MUDKISS FANZINE

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THE TRAVELLING BAND: NOW IS THE TIME TO BURN BRIGHTLY  - INTERVIEW BY ANDY BARNES

Over the last two or three years as a resurgent Folk scene has blossomed in the U.K, it’s a strange phenomenon Manchester’s 'The Travelling Band' has managed to stay under the radar of public consciousness to the majority. Their debut album 'Under The Pavement' fuses influences not purely of folk, but country and rock into one of the great albums of 2008.  Two and a half years on, (certainly not three) Mudkiss met with Jo and Adam from the band at The Brudenell Social Club in Leeds on the last date of the current tour, promoting second album 'Screaming is Something'. released just the previous week. 

On a bright, although typically quite chill evening in June we convened outside the venue to discuss the new album, folk jumpers and plans for both the immediate and long term future of The Travelling Band. Although trusty sidekick Russ complemented the meeting mainly to undertake photographic duties, I knew as another big fan of the band, he would quickly become involved in the discussion, although his speed out of the blocks proved even more impressive than anticipated...........    

RUSS: Is the Brudenell somewhere you’ve played before?

JO: We’ve played twice - did it about about two and half years ago and we were playing in a tiny room and then we played in November supporting Ellen and the Escapades, we did that for their EP launch.

ANDY: I love this venue but it is quite bizarre.

JO: It’s pretty real!

RUSS: It does remind me of “Rita, Sue and Bob Too” or “Kes.”

ADAM: We met an old lady at The Caribbean round the corner and she said (adopting a Yorkshire accent) “I used to go doing me bingo in there.... they’ve stopped doing that now” [laughs].

JO: (Adopting a similar Yorkshire accent) They used to do it on Sunday’s. [more laughs].

ANDY: I’m surprised they have, you almost expect the bingo to be on before the bands.

JO: What I like about it is you’ve got the locals and then you’ve got the students - everyone’s sort of intermingled  - everyone just minds their own business.

ANDY: You released your new album 'Screaming is Something' last week, how do you feel it’s been received.

JO: Well... I think........in the terms of by the fans or the media?

ANDY: By both - but certainly by the media. Personally I don’t think you received the recognition you deserved with the debut album and I wonder if 'Screaming is Something' has taken you a step further on?

JO: It’s hard to say..... we got it out quite quick as we were quite keen to sort of get the ball rolling...... I don’t think we’ve had all the reviews we’re going to yet....all the national stuff ..... Generally it’s been positive I think......it’s definitely not been negative. We try and not listen too much......if someone blows smoke up your arse, the next day you’re likely to get someone that put’s you down so if you take it all too personally........Adam’s always telling me not to read it cos when I do read em I go......oh fuckin hell. It’s when you get compared to bands that you know have been around before or you sound nothing like, or you get people suggesting you’re coming off the back of something  - that’s when I get frustrated.

ADAM: Sometimes it’s nice when they mention a band I’ve never heard of  in a review and I think I’ll check them out, that kind of thing.

ANDY: It can be difficult with reviews as there’s always a temptation to suggest a band sounds like someone else to try and draw people in, but I can also understand you feel frustrated if you think you sound nothing like that band.

JO: It’s when they don’t really review the music....... they almost review the press release rather than using the press release as just snippets of information to supplement their own review and opinion of the music...... yeah it’s a weird one........... but in terms of how it’s been received at the gigs I’m pretty excited and positive about the reaction.

ANDY: So the tour’s been going well?

JO: The tour’s been fabulous.....we’ve played places like Cardiff and Newcastle that we’ve never really played....... we’ve hardly ever played Leeds before as well and there’s a lot of people going to be here tonight.  We’re not selling out massive arenas or theatres....... but the fact people are showing up means it’s working and it’s getting out there. It’s always going to be a slow build for our band..... I don’t know what it is...... when we came out we were playing very unfashionable music and then we went away and made another record and the kind of music we made became fashionable and then when we put the record out and it was like..... that’s last year’s scene.

