Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Ode to the drummer.

Andy Watson
It's almost time to say goodbye. 3 more gigs and Andy Watson will leave The Odd Folk after 3 sterling years and some 60 performances. And we wish him well. He's become a firm friend. But how did this bizarre love affair even begin? How did this uneven marriage ever come to fruition? Him; the punctual professional with a CV as long as your leg, with top of the range equipment, suitable vehicle, rehearsal space in his house and a network of industry greats to call upon as friends. And us; the ramshackle rapscallions from Penzance who are more suited to an old barn than an arts centre, with a "reputation for disorganisation that preceeds them!", living 100's of miles apart and operating out of 2 old hatchbacks. But then opposites do attract. 

By the close of 2012, with a our debut album The Sweet Release flying off the shelves and the song Summertime Blues a permanent fixture on Radio Cornwall, it became apparent we needed to expand. We'd outgrown the trio format, often turning to the bass player for bigger gigs, but now we were on the search for a drummer too. In early 2013 we posted an add on Gumtree, received a wealth of interest from various beaters, met a few of them, invited one chap to join the band before even playing with him, then sacked him after the first rehearsal! We met a Spanish dude who couldn't speak English, a drum teacher with no rhythm and a percussionist who insisted we also hire his brother on bass! In amongst the many responses was an email from a chap named Andy Watson, included was a decent CV and a nice cheery message. He, along with countless others, was ignored. We'd grown disillusioned with meeting new people, what with the language barrier and the nepotism, and had instead coaxed our friend Frazer Young out of retirement. Frazer was a great percussionist and he played three good gigs with us over that spring period and for a time it seemed this would be a lasting relationship. We thought we could cope with him living in London, not having a car or even a drumkit; in those heady days, we thought we could cope with anything! But we couldn't, and the bloom finally fell off the rose. We re-opened the add with haste, 'must have a drumkit!' we wrote, and then, 'and a car!' and then, 'and live in Bristol!'. 

Responses trickled in, some new faces; a chap who was traveling in Central America all summer, and then Jim who had 5 drumkits and 4 children! Once again there was a message from the very same Andy Watson. This time I replied. Asking him how old he was, for with a CV like that, he appeared to have been there and done it all. He was 37. Not bad. A few more sporadic emails trying to arrange a meeting and it fizzled out once again, we'd began trialing a stomp box and saw out the summer back as a quartet! But in September we signed with an agent and had our first tour scheduled that was to be captured in our debut film How NOT to be in a Band. With days to spare we finally met Andy Watson. We knew in a matter of minutes he was the perfect fit, a tidy drummer, steady as an ox, who played exactly what the song needed. He had a car, could drive, lived nearby, had contacts in the industry and knew our agent personally. He was keen to get involved in the running of the band. He was an absolute steal. We signed him up immediately, taught him 15 songs in an afternoon and then stuck him in front of a camera. No pressure. He slotted in perfectly. Unfazed by the ramshackle approach. Invited on the most bizarre tour he's ever done and I doubt he'll ever do again. Travelling 400 miles in a 30 year old renault 4 with a piano strapped to the roof rack for a succession of unconventional gigs. He spent his first night with The Odd Folk camping on the Peak District. Next he was introduced to our London fans, our Bristol fans and finally dragged home to Cornwall to meet the family. He passed every test he faced. He is Mr. Dependable. Mr. Meticulous. Never late. Never lazy. As an outsider in a close-knit brood, it can't have been easy. The only non-Cornish, the only "furriner". But he hasn't shied away. He's got involved. Got his hands dirty. Tested himself. He's not only our friend, he's a friend to many of you now. Whether in Bottallack or Bristol or Belgium. And that will continue. It's not the end of our story with Andy Watson. Just the end of this chapter.

