Saturday, 10 December 2016


Tumbleweed. Radio silence. Dead air. Stock still. It’s the quiet after the storm if you like.
A Farewell to Arms was quickly discarded as we set off on an ambitious cross-country tour, covering a thousand miles to the farthest flung corners of Britain.
And then… nothing. No news. No plans. No updates. No nothing. Tumbleweed. It’s like the band has dis’band’ed. Like we’ve retired. The last piece of official information was some loose mutterings about a ‘Merry Folking Christmas’ return, followed by of a birthday card to our bass player some time in mid October. For 6 weeks now there has been no news.

Now, you've all probably been worrying your socks off, I know! Have they split up after all? Has the piano player been arrested? Has the bass player relocated to Silicon Valley. Has the drummer got stuck in one of his windmills? Is Merry Folking Christmas happening? It says so on the website! Well, I suppose we can clear that one up for you. No, it’s not, sadly, and we’ve lost the password for the website and can’t update it. Our tech guy is either on holiday or impossible to get hold off, and none of us have the required nuance to hack it, or the funds to pay someone else to.

So, what has been happening?

I have been busy, which is largely why all modes of communication are down. Following the news that my partner, Mae Voogd, is expecting our child, we have been, rightly, focusing on that. I now find myself doing a play up in the West End, treading the boards and trying to earn money. But London is hard and fast, the burring bite of winter is a painful one, especially when you don’t own a decent coat and have a hole in your shoe. 

performing in Gatsby

The guitar player, who’s little girl, Lowenna Brookes, must be almost 6 months now, has been gardening in Bristol. He has long since tired of using the band as his workforce and has a full time employee on the books. Or had. I believe he has sacked him now. Life is busy as he juggles running a business with fatherhood and smashing down walls in his house on his days off. In regards the band, he took ‘gardening leave’ in the summer, returning briefly for A Farewell to Arms but sidestepped the On The Road tour that followed.
'smashing down walls'

The piano player, who fled Bristol for Cornwall in the summer, became a painter and decorated, even though he is the clumsiest person you’ll ever meet. God knows how he managed to keep his job after more disasters than an Odd Folk tour! One that springs to mind is the time he dropped a 6 litre tub of white paint from the top of his ladder and it splashed out all over the cobbled street. Needless to say, he was removed from painting duties and became a paint stripper until he stripped the wrong room and Mrs Bansall discovered her favourite wallpaper had disappeared! He is now a sander and so far there are no mishaps to report. 
the piano player shortly before his spillage
The bass player
, who fled London for Cornwall in the spring and suddenly became, for the first time in years, available! Jobless, throughout the summer we enjoyed wild swimming, festivals and cross channel adventures. Eventually all his money ran out and he took a freelance audio editing job that will tie him over till March. He also won an Emmy Award for audio. I believe he was nominated for an academy award, or 'oscar', but didn't win as it would seem like nepotism ;-)

and the oscar goes to... oscar!
The drummer, who left the band in the summer, only to rejoin again in autumn, finally left his cabin in the forest of dean and moved down to Bristol, just in time for myself, the piano player and the bass player to relocate to Cornwall. After almost a year of odd jobs he finally returned to windmills, and, despite severing his right hand on one of the sails, it's been a welcome return to what he knows and loves.   
the drummer shortly before his accident

Louis Gulliver King, though not a core member, but after amassing 17 gigs with us over the last year, has definitely become an honorary one. Shortly after completing the On The Road tour, he took a job in children’s theatre and is currently travelling around the country performing in We’re all going on a Bear Hunt. 
we're all going on a bear hunt

Well, there you have it. All updated. We all seem rather busy really. I guess the tumbleweed will continue. With no big centrepiece this Christmas, it seems the year will dribble away from us with no more than a whimper. Like our year has been a steady fire, but now left untouched, unfuelled, it’s embers are dying out. 
Next year is, at present, unknown. I am having a baby in April and have various theatre jobs lined up. The guitar player is increasingly absent, the piano player planning to go and live on a hippy bus in America and the bass player under contract until April. At least the drummer is available for some solo shows! It's comical timing that a respectable music agent and manager is very interested in the band at a time when the future is as grey as smoke and our availability is as poor as dirt. It is perhaps fitting that as we run out of petrol someone else is there waiting to chauffeur us along. But alas, whereas batteries can be re-charged, fire's re-stoked, if old father time doesn't offer his hand, it'll be difficult to set a course forward. Don't worry, talks will resume in the new year. Time will be found. Gigs gathered. A return to Europe is on the cards.

