Check out my monthly roundup of some of the best gigs happening in and around Brighton and Hove in February 2017, including gig previews, features and interviews.
There Will Be Blood: Live
Mon 6th February – Brighton Dome
Following on from their performance at London’s Royal Festival Hall on 30th January, this week sees the London Contemporary Orchestra (LCO) performing three dates of their fantastic ‘There Will Be Blood: Live’ show, with performances at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall (Sun 5th Feb), Brighton Dome (Mon 6th Feb) and Bristol’s Colston Hall (Tue 7th Feb).
Fans of indie post-punk rockers The Futureheads will be delighted to hear that guitarist and vocalist Barry Hyde will be coming to Brighton to perform an intimate solo show at Brighton Komedia (Studio) to showcase his debut album, Malody, which was released in June 2016 on Sirenspire Records. The show is hosted by local promoter Melting Vinyl, and as with most of their shows, features a great support from a local artist – in this case the gentle folksters Lutine, a Brighton 3-piece known for their delicate arrangements and vocal harmonies.
This week, UK singer-songwriter and YouTube favourite Gabrielle Aplin will be embarking on a short 3-date tour in the south of England. Unsurprisingly, the shows have all sold out, but we are using this as an opportunity to trace her history so far, to give you a brief history of Gabrielle Aplin, told in just 6 videos. Enjoy!
Before the last date of their Carols By Candlelight Tour, I caught up with the recently reformed operatic quartet G4 to talk about pigs in blankets, Christmas Medleys and terrible Christmas presents.
G4 Interview – St. Georges’ Church, Brighton
How has the tour been so far? Have the audience been in the festive spirit, as some of the tour dates were in November?
It’s been interesting. Ben was reticent to begin with. For a lot of people 1st December is seen to be the start of the preparations for Christmas, but it’s been nice because for a lot of people we have literally been the first Christmas event in their calendar. I think that it’s great to have that live experience early on to get in the spirit.
Does it bring back memories from your early days singing in local choirs performing in Churches and Cathedrals?
(unison) Definitely! That is the exact background that we all come from. For us Christmas was the most memorable time of singing in the church. It’s nice to be able to choose the tracks that we sing now though. On the album there is a version of Away in a Manger with Jon singing the first verse and an old version of Jon singing when he was about 8 recorded on a cassette that we’ve used for the second verse.
These concerts have been particularly interesting for us as we have come around full circle bringing a chorister to each on to start off each performance of Once in Royal David’s City. We ran a competition called ‘G4 Search for a Christmas Star’ where we invited young singers to audition for the opportunity to lead the carol a cappella. The winner tonight is a great young singer called Toby Peters, who also opened up the first date of the tour in Norwich. He was so good that we invited him back to finish the tour with us!
What has been your favourite venue on the tour and why?
Brighton of course! (I think they may have been joking) All of the venues were completely different. Lincoln had a very powerful sound, whereas Derby had real family feel. It was great to be able to travel across the country to play in such beautiful and unique venues.
How did you first become involved with Rock Choir?
We’ve been working with Rock Choir since our reunion gig and they’ve played every gig with us in 2015. We first became involved with them when we enquired after hearing about them as a franchise. We thought that it was great what they were doing, as an amateur choir with a really professional attitude. Because there are so many of the choirs around the country, it’s great to be able to perform alongside different people each night on the tour. It adds a real energy to things where otherwise you might be lagging. From a practical point of view it makes a tour more logistically possible too. It feels like a natural marriage for us with the music and hope that they will continue to perform alongside us in the 2016.
How did you decide on the track listing for the album?
With difficulty. We started out by making a big list of all of the songs that we’d like to sing. Then we worked through some of them to see what would work best. We wanted the album to be different from the traditional Christmas album, pushing the boundaries with some obvious choices, some historic choices – like O Holy Night which was a song that we originally sung back on X Factor but never recorded – and some new moments such as the Christmas Medley and Bring Him Home, which is very fitting with the associated charity for the album, Missing People, and their #HomeforChristmas campaign.
Do you have a favourite track from the album?
The Christmas Medley. It was really fun to record. We enjoyed the anonymity of the whistling of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer…until the live performance when everybody was looking to see who it was!
Where did you get the idea for the PledgeMusic campaign and how did you feel when you reached your target?
(Jon) I had previously used PledgeMusic for a solo project and when I put it forward to the guys they were keen to give it a go. It’s a really exciting project to be a part of, coming up with interesting incentives to give the fans more than just an album. It’s about letting them be a part of the experience from the first stages of recording the album through to its completion. Some of incentives included inviting people to the recording sessions of the album, going up The Shard for afternoon tea and going on a limo ride with one lady. It’s a great way to engage with your fans and we even managed to sell some albums too!
What are your plans before the Back For Good tour in April?
We’re on The Saturday Show tomorrow morning (Saturday 19th Dec) at 7am so we are travelling up to London after the signing after the show tonight. After that we have some solo work lined up over the holidays. (Jon) I’m in a pantomime and the rest of the guys have solo work going into the new year. Then we have some promo work to do for the new tour, rehearsals and perhaps some more recording before we start the tour. We’ll also be working on our new arrangements for the tour. We want to try some new ideas for this tour.
What is the most unexpected place that your music has taken you?
