fan said “They play songs I’d forgotten I loved!” We also recorded two of Stef’s original tracks, ‘The Longest Night’ and ‘Love Over Latte’, which still enjoy airplay on a number of North West radio stations.
In October 2016 we played our first ticketed gig at The Turnpike Centre, Leigh, raising funds for local charity CreativeLeigh. Shortly after we were honoured to be asked to perform at the Leigh Christmas Lights Switch on in November 2016 – an annual event attended by hundreds of townspeople including the Mayor and Mayoress (who was keen to try on some of our quirky headgear!!!).
Bassist Sarah Jones had been quietly making her own bass cover videos and building a global following on her Youtube channel. Having played in bands previously and wanting to broaden her range Sarah placed an advert on a music website for interested bands looking for an experienced bassist to contact her…
In 2016, Jason had a change of direction in his musical career, which signalled his departure from the band. This started the search for a replacement, and Stef saw the advert Sarah had placed as an available bass player. After meetings, discussions and trial runs Sarah joined the band as our new bassist; her arrival signalled a shift in the band’s dynamic, with new songs and a new look for the latest incarnation of The Hats.