Having started out playing gigs in the bar at the end of their street, a brother and sister from Castlerock are now part of one of the Province’s most in-demand bands.
Brand New Friend – a band which was started by siblings Taylor and Lauren Johnston just two years ago – supported Snow Patrol on their recent Irish tour, and are set for a host of gigs at some of this summer’s top music festivals.
Lauren and Taylor, originally from Ballyclare, formed the band with Lauren’s boyfriend Aaron and their friend Luke in 2016.
Lead singer and guitarist Taylor, 23, said: “Bertha’s Bar is where we played our first gig – it’s literally at the end of our street in Castlerock.
“Our mates came to see us and it was good craic. That’s all we ever thought it would be.
“So when the mad gigs started coming in and we cut a record deal it really was a shock to everyone’s system.”
Last Sunday night Brand New Friend played to a packed Ulster Hall as support to Snow Patrol on their return to the live music scene after a seven-year absence.
Taylor said: “Even though we were playing in the sold-out Ulster Hall there was no pressure on us. By just being there we’re doing far better than anyone had dreamed of. Beyond playing Bertha’s Bar everything is bonus to us.”
Taylor and his sister Lauren, 20, who performs vocal and keyboard duties for the band, are former pupils of Slemish College in Ballymena, where Taylor was head boy and Lauren deputy head girl.
The band’s drummer Luke Harris, 19, and bassist Aaron Milligan, 21, are ex-students at Wellington College.
Taylor was once a promising footballer, playing for Larne Youth during his career. However, at the age of 18 he decided he wanted to play music over football.
He added: “We’ve all had to quit our jobs because we’ve been touring so much. Aaron had to sell his car to finance the tour. Lauren has managed to stay on at uni which is amazing. She is doing an English Literature degree at Queen’s.”
The band released their debut album – Seatbelts For Aeroplanes – last month.
This summer they will play Reading and Leeds festival, Electric Picnic and support Kodaline at Custom House Square in August. They plan to go on tour in the autumn.