About 7 years ago we visited Ghana with the charity SOS Children. We went to an orphanage and saw the difficulty that people had living there, without any running water, scavenging for scraps of anything that they could eat. The people lived in shanty towns, in tiny huts that didn’t seem big enough for one person, let alone a whole family. There was one village that we went to where they had 1 TV, and people came from miles around to gather and watch it. It was a real social experience. Some of the people knew who we were through X Factor and we performed for the orphanage, helping to make some instruments for them to play along with.
Do you feel that by taking a break from G4 to pursue other solo projects, you feel more re-invigorated now you are back performing as a quartet?
There is definitely a much more healthy balance this time around. When we were first coming out of X Factor it was relentless. 24/7 for about 5 years. We only had about 3 weeks off in that time and even then we were on reserve, in case we got a call from Elton John to ask us to play a gig with him as we’d have to say yes. He never did call though… Now we are all a little older and it’s great to have the time to pursue our solo work and have more fun with what we’re doing. I think a lot of classical music and operatic singing is made too formal and we are definitely breaking pre-conceptions about classical music, reaching a mixed audience to make the music accessible to all, regardless of social background or age.
What is your favourite part of the Christmas Dinner?
Ben – Pigs in blankets.
Mike – I was going to say pigs in blankets too but actually I think it’s the bread sauce. We have a special family recipe. I would gladly have bread sauce sandwiches for days on end.
Jon – I like the meats. I like to cook a nice multi-bird roast. I buy all of the birds and then stuff them myself.
Finally, what is the worst Christmas Present that you have ever received or given?
Ben – Dettol. I was given it when I was about 9 years old. I think I still have the bottle somewhere. I was also given a leopard-print mankini.
Nick – I once got the same boring collection of poetry two years in a row from the same relative.
Jon – I like to make my friends fake scratchcards, so that they think that they’ve won like £50,000. It’ quite mean but it is very funny.
This month marks the first birthday of the Folklore Sessions, a monthly acoustic night hosted by Jacko Hooper at the White Rabbit, designed to give some of the finest acoustic musicians a great platform to showcase their music to a respectful audience. In this Jacko Hooper Interview, we reflect on the first year of Folklore Sessions, his highlights and the future of Folklore Sessions.
So one whole year of Folklore Sessions! Did you think that it would last this long?
Well I sort of fell into it… I didn’t really go into it with a game plan as such. Some friends asked if i wanted to play at the pub they work at and I said that it sounded fun.
It has grown a lot since then and i realised soon after starting it that it could really grow into something.
So to answer your question no! I didn’t think it would but it’s become an incredibly enjoyable journey so far and now have some really exciting plans for it all.
How do you go about choosing the artists to play at Folklore Sessions?
Well luckily there are a lot of very talented artists in Brighton and the surrounding areas. Initially it was a case of getting friends to play and other musical friends that I have played shows with myself over the years. Nowadays it is done more on submissions, I can get anything between 10-30 submissions a week.
What makes Folklore Sessions stand out from other acoustic nights?
Well I hope that the quality is the first thing. Folklore only has the very best artists play and the calibre of music is always exceptionally high. People can come to Folklore and be guaranteed that everyone on the line up is excellent.
The fact that it is also organised by a musician who is actively gigging might help it too as too often shows aren’t organised very well. I try and put as much time and effort into the lead up to the shows as I can.
Do you have a favourite moment from the first year of Folklore Sessions?
Very tricky. I think running the Folklore stage at Together The People festival was a real exciting moment. When Mara Simpson first went on stage as the first artist on the first Folklore stage it was quite a satisfying and exciting moment. As it was when Aniseed Treats played to a packed out tent on the last night surrounded by fairy lights. The event for The Great Escape was a lot of fun too though…
How do you think the local scene for acoustic music has changed much in the last 12 months and if so do you think that Folklore Sessions have played a part in that?
I hope so? I mean, there has always been such a wealth of good acoustic music in Brighton. I just wanted to try and deliver a night that could represent that as well as possible. Brighton has in the last few years had such a surge in electronic based music and left field stuff and the acoustic side of things has always been there too… but perhaps without the proper ‘home’.
There are so many awesome open mics in the city and venues like The Brunswick that really support the scene but hopefully Folklore has given it another place to flourish.
What was it like to host a stage the Together The People Festival earlier this month?
Very exciting! I was really happy when the guys asked me to be involved. It was quite stressful mind you! 20 artists in two days was a lot to try and juggle, not to mention I was playing on the 2nd stage myself on the Sunday! But I loved every minute of it.
The festival seemed to be a total success and it was a real privilege to have been involved with it, especially for its first year.
Where would you like to take Folklore Sessions in the future?
There are a lot of things I have planned. Inner city festivals, an album, all kinds of exciting things. They will be kept firmly under my hat for now however regarding details or other ventures.
Have you thought about releasing a Folklore Sessions Mix Tape to celebrate it’s first birthday? I think that would be well received!
Oh Tom, you read my mind.
Finally, do you think social media or word of mouth have played a bigger part in the night’s success so far?
I think that social media will always play a big part in any sort of venture like this. I think for Folklore word of mouth has probably been more key. We also have a mailing list that goes around every month at the showcases. This has helped too I think.
Here is a playlist of what you can expect at the Folklore Sessions Birthday Party on Tuesday 20th October. See the Facebook event for more information.
