Tuesday, 18 November 2014

A call to arms!

The campaign's at its halfway point and we're 40% funded which doesn't take a professor in mathematics to work out that we're slightly behind schedule. Statistics do indicate, however, that most projects accelerate towards the end, receiving the majority of their funding in the last week! So we're all still hopeful. So much so that the guitar player's decided this is a good time for a holiday in The Gambia! The bass player, still swanning around in Thailand, checks in occasionally, most notably to update us on random Thai shopkeepers who have pledged money towards the album! The drummer, so diligent at the start has been consumed by work commitments and vanished from social media. Thank god the piano player has rallied around and jumped on the blag-wagon, swapping paintball sales for album sales! Without him I'd have lost hope, withdrawn the pledges and jumped on a Tall Ship to the Dominican Republic to meet our most recent blog reader! 

That got me thinking, this medium could be our largest tool. The statistics on here are frightening. If I could somehow appeal to all of you, all 3657 of you, we'd be home and dry and cooking chestnuts by the fire! We only need you to pledge 54p and we'd be complete! That's loose change gathering dust in the Piggy Bank! Cheaper than a chocolate bar! Even if only half of you did, it would work out as £1.09, thats cheaper than a loaf of bread! Of course, you only qualify for rewards by donating more than a tenner so we'd have to think of some nice recompense!

It is wonderful to dig into the data on this blog. As I mentioned above, we welcomed out first reader from the Dominican Republic the other week, and a scroll down the list sees entries from Morocco, Lithuania, India and The Philippines. It's heartening to see how far our adventures have been traveling. The other day I checked the leader board and saw a big serge by Turkey and thought how on earth are there 43 computers viewing any one blog entry? I only know 1 Turk!  

Back to the Blag! Back to busy days and nights spent wondering how best to get inside your pockets! It almost sounds wrong when put like that. We really do understand the current pinch and have been so overwhelmed by the support thus far. It's amazing to think we've garnered as much as we have. On blind faith. Being in this position makes you realise how far we've come in many ways. Formed a band, wrote a few songs, stomped our feet and told silly stories, crammed into tiny pubs, old barns, village halls, and any alcove that would have us. Self-funded our first album, increased the lineup, upgraded to stages and festivals, started touring and making films and writing about our adventures and here we are, convincing you all to give over your pocket money so we can continue... and the amazing thing is that you are!

And we need more! So keep digging. This is a call to arms! Tell your friends. We need those chocolate bars and loaves of bread! And we promise if we are successful we will put our heart, soul, boots and all in the new album.
And we'll remember your kind names. They will be immortalised forever in
The Odd Folklore! 

Click here and help us!

Monday, 10 November 2014

We need your help!

Well we're well and truly on the blag now. Locked into a Kickstarter Campaign to raise money for our next album. If all goes according to plan we can raise the required thousands, pile into the old renault 4, drive into the mountains of mid-wales to the old shooting lodge at Belan Hall and with the help of Andy Bell capture the songs that will make a brand new record. So far, we're slightly behind schedule but still blissfully optimistic. Though I did realise today that starting such a crucial campaign when the bass player's in Thailand on holiday, the guitar player doesn't use social media and the piano player's forgetfulness takes pride of place, leaves me and the drummer as the sole pushers of this project. Plus the fact that Christmas is approaching and pockets are understandably tight at this time of year. I am also incredibly busy myself with work commitments. So perhaps, upon reflection, we're not so blissfully optimistic. We're secretly petrified. The campaign is after all, an 'all or nothing'. If you fail to raise the required sum, you must return everything you've garnered.

Although this isn't a perfect time to launch this project, it is the best of a bad bunch. December is too near to Christmas and pockets are closed. January, not only are pockets closed but doors are closed too! February, well, they say February is a suitable month for dying, as all around is dead. So I imagine running a kickstarter campaign then is just as futile. And I am off again in March with work commitments. So here we are; one week in with nearly a thousand raised. 3 weeks left and a further 4 to raise. It is, as Alex Ferguson says, Squeaky bum time!

On paper it looks easy. We need 500 people to pledge £10, which will effectively buy them their album in advance. Now we have some 700 official fans on facebook, and many more who, like the guitar player, shy away from social media. We also have a large readership on this blog; 802 of which are in Holland alone. So we do have the numbers. Large numbers donating small sums and everybody is happy! We get funded and you don't loose money. We record a new album and you receive it in the post. We get to continue making music and you get to keep seeing us and reading about us. Surely this is a match made in heaven! 

I'm feeling more optimistic now. On paper at least. I'll phone the piano player and remind him what month it is and teach the guitar player how to use facebook. And together we'll all push.

We're ready for a new baby; we've a wealth of new material and you all must be getting sick of The Sweet Release by now ;)

Please help us...



The Odd Folk

Friday, 17 October 2014

The Cheese and Tulip Tour

"We need a disaster!" we all shouted in unison walking down The Rokin towards an oncoming tram! Tempting fate, courting disaster, call it what you want, we found ourselves in the bizarre situation where we'd welcome a catastrophe! "Perhaps we'll have a puncture when we get back to the van?" said the piano player, "or better still, it will have rolled into the canal!"
"Yeah that'd be cool!" said the bass player. The tram was getting nearer. "Don't bell the cat just yet boys, we've still got another whole day to get through" the guitar player reasoned. I thought about pushing the piano player in front of the tram but realised that murder was perhaps a little bit more than we were after. Sorry I killed the pianist but it made a great a film! So the tram sped past and the impending danger receded away and we were left dodging cyclists instead.

It's true that everything that could go right had gone right. It was the complete opposite of the last film we made where we left the guitar at home, fashioned mic stands out of branches, slept in piano cases, took every wrong turn possible, played to sparse audiences and made a large financial loss. 
This time we forgot nothing, arrived on time (sometimes early!), had good healthy crowds, didn't lose anything, sold buckets of CD's and came home with a profit. This was a reverse of fortunes. If the last film was called    
How NOT to be in a Band; The Wrong way round, this should be called  
How to be in a Band; The Right way round!

