Downtown Lester Brown

©Malcolm White 2011

©Malcolm White 2011

Downtown Lester Brown are a four-piece alternative funk-rock band from Newcastle Upon Tyne.  The band consists of Ben Taylor (guitar, vocals), Ian “Eesh” Henderson (bass), Richard Gilroy (guitar, vocals) and Johnny Belshaw (drums).

The original line-up also included Malcolm “Mallaz” White on percussion.  Mallaz was also the band’s manager and artist.

They were formed at the beginning of 2011 by Mallaz and Taylor as a music and art based project, Taylor writing the music and Mallaz creating the band’s artwork.  Downtown Lester Brown’s sound is an amalgamation of elements from a variety of musical genres ranging from 60’s style rock ‘n’ roll and funk to jazz and blues, taking influence from The Stone Roses, Jimi Hendrix, Placebo, Jamiroquai, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and The Talking Heads, amongst many others.  The band’s debut EP, ‘Love & Other Diseases’, was released for digital download on Boxing Day 2011, and to date Downtown Lester Brown have made several live performances in Newcastle.

Artist Malcolm White and guitarist Ben Taylor formed Downtown Lester Brown early in 2011.  They had met when Taylor was playing bass in his previous band Casino.  Mallaz had begun arranging and promoting gigs for Casino after designing the cover for their EP ‘The Late, Great Planet Earth’, in the summer of 2010.  After Casino disbanded, at the end of 2010, Taylor was eager for a new musical outlet and was more than enthusiastic when Mallaz suggested a combined music and art based project.

Mallaz brought in his friend, Ian “Eesh” Henderson, to play bass and Taylor begun to write songs for the newly formed band.  Eesh had actually been recruited for the project when Mallaz had first had the idea to set up a band, and had been waiting for something to transpire.  The trio then needed to find a drummer, and with no luck finding one amongst their friends and associates they decided to advertise for one online, along with a keyboard player.  Taylor then recruited Richard Gilroy, with whom he had worked with in previous bands including Casino, as a temporary solution to the drummer problem, and a view to eventually moving Gilroy onto guitar once a drummer was found.

In March 2011 the band had their first practice at Polestar Rehearsal Studios in Byker, with Taylor on guitar and vocals; Eesh on bass; Gilroy on drums and Mallaz playing maracas.  Mallaz and Taylor agreed to name the band’s first EP “Love and Other Diseases”, inspired by a conversation between Mallaz and his housemate Ozzie Paul, but could not come to a compromise on a name for the band at that stage.

The unnamed band continued to practice and Gilroy moved onto guitar and vocals along with Taylor after the band had had a response to their drummer advertisement.  However, the drummer, dubbed “Trainspotting” by the band due to his resemblance to a stereotypical Scottish heroin addict, proved to be unreliable after just a few weeks and the band took a brief break until Gilroy discovered talented drummer Johnny Belshaw.  Belshaw immediately impressed all four members of the band with his audition, thus completing the line-up of the band.

After numerous failed suggestions, the band eventually settled on the name Downtown Lester Brown after it was blurted out over a post-practise pint in June 2011.

On 30th July 2011, Downtown Lester Brown made their first live performance at Newcastle’s intimate Blue Bunny Cafe in front of a full house.  Downtown Lester Brown continue to perform live in venues across Newcastle.

The band recorded their debut EP at North-East Rehearsals-Recording, in South Shields, in August and September 2011.  They released the single ‘Each To Their Own’ on free digital download the same month.  Despite being available for free, Each To Their Own was downloaded only twenty times.  The following month, the track ‘Empty Heed’ was released as an official single for digital download.  To date Empty Heed is yet to have sold a single download.

Downtown Lester Brown continued to work on new material and cracks began to appear within the bands infrastructure.  The new material deviated from the original concept Mallaz had specified when he set up the band.  Mallaz had set out to create a band with attitude and a vibe that would get people dancing with fun, happy music.  The psychedelic element of the music had been dropped and the band’s new material was more mainstream.  Mallaz expressed several concerns with the new direction the band was heading in.

Late November 2011, after returning from a short break in Amsterdam, Mallaz was informed by Taylor that his input was no longer wanted in the writing of the band’s music.  After that, Mallaz decided to move into solely managing the band after their next recording.  However, Mallaz quit the band soon after.

Downtown Lester Brown’s last performance as a five-piece was at The Telegraph in Newcastle, on 2nd December 2011.  It was an event organised by Mallaz, featuring The Mojags and Artisam. It was this performance that lead to Mallaz quitting as both a band member and the band’s manager. Mallaz states the band’s lack of ambition as one of the main reasons behind his departure and he left Downtown Lester Brown on 5th December 2011.

The debut EP, Love & Other Diseases, was released for digital download on Boxing Day 2011.

Love & Other Diseases © Downtown Lester Brown 2011

Downtown Lester Brown dates




30th July – The Blue Bunny Cafe, Newcastle Upon Tyne

9th September – Tashes For The Telegraph Gig, Newcastle Upon Tyne (supported by Manalishi)

23rd September – Too Far North at The Dog and Parrot, Newcastle Upon Tyne

11th October – The Riverside, Newcastle Upon Tyne (supporting Alt-J)

4th November – Too Far North at The Dog and Parrot, Newcastle Upon Tyne

19th November – Too Far North at The Cluny, Newcastle Upon Tyne

1st December – Something Else @ LYH, Newcastle Upon Tyne

2nd December – Mallaz gig (with The Mojags and Artisam) at The Telegraph, Newcastle Upon Tyne


Recording Sessions


23rd August – North-East Rehearsals-Recording, South Shields

12th September – North-East Rehearsals-Recording, South Shields


Single Releases


25th August – Each To Their Own (free download)

12th September – Empty Heed (digital download)


EP Releases


26th December – Love & Other Diseases (digital download)


The cheapest, and therefor the best, places to download Downtown Lester Brown’s releases are:

Empty Heed (single) – CD Baby ($0.50)

Love & Other Diseases (EP) – eMusic (£2.94)

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