ADAM: The fashion will come round on the thirteenth album or something. [laughs].

ANDY: There has been three years between the two albums.   

JO: (Quickly) People keep saying that, but that’s not entirely true.... it’s definitely two and a half years. It was November the 12th 2008 and now it was May 30th.

ANDY: Fair enough....... It’s been two and a half years since your last album....... is there a particular reason for that or were you just taking your time as some of the songs have been in the live set for quite a while.

JO: Yeah they have been......it was more just the practicalities and logistics of getting it together and getting it out.  We’d actually finished the record in June last year........ and we were like right it’s done........ at that point we were like fuckin hell it’s taken ages...... but then we split with our management at the time, the day we finished it..... that was a bit of a curve ball and then Steve left the band a month later so we had to totally reassess what the album was because there were two songs that Steve was singing the lead on the original album...... so we totally reassessed everything and got everything in order, wrote a couple of new songs, recorded them in January, got new management, Cooking Vinyl came along so it was just one of them.......we probably could have released the album a lot earlier but we just didn’t want to do it with damp squib really.

ADAM:  We would have just done it ourselves again, probably just a self release...... we hung back and ended up with Cooking Vinyl so it was probably the right move with hindsight.

ANDY: Did you ever think about replacing Steve when he left or was it just a case of carrying on as a five piece?

ADAM: It was never really a discussion.

JO: It never really crossed my mind.....I think in my wildest dreams I wanted Jo Rose to join the band but actually what I really wanted to do was for us to back Jo Rose on his own record....... In terms of someone in to replace.......no......we could probably do with losing a couple more members to be honest [laughs]

ANDY: Do you want to name those? [Also laughing]

JO: No...... [Still laughing] Probably me.....I think I’m next in line.......... No, it was sad when Steve left obviously, first and foremost as like........... Adam had been in a band with him for like ten years.

ADAM: Yeah me and Spenny (Bass) used to play in a band with him called Brothers with different Mothers...... way back.

JO: You go from spending every day with someone to not seeing him it’s quite weird...... I had it when I split up with with my other band, they were my brothers and my best friends.........you don’t actually realise when you’re in a band with someone how much you spend time with them until you’re not....  you don’t see him because you’re doing something else and everyone else is doing something else....... so the most difficult thing for me personally was just losing a mate.  For the band it was actually just keep calm and carry on......we had a focus and Steve left one day and the next day we had a show to do so we had to do the show......you just get on with it.  It’s like anything in life you can either sort of freak out or just get on with it........ he didn’t want to be in the band any more so he wasn’t in the band anymore...... there was plenty of musicians left to make a noise.

ANDY: There’s a lot of emphasis on the Folk / Americana aspect of your music but I pick up a lot of rock influence in there too.  Where does that come from, are you secret Led Zep fans?

JO: Yeah, yeah I think so..... Definitely, I’m a massive Led Zep fan.

ADAM: I think we’re all Led Zep fans....yeah  definitely........ apart from Mugger (lead guitar) who perhaps doesn’t  buzz off them as much..... I don’t know if he’s come round to them as much now.

JO: Mugger doesn’t actually like distortion..... If you listen to his guitar tone he might put the odd bit of fuzz on it.....he doesn’t like distortion per se unless it’s natural distortion from a Fender twin.  The bands we really dig are the bands that can do the really chilled thing and then do the rock thing...... it’s not necessarily a contrived thing like we’re going to do that and we’re going to do that.... but they’re just serving what the songs wants to be or whatever the show is so there might be parts of it which are really delicate and then there’ll be parts of it where it’s full on rockin out..... We do that not because we want to cover all bases but because that’s what feels good so I’ve never seen us as an Americana band...... and when I refer to us as a folk band.....it’s always quite confusing as a phrase because I see it more as a band of the people playing music for the people.......We’ve always been a band to go out there to the regions and playing in pubs with our own PA and just play music for the normal town folk.....that’s what it’s about when I talk about folk music it’s not about putting on our jumpers and getting the banjo’s out......which we do from time to time. [laughs]

ADAM: I mean there is jumpers in the wardrobe. [More laughter]

ANDY: Are they Arran Jumpers? [Yet more laughter]

ADAM: There’s jumpers in the wardrobe that’s all I’m saying. [And more laughter]

JO: We’ve got folk jumpers in our musical closet but we don’t always wear them, we sometimes get the leather pants out. [And yet more laughter.]....... So yeah..... I don’t know where the next direction is.