(( I've been in two minds about writing this blog as I thought it could spoil the film a little but I want to convey the gratitude we have towards the people that made it possible and those that supported us. Not that I think that the film will leave those details out, but sometimes you can express things better in writing than playacting. ))

It was 4.30am on saturday morning and the guitar player was knocking on the front door. Not surprisingly I didn't hear it. My flatmate eventually let him in, flashing the drummer on her the way down the stairs as she hastily rushed on a top. I woke. The bass player woke. The piano player woke then fell away again. The cameraman arrived, busying himself with a goPro on the van. We did some contents checks in the kitchen, even though we were on the ball and it was the piano player who needed it most. We woke the piano player again. We left just before 5am, striding Beatles-esque from the house to the van. It was to become our walk of the weekend. The drummer and guitar player, pilot and co-pilot, steered the wagon into the sunrise. I slept by the window. The boys played ukulele's in the back. 

We hit Folkestone on time, driving onto the Eurostar train which resembled a silver cigar case. It creaked a lot. "I doesn't look very safe" I said. "I hope it can withstand the water!".

I took the wheel in Calais; we guessed all the capitals in Europe, then the world, then all the American States. 

We arrived in Raamsdonk at The Swamp Studios and were greeted by Jo van Strien and Stephen van Haestregt, the owner and programmer of this smart recording studio/music venue. Inside was a decent stage, well-lit; a bar in the corner well-stocked, and upstairs were 6 little beds well-made. We spent a while sound checking, plugging into the tidy sound system, our ears purring at the quality. We were so welcomed. Made to feel like stars. Downstairs was free beers. Upstairs was bowls of soup. 'Vegetable soup' that was full of meat! People started arriving. A lot of the drummer's friends from previous tours in past bands. But a gathering of my friends too. Friends I'd made growing up on Judi's campsite and kept as they returned year after year. We opened with Franz Kafka, which was controversial, The Sailing Song shunted from his first position to somewhere in the middle of the set. He didn't take it well and was the worst performer. But opening with Franz Kafka was an inspired selection, the parting mantra of "yes it's over, now it's over, oh yes it's over now..." allowed us to pretend that it really was the last song. "And it's over folks! Thank you very much and goodnight" we said as the song finished, much to the amusement of the crowd. A lovely little ice breaker. We ploughed through our set, wrapping to lengthy applause, sold 9 CD's and networked our way around the studio under the influence of a conveyor belt of half pints of Grolsh. Stephen's wife, Veroniek, who had made the soup, ordered us 3 late night pizzas, even though we only asked for 1. We ate them all and most of us climbed the spiral staircase to bed. All except the drummer who it seems was the man in charge of the conveyor belt of Grolsh and sat sipping long into the night. 

As we pulled out of Raamsdonk the following morning we all felt a sense of real purpose. We were primed. We were eager. We couldn't wait to begin again. Perhaps it was the reception of the fans or the quality of the sound, or more likely the constructive criticism by Stephen over breakfast. With a CV as long as your leg, the well-honed ear of a sound-man and the brave patience of a recording engineer, he really was a man to be reckoned with. And his overall prognosis was glowing. A couple of key points per person that we all took on the stubble of our chins. Food for thought and it had certainly got us thinking. 

We pulled into Amsterdam on time into a parking space directly opposite the venue. We made contact with the helpful barman, unloaded our gear with ease and bounded out into the not-quite sunshine. Things were all a little too easy. Surely there'd be a disaster around the corner, something to make some drama for the film! But no; we booked into a clean hostel, ate some cheap pasta and made our way back to the Cafe Langereis with time to spare; stopping off to showcase our new Beatles-esque walk across the zebra crossing. We found ourselves overcome by the cliches; filming tulips, clogs, cheese, coffee shops and red lights.
All we needed was a windmill!

The gig was better than we expected. The cafe was small but packed full of appreciation. We toned down some of our faster numbers and I'd go as far as saying it was the tightest gig we've done. With the piano player on a real piano, 
we played just above the acoustic level which brings out the best of us. Too much amplification and we loose our
delicacy, we believe ourselves to be a rock band and we force things. But sitting pretty on a subtle sound and we were 'cooking'. We wrapped to loud applause. Another 9 CD sales, many of them signed, and the purr of the audience left us giddy. Many friends from Judi's campsite came and spread their enthusiasm. Many of them I didn't know, but they knew me and their words were warm. Many new fans too, random people who'd ducked in to see what all the fuss was about and had stayed and smiled and drank with us outside by the candlelit tables.

We rolled home, by the light of the silvery moon. I say home, I mean a cheap and slightly brash hostel where we slept like schoolboys in bunk beds. But increasingly this tour was feeling more and more like home. Like we'd found our calling. Sod off England with your too trodden roads, with your fever of folk bands and your parsimonious patrons, we'd found warmth in Holland, from the tall people in the low country...

We left Amsterdam in the spitting rain. Still disaster-less. Still on budget and most annoyingly still on time. Staging a shot of us all leaving a 24 hour sex show was as controversial as we got! We drove all day, getting lost en route to a lunch date; that received a huge cheer! We still had it. The magic. Getting lost with a satnav! We got lost in Antwerp that evening too, driving round and round the old town until we ditched the satnav and found the venue with our eyes. Cafe Den Hopsack was a old building and a simple enough venue but full of character. The back of the long room was a raised stage with a piano in the corner. A bar ran along one side of the room and was stocked with what looked like all the beers in the world but was in fact only a fraction of those in Belgium! The landlady was very welcoming and poured us half pints of Ename Tripple and then cooked us baked chicory wrapped in ham and drenched in cheese sauce. Jan Van Den Bossche breezed in full of smiles and good humour. He had organised the Belgian leg of the tour and was our self declared European agent. "Next year it'll be 40,000 people at a
festival!". The gig itself once again surpassed all expectations. The cafe was packed to capacity and beyond, which is crazy considering it was a monday night! The rapturous response was somewhat overwhelming and we were all made to feel 5 times our worth. Having played to so many different audiences and many larger than the 150 people packed into Den Hopsack, I can't think of a crowd more appreciative of us and our music. We were really humbled as we sold our 9 CD's after the show and socialised with them all. 