But for now, you better get used to the tumbleweed.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

"Has anyone seen my leads!"

hmmm.... leads?
"Morg... can you reach down and see if my leads are in the case?" said the piano player from his perch in the front. "You're joking!?" I said lowering my book. "No, no, it should be fine, they should be there!" he said trying to reassure me. They weren't. The backlash that fell about was as predictable as ever, cut and paste from the last 10 times his leads have gone missing. Left in bars, clubs, fields, friends car's, at home, at someone else's home. Not to mention the countless times we've found them slumped in the corner of a stage, and picked them up and played a trick on him. Or the countless times we've started a journey with "Have you got your leads?" to which he runs back up the steps to his house and gets them. Perhaps that's the reason they get left everywhere, as he still relies on us to oversea them. Or perhaps it's because somehow or other, misplaced leads never mean he hasn't played a gig, there is always a borrowed keyboard, or a pub piano, or his mum or dad on hand to drive miles to collect them at the drop of a hat. Brand new ones come all too frequently, he must have spent over £200 on replacements over the years. Perhaps it's all tactical; if we ever play at the Underbelly in London, his leads from 2014 should still be there. Or, if Samuel and Samantha ever get re-married and use the same field in Higginbottom his first set of leads will surely still be there, behind the portaloo. "I must have left them at The Eden Project!" he said, head in hands as we sped north to Bournemouth for a gig that night. "What am I going to do tonight?" he exclaimed. "I'm not worried about tonight" answered the bass player, "you might be able to borrow a keyboard in Bournemouth, it's next week when we tour the Lake District that'll be a problem." There was a pause and then, "If you order some new ones on Amazon now you can have them sent to the Lakes" said Louis Gulliver King (once again in for the guitar player). "I haven't got any money!" came the reply. "Well then you better call your dad and borrow some!" I said and relaxed back with my book.

Arriving in Bournemouth we were welcomed into one of the best pubs I've been in; The Firkin Shed owned by the charismatic Paul Gray, was like a large shed; a quirky, handmade micro brewery scattered with beer barrels and kegs and curious collectables and in the far corner an out-of-tune honkytonk piano! "You're in luck!" I said. We played well enough, the jarring scratchy piano notes sometimes complimenting the rougher and bluesy songs, and sometimes ruining the more subtle numbers. The atmosphere was charged, the beer was delicious and the busking hat we laid out was most generous. We were quite literally playing for our supper and our petrol and that always brings out the best in us.

The tour veered north the next day, 196 miles up country, into wild England, surely one of the last expanses of wilderness in this overpopulated island of ours. The Lake District is the wettest, most mountainous region, with the largest population of sheep and red squirrels, not to mention lakes! Although officially only one of the 16 bodies of water is actually a lake! It is also home to The Odd Folk for a week, and Screes cottage in Glendale has two sets of leads waiting for the piano player on his arrival; Amazon and Eden had both posted and both arrived in the same delivery! The tour took us up mountains, scrambling up rocks in perpendicular approaches. Standing on lofty peeks as the wind blew the wind out of us. It saw us chasing sheep, getting caught in bogs, skinny dipping in icy rivers, making Ray Mears survival videos. It saw us gorging on Kendal mint cake, gulping down craft ales and playing our little hearts out in cosy pubs nestled in the arm of a mountain. It saw us lose phone signal and lose touch with home; we drove to 'signal corner' on the first day but after that we didn't bother. It saw winding roads, criss-crossing the foothills like plaits. Tiny cottages sprinkled about, hardy walkers, but the biggest inhabitants was the space. Empty stretches of land. Mountains like a crumpled blanket. We were welcomed everywhere we went; felt the warm generosity of this corner of England. We drove over Hardknott Pass, the steepest road in England, found the secret Emerald Pool with it's crystal clear waters and visited England's smallest church. Screes cottage was opposite Wastwater; England's deepest lake; at the foot of England's biggest mountain; overlooking England's best view, and the local pub is home to England's biggest liar! Needless to say, it's a pretty big place.