ANDY: Do you think the direction might change for the next album?

JO: Probably.......probably........ It’s hard to say at this stage...... we’ve been more talking about it than actually doing it....... I think we’ll probably draw a line........ these two albums definitely feel like almost closing off a period of time in our lives and actually we’ve finally caught up with the all the songs we had written when we started the band plus a couple of new ones.... we’ve only just got started really.

ADAM: It’s just on ongoing process isn’t it really.

ANDY: There’s a track “Under The Pavement”  on the second album which is the title of the first album.  Was that around when you recorded the debut.

ADAM: Yes, I think it had just started knocking around when we recorded the first one from what I remember....... We didn’t even try and record it.... it was still very much in it’s infancy.

JO: It took us a while to get that album together so it was about an year and  a half afterwards we started recording it.... maybe even longer until we went... oh we need an album title......and  Oh....Under the Pavement’s a great album title because it was in a basement underneath the pavement in New York.  Loads of these songs have been around a while..... I think “Sundial,” we started writing that in 2007 on the second trip to New York and that’s when the idea came out and then we played it at Glasto 2008 but it took us another two years to record it and then we released it as a single.  Songs don’t have a sell by date anyway......the songs not the important thing in terms of when it was written you know. It’s more in terms of the band’s sound.......we go, what instruments do we need this time........if you restrict yourself with certain things........maybe we’re not going to use the organ anymore on this next album.......it’s like the organ for us.... it’s the glue.......not using the organ would be a really ballsy thing for us......I would really freak out as the organs my favourite instrument.

ADAM: Strip the acoustic guitars back, get rid of them.

JO: Tell Mugger he’s only allowed to use distortion [Laughter]............I can see the acoustics becoming maybe less prevalent.......It’s hard to say at this stage...... we definitely want to make a record quicker.......

ANDY: Than two and a half years?

JO: Yeah.....We want to write it and record it in a short space of time.....maybe a month........ but it’s all down practicalities.......have we got the budget to do it, have we got the time........just getting into that flow........that’s the battle for any band getting into that space where you can create, record, release,tour........that’s what we want to do.

ANDY : Although I’m a fan of both albums, I don’t think it’s possible to replicate with recorded material the intensity of your live performances. Is that were the real essence of The Travelling Band comes out?

JO: It is but........ Jeff Tweedy (Wilco) said something on his DVD...... music only ever exists really in the moment..... a recording is actually what it is, especially the first album.... that’s what we were...... that’s who we were, that was us being honest in the studio at that point.....sounds nothing like us now......and probably these songs that we’re playing on the record that we’re promoting, they’re starting to grow and mutate into new life forms of their own....... but that’s that at the moment, that’s here tonight at the Brudenell in Leeds but you know in three weeks they might be something different.

ADAM: They slowly change..... you might catch us at the point where a songs in the midst of developing into something else.... whereas that’s the ongoing process when we play live so I’d like to think it’s never exactly the same......it’s never the same thing.

RUSS: So it’s like a work in progress, you’re never satisfied with the final product?

Adam : I think there’s always a sense of development and I think it’d be unhealthy if there wasn’t......... in my head anyway...... I think it’s always got to be moving in that direction....... there’s never ever a finish you know to me.

ANDY: The first song I heard of  yours which really drew me in was 'Desolate Icicle', which I’ve never heard you play live. Is that because it’s one that just doesn’t fit anymore?

JO: Somebody asked me this last night as well.