Outside the heavens had opened and we slid back to Jan's house in the driving rain. Lieve, his wife, made us French (Belgian) fries and we raised a few glasses, cutting loose for the first time because it was the last night.
It was short lived. We were beyond tired. I sat with the cameraman dipping fries into Joppi sauce and we spoke of what was next. An interview or two. A little peek down memory lane to Judi's campsite. Her friends that leave each year all with our CD forced upon them. They are the ones that made this tour possible. 70% of them Dutch. They became our fans. Became the readers of this blog. Them and their friends and their friends of friends and their brothers and uncles and colleagues and teammates. They became the 802 people in the Netherlands that read this medium. We researched the readership, thought 'Christ there's hundreds of the buggers in Holland, lets go there!' and the rest is history. There are also almost a 100 in Russia which is slightly worrying. Not because we don't like Russians, but because I doubt we'd come home with a profit on that one! Yes, we came home with a profit. Can you believe it!? Another unnatural aspect of this tour.
The Right Way Round it was! Everything went right. We played to packed cafes. We played our socks off. Spread our music. Wrote new material. We didn't break down, didn't fall out, didn't lose anything. Instead we gained things; new fans, broadened horizons, band solidarity. And all three venues invited us back too. And even some neighbouring bars tried to poach us!
Yet even after all of this, still there was a sense of failure, like we'd somehow failed our image. We are The Odd Folk, we get things hopelessly wrong but we're a likeable bunch and we cobble together and play good music. But this was almost a little too smooth. 
It was one disaster short of being perfect!

I scooped another handful of fries and Joppi sauce. "It's great that people see you moving on and making progress." said the cameraman, "Compare this to a year ago! It's really powerful. And like you said in the last film, 'there are certain things we can't continue to do' well your not doing them anymore and look where it's taking you!" and he was right. He packed up the camera and placed it into its flight case. "And that's a wrap!" he said and winked.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Hang on to your hats!

Well it's been a little while since our last chapter. 'Big tings a gwan!' 
They haven't gwan anywhere just yet. But they're about to gwan!
The next 10 days are going to be enormous for us. And could go some way to shaping the future of this little band! Or which direction we take next...

(~)    Our film, How NOT to be in a Band, is going live as soon as we can work out how to upload it!? 

(~)    We are embarking on our first foreign foray; crossing the channel into France and Belgium and Holland. 

(~)    And we're about to air on the television to an estimated audience of 13 million people!!!!

All in the next 10 days! So hang on to your hats fellows! -------> WHOOSH!

But first let's fill you in on the last few weeks... Shambala was our final festival of a busy summer. It was a beautiful gathering and we were well received on the compass stage on sunday night. The whole festival was wonderful, maybe because it was small and had stayed small, resisting the temptation to increase its capacity and buy the neighbouring fields off Farmer Thornycraft! Shambala has a lovely little site and a population that works. 'If it ain't broke don't fix it!' like Secret Garden Party, its greedy cousin 50 miles up the road, that got too big and lost the magic it once had!

A few weeks later we played at a wedding down at The Old Sawmills on the banks of the Fowey river. "Up Cannabis Creek!" as it was fondly called. Back in the 60's it used to be a kind of bohemian commune for CND and LSD! And it was owned by my grandfather, the Cornish author Denys Val Baker. So it was quite special to see where mother grew up in those hazy blazy days!

Most recently we've been to London playing at Merge Festival on the banks of the Thames in a Airstream converted into a stage. We were certain we'd sell a few CD's on this busiest of thoroughfares, so much so that when we forgot them we sent the drummer 50 miles back to collect them! We didn't flog a single one. Sod's law. Though the audience were responsive and it was a gorgeous setting...  

But mostly these days have been taken up with the planning for our mini tour. Our virgin voyage onto the continent. One band travelling 1002 miles for no reason! But there is a reason, and it's mostly because of this very blog that your reading now! It was while researching the readership that we discovered there were a lot of you Dutch people reading our posts. Indeed the Netherlands came in second place with a whopping 802 of you! For the record there are 70 Russians out there following us and I don't know a single one!? We'd love to hear from you!

The tour is about coming over to the 'low countries' and playing for the 'tall people'. To thank you for supporting us and following us. The Cheese and Tulip Tour we've named it because we were tired and the cliche was overpowering! We begin in Bristol on October 3rd @ THE GREENBANK
----- Raamsdonksveer SWAMP STUDIOS  <--------------
\                                     (Oct 4th)                                         
     --------------------> CAFE LANGEREIS Amsterdam -----
                                                                (Oct 5th)         /
                                                                   ---> DEN HOPSACK Antwerp
                                                                                                  (Oct 6th)

Back in real life, in case a lot of you have been following the guitar player's on/off, will he/won't he buy a house scenario that's been dragging on for months now; well let's just say this situation is thankfully nearing it's conclusion and without tempting fate, there are just some formalities left before he moves in!

And, as I've mentioned him, i'll only get an earful from the rest of them if I don't disclose information on them too! The bass player has bought a ticket to Thailand, the drummer is thinking of moving to Cornwall and the piano player is stuck in Glasgow!

Well there you have it; it's about to get pretty exciting in OddLand, it's the quiet before the storm, a good name for a title but I think we've used that one before, hmmm....? Hang on your hats! That'll do ;-)

poster by Mae Voogd


Wednesday, 13 August 2014

'Big tings a gwan'

Now where were we...?
It's only been a couple of weeks since our last post but a lot has happened, both in band-life and real-life. 'Big tings a gwan' as they say. Not that we've upped sticks to Jamaica or anything. Although we do have a pretty nifty little reggae song on the cards these days! I digress.
Now where were we...?

We left you hanging I seem to remember! Port Eliot Festival was about to start and we had a deputy bass player who knew the songs better than we did. The piano player had gone to the wrong festival and the drummer car's kept breaking down. What could possibly go right? As it turns out a lot. The piano player finally arrived, albeit with no tent or sleeping bag, the drummer's car drove smoothly on to site, we set up and began playing to 20 revellers and ended up with some 200 'stompers' clambering for more! The deputy bass player, Mr. Drinkwater, slotted in perfectly, remembering all the songs and even going one better by learning one an hour before the gig! 

