Viola Beach were an emerging British indie rock group, formed in Warrington, Cheshire, in 2013. The band's final lineup consisted of Kris Leonard (guitar and vocals), River Reeves (guitar), Tomas Lowe (bass), and Jack Dakin (drums). All four, along with their manager Craig Tarry, died in a car crash in Södertälje, Sweden, on 13 February 2016.
In the week following the crash, their single, "Swings and Waterslides", entered the UK Singles Chart at number 11. The single also made #3 on the sales only chart (which excludes streaming sales).
Viola Beach formed in Warrington, Cheshire, in mid-2013, the original members being Kris Leonard (guitar and vocals), Frankie Coulson (guitar), Jonny Gibson (bass), and Jack Dakin (drums). The band's last lineup was formed in May 2015 with original members Leonard and Dakin joined by River Reeves (guitar) and Tomas Lowe (bass). In September 2013, the band's song "Daisies" featured on The Indie Cassette Player's 2nd compilation album, with "Love My Love" featuring on the website's 3rd volume in October 2013.
The band self-financed the recording of their first single, "Swings & Waterslides", releasing it on their own record label Fuller Beans. The track was produced by Ady Hall and Lee McCarthy of Sugar House and recorded at Catalyst Studios in St Helens. "Swings & Waterslides" was added to the BBC Radio 1 playlist in September 2015.
The band were supported by BBC Introducing, a platform for emerging musical talent, which described their songs as "infectious anthems" with "hints of slacker pop". They performed at the BBC Introducing Stage of the 2015 Reading and Leeds Festivals. In November 2015, the band recorded a live session for BBC Radio 1. They released their second single, "Boys That Sing"/"Like a Fool", on the Communion label on 22 January 2016.
When asked about his musical influences, singer-guitarist Kris Leonard said, "I'm definitely not consciously influenced by anyone", but mentioned the Coral, the Zutons, the Beatles and Hooton Tennis Club as being among his favourite Liverpool bands. He also said the Kooks' debut studio album Inside In/Inside Out played a big part in him becoming a musician. BBC Introducing recommended the band to fans of Coasts and the Kooks, while other critics drew comparisons with 1990s Britpop.
Leonard told Wonderland magazine that much of the band's lyrical content was inspired by their "very grey and industrial" hometown, where there was "nothing to do other than drink cider and smoke rollies on a park and chase after girls".
On 13 February 2016, the four band members and their manager, Craig Tarry, were killed in an incident on the E4 motorway bridge at Södertälje, southwest of Stockholm. Witnesses saw the car fall through a gap in the bridge, which was open to let a boat pass. The band were in Sweden, having played at the Where's the Music? festival in Norrköping the previous day. The cause of the crash was not immediately known. On 15 February 2016 it was announced that the Swedish police had opened an inquiry into the incident.
It was later revealed that an oil tanker (M/T Tellus) had sailed over wreckage of the band's crashed car. SVT, the Swedish state broadcaster, reported that the tanker's captain had seen the black Nissan Qashqai floating in the water but had thought it was a large mass of snow.
On 14 February, the day the news was announced, there was a round of applause for the band at the Premier League match between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur. Manager Craig Tarry was a Manchester City supporter. Tributes were made at The Lounge, the club where they began their careers, and Warrington Town Hall flew its flag at half-mast in the week following their deaths.
The band had been scheduled to support Blossoms on a tour of the UK and Ireland during February and March 2016, and to play at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, in March 2016. Other scheduled appearances in 2016 included The Great Escape Festival and T in the Park. Viola Beach had also been booked to play at their hometown's Pyramid and Parr Hall, in March and October respectively.
A social media campaign was initiated by fans to get the band's single "Swings & Waterslides" to the top of the UK Singles Chart. The campaign later drew support from former Oasis singer Liam Gallagher and rock band Kasabian. The single appeared at number 39 in the Official Chart Update published 15 February 2016, and climbed to number 11 by the end of the week. On 18 February it had briefly reached number one on the iTunes chart.
Following news of the band members' deaths, it was announced that all proceeds from their latest single would be donated to the families of the band members and of their manager. On 18 February Blossoms, who had performed with the band in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, two days before their deaths, announced they would play a recording of the Leamington concert at a gig in Bournemouth that evening. They also planned to showcase the band's material on the tour where Viola Beach were scheduled to support them.