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The Boxer Rebellion is an international indie band formed in London, United Kingdom in 2001, consisting of Tennessee-native Nathan Nicholson (vocals, guitar, keyboards) and Englishmen Andrew Smith (lead guitar), Adam Harrison (bass guitar), and Piers Hewitt (drums). They have so far released an eponymous EP, five studio albums, Exits (2005), Union (2009), The Cold Still (2011), Promises (2013), and Ocean by Ocean (2016), as well as a compilation album, B-Sides & Rarities Collection, Vol. 1 & 2 (2012). The Boxer Rebellion's third studio album, The Cold Still (2011) was mixed and produced by Ethan Johns at Peter Gabriel's Real World Studios. The album was released on iTunes on 1 February 2011 in the United States. It was released digitally on iTunes and physically in the UK, Europe, and around the world 7 February 2011, and in France 1 March 2011. The new album Ocean by Ocean was released on 29 April 2016.
Early Years: Inception and self-titled debut EP (2000–2004)
In 2000, singer Nathan Nicholson left his hometown of Maryville, Tennessee after the death of his mother and moved to London. Nicholson connected with guitarist Todd Howe through an online posting for musicians that resulted in the creation of a firm friendship and the beginnings of a band.
They soon attracted the attention of drummer Piers Hewitt, who was just graduating from London Music School. Their first project was known as Slippermen. Rob Loflin, a friend of Nicholson's from Tennessee, played bass on early sessions before leaving the band to enter medical school and being replaced by current bassist Adam Harrison, who graduated from London Music School along with Hewitt. As Slippermen they produced a single and an EP, "Lens" and The Traveler respectively, but received limited commercial success.
After re-branding as The Boxer Rebellion and with a massive overhaul in their sound they reworked their ensemble and began building a fan-base.
Last minute support slots at the London Astoria for alt-rock super group A Perfect Circle on 2 October 2003 as well as for Lenny Kravitz at Wembley Arena on 7 July 2004 and The Cooper Temple Clause led to more awareness in the UK music press culminating in widespread features in magazines such as Kerrang, The Fly and TNT.
As a result of the PlayLouder competition, in June 2003, the band played the Glastonbury New Bands tent ahead of Keane. Shortly after this appearance they were signed by Alan McGee to his ill-fated Poptones record label.
Their first single "Watermelon" was released by Poptones on 4 October 2003. It featured three tracks including "The New Heavy" which appeared on their debut LP Exits. The band then recorded the self-titled The Boxer Rebellion EP which featured the same songs as the "Watermelon" single with two new additions, "Code Red" and "In Pursuit", both songs which would be released as singles later. The EP was produced by Pete Hoffman and mastered by Ray Staff.
Following the release of their debut EP, the band were to embark on a tour with The Killers. However while on tour with The Raveonettes, Nicholson became seriously ill with a burst appendix which required 5 hours of surgery and months of recovery forcing them to cancel the forthcoming tour.
After three singles following their debut EP, their first full-length album, Exits, was released on 2 May 2005. Watermelon, seen as the band's signature track, was featured on The Football Factory soundtrack (along with Razorlight, The Libertines, and The Buzzcocks).
The album was produced by Mark Robinson and Chris Sheldon at The Bunker Studios and Jacobs Studios respectively. Exits received glowing reviews from the UK music press with features and reviews in widespread publications including The Sun, Rock Sound, NME and Kerrang.
Two weeks after the album was released the Poptones label imploded, rendering the band without a label, which they announced at a gig at the ICA on 16 May. They have been unsigned ever since.
The band continued to finance their own gigs and play throughout the UK and mainland Europe. They continued to hold support slots for such artists as the Editors, Lenny Kravitz and Gary Numan, while continuing to write and record.
Their music can be heard on Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman's second motorcycle adventure, Long Way Down.
The band released their first music video "World Without End" in 2005.