The buzz was electric as we stood signing albums at the end; our first major festival and it went as smooth as a beaver's hat! We partook in some mild revelling, a few drinkypooh's and some bum wiggling and then rolled back to camp by the light of the silvery moon. 

The next morning the piano player returned to the wrong festival, the drummer whisked his French muse away in his broken car and I returned south to continue rehearsals for the play I was doing, leaving the guitar player to mooch around the festival and ponder his continued failure to buy his house!
"This buying a house malarky is pretty easy!" He had certainly been eating those words for months now and still no completion day in sight! 

Yes, real-life had swung back into play; the piano player went back to paintball selling duties determined to climb the selling charts and fend off competition from younger versions of himself. The drummer returned to his windmill and prepared the grain for milling. Rehearsals continued apace and then my play opened in a blaze of pomp and publicity and I forgot I was in a band altogether until the guitar player burst the bubble and brought me back down with a bump, and on to Boomtown! BANG!

'Let's go and watch The Odd Folk man!'
This was to be our biggest gig to date. Now a major player in world festivals, Boomtown was kind of a big deal! We had a decent stage and a decent time slot and our beloved bass player back on side! What could possibly go wrong? As it turns out a lot! The stage shrunk from it's imposing pre-festival pictures and more resembled a large yurt spiced by the continued cooking of Chai Tea. Oh, and the time slot changed, we'd been shunted back a few hours, a little too early for stomping!
"This place is full of mega hippies with massive bongos!" remarked the guitar player with a wry smile. Slighted but not defeated we ploughed on regardless, sticking to our pre-made setlist and not letting the Chai get to us. As with Port Eliot, we opened to 20 and closed to 200, it could have been more, for beyond the crusty white walls of the yurt scores of people sat in the shifting sunlight, listening to us or to the chime players across the way? It's debatable, but we'll take em! 

We didn't sign any CD's this time, but the buzz was just as electric, and it continued long into the shoulder of the night. And indeed throughout the weekend random people would seek us out and compliment us on our music, warm words were well received...

We're back in real-life again now, all eagerly awaiting our next instalment, a rousing sunday night performance at Shambala Festival. 'Big tings a gwan' as they say! We are gathering new fans, CD sales are up; just this morning we received an order of 5 albums from Florence in Italy! Our long-awaited film, How NOT to be in a Band, is due for release onto the worldwideweb in September, and soon after that we'll air on BBC 1 in front of an estimated audience of 13 million! 'Big tings a gwan' 



Thursday, 24 July 2014

Lukas Drinkwater

"Take the road to St. Agnes and turn right at the seven mile long garage!" It was the deputy bass player and I was baffled. A seven mile long garage!? That's enough to house The Odd Folk's entire fleet of cars I thought as I sped along the B9000 to St. Agnes. After the right at the longest garage in the world I pulled in and waited for the deputy to appear. He did just as soon as I'd cut the engine; a bespectacled man with dancing eyes and a carefree manner.
 "Follow me" he said and disappeared into a blue transporter.

We wiggled further along the Cornish country road taking a blind left down a bumpy track and scrambling down the lane. The bumps increase; large parts of the once concrete surface had fallen away leaving potholes the size of surfboards. It was like driving on the threads of a screw! No wonder they have a seven mile long garage here; it must be to house all the cars in the village when they break every morning!

The deputy bass player stopped ahead and waved for me to follow suit. I pulled in, narrowly missing a pothole the size of my car. "It gets a bit bumpy now, you're better off coming with me!" he says, leaning out the window. "You don't say!" I answer as I clamber into the blue transporter and we undulate down the lane.

The road leads down to a beautiful old cottage clad in ivy's and wisteria's with a little stream running along side it. Large trees lean in from both sides of the valley and the sun streams through the foliage. "Welcome" says the deputy as we disembark.

Lukas Drinkwater has very kindly answered our plea for a bass dep or understudy as our very own bass player has a boxing match he simply can't miss! Sod's law, but we've done pretty well to get this far without a clash and we're looking at it positively. It's great to meet fellow musicians who can slip in without too much fuss when that big thing called life gets in the way of music! Lukas is a very experienced player, a multi-instrumentalist, a finger picking songsmith, who currently plays with 3 Daft Monkeys. Although our paths have crossed on a few occasions this is the first time we've really met and apart from the bumpy ride down here, it's been better than expected. But I still hadn't heard him play!

We bundle into the old cottage and after a quick cuppa we're away. I stumble through the 10 songs, and without even breaking a sweat he's straight in, playing away as though he been here for months, and by the end of the two hour session he knows the songs better than me! "Morgan, It changes after the second chorus, we drop back down again." he points out after I plough straight on oblivious!

I'm feeling more and more assured that he's going to do a great job and more and more worried that we're going to screw it up! Perhaps I'll tell the audience that we're all deps and that Lukas Drinkwater is the only true member of the band! That way we'll cover our mistakes!

Drinkwater and I...
After the session we clamber up one side of the steep valley and peer down to the sea, "the garden runs all the way down to the ocean, and there's a beach too!" he smiles. We pause for a photo before departing back up the fractured lane to the relative safety of my car. We wave goodbye and I scramble further up the rutted road, connect with the country lane, which seams as smooth as silk compared with what lies below, and pull into the garage for a much needed service! I'm missing two wheels, both headlights, the passenger door and half my boot. "You've come away lightly!" says the weathered mechanic with a grin.

Back at HQ and we're preparing for our gig this friday at Port Eliot Festival worrying mostly that we'll let Mr. Drinkwater down, well that and all the usual Odd Folk misadventures; like the piano player having gone to the wrong festival 200 miles north with no tent and sleeping bag, the guitar player's ticket having disappeared and the drummer's car prone to breakdowns! So perhaps it really will just be Drinkwater and I. At least he can teach me the songs!

Come and watch us; friday night, Port Eliot Festival, Ace of Clubs Stage, 8pm.


Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Band Abandonment

Where to begin? It's been a while! A good month away from the band, and indeed all the bandmates. We returned to our normal lives, of cage-fighting and boxing and selling paintballs (the piano player had a record week down in Plymouth and made enough money to buy the guitar player's house outright!) 

As we didn't really speak to each other I can't really disclose too much of what we all got up to, so I'll have to make it up!?

The drummer spent the time away living in his wooden windmill making flour.
The bass player spent the month training for his boxing match with Tyson.
The guitar player got so frustrated with the red-tape surrounding the aforementioned purchase of his house that he murdered the estate-agent, disposed of the solicitor, broke into said property, sealed all the exits and waited for the army to arrive!

The piano player sold so many paintballs he turned into one, but scared he'd burst open and splat on the floor he desperately needed an empty house to hide away in. He purchased the guitar player's house from under his nose with all the money in his plastic paintball pocket. Upon arriving at his new property he encountered a stand-off between a boarded up house and the armed forces. Scared he'd get caught in the cross-fire he retreated back to the subtropical valley from whence he came and lived happily ever after under the dropping banana trees.

I spent the time away dreaming up these scenarios and looking forward to the day I could print them!

In all seriousness, we're back! Perhaps too much time away makes us silly. Perhaps this band keeps us sane. Gives us a vehicle to release our energies into. Too long away and we all go slightly mad. Having spent so much time together of late when there is a fallow month, it's bliss for the first 2 weeks but then we start to get itchy feet; we start lifting the bass amp up just to remember what it feels like, and ironing our shirts even though there's no gigs on the horizons and we don't even iron our shirts when we do have gigs! We phone each other up; I'll call the guitar player and touch base on logistics of the next gig, even though it's within walking distance and doesn't need any attention. Or sometimes in a state of desperation, unable to deal with 'band abandonment' we decide that the chorus to one of our best-loved songs needs changing; we'll have to rehearse it immediately, we'll have to meet up and sort it out! And we'll rally a little, draw up plans for an emergency practice! And this little burst is often enough, often a couple of rushed texts seemingly alleviates the issue, that quick shot of contact making us feel like we're still part of something, like we belong. And it's all ok again; we listened to the chorus and it works after all, it must have been the CD skipping!

And so the long month is all over; it was needed and we feel rejuvenated and recharged. And besides there were one or two real issues to deal with this time, like sourcing a Dep for the bass player who has pulled out of one of the summer festivals and taking the guitar players slide into the menders! That was enough for this month; the chorus' were spared and the bass amp stayed seated! 

And so we're back! Here begins another busy few months; July will see us at 3 festivals and a wedding, August see's us at a further 2 festivals, September see's us at yet another festival, another wedding and an arts centre, and October see's us begin our European Tour! That's should keep us going for a while. Our next month off is November, although isn't that when we're recording our new album!? Christ, no rest till christmas!

--- --- --- ---

"You keep saying we haven't done anything in June!?" says the piano player, nursing a cup of tulip tea.
"Yeah I did, I said we sourced a Dep and took the... "
"Hello!? we just played on the BBC in front of 13 million people, remember!" he trumpets, tulip tea in hand.
"We're not allowed to say that! We signed a confidentiality agreement and all sorts of disclosures!" I snap back.
"We're not allowed to say the name of the show, that's all." adds the guitar player matter-of-factly. "We can remind ourselves of the channel and amuse ourselves with the numbers, there's no law on that!"
"I suppose not!" I smile. "So we've had a pretty good fallow month really!?"
"Not too shabby!" he returns. "We played in front of 13 million people and gave our CD to 4 celebrities!"

"Does that mean we're kinda of a big deal!?" asks the piano player and we all laugh!

It has been a pretty good month for us to be fair; the potential is enormous but patience is needed and so until the lights go green we have to keep stum.
All will be revealed, in all it's gory detail, in time...

Just gotta hope the army hold off till then! ;-)


Thursday, 29 May 2014

The May Day Tour!

The good old days...
I am perhaps a little premature in concluding our recent months activities before they've finished, but I am confident I can predict the 9th and final gig that takes place tomorrow evening in Dartington Hall. Gilly and Warren's wedding; old friend's of ours, tying the knot in a 12th century monastery and requesting not The Odd Folk, no no, they're of an older school than that, having instead plumbed for The Sam Brookes Quartet, our previous guise that consisted of myself, the guitar player and the piano player!
The bass? played on a keyboard. The drums? Played with my feet. It's how we rolled for a good few years before the album's launch and the name-change. Simpler? Certainly. Better? Some will say!

Anyhow, enough of that, let us conclude our busiest month to date, The May Day Tour, that took us over a 1000 miles, zigzagging across the south of mainland Britain. As you know we began in Wales, at The Oak in the market town of Welshpool. A fairly restrained crowd, save for the blind man and the drunk lady, both of whom loved it and paid for CD's even though we'd forgotten them! They effectively bought them on blind faith! The Latest Music Bar in Brighton was a disaster, a badly organised and advertised gig that cost us dear. Still the guitar player says the lamb burger and chocolate brownie he bought at 2am were the best he's ever had, so I guess that's something. The next day at The Gladstone in London we played one of our best sets musically, and with a great and attentive crowd it was a welcome return to form! Next up was a dive into the great unknown, Prema Arts Centre in the little village of Uley where we knew not a soul and were totally reliant on the venue providing a crowd. Of which it did, a rather middle aged and middle class one, but a beautiful one at that and with 18 CD sales after the gig, it broke a record on flogging merchandise!
"rosy and ruddy with drunkenness!"

Then came the homecoming; four gigs in two days back in the loving sleeves of home. We played an acoustic set for the grand opening of The Knut in St. Just followed by an evening slot at Don't Wake The Fish, a spring ale festival at our second home, The Gurnards Head. This latter was a rip-roaring, ale-drenched shin-dig and one of the better one's of late; a reminder of the good old days, back firmly in our comfort zone; a nice marquee in a field surrounded by good folk and lots of dancing! After we wrapped the five of us stayed on tasting the array of ales on offer and, rosy and ruddy with drunkenness we bonded, giggling into the shoulder of the night and howling up at the pale moon! We danced to the band that followed, The Sandy Acre 7, and then accepted a wedding gig from a drunk fan, sold 4 CD's off the cuff and slept where we fell.

