Saturday, 17 March 2018

Adventures in Europa

And we’re off. 

Our third European Tour kicks off tonight at The Solomon Browne Hall in the theme park of Mousehole. I say theme park because sadly that is what the quaint fishing village has become, as summer’s kiss brings tones of tourists to the harbours edge crammed in likes sardines with camera’s clicking at the famous ‘mouse hole’. Giant family cars try to drive along the narrow streets and end up stuck in a fug of fumes as they honk there way to catering cottages and holiday homes. “When is the mouse hole open?” ask eager Americans, and “are the Christmas lights on all year round?”.

But to us, those that know the rabbit routes and wiggles, the little alcoves and hidden spots, the village still offers a sanctuary, in the close season, when the hum of traffic is on the horizon and not the doorstep. And so here we are,
using the village as a working/living place instead of a tourist trap, we begin our long journey that will take us 3000km to the far east of Germany and back. 

Of course, all the usual mishaps are firmly in place, I am on my way to pick up the bus, an old Mercedes called Doug, that we are borrowing off a fiend who assured me that despite his list of ailments the old boy will see us good. I am to expect a fair few idiosyncrasies but my friend is confident we’ll make it. 

We are totally skint, indeed we are rather in debt as I write and we’re kicking off procedures tonight in Mousehole tactically in order to actually leave Cornwall. 

We haven’t been in the same room since Christmas let alone played any music, the piano player has only just arrived back from Portugal penniless but purring from his recent new relationship. The guitar player is still absent, I wonder how long I can keep this up without admitting that he isn’t in the band anymore. His replacement is Louis Gulliver King who from now on will be known as ‘the accordion player’ to keep with tradition. This is a massive generalisation as he plays 4 other instruments for us but it seems better than ‘the multi player’ which sounds like a games console. 
The drummer isn’t coming to the launch party tonight because we can’t afford to pay for him to come down, that goes without saying if we can’t afford to leave!

We have a few new songs that are at best ideas without structure and lyrics and have never been played live but in time and as the days fall about they will find there way into our repertoire. I hope. Otherwise we are taking 4 year old material while trying to ‘re sell’ people CD’s that they bought on the last two tours.

We are playing a few new venues at least, a castle in Nümbrecht is one that sticks out and on a farm somewhere near Bremen. 

We have new t-shirts too that we borrowed money to make and need to sell 38 in order to breakeven, otherwise more debt occurs. 

The train is approaching Par now, where I will meet my friend and get introduced to Doug and hope that his symptoms aren’t too problematic. Surely he’ll be in better shape than dear old Walter from the last tour; the old motorhome without windscreen wipers who needed a pint of antifreeze in order to even entertain starting. 

A friend of mine recently asked me why I keep running this ship, at least in such a haphazard manner. I thought about this a lot and yes we could run a tighter ship. We could buckle up and get serious but somehow much of the magic would be lost. And it’s not that we go out of our way to flirt with disaster but you try borrowing a big enough van off a friend with only a pot of homemade marmalade in exchange. You take what you are given. We are just a bunch of Cornish friends trying the best we can with what we have and what we’ve learnt. We travel miles and miles to bring our music to as many of you as we can, not for money, but for the love of the story and sweetness of sharing.

So here we go again.

Looking forward :)

Monday, 8 January 2018

Oh what a wonderful year (2017)

I woke up alone on new year's day in an empty house. I don't want you feeling sorry for me, this was all tactical. My partner was heavily pregnant and wouldn't have taken kindly to me crashing in at stupid o clock. My bandmates and I were scattered like flowers the length of country, from Cornwall to Edinburgh; some sleeping, some sober, some still drunk.
scattered bandmates
We were all split up, as far from each other as the roots from the leaves. Welcome to a new year. We had no gigs on the horizon, no bookings. The sun was struggling to command a new day, let alone another year. And just like the fragile sun, I wondered if I had the drive for yet another one. It seemed as though we could just disappear, slip away quietly without the fan fair. 

JANUARY was long and as slow as an oak. The sense of dis-band-ment lingered like a bailiff. I wondered what would happen if I just stopped, half out of curiosity and half to make a point to the others that without someone's drive this engine would slowly seise up. Sooner or later I'd have one of them on the phone asking where we were playing next, and I'd simply say, "you tell me?". We were delicately poised, you must remember we'd organised a farewell gig only to tell everyone we weren't quitting, but perhaps we'd blurted that out! Perhaps we were quitting!? As is often the case our fans were the ones who reeled us back in. We had promised to return to Europe this spring, I had forgotten, I was supposed to be booking another European adventure! I phoned the drummer and off-loaded half the work onto him and then busied myself with venues in Germany and Denmark. As it happened my Swedish cousin did as much of the work as anybody, she booked us two gigs in Malmo and one in Copenhagen, the drummer found us a gig in Holland and we arranged to return to Antwerp's Cafe Den Hopsack.