ANDY: Damn, I thought I’d be the first person to ask you that.

JO: No, no......it was like a fan...... why don’t you play that song...... the truth is...  I got nodules right around the time we released it as a single and I couldn’t sing the high note in the chorus...... so we started re-arranging it for Mugger to sing it and then..... it just became a difficult song and a very unnatural song too for us to sing.......actually now I think we could easily go back to that tune......yeah, it’s a good song but it’s one of those things, it will come around when it comes around..... I remember High Five........ we didn’t play it for ages and someone’s like....why don’t you play High Five anymore and then we started jamming it and it started working again but you know songs come and go, it’ll be like that, we’ll probably start doing it.....I’d like to Desperate Icicle more stripped down  maybe just sort of........kicking hat....... quite skiffley.

ADAM: Could use a piano.......I think we should start touring with an upright piano. [Laughing]

JO: That’s a can of worms though. [Again laughing]

ANDY: Just going back to you playing live, do you regard yourselves as perfectionists.  I have one of your set lists and it’s very detailed, not just a list of songs, but outlining who’s playing what, which tuning etc.

JO: Oh, you’ve probably got our guitar techs set list.....that’s so he knows what guitar to give us.

ADAM: There’s a lot of changeovers..... we confuse ourselves.

JO: Yeah I mean..... I dunno..... I don’t think we’re perfectionists......I think always trying to make it better.... whether that makes us perfectionists or not.....I don’t think so,  I think there’s enough raw elements in what we do.......we’re not good enough to be perfectionists.......I mean as players....... I always say to Nick (drums) he drop’s as many beats .......it correlates to how many beers he’s drunk [laughter]........ last night he had five beers and he dropped five beats [more laughter.)

ANDY: Although there’s a real sense of enjoyment around the band live, with the both of you in particular, there’s a real intensity.

JO: We have to engage with the songs in a different way though..... I was trying to explain this to Mugger the other day..... when you are singing the song it’s not just like playing the guitar line and buzzing....... to get a level of sort of authenticity within your own art I suppose....... you can’t  just go through the motions with a song...... when I’m singing I tend to sort of trance out....... I dunno...... It’s like a meditation...... I often don’t open my eyes for quite a while then I have to sort of remember where I am a bit.....that’s probably why it comes across as quite intense.....it’s like a focus and concentration but also trying to let go at the same time....... it’s a weird thing to do, you’re trying to think but not think.

ADAM: You kind of drift in and out of living the song again..... for me anyway as it was written...... so if you’re doing that night after night that’s quite a cathartic process as well, you know.....I think that’s where the intensity comes from..... there’s a kind of a meditative state like you’re playing and you drift in and out of re-living the song which for me put’s the intensity back into it.

JO: It’s not to say the other guys aren’t......I suppose when you’re vocalising an emotion or a lyric it’s maybe more obvious you’re zoning out......the boys zone out in their own different ways.

ANDY: I’m sure that’s the case, but especially with Mugger, he looks so laid back when playing.

JO: He has some gigs where his heads down and you know he’s not enjoying himself......and  you can’t put a finger on it.....then other nights when I think like we played shit...... he’s like..... that was great. [Laughter[ And Nicks’s just Nick......I don’t think he even likes music [More laughter] he just likes drumming, it’s different......he understands it, I’m jealous of his lack of passion......No I’m only kidding......he did all his work as a teenager....he doesn’t have to think now he just does it.....he’s a talented man.......well he’s a talented boy..... one day he’ll be a man. [More laughter].

ANDY : Again, more so with perhaps you two, you seem to along with playing watch a lot of gigs, we’ve certainly seen you at a number in Manchester and Jo you appear to also let fellow musicians stay at your place so you seem to live totally a musical life. Is there anything else outside of the music?

JO: Not really...... occasionally see family.

ADAM: I practise my kick-up’s in the back garden..... that’s about it.