Langdale Valley

 As we pulled away on our 456 mile journey home, we reflected on another wonderful week in the life of this band. We came on this tour with not a penny to our name, every gig was hand to mouth, or purse to petrol. We wanted a walking holiday and thought that a cheap way to do that was to play for our supper. I never expected to return home with a week's wage, having had a week's holiday. That is down to the generosity of the people we met, the kind landlord's and ladies. It was 7 gigs in 9 days, the largest concentration we've ever done. From the manicured gardens of Eden to the wild's of Lakeland to the urban art of Bristol. We've traveled 1000 miles, climbed a 1000 meters, drunk 100 beers, but the biggest achievement of all is that we returned home with 2 piano leads!

Morgan, Louis, Oscar and Shelley outside The Screes

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

He who dares!

"Today's flights are at risk, so we're advising you to get the Scillonian III to be sure of getting out here!" said the lady at Tresco Island Office. Outside the fog was slowly swallowing up the world and it had started to spit. We hung up and sighed in unison. "I can't face that boat again!" I said pleading with the bass player. "There's gotta be another way?". He called Land's End Airport but their answer was just as unhelpful. It was a flight by flight basis, they may cancel at any minute. The risk was too great. We had a gig that night for a wedding, if we didn't make it we'd let a lot of people down. Solemnly we walked to the ferry port, dreading the thought of spending 4+ hours on the 'barf bucket'. The wind had picked up and the rain splashed off the rim of my hat. We hunched our shoulders, as though that somehow makes you drier, but really it just makes you ache. "When I was on that boat the last time, if somebody had said for £250 I can make all this go away, I would have paid it!" I said as we loaded the gear into the containers. Yet here I was about to board the same boat, in a similar storm, for the
Solemn. Sombre. Soaking wet.
very same amount of money.
"Call Tresco Island one last time!" I pleaded.
The bass player wiped the rain drops off his iphone and dialed again but the message was just as urgent, 'please take the boat, the chances are your flight will be canceled!'. It was no use, we rolled our eyes and sank our soggy shoulders. Hunching them had clearly made no difference, we were as damp as a church. We sat in silence, the three of us, like schoolboys in the headmasters office. Solemn. Sombre. Soaking wet. "I'm calling Land's End one last time" I said and grabbed the phone 

"Hello, is the 11.50 flight still going ahead?"

"It is scheduled to, but it's touch and go." came the reply.
"We are playing a gig you see and we need to guarantee it!?"
"We can't guarantee at this stage. May I suggest taking the boat?"

"We get terribly sea sick, Sir, and there's white horses in the bay!"
"Yes, it'll be a rough crossing" came the reply. And then a very long pause.
"If you come now, we'll hopefully fly you out."
"Hopefully?" I said.
"Come now!" was the reply and the line went dead