FEBUARY was a hard month, I carried a niggling cold around like a lapdog. The harsh reality of trying to book the tour was becoming more evident by the day. We had the venues sorted, the problem was that they weren't offering much of a guarantee of money, and we only had £51 in the bank. Even more of a concern was that we had nowhere to stay and so were trying to book hostels without the means. When the guitar player pulled out, instead of foolishly driving off into the frozen north and leaving it all to chance, I pulled the plug and canceled it.

MARCH came and with it the refreshment of the first days of spring. Indoors or outdoors, nobody relaxes in March, when the sun shines hot and wind blows cold. Still no gigs and no enquiries, and so, hounded by guilt from cancelling the tour, I fled the country and went skiing in Sweden.

 fool's day saw the birth of my second son, Enys, who became the 4th child born under the band's watch. We finally took on some gigs, we played at Rik's 70th as a trio and then we signed up to play a monthly residency at Nancarrow Farm over the summer months. Nancarrow was a large organic farm that hosted lavish dinner parties, and we were the background entertainment as people sampled food entirely grown on the grounds. We didn't get off the best start when the piano player forgot his leads and this time not even his father could bail him out. He sat in the field a while thinking about what he'd done, then, always adaptable, came and made piano noises with his mouth and tapped a drum and we just about pulled it off. Interestingly this latest setback inspired him to write a song called 'I can't believe that I forgot my leads' which chronicles the 14 times he's turned up at venues without them!

"All things seem possible in
 MAY". The mood was rosier as bookings finally started to trickle in. We returned to Nancarrow Farm and this time were armed with two sets of piano leads just in case one of them escaped from the bag and ran all the way home! Networking after the performance we collected another couple of gigs too, including hitting financial gold with a Wedding.  

"If a
 JUNE night could talk it would probably boast it invented romance". And romance was certainly in the air as we played twice at Fire in the Mountain festival in Wales. First a Friday night slot at the Traveling Barn and then at The Little Folks Stage on a sunny Sunday. It was gorgeous affair, set at the foot of a mountain and populated with the friendliest bunch of people. We made many new friends from all corners of our island and even some from Germany. Having the guitar player back was a nice addition and the drummer was there too playing with three different groups. Back in Cornwall we continued as a trio at Nancarrow Farm, and what was lovely was the three of us were starting to really gel. These low pressure gigs allowed us to experiment a little, allowed the three of us to jam, something we grew up doing and the piano player really excels at this. Spurred on and feeling creative, we took a gig at The Star Inn and the old pub was dancing like corks upon the waves.

 JULY we took our feet off the gas and explored other projects. I went head first into a play and the bass player went off traveling to Berlin. The piano player did stuff too, but I've forgotten what. We did all met up for one gig at the Ale and Anchor festival in Mousehole, drafting in Jack Watson on the guitar.

AUGUST saw the financial gold of a wedding back at Nancarrow Farm. The guitar player and drummer joining up and cherry picking this little payday. But we were forced to draft in another two new faces for Shambala Festival with Theo Black on guitar and Daisy Rickman on drums. Having a female in the band was a breath of fresh air and I must say we all behaved ourselves much more as a result. 

"With all these lovely tokens, 
SEPTEMBER days are here, with summer's best of weather and autumn's best of cheer". Another formation change for a gig at Seasalt saw the cherry pickers back in the ranks. And later in the month we welcomed back Louis Gulliver King after his long absence treading the boards. He lined up for a wild night at The Cornish Barn and somewhat stole the show, indeed we were poached for another gig on the back of his performance!

The other gig came in
 OCTOBER at The Mexcio Inn and back with Mr. King in our favoured quartet formation we stormed it. It was the busiest the old place had been and a timely reminder of the strength of our fanbase in Cornwall. 
Indeed, that gig was largely responsible for us bringing back Merry Folking Christmas after a two year absence.

NOVEMBER served up the news that the bass player was moving to Berlin. And if that wasn't hard enough to take, the piano player informed us that he was moving somewhere too, also Berlin, or perhaps Austria, or maybe Portugal, but somewhere far away from here. That really could be the end of the band! Despite assurances from both that they'd return in the spring, there was a very real chance that neither would and I'd be a solo act!

DECEMBER rolled on with a succession of storms lining up to batter our shores. And the year ended just as it had begun, with me and the drummer plotting another hair-brained dash across Europe. March 2018 would see us return to the low countries and our growing reach in Germany. Or would it? We had cried wold back in February. But things are a little more healthier now. It was all a little rushed and careless back then. We took to the stage a final time for Merry Folking Christmas to a capacity crowd at The Acorn Theatre, and with a capacity lineup of 7. 