Andy Watson: Sept 2013 - Sept 2016
I remember... you being being chased by a bull in the Forest of Dean. Arriving in Penzance on a motorcycle. Storing all our gear under your caravan at Boomtown. The first to every gig and the last to leave. The tetris master. The tweeter. Tidy. Together. To the point. I remember the conveyor belt of grolsh in Raamsdonk. All the admin hours. All the trink ales. Steve Tilston. Merry Folking Christmas. Don't Wake The Fish. We've done some pretty big gigs, in amongst all the outlandish ones; like the dance studio in Apeldoorn, or playing in a puddle on Pirate Day! I remember Berlin, and all the tours. Writing itineraries, even though only me and you read them. I remember recording the album, we had eye contact all the way through the track Home; completely in the zone, end of the day with tired eyes, but we got it. Smashed it. All the meals you cooked. All the cheeky post show cigarettes. I remember your gig shirt. And your new gig shirt. Folding all the odd folk t-shirts. Playing postman pat in the old renault. The time you tired to leave the band and I talked you round. The time you broke down on the way to Wild Tribe Festival. I remember the beats. The cymbol master. Mr. Atmosphere. I remember the tears in Stormy Weather during our rehearsal weekend. I've never seen anyone so involved in a song as you, hunched over the drums like a man in a storm. Like the old man and the sea. I remember The Bake Off! The hotdogs were gorgeous;) I remember the Scillies, the Sawmills, swimming with phosphorescence. I remember Shambala. Ghost stories in Tintern Abbey and Andy Bell. I remember the Fiddlers, the Fleece, film premieres, football matches, tom foolery. I remember every gig, all 60 of them, even the three we haven't done yet. Over 80 hours of live performances in 5 countries, immortalized in 40 blogs and read by 7000 people across 5 continents. I'm glad you persevered with us, we wouldn't be here today without you. It's been a wild ride old boy. Here's to pastures new.

"Raise your glass to the sky, wave your old life goodbye"

Always xx

Thursday, 14 April 2016

The piano player lives 300 miles away (again!)

3 years ago I wrote the very first band blog, it was aptly titled Piano player lives 300 miles away! And today, in a cafe in Islington as I sit in shelter from the layers of London rain, we have come full circle; the piano player is once again living 300 miles away! 2 and a half years in the cuddle of Bristol and he's slid back down the country to the sub-tropical valley from whence he came.  

"I'm moving home!" he declared shortly after we returned from Berlin.
"Really, wow, what about your job? What about paintballs!?"
"I've reached the end of the road with that. I've quit, or been sacked, I can't remember which. And I'm homeless!" he said.
"Fair enough." And it was.

3 years ago when I wrote that blog; you may remember, we'd just completed a two-venue Easter tour, and 3 year's on, to the day, we've done the very same; a two-venue Easter tour. Different venues I grant you, but there's something quite magical when things align like that. The piano player was living 300 miles away then, as he is now. We were in a state of flux then, without a permanent drummer, and now, with our beloved drummer handing in his notice, we're experiencing the very same fluxings.
Bang go the drums!
You might remember that blog too? We'd parted company with our first drummer and the search had began for a 
new 'beater' that eventually led us to Andy Watson, who has become a dear friend and traveled over 10,000 miles with us in 5 countries
over the last 3 years. But all good things come to an end. He's been very professional, handing in ample notice, and won't leave us until completing the summer program.
So no goodbyes just yet!


So, our recent two-venue Easter tour, although comparable in it's timing to it's namesake in 2013, as discussed above, really couldn't have been more different. Then; we performed our very first gig in London and traveled to Bristol the next night. Now; it's a homecoming show in Penzance, before sailing over to The Isles of Scilly. We take the stage at The Ritz Petite to a lighter than normal audience, though what they lacked in numbers they certainly made up with in spirit. The atmosphere was charged and so it didn't feel particularly empty. And it wasn't empty as such; 100 people can make a good crowd; but when you're used to playing up the road at The Acorn, with it's friendly staff, easy access, pleasing decor and acoustics, you're a bit spoiled, and we regularly sell out the 250 capacity. But The Ritz; the old crumbling art deco cinema hall, is a shabby, cold and grimy venue and it doesn't lure people in. Only the die-hards would brave the first young ticklings of Storm Katie. Maybe that's why the atmosphere was so good. Many of our dearest fans were there. Old friends that have supported us since our inception at the tale end of 2010. We played well enough, Louis Gulliver King replacing a last minute u-turn by the guitar player. He played particularly well, adding beautiful accordion as well as mandolin and bango. It was a welcome change. Very different to the subtle and sweet dexterity of the guitar player, but it added equally as pleasing moments.

