If you came to our Mindful Drinking Festival in Spitalfields Market in July, you’ll have seen the rad duo “Broken Dollars” play a set of bluesy-acoustic tunes for the sea of people enjoying the sunshine and drinks in the square.
Broken Dollars’ singer and guitarist, Luke, is teetotal – so I asked him about his personal journey with alcohol, how it’s affected his creativity and what he thought of our festival.
You can grab a copy of Broken Dollars’ latest EP “Move Mountains” and one of their Rok Soba collaboration t-shirts here – both of which all proceeds are donated between ourselves here at Club Soda and The Prince’s Trust!
So how did Broken Dollars come about as a band?
Simon [my bandmate] and I have been really good friends for years and it kind of happened as a bit of an accident – the name came about because I was going through the start of my changing drinking phase and I said that I “feel like a bit of a broken dollar.” Simon said I should put my feelings about drinking and everything into songs, so we decided to start a band and that was it. We’d been listening to a lot of The Picture Books and thought we’d set up a two-piece bluesy thing. We pretty much straight away had a half an hour set, booked a couple of gigs and just went full steam ahead. I’m big into my motorbikes, so the music quickly started getting used for different videos, and we were having our picture taken wearing different brands’ clothes, so that’s cool. We decided to collaborate with Shaun and Lee from Rok Soba because of their motto “Face Everything and Rise” (F.E.A.R) and we kept saying its hope and fate that’s brought us together – because every time we get together and chat, we talk about what we need or want and then the next day it happens. Everything’s just rolling really naturally and nicely. I wrote a song with our joint titles because Rok Soba is just a perfect colab for us, so I contacted them and said that I love what they’re doing and they sent me a t-shirt – and now we’re buds.
You’re quite open about the fact that you’ve given up drinking, can you tell us a bit about your journey?
I stopped drinking three and a half years ago, it’ll be four years in December. Basically, I was never a dependent drinker, but I was a massive binge drinker – so I didn’t drink all the time but when I did I would drink five times more than everyone else that I was with and became really nasty. My friends called me Jekyll and Hyde because of the change in me. I always used to take it out on the women in my life and when I stopped drinking and started therapy, I learned it was all to do with my Mum because she isolated me and used to drink a lot – it’s only as an adult that you realise how abnormal that is. So my trigger was the women in my life because I was taking out that anger on them. I reached a point when I’d lost everything too many times, so I had to knock it on the head. I never looked back and I’ve never been happier. It’s great that it’s becoming so much more normal and acceptable not to drink, and so many more alcohol-free drinks and options are out there now, so even when I’m out with friends they often end up drinking alcohol-free beers too so they can drive home.
Other than what you’re doing with music, what would you say are the key changes you’ve noticed in yourself since you changed your relationship with alcohol?
Overall I’m a much happier person and I feel physically healthier all the time. I’ve learned to open up a lot more, maybe I even overshare and I can’t say anything but the truth – I have to be completely honest about what I think and feel, whereas before I used to bottle everything up. Now I feel a lot more free and easy. It [alcohol] did end my marriage so it was an adjustment being on my own, but I’m putting all my effort into my music and my two beautiful kids who are my world. Now I’m just trying to do good and help other people in a similar situation through the band and speaking so openly about it. I have so many friends coming to me now and asking for advice, I feel like I’m helping people and everyone thinks what I’m doing with the band is incredible, there are even big celebrities who have stopped drinking which helps, because to start with you feel like you’re the only one. People like Rok Soba and Club Soda make it OK not to drink and make it clear that it is a choice. Some friends can still be negative but everyone witnessed the bad stuff, so there really is no excuse or reason for me to drink. I put a post up on Facebook when I first stopped drinking saying that I’d quit and that was it. One thing I do hate is when people treat me differently and think they have to ask if it’s ok for them to have a drink around me. I wish they’d ignore it instead of pussyfooting around it. I don’t care when other people want to get drunk – I just don’t want to. Now and again I think about it when I’m stressed, but otherwise, I don’t miss it.
It’s clear that stopping drinking has directly affected the music you make, but would you say it’s actually increased your creativity?
Yeah, I’ve definitely noticed this. The songs are easy to write because they’re about something that’s personal to me. I’m more creative because I’m in a better head space and I have my own space and time now. I’m still very dedicated to my family but I have the balance of my own time now. I always used to try to cram so much in, but now I think about whether I have time to do it and then prioritise. I take a step back and look at it all from the outside, instead of piling it on and getting stressed. Since we started pushing things with Rok Soba I feel like I’m adding a message into my songs, so it’s not just about me or for myself, it’s for people in the same situation who will get what I’m saying. If I explain what the song means, it becomes clear – it’s immediate and obvious, instead of just being a catchy pop song.
You guys played at our Mindful Drinking Festival on 28th July – you’d never been before, so what did you think of it?
I met people who are in the same boat as me and got some more exposure for the band – I wanted people to see and like what we’re doing and that’s what happened. I didn’t even know that there are so many alcohol-free options, nobody really does in the drinking world, so it’s such a cool thing that you can go to a gig or a festival and drink all the things that you would have usually but go home sober! I learned more and added to my personal journey, which is what I wanted from the day.
Where would you like to see yourself in the near future?
For me, I’d love for the music with Broken Dollars to become the day job, and I’m quite enjoying being on my own now. I used to need to be occupied all the time but I’m enjoying my own space and trying not to plan too much, enjoy life, live life. If I could make a career out of doing what I love and give something back then brilliant, double win.