And so what a year that was hey? It almost didn't happen. But it was a year of change. We change formations as often as we do instruments now. Are we a quintet, a quartet or a trio? Or a septuplet for that matter! The Odd Folk welcomed it's 20th player up on stage when Anabelle Lainchbury lined up for Merry Folking Christmas. This is a sign of the times, the changing times. It was a year of saying no. A year of reason. Yes, we are still here and we will always chase the rainbows but a certain measure of realism must come into it. We need to put things in perspective. And I know that is not necessarily what you want to hear, nor what we are famous for, but the tides are changing, we're growing up a bit. And I know some of our best gigs have come because of mad-cap dashes to far flung places in silly cars all for the sake of the story! But family and jobs and that ghastly word 'real life' needs it's time too. We can't jeopardise that. And driving off to Copenhagen with no money a month before my son was due was a step too far. I'm no longer hounded by guilt because of it, but glad that I was big enough to admit defeat. This year we had no bookings and we still ended up with 14 gigs. It was the first year that we didn't play the chase and apply for slots every which way. Instead gigs came to us, and gigs lead to gigs, and that was a welcome change, as welcome as a star. We learnt to jam too, we learnt to experiment and adapt and evolve like a butterfly. 
And in doing so we made
brand new songs, organic musical interludes and we weren't scared to play them either. It was a year of growth. And of refreshment. Like the first day of spring.


Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Everyone's moving to fucking Berlin!

When the bass player announced he was moving to Berlin in November, I raised an eyelid, but also a smile. We had talked many times about just that, sat sipping redbush tea on the swing chair in his garden. Since moving from London back to his roots here in West Cornwall he had walked away from a lucrative job and into the unknown climbs of the autonomous district of 'Freelancia'. Now, having lived in Freelancia most of my working life I was only too happy to welcome him, and he soon found the benefits of being his own boss and taking jobs when he needed them while working exclusively from home. But as time went on he realised more and more that the latter need not apply. He could work from anywhere, not just home. Indeed, he could move to Berlin in November and continue doing exactly the same job as he was in his bedroom overlooking the garden. In those early days as we swung on the same garden chair, I encouraged him about the move abroad. If he could work in Berlin, he could work in Lisbon, Rome, any of the great capitals, but not only that, with good wifi he could work almost anywhere, even places off the beaten track. He was moving out for 5 months. It wouldn't harm the band much as we seldom gig in the colder months, usually starting the year with a spring tour to... Germany! Perfect.

When the piano player announced he was moving to Berlin in November, I raised an eyelid, then another, then I raised my mouth to speak and uttered the third most common word in the English Language, "What!?". He proceeded to explain his reasoning; his enthusiasm came tumbling out. I heard snippets; of needing a change, of feeling inspired. But I couldn't help feeling a little uneasy about this latest bombshell. His theories of sharing his friends van and busking to earn money sounded less like a romantic journey and more like a Bear Grylls endurance test. Winters in Berlin are very cold with temperatures frequently below freezing and snow and ice often covers the city for periods. Quite how he imagines making ends meat while busking with frost bitten fingers and then sharing an ageing van that has no heaters or log burner with a chap he barely knows!? It sounds like the premise of an Odd Folk tour. Perhaps that's why he's so keen! Would this harm the band? Well I suppose not, but it leaves us extremely weak, and precariously balanced. And I must admit I feel a tad venerable, being the only full time member of the band in the country.

That aside, for now, let's fill in some blanks since we arrived home from Shambala Festival having welcomed two more additions to The Odd Folk Private Members Club, now totalling 19 members. In late September we took to the stage at The Cornish Barn, our first gig in Penzance for a year! It was a "barnstorming" set which resulted in a fevered atmosphere of people 'table drumming' and 'glass chinking' along to the songs. The term packed to the 

rafters is one I like, with many fans watching through the windows from the
street outside. It was hot and sweaty and "the audience were virtually on top of us!" commented Louis Gulliver King who had been parachuted back in after a year away. With the same lineup we upped sticks and upped instruments to The Mexico Inn, just a mile outside of our hometown and what can I say, we seemed to bring half the population of Penzance with us. The place was heaving, it was stuffed to the gunnels, as crowded as a beehive. It was, in truth a little too well attended. And not that it was a particularly small place either. The four barmaids were run ragged, as busy as pigeons at a shooting match. Still the front row found some room to dance, or wiggle at least, or bum shuffle. We played through our repertoire and once again Louis Gulliver King was the star of the show, angling his trombone to the ceiling and blowing up a storm, and then furiously strumming the mandolin, but it was his accordion that drew the biggest cheers, his hands like electric shocks up and down keyboard while the bellow's opened and closed like a whale's gills.