Before opening the doors at The Brunswick in Hove, I caught up with Nizlopi frontman and travelling troubadour Luke Concannon to see what his future plans are, the recent changes in the musical climate and whether or not the JCB song was based on playing truant at school.
TOM:Hi Luke. Thanks for taking the time to have a chat with me before the show. Do you have any hidden musical talents?
LUKE: I can play the bones. You play them kind of like the spoons, but they’re just cow bones. It’s a very Irish instrument.
T: Why did you decide to do these songwriting classes as a part of the tour?
L: With my music, I’ve got to love and believe in what I’m doing, but it can be hard to draw people in to gigs sometimes, particularly mid-week. My idea of doing the songwriting workshops came from Fiona Bevan and Kal Lavelle when they did workshops on their ‘Song Sisters’ tour. I wanted to encourage songwriting, to engage with the audience and from a PR point of view, radio stations really like it.
T: How has the standard been so far?
L: It’s been good. There haven’t been a lot of people turn out so far to be honest, but those that have all had some previous experience. It’s nice to work together with people, so that you don’t feel alone when you’re writing a song. One song that I wrote with a guy was to be performed at an intimate family occasion. It’s really special to be involved in something like that.
T: If you could pick one musical festival to headline, which one would it be and why?
L: Oh that’s a tough one. Glastonbury, for obvious reasons. But actually also maybe the Willie Clancy Festival in Miltown Mabay. It’s a tiny festival. I once saw a travelling bagpiper performing in a church hall there and I think it was probably the best gig I’ve ever been to. I’d love to be a part of that.
T: When you’re not hitch-hiking to Palestine, touring and songwriting, what do you like to spend your time doing?
L: I like to go to Quaker meetings, I practice meditation and I spend time with my girlfriend . We hitch-hiked to the mountains recently, sleeping under the stars. It was just the best thing. I also watch an unhealthy amount of boxing and MMA. My dad used to fight so from the age of about 5 up til I was 12 I used to fight with him each day for around an hour. We had boxing gloves and he just let me spar with him. I had some troubles at school with being bullied from a young age. There was one particular bully who was a couple of years older than me and I’m ashamed to say that I did get into a fight with him. I probably shouldn’t have done that.
T: If you could achieve just one thing with your music, what would it be?
L: I love to see my friends together and engaged, creating a community to work around and a harmony amongst people. I like to sing for justice. It nourishes you. It creates a sense of empathy, a sense of values and makes your work great when it is believed by others. It’s all about making music of the people for the people.
T: How do you feel the musical climate has changed since your success with the JCB song back in 2005?
L: I feel there is a real expectation of artists to use social media these days. I find it hard as I like to focus on what I am doing and social media take the essence away from that. Distribution wise, it is great that a lot of talented newcomers can make it without a big label behind them. It’s good that somebody with a really authentic voice, like Ed Sheeran, has thrived in this new generation of technology.
T: What are you views on music streaming services?
L: I feel kind of pressured into them really. It feels a bit like the days when you would play a gig for no money, even though the promoter was charging on the door, so that you could get ‘exposure’ for your music. Thinking about it, I might take my music off Spotify.
T: Have you ever considered using crowdfunding for a record?
L: I’ve thought about it before and people have asked/offered before but I guess the answer is I don’t know if I would. There’s part of me that likes to be able to go away and make a record on your own, but then again if people want to help then that’s really nice.
T: Going back a while now, I was watching the clip of you playing the JCB song on Top of the Pops and the audience looked pretty unsure what to do when you were playing. How did it feel to play to such a staged audience?
L: We were brought on as this underground act and the producers just decided that we would play in the middle of the audience and it would be very different from what they were used to. It was very strange playing to such a staged crowd and I don’t think anybody really knew what to expect from it.
T: So was the JCB song written about playing truant with your dad when you were just 5?
L: I wasn’t always in school you know! The song was about remembering a time in my life when my dad was working on that machine, that and his vibrant Irish charisma.
T: Finally, what is next after the ‘Love & Revolution’ Tour?
L: This is Jimmy’s last tour for a while, but I’ll be carrying on with more tours soon. My album Give It All is out on iTunes and there will be more new music soon!
After Daudi Matsiko‘s fantastic performance in the dimly lit Paganini Lounge as part of The Great Escape Festival, I caught up with him the next day in the baking sun outside of the one-in-one-out Spiegeltent to find out a little more about the man behind the music. After a couple of hours and a few cans on the beach, it was clear to see that there was a lot more to this man than an acoustic guitar, effects board and a raspy voice.
After assessing the Spiegeltent as being too busy and with Patterns’ beer garden not yet open, we headed to a local supermarket to pick up a few cans to sit on the beach with on the sunny Sunday afternoon. The city was buzzing with The Great Escape in its final day and the fountain by the Old Steine was surrounded by people enjoying the sun and the acoustic covers of a busker who was at the time playing Paolo Nutini’s ‘Jenny Don’t Be Hasty’. In the supermarket I picked up some ciders and Daudi was over the moon to have found his favourite beer for sale, Crafty Dan’s 13 Guns IPA. “I’ve been looking everywhere for this since February” he told me. With his spirits already lifted before opening the can I knew that this would be a fruitful chat.
On the way to the beach he told me a little about himself. As a former BIMMer, he was happy to be back in his student town, noticing all of the little changes around the place since he was studying here. He remembered The Bees Mouth as being a great place for live music (it still is!) and talked about how he teaches guitar as well as playing shows and songwriting himself. He told me that he has “Musician” written on his passport and that means a lot to him after working a number of jobs before getting to where he is today.
