You may not know Rixton, but you’re probably familiar with the big names behind it. The British pop-rock band is managed by Scooter Braun, and is climbing the charts with “Me and My Broken Heart,” which is produced by Benny Blanco (Katy Perry, Rihanna) and features a writing credit from Matchbox Twenty’s Rob Thomas (more on that later). On the Billboard Hot 100 dated April 26, the song rises 65-55. It also debuts on Digital Songs at No. 42 with 34,000 sold. It’s sold 93,000 to date, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The song is the title track from Rixton’s debut EP, which was released by Braun’s Schoolboy and Blanco’s Little Big Man imprints through Interscope on March 18 and also features “Hotel Ceiling,” written by Ed Sheeran.
But the first time Rixton lead singer Jake Roche got a call from Braun — the supermanager behind Justin Bieber, Carly Rae Jepsen and others — he hung up. “We were in the studio in London, and I got this call from an American phone number. I could feel my phone bill melt into my hands,” recalls Roche, 21. “It was Scooter, and he was like, ‘I’ve seen you guys, watched all your videos on YouTube.’ I thought someone was playing a prank on me.”
But Braun was serious, and he was flying to London the following day on a business trip. He called back, and the band invited him to one of its private “flat gigs,” where the group plays acoustically at friends’ apartments – including that of Nathan Sykes of The Wanted, another Braun client, who recommended the group to him. Rixton had gained a following on YouTube for its covers of Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble” and Usher’s “Numb,” but Braun was as impressed by the act’s originals.
“They played me stuff they had written, and it was really good,” says Braun. “I realized this was a real band. They could pick up any instrument and just play. They could re-create any song you threw at them.”
The band’s talents for both songwriting and re-creation come together on “Me and My Broken Heart,” which features an interpolation of Matchbox Twenty frontman Rob Thomas’ 2005 solo smash “Lonely No More.” “We’ve been a huge fan of his, so we took a lot of inspiration from him and wanted to give him a tip of the hat,” says Roche. “Plus, Rob’s a big fan of Benny’s, so hopefully we’ll all get to work a lot more closely.” A source close to Thomas says the singer was “flattered” by the tribute.
Although the Rixton song’s similarity to “Lonely No More” has prompted some criticism online, it hasn’t hurt it at radio. It bullets at No. 16 on the Pop Songs airplay chart. Kid Kelly, vp music programming at SiriusXM – whose 20 on 20 channel leads all Pop Songs reporters with 345 plays through April 15, according to Nielsen BDS – says the song’s instantly “familiar” elements helped it catch on. “It went a lot quicker than most because it has attributes of recent hit records. Even though it sounds different, it has an instant appeal.”
Along with Thomas and Matchbox Twenty, the band idolizes the grown-up sounds of American pop rockers like OneRepublic and Maroon 5 – whose music Rixton’s resembles more than the British boy bands the act has sometimes been compared to, somewhat unfairly. “At first it really got to us, because we’re artists. We’ve been writing and playing live for years,” says Roche of being lumped in with One Direction and The Wanted, which also comprise telegenic young Brits. “But then we realized boy bands get a lot of women. So if they want to call us a boy band, that’s fine.”
Rixton’s debut full-length is due later this year on Interscope. But first the band will be spending a lot more time stateside courting new fans, with a sold-out headlining mini-tour next month and a live performance from Rockefeller Center on Today on May 28. “We just put up New York and L.A. shows and blew them out in 30 minutes,” says Braun. “We’re going to treat Rixton like a real rock’n’roll touring band. It’s not about packaging them with other people.”
According to Interscope president John Janick, some “great international synchs” are also being locked down. “I’ve never seen a record fly like this,” he says. “Now we get to show people who they really are.”