It was wonderful to be back on home turf, and both gigs had happened organically and on the spur of the moment, something which will now be harder to accomplish with the bass player and piano player in Berlin! Our travel expenses will far outweigh our fee; and the logistics of operations (something we are famously bad at) will become unimaginable and unnavigable. Needless to say, taking random gigs willy nilly will seise with immediate effect. And that makes me sad, and I feel sour weights on my shoulders, inhibiters, because that's what's beautiful about this band; we go on adventures at the drop of a hat, we drive off into the sunset without any money and a couple of contacts and we make a tour, make it up on the spot and come home richer. Spontaneity, that's us. Impromptu, off-hand and unplanned. But now, it'll just be me, and the drummer in Bristol, and the memory of the guitar player, and the 16 other private members that donned our colours. 

"Everyone's moving to fucking Berlin!" I off-loaded

"You could always go solo?" said my friend as he sipped a cup of plum tea,
"I suppose" I said.
"... and plus you guys seldom do anything in the winter, it's too cold for aimless adventuring!"
"That's true" I said
"... and before you know it it'll be spring again and...?"
"...and the boys will have loved Berlin so much they'll want to live their forever!" I sobbed, the sour weights tightening around my shoulders. It was a very real possibility. But then I wondered if the piano player would last that long living in his friends van, and would he manage to earn enough busking to rent his own an apartment. No, surely he'd be home soon with frost-bitten fingers and holes in his shoes, with a clutch of memories and the benefit of experience. But then he has surprised me more than once before. And as for the bass player, he could well move on to Lisbon or Rome or any of the great capitals but my hunch was that Cornwall's magnet would draw him home, and of course the untold promise that comes with this band; of all of us he buys into the romance of this venture the most; that spur of the moment freedom when you throw figs to the wind, here today and gone tomorrow.

And now that he's a paid up resident of Freelancia, the two go hand in hand like a dance. And at that moment I saw the picture for what it was; two people experiencing a new challenge, just like the band, here today and gone tomorrow, and they'd both be back, richer and wiser. And just then the sour weights fell from my shoulders and bounced like hollow echoes, and I was left to see how simple it all was, and not at all depressing, if you only look at it the right way, and don't go chasing rainbows round the corner.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

The Odd Folk Private Members Club

As fans at Shambala Festival whistled and whooped and waved their hands in appreciation of our latest new additions, I felt a dual sense of achievement and displacement. Theo Black put his old Gibson down and walked off stage becoming the 19th member of the band. He followed Daisy Rickman, private member number 18, into the back stage compound and together they heaved a sigh of relief. Having learnt the entire repertoire in a couple of rushed evenings in a dark cellar, both had performed amazingly. "Who's the new drummer, she's beautiful!" chirped eager fans as I packed away the violin. "and that guitarist, going all Djanjo on the solo's!". 

19 members hey, for a band that's played over half it's it's gigs as a 3 piece, that's a big old revolving door. That's some achievement. And it's telling that for the first three years we used only 6 members and the three that followed saw 13 new additions come through the doors. And that's the part that feel's a little displaced; the core members are becoming harder to pin. We've had 5 different drummers, 3 guitar players, 2 bass players, an all rounder, a mandolin player, a percussionist and a cellist. But who are they I hear you ask?

Well, shall we meet them?

MORGAN VAL BAKER - 144 performances
guitar, violin, mandolin, banjo, trumpet, percussion, vocals
I am indeed the record holder, courtesy of two solo performances on the BBC and a duo gig with the bass player. I founded the band in late 2010 with long-term musical partner Sam Brookes and am largely responsible for the running of the ship. And the sinking of it. 

SHELLEY MACPHAIL - 141 performances
piano, guitar, percussion, ukulele, vocals
It's remarkable that the Piano Player has played as much as he has, considering how many times he's arrived at gigs without his leads. Constantly bailed out by the venue, his father, the postman and various local music outlets. He was invited along right at the band's inception and we've been trying to sack him ever since!

SAM BROOKES - 108 performances
guitar, bass
Founding member, bookkeeper, finance manager and the writer of the only song to win a prize; The first gig that the Guitar Player missed was only last spring, since then he's only played 5 of 31. I guess having a child, buying a house and running a company is largely to blame. His long list of replacements all bring something new, but nobody has come close to replicating those sweet notes.