The road to being a musician is always a tricky one. What is the worst job that you’ve ever had?
My worst job was working in a call centre for a telecoms company. It was clear that I was no good at sales so they put me on auditing, which basically meant that I had to listen back to other people’s sales calls and making sure that they were doing it properly. That was pretty grim. I don’t think I’d ever want to do that again. Some of the people were great though. I became good friends with one of the guys years later and together we pieced together this jokey book of stupid ‘your mum’ jokes. It probably doesn’t even make sense to anyone else but it’s great to work with others on projects like that.
Do you have any all-time favourite songs?
All of the music that I like is music that you can feel. That’s what I try to make. One of my favourite songs is an old Ugandan church hymn that has been passed down through the generations. It’s so ominous and reverent.
Another important track for me is ‘All That You Give‘ by Cinematic Orchestra.” (T.S. I’d not heard it before but after giving it a listen I can see why.)
We moved onto talk about Death Cab For Cutie and started discussing the finer points of Ben Gibbard’s lyrics. I told Daudi about an article that I’d read about them where they said that when they were recording ‘We Looked Like Giants’, one of my favourite of their tracks, it was one of the moments when everything just merged together musically between the band.
“It’s a beautiful song. It’s got that line ‘And we learned how our bodies worked‘ which taken out of context could be nothing special, even quite corny, but within the song it just works and really means something. The track is similar to ‘We Laughed Indoors‘. (He plays me the track on his phone) It’s just got this really flat sound in the drums that I love. ‘Brothers on a hotel bed‘ is my favourite Death Cab song hands down.”
What sort of venues do you like to play?
I like playing shows with friends and other musicians. I recently played a lovely gig at the Bodega in Nottingham, but I couldn’t really see the crowd. I really like the Jamcafe in Nottingham. I generally like playing in well-lit rooms. It’s nice to be able to see your audience and develop a relationship with them that way.
What is your usual line-up?
I often play shows on my own because it is easier that way. It’s great to play with a band, but with that comes a stress of getting everything together, the costs and other practicalities. I’m using a new rig at the moment with a lot of effects pedals. It’s a lot of fun to use live. I feel like I’m 16 again. I think that my songs are quite malleable which gives me scope to play around with them when I’m performing live. One of my favourite pedals is the Fuzz Factory, which Matthew Bellamy (Muse) has built into his guitar.
I’m playing at Sunsplash Festivalin Turkey in June, which is a week long dance music festival so I’m going to work a bit more weird stuff into my set, like using my pedal board, doing stuff that I’ve wanted to do since I was 15. I don’t think that I’ll fit in if I just sit down with my acoustic and play some songs. It’s good to challenge yourself to change your music too.
What do you listen to when you’re in a bad mood?
I remember my worst week in Brighton. Everyone had left and I was feeling really out of it and depressed. I listened to ‘Manners‘ by Passion Pit over and over and somehow it got me through.
Do you ever go back and change old songs?
I don’t often really change my songs. Rarely I’ll revisit older material from incomplete songs or songs that I didn’t release and if there is something that I really like something then I’ll steal it from myself to make a new track. The only song this that I’ve done that with is the ending of ‘Home’ which was originally in a song about an ex, Dr Who and Back To The Future that I wish I didn’t write (the ex bit), but I loved the chord structure and it fit perfectly with where Home needed to go…and that was that really.
What do you write about in your songs?
I write about life. Everything. I try no to write songs about girls as my friends and I have a loose rule to not do that, which we’ve lived by since we were kids, so it rarely ends up being about just that. I wrote a song about a friend’s mum dying once. That was a hard one, trying to give a bit of comfort to them without ignoring the brutal pain of the situation. I kind of see my songs as a chronological tale of the last 4 years. Sometimes I set myself challenges for songs, like for years I’ve been trying to write a song with a toilet reference in it. Finally I did that with my song “Take Me Old”, which is a pretty serious song. I like to do that. Combine the stupid with the serious.
Any goals by the this time next year?
I’d love to be a full-time musician. Technically I already am, but being able to write and gig full-time would be beyond perfect. I just want to make music – and having the opportunity to do that is just great.
Finally, what music have you got out there for people to hear?
My last EP is called ‘A Brief Introduction To Failure’ which is on Soundcloud and Bandcamp. I’m currently working on my new record which I think is going to be called ‘The Lingering Effects of Disconnection’.
Earlier this year I was a featured vocalist on this dance track called ‘Just Escape‘ by the artist Escape. That’s done pretty well online and a remix of it was premiered on mixcloud’s page as has had over 200k plays.
I’m also working on some collaborations with a London-based producer Adam Scrimpshire.
After their sellout gig at The Haunt in Brighton, I caught up with the boys from Half Crown to talk about the past, present and future of Half Crown.
1. What have you been working on since the release of Everything Goes last year?
That record in particular acted as a showcase of sorts, a body of work with a range of different genres and styles that we’ve been influenced by since the beginning. We learnt a lot from producing that LP and have since then been focusing hard on honing in on a more refined, complete and palatable sound.
2. What is a typical Friday night for Half Crown?
Anything from a night in with a couple bottles of Rioja and the latest HC video to edit, to 5am night cap in a bohemian bass bin, feet stuck to the floor and eyes rolling back into our brain boxes. Bleurrgh!