With wholesome hangovers, the next day's giggles were hard work indeed.
The Pirates on the Prom event that started that afternoon and stretched out till the following night, began as a wash-out. Four songs into our gig in The Spingo Tent and the rain had found it's way in. We were playing in a puddle! Despite the audience helping to lift our gear onto chocks and out of the water, the atmosphere was damp and we abandoned ship before our allotted time. That night we did the opposite as we slipped over to St. Ives for Sven's Wedding, playing an extra half hour as his eager guests demanded! Raucous encore's of "More and More!" and they were a rowdy bunch too; there were moments when we thought they might turn on us when we eventually stopped! They might barricade the door and "encore" us to death!
 The following day was the actual pirate world record and though we didn't have a gig our hometown demanded our attendance, and even though our body's and soul's had been through the grind, we took one for the town! Dressed as pirates we swayed through the day in all our tom-foolery; but despite our best efforts, Penzance fell 77 short of the record!  

Three days later and we're finally back The Odd Folk HQ, I've been making Elderflower Champagne and I'm only just feeling normal. It's been a long old tour, with heightened highs and languid lows. We've played to 100's; furious dancers and attentive listeners, packed marquees and empty near halls. We managed to pay debts with CD sales even if we've struggled financially as a band. We showcased our new banner, conquered middle-england, lost piano stands, sold albums on blind faith and found out the drummer's a cage fighter! Now if that last point isn't a trump-card for the future then I don't know what is! Forget the new openings our bass-playing boxer can get us, like bullying Mr. Blagwoofer to let us play at this year's FigFestival, Cage Fighting is a much darker art and takes bigger victims. I reckon we can now rest assured we'll be headlining Glastonbury for the next decade! Happy days...

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

A tale of two venues

This is our latest update, coming in at record time, a mere 6 days since our last post. The reason being, as much as we are encouraged by your lovely feedback to write more frequently, this is also something we have to get off our chests!
It is a tale of two venues, two polar opposites, black and white, hot and cold, Jekyll and Hyde. 

It is the second leg of our May Day Tour! in which we're taking on the south-east of the country! Brighton on the Saturday and London on the Sunday. It's a hot day and we all turn up to HQ a little hazy and lacklustre. I didn't sleep well, the guitar player is hungover, the drummer too, he's been ale tasting the night before! The piano player's trying to be chirpy but even he's struggling, despite a week of good paintball sales, he's below par. We all are. We set off in convoy and 3 hours later we're pulling into 'Britain Hippest City' under a heavy heat. We find the venue and then spend an hour driving round in circles looking for a nearby parking place. Upon finding one, we shell out £100 a minute at the metre and, ravenous, head to a nearby cafe and spend another £100 on Eggs Benedict! At 4pm we drive back to the venue and unload our gear into the nice, light auditorium, before driving back to the parking spaces (that have now gone - we find new ones further away!) and forking out more gold for more minutes. Back at the venue, all our stuff has been moved from the nice auditorium, it's been taken downstairs to a dark and dingy basement theatre and we are introduced to Dave our sound-man. Slighted but not defeated we set-up and sound-check with some dexterity and ease. It is a half-decent sound and despite being demoted to the basement we're still in good spirits and eager to watch Arsenal win the FA Cup but Dave calls us back and tells us to remove all our instruments (including the drums) from the stage as there is a cabaret on before us. Slighted again, we pack up and carry all our gear down a small corridor and into a cupboard and bolt across town to watch Arsenal, who are losing 2.0 by now. After a frantic match they finally win but nerves have been tested and emotions are high. We duck into The Giraffe burger bar and eat an overpriced meal. After our Giraffe burgers we sit around trying to write a set-list but we're all on a different page and myself and the piano player have a lovers tiff as tempers soar. Back at the venue and the hairy manager informs us that we have to provide a door person, which we plumb refuse as it wasn't mentioned in the contract. 

The gig was... well the gig wasn't really. It was a non-gig! Very badly attended; 14 of our friends performed spectacular 'No-Shows' and of the 20 people that did attend, we only knew 4 of them! Optimism would say that's 16 new fans, but they didn't seem at all interested in us. We played ok, but fizzled out towards to the end and failed to sell any CD's, despite remembering them this time! After the gig and the hairy manager came to me to settle the takings. He handed me £25 and a breakdown which stated that despite taking £100 on the door we were to pay Dave the sound-man a whopping £75! Once again I plumb refused and after a exchange of an unpleasantries, he conceded and handed over the full amount. We packed up, walked miles to our cars and then headed solemnly to my cousin's house where we were stationed. The bass player headed lone-star back to London. It was a bad day. We were left feeling grey and wounded.

But the next day was perfect. We rose rested, were handed fresh coffee by my cousin. We travelled to London in relative ease and comfort. The guitar player's cousin (I swear our family is the only thing keeping us going!) had made us a perfect barbecue and we arrived at the venue with two parking spaces directly outside waiting for us. We unloaded our gear with the minimum of fuss and were warmly welcomed by the nice manager, who upon finding out we'd travelled from Bristol offered us food! The pub, a renowned music venue that's hosted enough famous names to make you salivate, filled up nicely and the audience sat attentively waiting for us. The gig was... it really was this time! I'd say one of the best we've played, with perfect sound, a great crowd and it left us fully restored from our Brighton endeavours! What a difference a day makes! We stayed around for the main act, Alani Charal, and she quite simply blew our minds. I can quite confidently say she was the best live singer I have ever seen! We left feeling rosy, feeling top of the world. 

The piano player, in full chirp, turned to the guitar player and said, "You know what, your in my top 10 favourite people!" and then he caught the drummers eye, "Sorry mate, you didn't make the cut!"


Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Song Surgery

“So is this place haunted?” asked the piano player as we sped up the M5 towards Shropshire. He looked apprehensive, so I played up to it. 
“Yep, it’s riddled with ghosts and they particularly like paintball selling keyboard players!”. He smiled dismissively and then he paused, “It’s not though is it!"
I looked at him with the straightest face I could muster and slowly nodded.
“Stop it! It's not!? ... Is it!?"