OSCAR BLOOMFIELD-CROWE - 100 performances
bass, drums, guitar, mandolin, kora, vocals
Well here's a milestone to commend. 100 performances from the first new member we ever drafted in some 4 years ago at the first album launch. What's even more remarkable is that he's only missed 2 gigs since that day! Talk about commitment. He's become so important to us that I couldn't imagine music without him.

ANDY WATSON - 63 performances
drums, percussion
Much has been written about The Drummer since's his debut in late 2013. He traveled all over Europe with us, moved house and changed job even more times than I have, and tried to leave the band twice. But something remains, it's never been a match-made in heaven, and that's why I think it's worked. You can't fault Andy, for professionalism and organisation, and there aren't many more versatile drummer's around.

LOUIS GULLIVER KING - 16 performances
guitar, accordion, banjo, mandolin, trombone, percussion, vocals
16 performances from the honorary member, all of them came in 12 little months. He came in to help the guitar player on the launch of our second album and then ended up replacing him. He's played 7 different instruments, come on two tours and inspired a new dress code. He'll be back.

FRAZER YOUNG - 3 performances
drums, percussion
Rhythmically Frazer was a perfect fit for us on drums, but logistically it was a nightmare. Living 100 miles away with no drum kit and no car was the reason we only managed 3 gigs. 

LUKAS DRINKWATER - 2 performances
bass, vocals
This famous bass dep even has a blog written about him! He's an amazing multi-instrumentalist and the busiest man in folk music!

CATRINA DAVIES - 2 performances
cello, vocals
2 albums and 2 launches from this gorgeous cellist. She's flavoured many of our ditties and I've only pretended to have played her parts a couple of times! Sure to be there for the third album if we ever get round to it.

NICK McLEOD - 1 performance
The first addition of the '1 club', Nick was the first drummer we drafted in and was a big improvement to the percussion being played with my feet. 

DEMELZA VAL BAKER - 1 performance
You've got to get your mum involved, especially when she's played with Bowie, Dylan, Windwood and Oldfield to namedrop a few!

MARTIN JACKSON - 1 performance
1 gig, would have been more but he pulled out and was replaced by Louis Gulliver King. His vocals are however hauntingly immortalised in the first album.

AARON BROOKES - 1 performance
The first of the Guitar Players' cousins that joined up; Aaron gave us finger picking dexterity at a New Year's Eve party in Zennor.

 - 1 performance
Cousin Jamie learnt 16 songs in a day and absolutely smashed the Ale and Anchor Festival.

MIKEY PONDSFORD - 1 performance
One gig, should have been more. Mikey, of Flats and Sharps fame, was penciled in for a at least 4 others but went awol.

CONNIE CROSBY - performance
Probably the most memorable addition, Connie appeared at the second album launch dressed as a ghost and floated through the auditorium while singing.

JACK WATSON - 1 performance
Young Jack Watson (no relation to The Drummer) gave a faultless performance earlier this year so why was he dropped for the next one!?

 - 1 performance
drums, bass, vocals
"We've found your replacement, and she's female!" That sure did make The Drummer squirm. Daisy is fantastic and I really hope we work with her again.

THEO BLACK - 1 performance
guitar, vocals
The latest in the long line of guitar replacements and the final, and very worthy entry into the member's club. 

And there you have it. Excluding the 'core team' that's 14 individuals that have come in, most of them for very little money, and learnt 15 odd songs in a very short amount of time. Some, like Jamie Brookes and Lukas Drinkwater, seasoned pro's with years of experience who can take it in their stride and feel the changes before they happen. Others like Louis Gulliver King afforded time to really hone their contributions, and some like young Jack Watson and Theo Black, just starting out with their music careers, bundled in at the last minute and thrust up on stage in front of expectant crowds. All of them have been a crucial cog in this machine and added their own stamp. It's meant the band has adapted by adding new styles, and instead of writing new songs we just stick new instruments in and it becomes fresh again. And perhaps that's how it'll continue, we'll have a totally different repertoire depending on who replaces who? The Drummer recently suggested that with so many new members, we could actually create The Odd Folk Tribute Band and send them out on the road while we sit back and wait for the money to roll in! Although it wouldn't amount to much, if anything! It would be like the worst royalties ever. If 5 shady people
had been taking a cut of our earnings all this time, we'd be unprosperous indeed, we'd be pinched and scanty and flat broke. And besides, the 'drive' is not the meager money we make, but those sweet stolen moments after Whisky Drunk, when the crowd erupts and we feel on top of the world... No tribute band would be able to bottle that up, and if they tried; the damp, sweaty odours of spilt beer and faded perfume would be scant reward. 

So let's raise our glasses to The Private Members Club, to each and every one of you; thank you for your time and your creativity, and we hope you gain from this as much as we do. Bon chance!