3. What is your favourite Brighton venue?
Blind Tiger was a cheeky one until the authorities backed the local party pooper and had the place exterminated of any potential good vibrations. These days, the Haunt seems to be a good place for us to throw a show. However, the next stop is The Old Market for the back-end of summer. That’ll be a new one for us, we love the style of the venue and it’s in our parta’ town.. “Hove actually”.
4. What has been your best show to date?
From the Brighton Dome to Cambridge May Ball, (where Louie ended up carried off stage half naked on the shoulder of a security guard, as we got shut down early and ended the set acapella) nothing quite compares to our own party at the old HCHQ, West Street, Brighton, 75 People in the lounge of our flat. Even Oceania filed a noise complaint.
5. What has been the most influential album for the band since you formed?
There are so many influences in the group man, if each writer had to choose I’d say ‘Black Keys – Rubber Factory’ meets ‘Dizraeli and The Small Gods – Moving In The Dark’ and ‘Fat Freddy’s Drop – Based on A True Story’.
6. Did you ever think that you’d be playing a sell-out show at The Haunt?
Oh this is just the beginning Tommy darling. May I call you Tommy?
7. If you could support any artist live who would it be?
Backstage with The Libertines would be interesting.
8. Who is your latest new musical discovery?
Glass Animals, although quite shamefully just properly discovered Van Morrison.
9. How is the search going for new band members?
It’s been pretty challenging actually, after working solidly for 5 years as the original group we’ve developed a working relationship that even the most talented of musicians would struggle to connect with immediately. However we’re confident that the right human will appear at the right time when working so hard in the right direction and pushing forward with our goals.
10. Finally, what lies ahead for Half Crown?
It’s a seriously exciting time for us man, we can’t say much BUT get to BLEACH (above Hare & Hounds) on Saturday 30th May to support us and we may have a whole lot more to discuss in the next interview! There will be a free after party too, with intimate performances from us and a handful of our favourite and most talented Brighton delights.
Check out my review of Half Crown’s EP ‘Everything Goes’ here.
After being blown away by his full band set in the Spiegeltent at TGE15, I had a chat with the recent Island Records signing, singer-songwriter JP Cooper about his new band, new album and upcoming summer festivals.
JP Cooper (Vocals/guitar), Adam Rust (Keys), Lenny Brown (Bass) and Sam Wade (Drums).
When did you start playing together?
About two weeks ago. I was playing with some different guys but it was hard to get them to commit as they were working on other projects so playing with this band is very new. We’re getting on really well. We just had 3 x 11 hour sessions to get ready for this show.
When did you start playing?
I was signed to Island Records about a year ago, and before that I was playing for about 3 years.
What was your road to TGE15?
It’s was just arranged through the label. Island Records are doing a showcase as part of the alt escape which I’m playing tomorrow with some of my label mates. We drove down here from London to get to TGE15. It’s quite an easy drive really.
When was your last gig?
The last gig was the end of a tour in February up in Scotland. Actually, I played a festival in Switzerland after that, but the Scotland gig was the last gig in the UK.
When is your next gig?
We’re off to Amsterdam on Saturday, and then we’ve got a UK tour lined up after that.
The last release was ‘When The Darkness Comes‘. We will be recording an album in June after we’ve finished the tour.
The next release is going to be an album. We’ve booked a house in the countryside just outside of Bath in June and we’re just going to go away and record for 3-4 weeks. We have a couple of gigs that month too but apart from that we will just be working on the album before the summer.
Having just arrived after a long trip town from Dorchester, following his show at The Arts Centre, I had a chat with Ruarri Joseph before his show that night at Brighton Komedia‘s Studio Bar.
Hi Ruarri. On first seeing the music video for ‘Until The Luck Runs Dry‘ I was completely taken in by the video for the track. How did you and Tony Plant first meet and how did the collaboration come about?
Well we both live in Newquay, and knew each other’s work. Then in November 2012 I heard that he was doing a big beach drawing for charity and I came down with my family to check it out. We got chatting and I couldn’t believe that nobody had used his artwork in a music video before. I think his work is a good marriage to the track, as it’s about giving it your all, even if you know that you won’t quite make it. It’s about taking a step back and seeing the bigger picture.
I guess on another level it works because even though he is creating this amazing artwork, he doesn’t get to see it until the end when it is half washed away. That kind of shows how we are sometimes, not realising how our actions are viewed by others and not seeing the full influence that we can have. That’s kind of a nice thought.
Exactly! That’s just what we were going for with the video. I’m glad that came across.
With your 2013 Live Album, was there more pressure of fun when you were recording it?
We’d recorded a live album before back in 2008-9. We overstacked the setlist and it was a lot busier that we had anticipated so in the end we just forgot about the recording and played the gig. With this album, I used the same band as I’m playing with tonight and I think it went really well. It had a cool vibe and was great fun to perform. It’s important to capture what an artist is really like, mistakes and all, so that it feels more human.
What was the idea behind the poem in the album insert of the Live Album?
Sometimes I feel that I’m not very articulate in conversation. With the poem I wanted to give a slice of what it’s like as the performer, coming onto the stage, something that the audience probably don’t often don’t take into account. What did I actually write? (He reads the poem from the album insert aloud) I kinda like that. One of the great things about stream of consciousness writing is that you often don’t really remember what you write, so its nice to rediscover it. Thanks for that!
