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Above: Kaiser Chiefs bass player and Leeds United fan Simon Rix

When Britain locked down in March last year, some threw themselves into walking. But, for the multimillion-selling Leeds band Kaiser Chiefs, a way to cheer up the nation dropped into their laps.

 

After radio DJ Chris Moyles played their modern standard ‘Oh My God’, a listener joked that they should amend the lyrics to “Oh my God, I can’t believe it, I’ve never spent this much time at home.” Challenge accepted, recalled bass player Simon Rix (Geography & Mathematics 2000).

“We all have recording kit at home so we could work on it really quickly,” he explained. The Kaisers released a new version on YouTube to widespread approval, especially from NHS professionals. “It did what we wanted it to do, which was to cheer everyone up,” said Simon. “A nice, funny thing in a miserable time.”

 

Community involvement has become important to Simon, a Leeds native who grew up in Menston, went to Notre Dame Sixth Form College and then, like the band’s drummer Vijay Mistry (Chemistry 2000), to the University itself. During lockdown he also helped local MP Alex Sobel (Information Systems 1997) to deliver PPE equipment across Leeds – “there was a real shortage during the summer so helping out was great” – and he and his partner assisted at a food bank at the Rainbow Junktion cafe near the Brudenell Social Club. “In all my years living in Headingley I wasn’t aware how many people living close to me were having a really hard time financially,” he said. “It was a real eye-opener.”

The Leeds music scene was a huge part of Simon’s choice to study at the University and the city is baked into his band’s name. Originally, they were called Parva (“not a name you can get across in a noisy club”) but success demanded something more memorable. “We sat in the pub thinking for weeks, months,” said Simon. Then the name of a South African football team, the first club of Leeds United captain Lucas Radebe, came up. “Kaiser Chiefs was exactly what we wanted,” said Simon. “It was strong, and Lucas had the Leeds spirit of giving it all. I loved that link. It was fate.”

 

Now, after 16 lean years, United are back in the Premier League. Lifelong fan Simon finds himself President of the Supporters’ Trust, which assists good causes including a food bank and a campaign for a plaque at Elland Road for Albert Johanneson, the first Black player in an FA Cup final.

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Read more about Kaiser Chiefs went from performing in small Leeds clubs to filling arenas Credit: Dani Beck

Kaiser Chiefs went from performing in small Leeds clubs to filling arenas Credit: Dani Beck

“Leeds fans used to be a bit infamous,” Simon admitted, “but now we’re channeling our energies into good things. We were starved of great football for years but our new manager Bielsa has a high moral compass. He wants to play football the right way, and that’s rubbing off on the city.”

 

Does Simon miss the fact that he can’t do his two favourite things: watching Leeds in the top flight and playing live shows? “I’m quite enjoying being an armchair fan,” he laughed. “We put up with terrible football for 16 years. I can wait a few more months.”

Words
Journalist Andrew Harrison (Political Studies 1990) produces the podcasts Oh God, What Now?, The Bunker and Bigmouth

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