Thursday, 3 August 2017

The Welsh Academy of Memory and Remembering

It's been a while, perhaps the longest between blogs since blogs began.
4 months; which considering we average a blog a month means that this one should be 4 times as long, and 4 times as interesting. Well it won't be 4 times as long, and interesting? I'll leave that up to you.

It has been an interesting few months for us though. The Odd Folk Trio took a residency at Nancarrow Farm, a fortnightly gig for a series of functions; almost like large auditions to attract potential couples to wed at the sprawling idyllic organic farm. The first one was certainly interesting, the piano player forgot his leads (again for the 100th time) despite having two pairs, and so the trio became a duo; myself and bass player trying our best to sound professional. We had to take a hard stance this time, refusing to pay mr. forgetful, hitting him where it hurt, and perhaps that's the wake call up he needed. He hasn't forgot them since. 

Back as a 5 piece we traveled up to a gorgeous festival in Wales called Fire in the mountain. En route we stopped off in Bristol to rehearse, having not played together for an age. However the piano player had booked the rehearsal space was for the wrong day so we played hacky sack by the side of the road instead and left the music to chance.

The festival had long been recommended to us; a nice small one at the foot of a mountain; the kind you don't need your phone at (not that we had signal anyway). There were 3 stages; a big one, a medium one and a small one. There was a sauna, a river to dip in. Lots of crafts, lots of busking and the quality of music was amazing. We played twice, at the medium stage (powered by people riding bicycles) and then on the sunday at the small stage while 100's lolled around in the breezy sun. Having all of us together again was nice, the guitar player slotting back in with all those sweet notes that makes him almost irreplaceable, the drummer, with his son perched on his lap, tapping away like he was giving a drum lesson. And the people, the 3000 that populated that festival really are the trump card. We made so many new friends and fans. With smiles as constant as the sun.

Back to Nancarrow, this time with piano leads and then on to Ale and Anchor Festival in Mousehole; back on demand, headlining to a capacity crowd and with a brand new member, young Jack Watson who learnt 14 songs in a day to become the guitar player's latest replacement. He's a talent this one; specialising in desert blues and the highlife licks of African music.

In the meantime I took a theatre job, became bumble bee busy for 6 weeks and found out it was suddenly August! The piano player went up to Cardiff and enrolled in WAMAR (the Welsh Academy of Memory and Remembering) and the bass player went off to Berlin. The drummer completed the finishing touches to the the van that he'd bought for the Canceled Tour of Northern Europe back in March, including the installation of a 2k soundsystem that he purchased when he was pissed! The guitar player did stuff with a shovel and built fences, and rebuilt his house again. Oh, and Louis Gulliver King, our honorary member, still doing Bear Hunt in Bahrain and Bognor and Basingstoke.

And what's next? Another 4 month absence? Another new member? Another tale of misplaced leads? Largely, yes. Having a newborn means free time is scarce; I am writing this on a crowded train back from an audition for Dawn French's new TV show and any other spare time I have is used up (you guessed it) rehearsing in 2 brand new members for the upcoming gigs at Shambala Festival. And as for the curse of the missing leads? Try as I might, and despite all he's learnt up at WAMAR, I think he is fundamentally incapable of remembering things, and so another episode of sitting in a field contemplating just what he's done is only an adventure away.

Thanks for bearing with us and we'll see you soon, either at Shambala or in Portugal, or we'll be touring again in autumn no doubt, with more new members probably, perhaps we'll even replace ourselves and let younger blood take our songs out on the road ;-)


Thursday, 27 April 2017

The Kestle Mill Soap Company

“I’ve got to cancel the tour!”
“The tour, I’ve got to cancel it!”
My friend stared at me from behind his cup of pomegranate tea. “Why!?”
“Why? Let’s see. Two players have pulled out. The drummer’s fucked his shoulder and might not be able to drive, let alone drum. Leaving me the only driver with over 2000 miles of road ahead. My girlfriend’s heavily pregnant. We have no accommodation for half the venues. Oh, and the band have £19 to our name!”
“It sounds like the premise to all your tours” my friend reminded me. And it did. How often have we started an adventure with a list of mishaps, all the odds stacked heavily against us and yet always we’ve made it work? Heck, that’s what we were about? We’re The Odd Folk. This was what we did best. But this time we couldn’t pull it off. This was the straw that broke the camels back. Was it the guitar player pulling out? Was it the lack of funds? Was it the pregnancy gnawing away at me? Or was it, simply, fatigue catching up with us at long last.
“You better call the boys” said my friend refilling his cup.
“The boys?” I grimaced. “I’m more worried about the fans!”
I did phone the boys though, outside in the rain. The drummer understood. The bass player was gutted and the piano player didn’t even know we were touring!