The Cold Ontario EP has a real mix of tracks on it, from the vocal harmonies and folk sounds of the title track to the contrasting piano ballad ‘Undoubtedly‘ as the very next track. How did you choose the tracklisting for it?
With the EP I wanted to use a variety of tracks, some of which were possibly discordant in styles but the songs still fitted together. I realised that I write in a lot of different ways so it was good to express all those different facets in the EP, including the live tracks, which I think is an important thing.
Do you feel that you have more freedom with an EP than an album, where people kind of expect the songs to be a bit more unified?
Yeah totally. With the EP it’s like a sampler of all that you can do, whereas an album takes some of those things and develops them more.
How has the November tour been so far?
It’s all gone really well so far. No real hiccups at all! It’s great to tour with friends. It makes all the difference because you all have peaks and dips, but you’re in it together. The tour has had the most dates of any UK tour we’ve done and the most sell outs so that’s great!
Do you find it difficult managing your own social media, particularly when on tour?
I’m terrible with social media! I like it but it’s just about being organised and on top of it. I find it much easier when I’m on tour actually, because when you’re on the road, you’ve got long periods of travelling with not much to do so it’s a good time to do it. When I’m at home I always find other things to do. It’s really nice to receive feedback though, like for example when we did an Irish tour I had some people saying that it looked like a great trip and that was nice. I guess it is all quite linear when you think about it.
I studied music at University in Bangor, North Wales and I saw that you played at Blue Sky Cafe earlier this month. How was the gig and how did you find Bangor?
Blue Sky is a lovely cafe. We didn’t really get to see much of Bangor though. That’s one of the things that is a shame about a busy tour is that you don’t have much time to see the sights where you go. We found a nice beach which was perfect for skimming stones so we stayed there for about an hour which was really nice. We’ve played in Bangor twice and both times have been sell out shows which is amazing considering we don’t know anybody there. Bangor seems to have a certain clientele for the gigs at Blue Sky and we really enjoyed playing there.
Where did you first meet Lily & Meg and what is it like touring with them?
I first met them a while back. I’d released my Brother album but had a lot of new material that I wanted to play, so I performed a bunch of secret shows under the name William The Conquerer and they were the support for one of the shows. I just fell in love with their sound and their music and with them as people. They play in my band on tour so it works out really well. It’s like we’re in this musical community of people. Sometime people step in for gigs so it’s nice to have that network there.
I saw that you have a liking for Wes Anderson films. Which one were you watching the other day when on break from your tour? My last interview with Alfie Boe, he expressed a particular liking for The Grand Budapest Hotel.
We were watching Life Aquaticthe other day. My favourite is probably the Royal Tenenbaums. I love Wes Anderson’s OCD approach to film-making. I saw Alfie Boe in London when he was in Les Mis. I was working on a strange job with the son of the creator of the show and I was just floating around with nothing to do one afternoon and he sorted me out with two tickets. They were probably the best seats in the house, right in the centre. But I didn’t have anybody for my +1 so I just put my coat on the seat next to me and enjoyed the show.
If you had the opportunity, would you like to score a film and if so what kind of film would suit your music?
Yeah of course. It would probably be a low budget indie type film, with some kind of social realism to it. A bit quirky too. (Like Submarine?) Yeah, something like that!
Do you have notepads to carry around with you when you get ideas for songs?
I didn’t used to, but I’m getting more organised now. I’ve realised that when I’m more organised, I am more productive! I used to just write notes on anything, napkins, post-it notes and scraps of paper, keeping them all in a wooden box. I used to write in my shed too, like on the walls inside. It looks like some kind of graffiti is going on in there. Once I started, I figured I might use it for an album cover in the future.
Finally, if you could play a gig anywhere to any three people in the world who would you choose to be your audience?
I would probably play in my house. And if I could play to anybody it would be Tom Waits….plus his wife… (So Tom Waits with a +1?) Yeah, and I’d leave the other seat empty, to remind me that I can’t have everything. I’d say Dylan, but I think he is too cantankerous for that kind of thing.
Cold Ontario EP and Live 2013 Album are out now and available to buy from his official website here. The new album, currently in the pipeline, working on some of the songs that Ruarri toured under the name of William The Conquerer, and will be out in 2015.
Yesterday morning, in spite of a hotel fire alarm test going on, I caught up with one of the nations best known and most loved classical singers, Alfie Boe, to talk about Wes Anderson films, Come Dine With Me and his new album ‘Serenata’, which is out on Monday 17th November, preceding his UK Tour later this month, arriving at The Brighton Centre on Tuesday 9th December 2014, with support from Samoan operatic trio Sol3 Mio. Here is my Alfie Boe interview!
There are a lot of charities which I am constantly working with and also lots that I’m getting more involved with. I have been asked by Teenage Cancer Trust to perform in a concert that they are putting on which would be great. I want to get more involved with Elton John’s Aids Foundation because I think that is a really important charity. There is always something going on with the Children and the Arts which is a great charity. It inspires children and shows them the potential that they have for a career in the arts, possibly if they weren’t even thinking about it. It’s important for developing the future of the arts.
Over the last few years, you have developed a close friendship with Matt Lucas. What was it like to work with him on stage? Did he ever put you off by making you laugh?