The next morning we rose at 8am,
sleep-deprived and drove down to the port in an angry wind. The clouds were grey, like dirty cotton wool, the sky a
dank dishcloth. The sea was undulating like some huge heaving beast ready for battle. The Scillionian III, a flat bottomed boat built to navigate the shallow island channels, would be destroyed as we rounded the headland. "It's going a rough one boys!" I said as we loaded our instruments into the locker. We pulled out of Penzance in good spirits, all excited by the motion, jumping high into the air as we rolled over waves, experiencing the anti-gravity sensation of hanging in the air until the boat came up to meet your feet. But when we rounded the headland and went headlong into the mighty Atlantic, it was a different kettle of fish. Within minutes the boat had turned into a zombie apocalypse, green faces, overflowing sick bags, sicky dribble, splattered clothes
and everywhere to foul,

foul smell. The drummer was the first to fall, followed shortly by the rest. The boat heaved, the passengers heaved and the crew walked around oblivious, like it was a calm day in the Med. They tried to console passengers and even offered food, which in the circumstances was about as useful as an inflatable dartboard! What goes in, must come out! Outside, a respite from the smell, offered a different set of problems; driving rain and 49 mile an hour winds. We eventually docked at St. Mary's, re-hydrated before taking a smaller boat out to the island of Tresco, our colour returning us to human form again. We were met by the bass player's sister, bundled into the island's only tractor and taken up to the Inn. Still a little woozy we sought some solace in our lodgings, sleeping and bathing in the cute little baths. The gig that night, put on by an eager fan of ours who worked out here on this paradise island, was a stomping success. We made merry with our friendly hosts and laughed long into the shoulder of the night.

The next day, I can't recall if we even went outside, the rain lashed the windows like a couchman's whip. The wind howling through the keyhole like a whistling kettle forever and ever all day. We played a lunchtime set, more acoustic, slower to match our sedately manner. Last night's merriment just beginning it's predictable afternoon stratch. We sold a box of CD's and made some lovely new fans, another bath and early evening snooze and we finally braved the cold, walking across the peninsula to the bass player's sister's cafe for our third three course meal of the day. It must be said that we had been so well looked after thus far. The New Inn, famed for it's food had not disappointed, and now The Ruin Beach Cafe was serving up a treat too. We traipsed home in the rain, across a field; muddy puddles and boggy grass. Socks on radiators, off to bed.

Easter Monday, we were supposed to sail home but Storm Katie was raging outside with 79 mile an hour gusts and all transport links were down. Not that we'd have volunteered ourselves if The Scillonian III had been sailing! And so we were marooned on a island, always wanted to be, and now I was. Funnily enough the skies were smiling, howling but smiling. Sun freckled. Rather pleasing if you found a little suntrap. We decided to circumnavigate the island; setting off from the pub and climbing the rugged coastal footpath that lead around the wilder northern headland. Once traversed, the land receded down into softer grasses, with picture postcard bays, with white sandy beaches and cottages dotted about the place, like walking through a Constable painting. We arrived back at the Inn just in time for yet another three-courser and then feeling a pang of gilt, offered to host an open mic night that evening. Informal like, acoustic, gathered around a sofa, large bottle of red wine and off we go. Incidentally, though a large audience had arrived, nobody wanted to play a song and so we ploughed through a few of our own and then just began jamming. It was most enjoyable, the wine flowed like water. We got giggly and theatrical. Louis Gulliver King, accordion glinting in the candlelight, sang in Spanish. That was perhaps the star-turn, that and shake rattle and roll! We ended on free jazz. Wine-heavy we climbed the stairs to bed.


3 years ago when I wrote that blog; I never imagined I'd still be writing blogs about our adventures, I hardly envisaged the band rolling on as far and wide as it has. Success seemed so hopelessly far away then, but what is success? It is what you make of it. I've learnt that. It is all things. Small things. Like sailing out to Scilly and making people purr with your music. Like writing about it and making someone smile at the thought of a ship full of green zombies. And now as we loosely mirror those far off days, when the piano player was unobtainable in his isolation and we were without a drummer, it once again seems unlikely I'll be scribbling away to our 6000 strong readership for many more years. But maybe I will.. And God knows what we'll have got up to by then? Perhaps we'll have finally gone to Iceland!