Roller Coaster Ride
Roller Coaster Ride
U.K. indie pop act Theme Park are on the fast track to stardom.
By Lisa Roolant. Photographed by Roberta Ridolfi
“Brother M!” Miles Haughton enthusiastically greets his sibling Marcus with a low-five handshake. It’s a chilly November morning and the guys have just arrived at a shared office loft in East London for a photo shoot. Judging by their genuine excitement to see each other, it’s clear the two are inseparable. Not only fraternal twins and roommates, they also make up two-thirds of Theme Park, the London-based group that have been riding a wave of buzz since they emerged last year with their slick, New Wave-inspired pop.
Sinking into a sofa, a mug of tea in hand, guitarist Oscar Manthorpe is surprised when I ask whether he and the Haughtons ever butt heads. “I’m usually asked whether the twins get on!” he says with a laugh. “We’re all friends from before we were born,” interjects Marcus, explaining that their parents have known each other for years. “We all used to play tennis together.”
Whether on the court or onstage, the three interact with an ease that only lifelong friends have; it almost seems as if they could all be brothers—disregarding some minor phenotypic details. Manthorpe and the Haughtons, who both sing and play guitar, first started out experimenting with jazz and post-punk under the alias Ark People in high school, where their classmates included members of Yuck, Cajun Dance Party, Fryars, and Bombay Bicycle Club (the latter of which Theme Park supported on their first U.K. tour last year). Taking a break to attend different universities, they decided to reunite after graduating and focus once again on music. (“We were thinking of making a doubles tennis team, but decided to go into music instead,” Miles jokes.) They settled on a new, much-poppier sound and a new name, which came courtesy of their ex-bassist Louis Bhose, who, Marcus explains, went to Tierra Santa, a “Jesus theme park” in Buenos Aires while on vacation. "He came back convinced we should call ourselves that. We decided on dropping the Jesus part, though."
After posting a few tracks online last year—including the infectious, tropical-tinged “Milk”— a wave of attention ensued as critics compared and contrasted them to everyone from Talking Heads to Vampire Weekend. When asked to list their influences, Miles doesn’t hesitate to throw out “Hot Chip, LCD Soundsystem, and a little bit of Fleetwood Mac."
FROM LEFT: Oscar Manthorpe, Marcus Haughton, Miles Haughton.
This month Theme Park pay homage to Hot Chip on their new EP, Two Hours, with a slowed down, melancholic version of the latter’s bubbly hit “Ready For the Floor.” Jessie Ware and The National also get the covers treatment, but the best of the EP’s four tracks is undoubtedly a Theme Park original: the title song, a painstakingly honest confession of emotional apathy that’s pasted against a hypnotically euphoric hook and a breezy melody—one of the saddest happy songs we've heard in a long time. “Sometimes I’m upset and think I could write a sad [sounding] song, but it doesn’t go very well,” says Miles.
Granted, the guys have plenty reason to be happy. As if touring with Bombay Bicycle Club and Two Door Cinema Club wasn’t enough for the new trio, Theme Park just finished a stint opening for Bloc Party, a band they’ve loved for years. “It was sort of like a barrier had been broken between being a spectator and being—I wouldn’t say a peer—but approaching that world,” says Manthorpe. “It felt like some sort of step up.” Their next step should be even bigger: They’re set to release their debut album in February. Says Manthorpe: “I think if the album comes across as fun as it was for us to make, then it will be a success.”