Matt Lucas is a great guy. He’s also really professional and he was really focused on his role. There were a couple of times where he’d pull a funny face or something like that, but he took it very seriously – I know that’s probably hard for a lot of people to imagine, knowing what his personality is like. He really wanted to perfect the role. It had been his dream since he was about 11 to perform in Les Les Misérables so it was great to be there to see that come true for him.
Do you have an ideal role to play in a musical or opera and where would you like to perform it?
There’s one role which springs to mind right away and that is Sweeney Todd. He’s a really interesting character, somebody you can really get stuck into, and the show has a great story and amazing music. I wouldn’t really mind where I performed it really. In the West End or on Broadway would be great! (Any directors looking for a Sweeney Todd, get in touch with Alfie!)
I’ve read that your favourite films include ‘The Good The Bad and The Ugly’ and ‘Back To The Future’. Do you have any favourites from the last few years?
There was a film that I saw a couple of weeks ago that I thoroughly enjoyed, called ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel‘. I love the monologues that the characters have in the film. (I liked the moment when the bell boy pushes the villain off a mountain and Ralph Fiennes’ character is hanging off the edge!) Haha! “Shit, you got him!”
Do you like any other Wes Anderson films?
I really liked Royal Tenenbaums and Life Aquatic. My kids love Fantastic Mr Fox too so that is often playing at home. I love the way that Wes Anderson creates a whole different world with his films, from the way they’re shot to the styling. It is all very visual and beautiful and nice to be taken away to another person’s world.
Coming from a working class background, how did you find studying at the Royal College of Music? Did you get on well with the other students?
When I went for my audition at RCM it was a really daunting experience. But when I was offered a place, it gave me confidence that I must be capable and deserved to be there. I threw myself into every class. I made a lot of friends there from every walk of life – some from working class backgrounds like mine and some from the other end of the spectrum, and they were all really nice. We were all just studying music and trying to be the best that we could. Quite a few of my classmates I see around, performing in orchestras and as soloists in concerts which is really nice.
I hear that you’re areal food lover. What would be your favourite thing to cook if you were on cooking show like Come Dine With Me and what cocktail would you serve your guests?
I can’t think of anything worse to be on. I really hate that show, but I think that’s because a part of me is hooked on it. I criticised the commentator before because sometimes it seems like he just jumps on everything that they say, but a lot of the time he does have it spot on. If I were on the show though I don’t know what I’d cook. Something traditional, like a Shepherds Pie and an apple pie with custard for pudding. Keep it simple! I don’t really drink any more so not sure about a cocktail – maybe a pint of Guiness with a straw and an umbrella in it!
Supporting you on the UK Tour is the Samoan trio Sol3 Mio. Where did you first meet/hear about them?
I’m kinda ashamed to say that I first heard about them through the label, Decca Records. I had a look at some videos of them on youtube and I was really impressed. They are wonderfully talented guys and are incredible singers who are also really funny performers. They play off each other really well to provide a really comic delivery, but they would be great individually too. I’m really looking forward to being on tour with them. I am sure that they are going to be great fun to work with and there won’t be any dull moments.
You have previously performed ‘O Sole Mio’ and Sol3 Mio have a version of ‘Bring Him Home’ on their self-titled album. Is it challenging to sing a song that is well recognised by the public and how do you try to put a unique spin on it?
Bring Him Home has been a really important song for me and I think I’ve made it my own now. I think you have to make your own mark and put your own style on everything you do, especially if it is a well known song. You have to be careful about what you choose to perform though. If you take a Sinatra song like “Fly Me To The Moon”, it would be really hard to cover because why wouldn’t people want to hear the Sinatra version. (Like the Beatles too.) Yeah exactly. Song selection is so important.
The album is almost mostly sung in Italian. How is your spoken Italian and do you think that audiences can find it hard to relate to songs with lyrics that they don’t understand?
Absolutely. The first thing you do when singing a song in another launguage is to get the translation down, so that you know what you are singing. Then you can take the emotion behind that to portray it to the audience, even if they don’t know the exact meaning of what you’re singing. There’s a big difference between singing and speaking in a language – when you sing it is more poetic whereas speaking is factual. I can get by with Italian, but it feels almost Shakespearean the way that I speak it, not as natural as I’d like it to be.
How did you prepare for recording an album of Italian 1950s songs? Did you get the chance to go to Italy before recording?
Unfortunately I didn’t have time to do any researching in Italy. That would have been a real luxury. The songs have been in my repertoire for years and I researched them online over the years. I did get to go to Italy for the video and photoshoot for the album but it was a short visit.
Do you have a favourite track on the album?
I really like the first track, Serenata Celeste. There is a great recording by Carlo Buti from the 1930s. He was a pop singer with a really classical sounding voice. The song has a wonderful melody and a really heavenly sound. I love it.
What are your musical plans for next year, after the tour?
I’ve got quite a few concerts coming in for next year which is nice. There’s a lot of new projects on the table – there’s one very exciting one which will be happening in a couple of months. I can’t say any of the details yet, but there will be an announcement in December so watch this space!
Finally, I read that as well as singing, you also like to play the drums. If you could play the drums for any band, past or present, who would it be?
Ooh, great question. Pink Floyd or Led Zep, not that I’m good enough to play with either. I love a good solid rhythm though. Or maybe The Stones – but I don’t think Charlie Watts could ever be replaced! I started playing when I was 12 and I love it, it’s great fun. I don’t think I’m quite ready to play in a band though!
