Ever wonder what happened to that one teacher at school who could barely mask his inner weekend warrior, always stumbling into maths on a Monday morning with bags beneath his eyes? Well, three people’s grandads have come along to answer that question. And it is an answer as gloriously terrifying as it is terrifyingly glorious. Enter: The Northern Boys, your new favourite UK rap trio.
They are… Norman Pain, an exceedingly bald man with a look of terror in his eyes matched perfectly with his abrasive lyrics, Patrick Karneigh Jr AKA PKJ, the moustachioed regular at your local who could send the entire pub into a frenzy after revealing he has a popular Soundcloud, and Kevin, a sweet angel whose role is to do a little two-step shuffle in their vids while smiling.
Part of the extended SindhuWorld cinematic universe – also home to UK drill grandfathers Pete & Bas and the internet’s now-defunct favourite corner shop – these three northern lads suddenly appeared on our TikTok feeds about a month ago singing about doing hard drugs and sticking their dicks in the salsa over the “American Boy” instrumental for their track “Party Time”. They’ve since become a viral sensation (as well as a rare sliver of light on these otherwise entirely cursed isles).
Obviously I had to meet them. So at their request, I headed down to a private member’s club in Soho. After some brief introductions, PKJ, the apparent ringleader of the group, summoned the hostess and asked for us to be moved to a private meeting room – and also if she could keep an eye out for Sian Reeves from Coronation Street, as she would be joining him for a post-interview late lunch rendezvous.
At this point, my grasp on reality already wobbly, Norman having instructed the hostess to bring in eight bottles of Asahi every 20 minutes, we began.
VICE: So good to finally have you all in a room together. So where exactly up north are you from?
Kev: It's a wonderful town called Sutton Coldfield. It's got one of the best parks in the country – it's even got its own cows.
Is that where you filmed the video for “Party Time”?
PKJ: Yes! I'm actually from farther up north. You may notice my accent is vaguely northern… it was a lot more Liverpudlian slash Mancunian because I'm from a place in between the two, but [it’s not as strong] because I was teaching for a number of years in a boy’s grammar school and the kids took the piss. But only once, because I've got very bony elbows [imitates jabbing someone with them].
Norman: I'm from even further up north. I bounced around Lancashire for years and finished up teaching drama at Pete's school. I did that for a while until they found out that I was highly unqualified for the job. Allowing the kids to smoke in class wasn't a great idea.
PKJ: Kids piss me off. I'm getting paid to be there, so I've got to be there, but they piss me off. I used to play American football. I’d build up all this anger and frustration and then, on a Sunday afternoon, I’d kit up – I only weigh 11 stone two [around 70 kilos] but it doesn't matter, it's about technique – and vent my spleen on anybody that gets in my way. It's legal.
Norman: I would see him playing American football at school, and he didn't give a shit. He would break the students' noses and I thought, “That's a man worth knowing.”
Pat, you and Norm have both been releasing music separately for a while. What was behind the decision to come together? And Kev, where did you come from?
Kev: I've known Patrick for 37 years, and he introduced me to these crazy people [points at their management].
Where did you meet these guys, Patrick?
PKJ: You're dredging up stuff that's hazy in the memory. We were under the influence of this stuff [lifts beer] and other stuff. I dragged him into the snooker team with Pete & Baz because Kev here thought it would work quite well.
Kev! Are you the secret mastermind?
Kev: Only on a Wednesday.
PKJ: On a Thursday he's crap. Listen, Thursdays are sacrosanct because that's when we play dominoes, so we’ve got to make sure we're back in Sutton Coldfield for 9.05pm, or somebody's in trouble. Specifically you.
I wouldn’t dream of messing up dominoes night. Have you got any fun London activities planned for the day?
PKJ: Me and him [gestures at Kev] are over 75, so we don't go to work. Which means we can do whatever the fuck we want.
Norman: And I'm the baby.
Where do you find the inspiration for your lyrics?
PKJ: I have no idea. It's that bloody brandy you keep bringing round [to Norm]. Is it brandy or lighter fuel?
Norman: [struggling to form a sentence] Christ, this is difficult -
PKJ: Basically what he's saying is he can't remember because he was too pissed or high or stoned or something else.
Is it a stream of consciousness vibe?
PKJ: Something like that, yeah. We just get together, crack open a bottle of brandy and if he's got any pills of any kind - uppers, downers, inside outers - we do those.
Norman: You hear a phrase and you think “That sounds pretty good, write it down!”
PKJ: If either of us is in a state to write. My phone's got stuff on it where you can go “Write this down” and it does. It's pretty good. So that's how it works - we just bang out ideas in drunken stupors.