What do we do? Stick or twist? This was a huge decision. If we drive to Land's End and it doesn't fly, we loose a sack of money and let down an entire wedding. We'd ruin the good rep we've built up with Tresco Island and it's a dirty black mark on our name. We'd lose friendships. We'd make a lot of people very angry. All for the sake of a tummy ache! The boat was about to sail, it was our only guaranteed passage over. Our instruments were on the boat, why weren't we!? I was bent double with indecision. I knew if we took the boat we'd see the plane fly over our heads mocking us as we wretched into our little sick bags. The plane that left 2 hours after the boat and still got there 3 hours before it! I sighed and sucked my teeth. The bass player looked like a rabbit in the headlights. The piano player laughed hysterically, and then: "He who dares, boys!". And that was that, we were running up through town towards my car, running away from the boat, recklessly, like naughty school boys from the headmaster!
'we ran recklessly!'
We piled in and drove off. Bruce Spingsteen was singing born to run on the radio. Was it a sign? And then another song with the lyrics, 'come to me, come to me', certainly that was a sign! We laughed. High on adrenaline. Carefree. We sped along the empty roads, into the deepening fog, zipping down the final hill to Land's End Airport. Needless to say, we caught the flight, he who dares, wins. Flippantly I told the nice man at reception I didn't really fancy paying the car parking charge for 3 days and so he waived it. Just like that. "He who dares boys!"

The plane took off, it wasn't full, it was quite conceivable that they were flying it just for us. The fog was so thick that we flew just above the water the whole way, getting lower and lower as it descended
upon us. We landed with a bump, skidding across the airstrip
, hearts in mouths. "We were lucky" said the bass player as we gave the pilot a round of applause. "I'm not flying back!" he shouted from the cockpit. We really were lucky. The remainder of the weekend was full of peeks and troughs. Two gigs; one to an empty room. A chauffeur driven golf-cart. Island hopping in a speedboat. A glimpse at how the 'other side' live. A party. A hangover. A skinnydip. Flight delays and I missed my dental appointment.

Back on the mainland, no rest for the wicked, we had three gigs in three days and welcomed back the guitar player and the drummer. With open arms I may add. First up; Little Orchard Festival on the BBC Introducing Stage, was a very windy affair. Nice rig, good sound but any attempts to erect a tent would result in hand-gliding into the Atlantic! The wind made the sturdy big top rattle like a snare drum. Raising a little tent would have been as much use as a ashtray on a motorbike! The next day was billed as our Farewell to Arms, our final hurrah! But it's become increasingly apparent this is no longer the case. We have a further 7 gigs booked in October, idea's for to record a homemade EP and we're in advance talks about an return to Europe in the new year. Even so, not all the fans new this, and so they apprehensively packed into the Acorn's old chapel to bid us goodnight. "Umm... we're not actually stopping anymore!" was met with loud cheers and applause and a great deal of whooping. We played to a capacity crowd and made merry long into the shoulder of the night. The next day we announced a secret gig at The Old Coastguard, we'd been billed as 'special guests' so as not to harm ticket sales the night before and the ploy had worked a treat. As we packed the gear up for a final time that weekend, we paused to reflect on the crossroads we are currently tiptoeing across. Yes, it seems this ship will continue. For now. In some form. As nice as it was to welcome back the guitar player, my oldest friend and with me, the founder of this band, it is unlikely he will commit to all of the up-coming engagements, if any. And just how available he will be in the future is unknown. Even to him. The drummer, who you may remember left the band in the summer, has returned, in some capacity at least. Warmly embraced he is too. It's been an hectic summer; despite all the uncertainty we've played 14 times since May in 4 totally different formations. 'We are the odd folk and it's true, we see green, you see blue' as the chorus begins in one of our best but least used songs. What other band calls a leaving party only to tell people there not leaving? Re-strings a mandolin with guitar strings only for them to break mid song? Risks their finances and reputation because of a tummy ache? Books a tour of The Lake District even though everyone is unavailable? Leaves a thousand pound instrument on the side of the road overnight?

Yes, myself and the bass player had loaded the gear into our separate car
s. The piano player was nowhere to be seen.
We decided to leave his keyboard and numerous plastic bags containing all his velvet jackets, food for the week and
his leads neatly on the roadside. He lived nearby. We explained what we'd done and slipped off home. The next day I bumped into the piano player on his way to work. "You'll never guess what!?" he said with a glint in his eye. "I only went and left my piano on the street last night!" My face screwed up in bewilderment. "He who dares, boys!" he said and skipped off down the road.

"He who dares, boys!"