The band released their self-funded full-length album, Union on 14 September 2009. It was exclusively released via iTunes with the lead single "Evacuate" (previously a limited edition vinyl release in 2008) hosted as "iTunes single of the week". Within 5 days of its release, Union peaked at No. 4 in the iTunes UK top 100 album chart, and reached No. 2 in the alternative chart (second only to Kings of Leon's late 2008 album Only by the Night). The album was released as a physical copy world wide in August 2009.
They were the first band to partner with HMV in the UK to manufacture, promote and distribute an independent band's album due to the fact that the band could not afford to make "Union" available on CD, hence the digital-only release.
The band released the first music video from Union for the song "Broken Glass", originally saved as a bonus track on the album but used as a promotional clip several months before the album was released. The first single from Union was the song "Evacuate", also released with a video.
Their song "Semi-Automatic", from the album Union, was featured in the CW show One Tree Hill on 21 September 2010 ("I Can't See You, But I Know You're There") as well as an episode of Human Target ("A Problem Like Maria") on Fox, 5 January 2011.
Due to the lack of a physical copy in 2009, Union could not enter the official UK chart based on downloads alone despite high charting positions, a situation which achieved media coverage in NME, The Daily Telegraph, and The Evening Standard. This led to the band becoming the first musical act in history to break into the Billboard Album Chart on a digital only release.
The Boxer Rebellion's songs have been featured in a number of television episodes, commercials, and films, including NCIS, Fox's Human Target, USA Network's Royal Pains and WWE Raw, HBO's 24/7, a Buick car advertisement entitled Power, CBS's Ghost Whisperer and Accidentally on Purpose, The CW's One Tree Hill, Spike TV's 2010 Scream Awards, ABC Family's Huge and Lincoln Heights, ABC's television series Grey's Anatomy, the 2004 film The Forgotten, the 2010 independent film Flying Lessons, and the 2010 film Going the Distance. The song "Spitting Fire" was also featured in the 2011 film The Art of Getting By.
The band was featured prominently in the 2010 film Going the Distance. "Evacuate" and "Spitting Fire" were performed from Union, as well as an original song, "If You Run", written specifically for the film's finale. The film was released on 3 September 2010. The song Spitting Fire was also featured in the film The Art of Getting By.
In December 2009, The Boxer Rebellion's album, Union was named the Best Alternative Album of 2009 by the editors of iTunes (US).
In 2010, the band performed at South by Southwest, an annual music, film, and interactive conference and festival held in Austin, Texas. They were awarded Best Men In Black by SPIN magazine's online review.
Piers Hewitt currently performs a weekly radio show on Brentwood radio station Phoenix FM. He also runs his own personal "blog" dedicated to writing about life on the road and personal thoughts about the music industry.
Renowned British comedian Simon Pegg stated in 2010 in Q Magazine that he is a fan of the band, comparing their sound to 'grand indie meets Sigur Ros'.
At the conclusion of their 2010 U.S. tour they announced the title and track listing of their new album The Cold Still to be released in February 2011. A lot of the tracks from this coming album were showcased during the 2010 tour of the U.S.
The Cold Still (2011–2012)
The Cold Still was released in the U.S. on 1 February 2011 on iTunes and is available on CD worldwide. The album became available on iTunes and in select music outlets in the UK and Europe on 7 February 2011.
The album was also made exclusively available on iTunes for a month after release. The album charted on iTunes at #24 with a peak position of #20, spending 9 days on the US iTunes album chart.
The band made their network television debut on 2 February 2011 on CBS's Late Show with David Letterman, where they performed the single "Step Out of the Car" live. The Boxer's new song "Both Sides are Even" was featured on ABC's Grey's Anatomy on 3 February 2011. "Both Sides are Even" was also featured on the SyFy series Being Human in Season 3 episode 11: "If I Only Had Raw Brain."
Since the release of The Cold Still, the band have had several music placements including two in the videogame industry. "Step Out Of The Car" from The Cold Still was used in 2011's Rocksmith game and original composition "Losing You" was written exclusively for the Batman: Arkham City game soundtrack. Additionally "Caught By The Light" was used in the serial drama Nikita.
Also in 2011 the band released their first full-length live record Live In Tennessee. It was recorded and mixed by Ben McAmis and featured 16 tracks from a single concert.
