Whoever said the U.S. and the U.K. were two countries divided by a common language probably didn’t have the popular music industry in mind. But the phrase, especially considering the current dearth of British bands on American charts, is certainly applicable.

Consider the Doves, arguably one of Britain’s biggest acts but largely unknown in the U.S. thanks to a near total lack of mainstream radio play.

The band, which emerged from the ashes of Madchester dance act Sub Sub, has toured the U.S. four times in a little more than a year and a half (The Strokes supported the first jaunt), with each reaching a wider and increasingly loyal audience. And yet, American radio has been reluctant, to say the least, to really latch on to any of the singles from either of its critically acclaimed albums, 2000’s Lost Souls and this year’s The Last Broadcast.

“The gigs are great out here and people really get us, but they’re not getting a chance to hear us on the radio, which is frustrating,” drummer Andy Williams told POLLSTAR before taking the stage at Slim’s nightclub in San Francisco. It was the first of a two-night stay in the city that saw a sell-out of the Fillmore Auditorium.

“We think we make good pop with dignity. We feel we’ve got a spot on the radio. But obviously, these people disagree,” he continued. “There’s always next time for that. As long as the gigs are selling out and people are as enthusiastic as they have been, then we’ll come back.”

The members of the band Williams, brother Jez and friend Jimi Goodwin came together in Manchester in the late ’80s and recorded an EP with borrowed gear under the Sub Sub moniker. Over the next several years, the dance act released a handful of EPs but only one full length, largely due to the band’s meticulous/obsessive take on recording.

Toward the end of Sub Sub’s existence, the group began incorporating guitars and rock elements, ultimately leading to collaborations with Tricky and New Order’s Bernard Sumner.

In 1995, a catastrophic studio fire destroyed most of the band’s equipment, sealing Sub Sub’s fate. But instead of calling it a day, the lads forged ahead, opting to redefine their sound even further.

“It was make or break,” Andy Williams said. “It was either not do anything or make the album that we always threatened we wanted to make. We knew we had it in us, so we thought, ‘Let’s make an album that we’ll be really proud of.’ So we did Lost Souls and it just went down so well that we realized we could do this.”

Both albums, impossibly dense slices of dreamy pop, did “brilliantly” in the U.K. but haven’t yet led to a major break in the U.S., a goal of the band.

“It’s frustrating because you listen to the radio or MTV and you see this absolute shite, you know, all this manufactured (music). I’m not just talking about pop; I’m talking about nu- metal, etc.,” he said.


“But you can’t let that stop what you do. All we can do is come over and do what we can and play our gigs. That’s how we live day by day so we have that release every day at the gigs, so that’s why we keep coming back.

“I think we’re building a very solid fan base over here because every time, it steps up a bit more. If we’ve got to do it that way, we’ll do it that way.”

The latest U.S. trek supporting The Last Broadcast, which saw the Doves visiting many new markets like Dallas and Atlanta, in September and October, was the biggest tour of the country the band has undertaken.

Little Big Man’s Steve Ferguson, who has repped the band in the States since the first tour, said it did well even in the first-time cities.

“One of the things that helps the Doves is that they’re a great live band,” he said. “The fact that they’re a good live band, I think, overcomes the lack of radio play, as it did in a very old school way with the first U2 records. … They didn’t get mainstream airplay until their third record, when the mainstream caught up to what they were doing.

“Not to compare them to U2, but in a similar fashion, they’re building up a fan base so when radio does catch up … they’re well positioned to take advantage of their fan base and new fans that come aboard.”

As both the agent and the band members pointed out, the future American success of the Doves hinges on their willingness to make return trips.

“It’s a big country; it’s not something you can just break overnight with a few dates on one record,” Ferguson said. “You have to come numerous times and play, which they’ve done on both albums.”

Lucky for Ferguson, the band seems more than enthusiastic about that prospect.

“We decided to devote our time really trying to do well out here,” Williams said. “All British bands want to, you know? But a lot give up. … You can see why, when you hit a brick wall. It keeps going back to the gigs. There’s a very loyal fan base here, and you can slowly build it.”