Belan Hall 1882
This place was Belan Hall; an old shooting lodge nestled in the crumpled green mountains of Mid-Wales. It was built in 1882 and once belonged to Neville Chamberlain. A good 5 miles from the nearest village, it was an isolated retreat set within its generous acres and empty but for a neighbourhood of sheep. All the fields that slopped up to the mountain ridge were dotted with the little fluffy beasts. Some with lambs, some lone rangers, all of them eating the green, green grass. "Baaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrr" they said in unison all day long. This was a forgotten land, kissed by a 100 sunsets and washed by a 1000 years of rain.

We were to be spending the weekend here rehearsing our set for the giggles we had scattered over the summer. Rehearsing our set, or performing surgery on our set as I liked to call it. It had become apparent that many of our songs needed operating on, to remove the tumours and broken bones and nurse them back to good health. Many of them, old men now set in their ways, needed a little fresh air. New endings, new beginnings, new songs really! We needed new songs but had decided against spending the weekend writing all new material as appealing as it sounded. The problem being that adding a handful of new half-made songs to our existing list of half-made songs meant that we would just increase the problem, we’d have loads of songs but none of which were polished!

The Maid of Cledon
We entered the house at dusk but already inside it was pitch black, the walls were clad in dark wood and all the curtains were drawn. We unloaded our belongings into the various rooms, all of us a little wary of the room at the top of the tower, if there was a ghost it was most definitely up there! Eventually the drummer bit his lip and took the room, traipsing slowly up the winding wooden stairs and entering the master bedroom. “Is it haunted?” he called down. “I don’t really know” I answered, “there’s some rumour about the maid of Cledon that went mad and killed herself but I don’t know if it’s true!” He didn’t answer so I continued, "Supposedly at night you can hear her walking the corridors and ringing the service bell!" Still no answer and I couldn't resist, "Apparently she killed herself because the old master of the house was a drummer and the constant tapping sent her mad!" 

Back downstairs and we busied ourselves unloading instruments and food and boxes of Ale. We set up our gear in the drawing room, lit the fires to warm both the house and the water system and the weekend unfolded.

Surgery was grim, some songs were put through the mill; I thought we’d lose them. But we stitched them up and they pulled through. The other way we looked at it that brought us no end of amusement was to treat them as football players all trying to impress the coach in order to be picked for the summer tournament. Who would make a late dash for the plane!? And it worked; when Stormy Weather was initially left out of the first squad, alarm bells were ringing, so we gave him a run out to prove his worth, and boy did he do that! It was primal, the mood, the flavour, the tone; with the drummer bent over completely immersed in the song, he looked like an old man in a boat on a stormy sea, hunched over, bailing out water. The guitar player’s solo hitting all the sweet notes, the piano player totally absorbed in the atmosphere of the song and I nearly cried at its end. It was working! We played our hearts out, our best music, our best performances, ironically miles away from all of you lot! We played for ourselves and the ghosts were dancing!

Outside the rain continued, fine rain that soaks you through. We watched it from the window; it suited us, no distractions. We threw another log on the fire and ploughed on. We threw another song onto the operating table and gave him an XRAY. A broken foot, he needed some new boots. The bass player was the physiotherapist who taught him to walk again.

Good food, good company, and no arguments. The weekend was a resounding success. In our eyes anyway! You may well come and see us soon and think we’ve butchered our set, given the old men new limbs and they’ve lost their way! You may think the facelifts have turned them into cartoons! We’ll soon know as the boos ring out! There’s no rest this month, it’s 9 gigs in three weeks, in three countries (if you count Cornwall’s recent upgrade!)

The maid of Cledon never did come to haunt us, nor the old women in the rocking chair as another family member had threatened us with! Though as we pulled away and chanced a look behind at the old lodge I swear I saw a young girl at the tower window, she was smiling and holding our new set list!

“It's pretty Goooooooooood!” she cooed.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

The quiet before the storm!

poster by Mae Voogd
Apologies for the lack of contact; a full 4 weeks since our last update! After the two film premiere's we were completely exhausted and needed a break from each other. Although we did squeeze in The Big Stomp Off, which pitted us against fellow Bristol stompers Poor Old Dogs and which in all fairness ended in a hard fought draw. We've taken to analysing ourselves in football terms of late; drawing up our set-lists as team sheets, picking our eleven most trusted songs and laying them out as defenders, midfielders and attackers depending on their attributes. The Big Stomp Off was a tricky game, we somewhat foolishly picked 11 attackers which mean't we were unbalanced and lopsided and there was little room to breathe. It was a fast and furious set, not helped by the humid conditions, Up Up and Away (our instrumental showpiece) was sliding all over the place with fingers slipping off stings and drumsticks jumping up like banana's from their skins. We slid off stage and haven't seen each other since! Having said that as much as we do need a break from one another, the absence is more likely caused by the haphazard nature of gig bookings; April is empty, May is full with 9 gigs, including 5 on one weekend! 

But right now let's enjoy the welcome weather; lazy days spent on the beach with teasing temperatures. It's a month for firsts; barbecue, swim, picnic, and the first month for a long time that the piano player hasn't called up asking for a favour of one nature or another! He seems settled in Bristol, revelling in his new found fame and fortune; after only six months he has shot to the top of the paintball-seller list; full of smiles, enjoying going to work and has been known to grumble if we need him on a saturday and he can't go out selling! He gets itchy after a couple of days off, eager for a sale, trying his luck in supermarkets as he buy groceries or - and here's a new one - trying to sell to fans while up on stage! "Thanks very much, we've been The Odd Folk and if your interested in paintballing come and see me after the show!"

While we're here, I'll fill you in on the rest of us. You may remember the guitar player was on the verge of buying his first house, well he's still on the verge, even closer to the verge, on the verge of the verge! Never one to be flustered, one of the calmest people I know, he turned to me and with a look I've never seen before, a look of mild frustration and said quite coolly "I've finally found something that makes me angry, buying houses!". 