JO: We play football once a week although we haven’t been while we’ve been touring...... Although for a long time we didn’t have that and actually playing footie is such a release.....because it is so intense and if you kind of live it too much and don’t learn to take a step back or even just like do something different  even for a couple of hours a week you can go a bit mad.

ADAM: It can definitely affect your sleeping pattern.

JO: I think I’ve finally got my head round how to do it and remain sane..... 2010 wasn’t a great year for the intensity of it all...... this year’s definitely working out a lot easier...... there’s things coming into place. In terms of living the music thing.......I don’t know what other things there are to be passionate about other than sport, cooking, women.....music....and er.....

ADAM : Gardening?

JO:  I’ll get into gardening when....I dunno... I can’t be arsed to tour anymore..... I think that’s a good forty, fifty years off yet........What else is there to be enthused about.

ANDY: I’m of an age when I shouldn’t be enthused about it so much, but as a fan it’s a major part of life, watching bands and listening to music.

JO: It’s weird.... I listen to music hardly at all if I’m doing lot’s of it.... on tour I don’t really like listening to it much..... maybe if I’m doing the drive home......or if we’re rehearsing a lot, when I go home I don’t want any music on......it’s weird, it’s like too much of it.

ADAM: You find that in the van after a gig..... if you’re gigging every night people don’t really request music on the way back.....It’s like Alan Partridge or Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall [Laughter] No one’s asking for Zep.

JO: It’s quite distracting as well......I’ve started writing songs mostly in my sleep and I’ll wake up with a melody.....so if  I put music on straight away in the morning it wipes it........ That side of going to gigs, you get huge inspiration from watching other performers......We probably need to get Nick to more gigs. [Laughs]

ANDY: It is usually the two of you and sometimes Mugger I see at gigs. Stornoway, Band of Horses I think you were both at.

JO: Absolutely yeah....... Stornoway are good buddies of ours, they’re a great band.

ANDY : Do you feel as though you’re almost part of a scene in Manchester.  You play, you watch bands, you have bands staying at your place and you’re also promoting bands at the Sideways Saloon nights at Odder Bar?

JO: There’s definitely a music community in Manchester that we are a part of ... I’m not sure about a scene as that sort of implies a wave of music that might have hit the city.... it’s pretty eclectic what happens in Manchester.....in terms of like bringing other musicians in..... that’s more of the scene of good people..... I’d like to think we’re part of the nice people scene.....put other musicians up in the hope you get the karma coming your way.......it’s a pretty weird and sometimes difficult existence doing what we do just to get by and to make it seem like it’s not such a stupid idea......when you have a lot of other people doing that and everyone’s good to each and you get that community feeling it sort of softens the blow.  I don’t feel like we’re part of a particular wave in time because I’ve always thought we’ve always been outside of that.... Like I said at the start, we’ve never been a fashionable band and I don’t think we ever will be..... But we’ll probably make records longer than the fashionable bands.

ANDY: And what have you got lined up for the next few months. Festivals I assume?

JO: Yeah.....gigs every weekend pretty much.....this is the last gig of this stretch and then we’ve got a week off, then a few more gigs.....It’s pretty sporadic through June.....From July through til sort of mid September it’s pretty much a gig every weekend.....we’ll be promoting “Battlescars” as a single, it’s out at the start of August......then just the festivals and in October we’ll go to Europe ... Northern Europe and Southern Europe then we’ll come back and in November do another U.K tour....... and then we’ve got to write an album at some point. [Laughs].

ANDY: Are you popular in Europe?

JO: Our manager’s here tonight and he said that’s going to be your first European tour.

ADAM:  The album’s getting released out there on the 2nd of September as far as I’m aware..... it’s like a delayed release so obviously we don’t know yet but hopefully it’ll go down well .

JO: He described it as dipping your toe in the water......you know we’ve been to France, we’ve been to other places and stuff......we might be big in Georgia and Kosovo..... and maybe Montpelier there’s a few fans down there.....but no, we’re just getting started.

ANDY: You’ve been heavily involved with Kosovo haven’t you?