Almost two months have passed since then and I still feel guilt about the whole thing. Not regret. Just guilt; a little self reproach, a little melancholy. These are what we live for, these trips. This wild abandon, these reckless jaunts on the open road. Meeting new faces in new places is what it’s all about. Yes, seeing the familiar faces in our old haunts is just as much a part of us, but there’s something really rewarding about taking a plunge into the unknown. And something really frustrating about turning it down. I guess, because you don’t know how many more adventures are left. In this tank. Under this banner. It’s no secret we’ve found it hard to commit to this ship in recent times. The ever changing lineup is proof of that. In our first three years we used a total of just four musicians. In the following three, we’ve used twelve. Real life wins over in the end. This is just a passion project after all.

But there is still passion, don’t worry. Still a project, if not entirely to the description of the word: A major undertaking, especially one involving considerable money, personnel and equipment. Perhaps we can better rephrase that: We are a small undertaking, one involving little money, lessening personnel and dated equipment. There you go. Passion project; tick.
The months that followed were, on a personal level, monumental. I gave birth to my second son, or rather my partner did. Little Enys became the 4th OddFolk baby born under our watch. A number almost as many as we. The future’s bright. Even if the present is a little unknown. I suppose it’s only fair to fill you in on the rest of the gang; the guitar player moved a stone patio from Mrs Bansell's front garden to the back. The piano player broke his phone, lost his leads and turned up to a gig that we didn't have. The bass played staged-managed the young classical musicians of the year masterclass in Prussia Cove and then dislocated his shoulder while snowboarding through the Swedish mountains, and the drummer did stuff in Bristol.

But the band did little. Did nothing. And as the long winter months trickled by the distance between our last live performance totalled 6 months, our longest abstinence. It appeared at one stage, after the cancelation of our tour, that perhaps it was also to be a cancelation of our time. How ironic it would be to organise a farewell gig only to tell the packed arena that we weren’t quitting and then in the months that followed: quit anyway. As it happened something small made us change our mind, a CD order came through on the online shop, nothing new there, 100’s have come in with not much thought about it. Usually it’s my mother who takes on this most mundane job of posting and packaging to Camborne and Crewe and Cricklewood. Only this time I did it and the address really tickled me: Marc Porll from Junglinster in Luxombourg! Wow, how did Marc hear about us? Intrigued I scrolled down the list of previous buyers, in amongst the Plymouth’s and Peterborough’s were
Rhidorroch House in the
Rhidorroch House
Scottish Highlands and The Kestle Mill Soap Company. And further down, 6 CD’s were sent to a villa in Tuscany, 4 to the Third Britannia Royal Anglian Regiment in Suffolk. A chap named Peter Jackson bought one from Wellington New Zealand fuelling speculation it could be a famous movie director!? Others of note are Warrick University and the university of St Andrews in Scotland and a chap named Dondu Cort from Turkey. As well as half of Europe, CD’s have been posted to the US, Canada, Mexico and as far as Tasmania! Uplifted I phoned the guitar player and persuaded him to come gigging again. After that I answered a few emails and suddenly we had a summer of gigs in front of us. The passion project fully restored. Inspired by the length of our reach, inspired by soldiers in Suffolk and Dondu Cort, by how far we’re loved and how so many of our fans have never seen us play. And so I set about trying to find them. And the upshot is we’re back! A limited addition bumper summer season that see’s us at Fire in the Mountain, Ale and Anchor, Shambala Festival, Costa Del Folk and various local jaunts up and down the country.
You never know, with all this tracking the fans malarkey, we might even play at The Kestle Mill Soap Company ;-)

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Into the wild

It's that time of year again. When nothing much is happening over here. Nothing's been happening for months now. We're all a bit a bored, sitting idling, itching our feet. After the misadventures of last year's musical pilgrimage to Berlin in a 30 year old broken motorhome, this year we've turned our attentions to Scandinavia. Utterly foolhardy. Bold and brassy. Reckless. We do have a decent van this this time, the drummer's bought one and is doing it up ready for the road ahead. That, however, is the only thing we have. We have no money
this year. No new merchandise. Dwindling CD stocks. No new songs. The guitar player has just pulled out. His replacement, the ever dependable Louis Gulliver King, still hasn't received clearance from his theatre contract. The piano player can't afford to come. The bass player finishes his audio contract a matter of days before and is praying that they don't run over. I am having a baby at the end of March and am praying it doesn't come early. Sound familiar? Welcome to The Odd Folk!