On 10 October 2011, the band cancelled their North American tour, saying "Due to personal tragedy we have made the difficult but necessary decision to cancel our upcoming appearances in Mexico, Canada, and the United States." They rescheduled an extended North American tour covering the US, Canada, and Mexico for 7 weeks between April and May 2012.
The band played the Austin City Limits festival on the AMD stage on 14 October 2012. This was the final show the band played in 2012.
B-Sides and Rarities Collection, Vol. 1 & 2 and Promises (2012–2013)
On 7 November 2012, the band announced the release of their two volume B-Sides & Rarities Collection, Vol. 1 & 2, which contains tracks that had been previously recorded, but not included on initial releases of any of the studio albums. Volume one focused on material before and around the band's debut, Exits, and volume two included tracks that were released around and after Union, as well as some rarities that didn't make the cut or were included as bonus tracks for The Cold Still. The two part collection is available for download only on most major online music retailers.
The band finished recording their fourth studio album, Promises, in the late part of February 2013. The music video for the debut single from the album, "Diamonds," was released on 26 March. The album released on 14 May, with a summer tour covering select areas of North America, and a single date in London, UK in October.
Ocean by Ocean (2016)
On 7 February 2016, the band announced their fifth studio album, Ocean by Ocean, due to be released on 29 April 2016. On 15 February 2015, they released the first single "Keep Me Close", followed by "Big Ideas" on 2 March and "Weapon" on 15 April.
Musical styles and influences
The Boxer Rebellion emerged at the tail end of the Oasis and Radiohead-dominated era of British Music as part of a newer scene of British bands adding an element of post-rock to the rock charts. The band's first single "Watermelon" was greeted with great enthusiasm by the British music press with The Fly magazine describing the band as 'the current Bright Young Things of Britrock, sounding like a bubbling mixture of The Cooper Temple Clause with the added bonus of Verve-esque melodies and Music-esque madness'. Kerrang Magazine in 2009 recommended the band for fans of Muse and Biffy Clyro, the latter of whom The Boxer Rebellion supported in the UK during 2004. Q magazine described their Union album as 'redolent of The Bends-era Radiohead'. Stereoboard stated the band as 'clearly taking influence from the recent success of bands such as The National and British Sea Power'.
Todd Howe, the band's former lead guitarist is known to be an avid Frank Zappa fan, owning over 36 of his records.
Todd Howe announced he was leaving the band on Facebook, 29 April 2014. According to Nathan Nicholson, the split was entirely amicable - Todd Howe had married someone who lives and works in Arizona, so it became too hard to work together.
Film & TV/Video games/Commercials
NCIS - Caught By The Light
Human Target - Semi-Automatic
Grey's Anatomy - Both Sides Are Even, New York, You Belong To Me & Dream
Royal Pains - Doubt
One Tree Hill - Both Sides Are Even & Semi-Automatic
24/7 - Both Sides Are Even
Ghost Whisperer - Spitting Fire
Huge - Soviets
CSI: New York - Locked in The Basement
A Gifted Man - Both Sides Are Even
Nikita - Caught By The Light
The Vampire Diaries - Code Red & Dream
The Originals (TV series) - "Promises"
The Forgotten - Silent Movie
Accidentally On Purpose - Soviets
Lincoln Heights - Soviets
Being Human (North American TV series) - Both Sides Are Even
Long Way Down - Semi-Automatic
Shameless - Both Sides Are Even
Shameless - Caught By the Light
Legit (2013 TV series) - Keep Moving
Forever - New York
Going the Distance - If You Run, Spitting Fire & Evacuate
The Art of Getting By - Spitting Fire
Flying Lessons - Flashing Red Light Means Go
Rocksmith - Step Out Of The Car
FIFA Football 2004 - "Watermelon"
Buick "Power" commercial - "Spitting Fire"
Batman: Arkham City - "Losing You"
Going the Distance - "If You Run" & "Spitting Fire"
Long Way Down - "The Gospel Of Goro Adachi"