JO: Well not in the county itself ..... but with the charity, Manchester Aid to Kosovo, as a band we’re quite heavily involved with that......I don’t know what they call me but I’m the music guy at the charity.....we put out that ten track CD on Sideways Saloon...... it was cool we raised quite a bit of cash for it so that went well......I’m glad it sort of happened though as it took a while to get together.  We’re also doing a gig with The Flaming Lips......organised a stage with us and Badly Drawn Boy, Liam Frost, and Josephine and Jo Rose.  It’s in the daytime down at the Eden Project......so The Flaming Lips are on in the evening and this daytime show is in one of the tropical biomes.... and all the artists that are playing are doing it for Mac and in return Mac will be getting a donation  and continue to collaborate with the Eden Project......It’s cool being able to be involved with what they’re doing........It’s a great little charity and it’s all sort of rooted in goodness and trying to create collaborations between the U.K which is a pretty well developed place and Kosovo which has had a hard time of it to say the least....It definitely keeps me busy.

ANDY: Just to finish up on a lighter note, there are only two bands in the world that my wife will leave the house to watch live. One is 'Take That', and the other is 'The Travelling Band'. How does that make you feel?

JO: (Slightly bemused) ...............She obviously has a taste for bands with the letter T..............Well......we’re also a five piece....... from the North.....[Laughs]

ANDY: So there are similarities I’ve missed then?

JO: Yes there are similarities....... People used to say I looked like Robbie Williams when I was fourteen.

ANDY: Did they?

JO: [Laughs] No.........he’s a Stokey anyway.

ANDY : Yeah, he’s not really a Northerner.

JO: I’m not really Northern either...... he’s more Northern than I am.

ANDY:  And on that note....Thanks for your time, it’s been  a pleasure meeting you both.

JO: Yeah, nice one Andy.

ADAM: Nice one mate.

Unfortunately partaking in the interview means they miss the support, Tigers That Talked, the guys heading straight inside to ready for yet another incredible live performance.  Perhaps as Jo suggests, 'The Travelling Band' have been a slow burn..... hopefully, with an outstanding new album 'Screaming is Something', the fire is stoked and burning brightly for all to see.

www.thetravellingband.com

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-VRKG_m3akthe last two or three years as a resurgent Folk scene has blossomed in the U.K, it’s a strange phenomenon Manchester’s The Travelling Band has managed to stay under the radar of public consciousness to the majority. Their debut album “Under The Pavement” fuses influences not purely of folk, but country and rock into one of the great albums of 2008.  Two and a half years on, (certainly not three) Mudkiss met with Jo and Adam from the band at The Brudenell Social Club in Leeds on the last date of the current tour, promoting second album “Screaming is Something,” released just the previous week. Over the last two or three years as a resurgent Folk scene has blossomed in the U.K, it’s a strange phenomenon Manchester’s The Travelling Band has managed to stay under the radar of public consciousness to the majority. Their debut album “Under The Pavement” fuses influences not purely of folk, but country and rock into one of the great albums of 2008.  Two and a half years on, (certainly not three) Mudkiss met with Jo and Adam from the band at The Brudenell Social Club in Leeds on the last date of the current tour, promoting second album “Screaming is Something,” released just the previous week. The Travelling Band Interview – Brudenell Social Club – Leeds – 10.06.11
Over the last two or three years as a resurgent Folk scene has blossomed in the U.K, it’s a strange phenomenon Manchester’s The Travelling Band has managed to stay under the radar of public consciousness to the majority. Their debut album “Under The Pavement” fuses influences not purely of folk, but country and rock into one of the great albums of 2008.  Two and a half years on, (certainly not three) Mudkiss met with Jo and Adam from the band at The Brudenell Social Club in Leeds on the last date of the current tour, promoting second album “Screaming is Something,” released just the previous week.  
Interview by Andy @ The Brudenell social club. Leeds10/06/11
Photos by Mel @ Rochdale Music Festival and interview photo by Russ Learmont.