The drummer has been doing the opposite, selling houses. He and his ex girlfriend have washed their hands of a property they owned in Mid-Wales. He seems happy and has been integrating himself further into the band by helping lighten the load of the administration. He's booked his first gig for us, and our first ever gig in Wales, which kicks off our 9 may dates!

The bass player, who has become so important to us on so many levels, and has become the first point of call whenever there is a problem, has been back in the capital, and though he may be the furthest away, it feels like he's the closest. Most problems go through him now, he's overtaken the guitar player as being Mr. Pragmatic. He's even started singing and has organised a big overhaul of our set! He's taking over the band! In a good way ;-)

And lastly me; crumbs what have I been up to? Zipping around as per, half way between here and there, doing a spot of gardening in Bristol, auditioning in London and babysitting in Cornwall all seemingly at the same time! Oh, and phoning the bass player a lot!

Outside it's blue skies and another day on the beach. Easter Saturday (if that's a day?) and it's the quiet before the storm. One more week of freedom before the band wakes up and yawns and stretches his rusty limbs, taking a little stroll before breaking into a headlong sprint towards June! Let's enjoy this last week of freedom before the mayhem begins which takes us from Wales to Brighton to London to Gloucester to Cornwall and ending, quite controversially, in Devon.

Anyhow, time for a game of water-goalie and a splash in the shallows. I'm off to the beach with the piano player now, I'll be doing the above while he trawls 

up and down the sand trying to sell paintballs to the Easter holiday-makers! 

Ta Ta for now! Do come and see us in May!


Friday, 28 March 2014

Two Premieres

We were stood outside The Cube in Bristol, the last of the instruments crammed into the van, a couple of groupies loitering on the nearby curb. I approached my bandmates with the brown envelope of the night's takings clasped in my hand. They looked up expectantly; half in hope, half in fear. I cleared my throat and, "We made a loss of £75 boys!" There was a huge, heightened cheer and all 5 hands came together in celebration. How NOT be in a band! It was a perfect moment, I only wish the film camera had caught it.

As it happened the film cameras had caught enough; the evening's premiere was very well received and raucous laughter rolled about the old microplex cinema. The film had been completed only hours before it's red carpet release, and in true Odd Folk style, in the wrong format! meaning half an hour before the guests arrived we were facing the prospect of a 100 people cramming around a laptop on the middle of the stage. Luckily, the filmmaker and the projectionist found a stray wire that enabled us to transfer onto the big screen and Oh what a lovely experience it was too; to see our endeavours played out in high definition with cinema surround sound to a beholden room full of our friends and fans.

We were warmed by the response and indebted to our friends at Construct Creatives, who'd followed and filmed us the autumn before and then crafted their pictures into a delightful little snapshot of life in a band. And all as a labour of love. We'd done little handmade thank you cards for the filmmaker and editor with hastily scribbled messages of praise and gramercy and then put the wrong cards in the wrong envelopes! Everything that can go wrong does go wrong! 


A week followed before leg-two of the promotional campaign; the homecoming; the Penzance premiere, adding family to the friends and fans. Bigger pressure. A bigger audience. Would we pull it off as we had in Bristol? Would it go smoothly? Hardly! The night before the event we had no venue, no stage, no chairs and no PA! We had two newspaper articles, two dozen posters and the radio all telling people to go to The Union, we had tickets printed with The Union, but we didn't have The Union anymore! We'd pulled out after a barny over the bar and were facing the prospect of 200 people cramming into my mother's front room and watching us on the laptop! It was as close to a catastrophe as we've ever come! Which considering some of the mishaps we've had is saying a lot. 

The night before the event in the driving rain I approached the PZ Gallery in my hometown. All I had was a DVD and a croaky voice. I had the hopes of hundreds on my back. We thrashed out a deal which included the whole gallery, the projector and a fully stocked bar. Deal done. Now all we gotta do is get the message to the masses (word of mouth, posters scribbled over, notice boards at popular watering holes around town), build a stage ("Dad please!"), get a PA (drive 30 miles north to re-hire the one we'd returned the day before) and post a sentinel outside The Union to re-direct the traffic ("Mum, you wouldn't be an angel and stand outside in the rain with a sandwich board on would you!?). We accomplished it with seconds to spare, the guitar player who had been stuck in traffic from Bristol, just slipping through the door as the lights went down in a packed gallery . 

It was as warmly received, and as much-loved. We had all pulled together and made a bonfire out of an ember. Earlier in the day when the stage had arrived - when I say stage I mean a van load of pallets and some off-cuts of chipboard from a nearby building job - we all donned our yellow hardhats like Bob the Builder and fashioned it as best we could; the result was a 3-tiered podium; no tier with much room on it!
The drummer set his drums up on the largest level, the gold place, but had no room for his drum seat so had to sit on a highchair on the floor behind, which just bought him level! The piano player, on the lowest level, the bronze place, had barely enough room to swing a kitten and his pallet wobbled under the wood chocks and books. The final level, the silver place, housed myself, the bass player and guitar player, but little else, meaning the mics were balanced on an ironing board on the floor at the front. Space was at a premium, the structure was precarious, but it was our stage, our creation, and it worked. Just! We'd muddled through, calling favours from far and wide like The reverend Joe Gray lending us half a dozen church pews and John Voogd finding that stray wire that links the Laptop to the Projector! And giddy with gratitude we stood outside the gallery, the last of the instruments crammed into the van, a couple of groupies loitering on a nearby curb. I approached my bandmates with the brown envelope of the nights takings clasped in my hand. They looked up in total trepidation, teeth gritted, eyes skewed as though a firework had just been sparked. I cleared my throat and, "We made a profit of £80 boys!" The celebrations were wild, we roared to the moon and danced around the cobbled streets like kings and madmen. The band was £5 in the black! It was joyous feeling. 5 whole pounds. What we could do with such money? A latte and muffin from Starbucks!? A single trip on the London Underground in zone 1!? We were getting lost in the possibilities when the proprietor poked his head from the gallery window, "Err... before you get too carried away; I'll need £20 off you for the cleaner tomorrow morning!"

How NOT to be in Band!