Rock n rollers Tom Allalone and the 78s brought their old school sound to the Ulu for their biggest show to date this week –Helen Clarke caught up with singer Tom to talk image, musical icons...and Leona Lewis.


FASHIONS come and go, this month's sound will be dead and buried come August, and you wouldn't be seen dead in those trainers next year – and no one knows this more than Tom Allalone. "I've never wanted to be one of those people who looks 'right' all the time," he says. "I live in Whitechapel and everyone there walks down the street looking like an E4 presenter. It's just boring."

But that's not to say he's opposed to dressing up every now and then. Far from it, in fact - Tom and his three band mates are known for the snazzy stage atire. "I think it's really important to have a bold image but you can't rely on that – you've got to have the sound to back it up. Too many bands focus on their look. It's this E4 culture – disco-electro, Urban Outfitters.

"But on the flip side you shouldn't NOT make an effort either – you see people like Johnny Borrell. People like him get famous and then everyone starts walking around wearing rags.

Pop stars should look like pop stars – think of Elvis, the Beatles and Madness...great bands both musically and in terms of their image. That's the sort of thing I like and what I hope we achieve."

This timeless attitude extends to his band's sound too. Their debut album Major Sins Pt 1, which was released in May, is a blast of retro, upbeat, rockabilly influenced cheeriness. "We've got so many influences flying around the band. Si's a big punk fan, Rich knows everything about 60s pop and Matt's really into jazz. I got into jazz when I was quite young – muso guys like Chet Baker and Charlie Parker. I also liked Tom Waits and Elvis Costello was a huge one for me." So far so cool – there must be some dodgy, hidden secrets? "Ummm...I've got a Gay Dad album, does that count?"

Tom plays at the Ulu on July 2 and, as an adopted Londoner, he's got some special surprises in store for his home coming show. "Our manager's also Leona Lewis's manager. I think that's probably how he makes his money – she brings the cash in so we don't have to! Anyway, because of that, we've managed to get her string section to play at the gig, as a one off. He also knows Squeeze, so we've got the guy who plays keyboard with them now playing with us too. I wanted to make it really special, to bring out all the sounds in the album, so we've pretty much got a full band."

With no target market, who can we expect to see at the gig? "It's people like us – people who don't want to be spoon fed by these bands with Topshop, flatpack CD collections," he says. "Most of them have bought The Best of The Clash and The Best of The Ramones and then go and start a band. I don't think we appeal to the 16-18 demographic – our crowd tends to be a bit older. Fans of Stiff label bands, Ian Dury. I'm not saying we're right up there though – I'd better be careful or we'll get some Chuck Berry fans coming along who think we're awful!"