Norman: We think that the lyrics have gone well, and then we sober up and look at them and think, “That's a pile of shite.”
Are your lyrics based on real life experiences?
PKJ: You should plead the fifth on that one, Norm.
Norman: I've had some dark times...
PKJ: We all have. Hence the substance abuse - sorry, use.
Norman: Have you ever tried heroin?
Not yet. It's on my bucket list but I'm gonna wait until after 60.
Norman: What else is on your bucket list?
Just that, and some travelling.
PKJ: Bit narrow.
Kev: I think she's a heroine anyway.
Kev, you're obviously the charmer of the group… Is this why you've roped him in?
PKJ: Yes. Can you imagine us two trying to charm anybody?
You seem to be having some trouble with your wives based on the song lyrics. How are they doing?
PKJ: How many wives do you think I’ve got?
PKJ: I've got two wives. One's an ex, it was her fault. Cheeky cow found a younger model and told me to leave. Do you know what her parting shot to me was? “You've got a new bird in your guitar class, chat her up!” So I did. 37 years later, we're still married. My ex has been divorced three times.
Norman: The reason I'm living in my mate's spare room is because I'm not with my wife.
I'm sorry to hear that. Was it a recent separation?
Norman: Recent enough. I don't see my daughter. Me and the missus aren't speaking.
This has got a bit dark, hasn't it. What about you Kev, are you happily married?
Kev: [cheerfully] Absolutely… not! I'm very happily unmarried, but I have got a fantastic son.
Are you looking for a new lady in your life?
PKJ: He's got loads of 'em!
Kev: I don't allow them to kiss me below the neck. Especially on a Tuesday, because that's dominoes night.
PKJ: Thursday is dominoes night! Tuesday is open mic night - get a grip!
How are you handling your newfound fame? Have you had women throwing themselves at you?
Norman: My first port of call is that I'm under attack.
Norman: If someone comes up to me on the street, my first port of call is that they’re gonna attack me. I was walking along the street the other day and I see these four guys - they were looking at me and pointing and I thought [raises fists] “Go on then, I'll fucking have you! I'm in a bad place right now and I really need to vent some stuff.”
These guys came over to me and I was getting into the stance, putting my wallet in my mouth, and they went, “You're fucking Norman Pain! Can we get a selfie?'” And I thought… This is fucking unusual. Usually when I've got four fucking blokes around me they're trying to kick me head in. Now what happens if someone actually tries to mug me and I think they want a selfie?
PKJ: I think you should stay on your toes just in case.
You seem to be leading quite an intense party lifestyle, which at your age is very impressive. What are your hangovers like and what's your go to hangover cure?
PKJ: I don't remember my hangovers because I recover 48 hours later and I'm fine.
What happens in the 48 hours?
PKJ: Your guess is as good as mine.
Norman: My cure is to stay pissed.
How does it feel to have made it as an artist after all these years?
PKJ: You think we've made it already?
I think you're on the path.
PKJ: Have you ever heard of Thunderclap Newman? They thought they'd made it. They made a record, it was a smash hit, number one, blah, blah, blah - who's heard of them now? Nobody. They were called “one hit wonders”. We've got one hit.
Are you worried that will happen to you?
PKJ: Of course not! We have a shedload of stuff coming out your way. It depends if it's received as well as the first lot but we think it will be.
I mean you've already broken America so that's a good start.
PKJ: Does it need mending?
I think so. Can we expect a Northern Boys Christmas single?
PKJ: [starts loudly gagging] Do I look like Cliff Richard?
Norman: That's his way of saying yes. We could do something like “fuck Christmas... I hate Christmas....”
PKJ: “I hate Christmas. I hate Santa Claus. I hate... reindeer?” Actually I quite like reindeer. With spuds. And stuffing.
Norman: It's down to Kev. He's in charge.
Kev, when did you discover that dancing was your passion?
Kev: I've got five sisters and they said I've got to learn to jive so I did. I can take three at once and spin 'em round.
Norman: I'm not gonna say what arm he uses for the third one.
PKJ: Shhh! There are ladies present! But it is sometimes called a baby's arm…
On that note -
Kev: You've had enough.
What's next for you guys?
PKJ: I'm getting a train back home.
Norman: I'm gonna get my cock constricted by a pink hairband.
Norman: Whenever he brings the hairband to the studio. All I'm gonna say is just listen out for the next thing we release, because I'm gonna fight for that line to be in.
Somehow I don't feel like you'll have to fight.
PKJ: You ain't gotta fight. I'm on your side – that's where my line about being too tight comes in as well.
The Northern Boys magic is happening right in front of my eyes.
PKJ: We should give her a credit on the song.