Temperatures in southern Sweden could drop to minus 5, with an icy Baltic wind. We have no snow tyres. No breakdown cover. We have no money to book any accommodation and so are completely reliant on the generosity of the crowds in order to get a roof over our heads, otherwise we'll all be huddled together in the van. The drummer will be huddled in the van regardless. NOT because he snores. Just in order to protect the thousands of pounds worth of equipment we carry with us.

This time, even I am pessimistic. There is so much at stake it'll be a miracle if we get through it. To start with; money. We have none. Since the guitar player's paternity leave, bookkeeping has gone out of the window, funds are shared out after every gig and the 'band' (the 6th member) hasn't been paid for months now. This is bad form. Bad practice. No doubt influenced by the fact we were winding down, parking the old bus, putting this baby out to pasture. In many ways we were liquidating The Odd Folk before we walked away. But that didn't happen, as many of you know, we organised a farewell party only to announce we weren't quitting! So, the bank is empty. We can't afford to get to the first gig.

What else? Availability. The drummer is the only one who is 100% sure he can attend. The guitar player has pulled out. There is a chance his replacement, Louis Gulliver King, will be denied clearance meaning we are one man down. The piano player can't afford to come, he owes money in every direction and is being carefully monitored by his landlady, escaping off on tour with us could result in him being homeless upon his return; that would leave us two men down. The bass player's contract could well overrun meaning we are three men down. And finally, my partner could go into labour 2 weeks early (not unheard of) meaning we are four men down!

Anything else? Oh, did we I say we are completely unprepared for a journey of this magnitude. We're effectively driving 1250 miles to Malmö to play in a 'folk kitchen' run by hippies where they will serve us a vegan meal and probably little else. Our gig in Copenhagen is in the autonomous neighborhood of Freetown Christiania, where the police aren't allowed, meaning our two fans in Denmark, both police officers, can't even attend! The booker in Hamburg has gone quite on us, though the venue receptionist says this is normal and just "turn up" on the day and he'll be here. Nice and vague. We haven't sorted a gig in Holland, the only country we have a fanbase, and instead travel to places where we know nobody. At least we're returning to Den Hopsack in Antwerp for the third year in a row. You can always guarantee a bit of dosh there, shame it's right at the end of the tour and not at the beginning when we desperately need it. 

Any amount of scenarios could happen; the worse being that the drummer tours alone because nobody else is available. Now, obviously that wouldn't happen. But perhaps this could...

... Having rounded
all the troops we set off to Tunbridge Wells for our first gig. The drummer's filled the tank with his own money and we're banking on some cold hard cash for the performance. But the gig is a house concert and only a handful of people turn up, probably because we forgot to promote it and we don't know anyone in Tunbridge! We make enough money to pay the drummer back and arrive at the tunnel penniless again, having to re-borrow the money in order to cross the channel. In Europe we make it as far as Holland as night draws in. The drummer's shattered as he's doing all the driving because we can't afford to put anyone else on the insurance! In Holland we have 100's of fans but no gig. We stay with a couple of them, grateful for a plate of food and curse ourselves for not organising a house concert here where we actually know people. Our Dutch friends buy some CD's off us even though they already have them, probably out of pity, just so we have some cash to get to... Herning!? Where's that? DENMARK - 500 miles into the frozen north.

The drummer drives on into a headwind, progress is slow and the piano player receives a text saying 'all of your belongings are in the front garden!' Ouch. We arrive in Herning for our gig but there is no gig. It never got 'green lit' and we hadn't read the email. With no money we huddle in the van, much to the drummer's distress. The next day in Copenhagen, we approach the 'homemade' city of Freetown Christiania; a maze of wooden houses and shacks propped up against each other, workshops and arts galleries and hippies selling hash all along Pusher Street. Our excitement is shortlived when we realise no cars are allowed. Our gig starts in 2 hours and we're late for our soundcheck! We're forced to carry our gear while friendly freetowners ask us where we're playing. Some offer to help but we are unsure whether they might run off with our instruments. The gig is pleasant enough but we make little to no money and to make matters worse the bass player recieves an email from his work saying some of the scenes need re-editing and he is forced to buy an expensive dongle and start work immediately in the van. We cross the bridge to Malmö, to the 'folk kitchen' and play for our supper, but that is about all. From the last two gigs, we've raise enough money to pay the drummer back again. The next night in Hamburg, the booker never does materialise and therefore nor does our fee! We play the gig regardless, passing a hat around the audience and raising just enough for the road ahead. En route to Belgium I receive the call that my partner has started contractions and immediately fly home only to find it's only Braxton Hicks! The final venue is canceled. The tour is abandoned. The piano player is homeless. The bass player is being docked his salary because of unfinished edits and we all owe the drummer money. The guitar player chuckles to himself, glad he stayed at home.

Only, The Odd Folk ;-)