Alfie’s new Album Serenata is available from November 17th here.
I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to have a phone call with Pene Pati of Sol3 Mio whilst he was waiting for his lunch in a London spaghetti house. Following on from their performance as part of the Remembrance Sunday Concert at The Royal Albert Hall, I asked him about their forthcoming UK Tour with Alfie Boe (including a performance at The Brighton Centre on 9th December 2014) and the UK release of their 5 x Platinum selling eponymous debut album, which is released on 24th November 2014 through Decca Records. I hope you enjoy my Sol3 Mio Interview.
Hi Pene. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me. What was it like to perform at the Royal Albert Hall in front of the queen. Did you get nervous?
It was less nerves and more a huge sense of pride. It was definitely the most important gig of our career. The feeling in rehearsal was nothing like the performance. Being able to see the Queen and the royal family and the parliament was just completely overwhelming when we performed. We felt really patriotic!
How many hours a day do you need to practice to stay on form?
We try to practice as much as possible. We are lucky that we perform a lot so we are always playing and singing so that kind of is our practice.
Do you have a favourite track to perform live?
‘O sole Mio has everything in it that we are about really; the humour and the crossover between contemporary and classical styles of music. It’s just a real feel good song. (Plus the connotations with Dolmio?) Haha, yeah. And Cornettos!
Are you pleased that the tour is finishing in Cardiff, the place where you all received some of your classical music training?
Yes, definitely. It’s great going back to Cardiff. We always try to see our singing teacher when we are back and he will be coming to see us perform, for the first time as Sol3 Mio. It’s going to be pretty nerve-wracking! Your singing teacher is always the hardest person to perform in front of. They know your voice as well as you do and hear everything. It will be great to see him though!
If you could perform anywhere in the world, not a venue, where would it be?
Oh wow, so not a venue? Playing inside a canyon would be great. Or on top of a mountain. The reverb would just carry the sound on forever. And maybe some animals might join in too!
What do you like to do when you’re not touring, gigging or rehearsing?
The music is pretty much a non-stop thing for us at the moment. When we’re back home we all like to play rugby though. I really like cooking too. (Maybe we should get you a cooking show a few years down the line? In The Kitchen with Pene.) Haha, yeah I like the sound of that. We need to make it happen! Well Pene is a pasta anyway. If you could make that happen, that would be great!
The new album is a real mix of classical and contemporary. How did you decide on the track listing? Did you have a lot of tracks to choose from?
For the album we chose all songs that were part of the journey of Sol3 Mio. We wanted to cover the most popular classical aria and duet. ‘O Sole Mio is like a backyard song back home. Everybody knows it and it’s the song that brought us all together. The Rose is my mums favourite song too so that’s nice to have on there.
Which instruments do you all play?
We all play piano, guitar, bongos, double bass and ukulele. It’s nice when we play shows because we have the freedom to move about and mix things up if we want. It feels very natural and relaxed.
Who does the arrangements of the vocal harmonies? Is it something you all work on together or does somebody else come in to help out?
We do all the vocal arrangements ourselves. Luckily, as we are all family, we seem to just have a good ear for that sort of thing and know what needs to be added. I think it’s a lot more natural that way, rather than somebody giving you notes on the page to sing. We just let our intuition figure it out.
Do you have a favourite track on the album?
For me, it has to be ‘The Rose‘ because it sounded so different on the recording than when we used to play the song. It’s nice when a song changes like that. I’m really happy with how it sounds on the record. For the album we recorded the orchestral parts of the tracks first and then came in to record the vocals over the top. We did have to get the orchestra in again when we wanted to add new parts in though.
Opera singers are often required to sing in a lot of languages. Do you have a favourite language to sing in?
Italian is really nice to sing in because it sounds kind of similar to Samoan. But I think I like singing in French the best. It has a smooth and kind of chocolately feel to it! From our classical vocal training, we pick up languages quite easily now when singing which is handy when you have to sing in a lot of them from time to time.
Is there anybody that you would like to collaborate with?
Elina Garanca. She is a core opera singer and actress and has a fantastic voice. I’d love to sing a duet with her. (I’ll send her some flowers from you and see how that works out!) Thanks, that’d be great!
How did you celebrate your album’s huge success in New Zealand?
You know what, we never really did! When the album went Platinum it was really exciting, but as it got bigger and bigger it was almost past the point of celebration, too big to comprehend, especially from the starting point of selling 100 copies. It’s kinda crazy, but in the good way of course!
What does the future hold for Sol3 Mio? What would you like to achieve in the next 5-10 years?
Our aim is to promote core opera as much as possible, get it out there to new audiences. We are all individual opera singers as well as in the trio and it would be great to do both in equal measure. Like playing at The O2 but also at Covent Garden. (Maybe on the same day. A matinee at Covent Garden and an evening show at The O2!) That would be amazing!
Finally, what would you do if the worst happened and you woke up tomorrow and couldn’t sing?
I’d end it….haha. I used to be a computer programmer before I got into music. I think I’d go back to that.
Thank you very much. Good luck with the album and the tour!
‘Sol3 Mio’ is out on 24th November. To pre-order click here.
To buy concert tickets for their UK arena tour with Alfie Boe, see their tour dates here.