On Sunday 1st of March, Contemporary Folk artist Rachel Sermanni returned to Café INDIEpendent for a specially scheduled sunday show in association with The Mouth Magazine. Her first visit was a great success and requests were made for a return, if possible. Rachel herself wanted to come back, and so with a new album out soon what better excuse was needed.
The evening was opened by local group Duke & The Daisy, with a newly expanded line up. Connor Dunk, better known for his part in the duo Capo on 2 and Joe Brown the drummer with rockers The Marras, joined Bash and Charley on the Indie Stage. Whether from hours of practice and playing together, or the addition of two guest members, or most likely a mix of both, they had a deeper more complete sound than I’ve heard before. With a mellow combination of influences ranging from Van Morrison to the Beautiful South, some of it was upbeat while still being chilled out, (if that makes sense), other songs were gentle and melodic with the two vocalists complementing one another as always. Sayonara their latest song is very catchy and definitely “All right” you should check that one out and you’ll see what I mean.
Rachels main support was the versatile Tom Terrell from Canada. Tom was actually the sound engineer the first time Miss Sermanni played at The Café and is a highly acclaimed producer in his home country as well as a member of canadian roots supergroup The Modern Grass. He mixed together folk, blues and country influences. Plucking at his gut-string banjo or dancing across the strings of his guitar, his performance was blues and rootsy, stripped back vintage, with a sentimental heart soaked in whisky and hard times. Highlights for me were Ghost Town his current single and the instrumental he played with Rachel accompanying on the mandolin, it was jaw-droppingly awesome. As they were playing I looked over at Connor (who is a far better guitar player than I am), and he looked as amazed as I did.
Rachel Sermanni’s performance was a beautiful thing. Soft and elegiac, ethereal but earthbound, playful and melancholic. Words and melodies like eddies stirring the mist, tears on a pillow, or the soulful sweet laughter of a friend. I’ve gone a bit poetic there, and its but a poor imitation, but its the most apt way to describe the set. You could see folks being carried away by it, I was too. I really enjoyed Marshmallow Unicorn, a song who’s title quite deliberately has absolutely nothing to do with the song, so don’t let that put you off. I also enjoyed her talk and tales and explanations in between the songs, almost as much as the music, as she connected the real life inspirations to her creations. Rachel’s return was a great success and great experience that I missed out on the first time. Hopefully she’ll come back a third time, hopefully it’ll become a regular thing.
Rachels’ New Album – Tied To The Moon – can be pre-ordered from her website along with her back catalogue – www.rachelsermanni.net
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A while ago, back when I first started writing for Scunthorpe Nights and I didn’t know what to do, The Boss said to me “Just write about whatever you like”. So I did. I decided to email a musician I had just heard of and asked him for an interview. Anyway I never wrote it up, I got stuck, I didn’t have time, I forgot about it, and then we got bigger, busier and well it just wasn’t local which is what our site is about, so I never finished it. Anyhow I just happened to be going through stuff and I re-read the interview. And having spent the last year attempting to be a songwriter myself what I read didn’t just come over as someone talking honestly about music-making but also as something really useful and quite inspiring. So I thought I would share it with the music-lovers and musicians who follow Scunny Nights. I think you will, at the very least find it interesting, and you may get something good from it too.
The guy I interviewed is an american performer called Chris Mills and he has a band called The Distant Stars, one of whom he found in the lonely wild places of Norway. He had just played in Sheffield when I first messaged him. People would describe his sound as alt-country maybe, no frills rock, folky I don’t know, as he says himself its just his sound. Its a very nice sound in my humble opinion. Here’s a quote.
[Mills’] hidden elegance lies in the twist of lovesick metaphor, the wistful chord, the revisionist take on the slamming door. – NME
And he’s a nice guy. I hope he comes back to this country for a tour this year. The interview transcript follows and a little acoustic video from his current album (which you can purchase here if you want to) and another older upbeat tune.
Scunthorpe Nights: Do you write with an audience in mind? Do you want people to know what you mean or make there own mind up about a songs meaning?
Chris Mills: I don’t generally write with an audience in mind. I hope that if the songs are honest enough in the way they tell their stories then they’ll reach people. And people are always going to filter what they hear through there own experiences. What you’re trying to do as a songwriter is to elicit a reaction. So it doesn’t really matter if they can figure out exactly what the song is about for me as long as people react to it emotionally and connect it to their own lives. In fact it’s probably a better song if people can take something personal away for themselves, rather than if they can just pick up directly on what the song’s about for me.
SN: Do you prefer or find yourself writing more upbeat songs rather than slower ones and do you have a preference for guitar driven songs or keys?
CM: I really don’t have a preference. Again, the main goal is to get the song across in a way that provides the strongest connection. So if I have something that I think is going to translate better as ballad, then that’s how I’ll frame it. Although, if it’s a great song, hopefully it lends itself to a variety of interpretations and then I can just pick the production style that’s most interesting to me at the time. Sometimes it’s fun to take something that would work great in a more low key mode, something dark or depressing, and re-frame it as an upbeat rocker.
SN: The story of how you met up with Christer Knutsen In a bar in the middle of nowhere in Norway and went on to create the album is brilliant. Was there an instant connection could you even speak the same language?
CM: I immediately picked up on how great a player he was just from watching him. But after talking for awhile it was obvious that he was a great guy and would be excellent to work with. And there was no language barrier. Most of the Norwegians I’ve met speak better English than I do.
SN: What inspires you to write?
CM: I’ve always wanted to connect with people. When I was younger we moved around a lot and I felt pretty isolated, but music always made me feel like there were other people in the world that felt the same way I did. So I’ve always hoped that I could do that for other people.
SN: What is your favourite thing to see in the crowd at a gig?
CM: Someone singing along.
SN: How does Alexandria differ from your earlier albums? And what makes you proud about it?
CM: It’s been a while since I’ve had out a record of new material, and I feel like I’ve matured a lot as a writer and performer in the last few years. And I think that really comes across on this record. I’ve also been able to move away from a lot of the orchestral and production related bells and whistles that I used to indulge in. Working with Christer really gave me a lot of confidence in the whole process and helped me trust the songs and the writing a lot more than I have in the past, so I’m pretty proud of that whole aspect of things.
SN: I don’t like putting thinks in a genre (I think it’s a spectrum) but for writing about music its hard not to. I’ve seen you classed as folk, alt country; no frills rock… the list goes on how would you describe your sound?
CM: I really don’t get into all that. I just try and write the best songs I can and record them in ways that i think are interesting. I just think that debating issues of genre is something that journalists feel they need to do, but isn’t really relevant to the quality of the music. What kind of music does Bowie make? Or Dylan? Good music. What kind of music does some crappy band make? Crap. I just hope I fall into the former more than the latter.
SN: Besides, “work hard”, “never give up” etc what piece of golden advice would you give to musicians just starting out? (yes I’ve gone and asked this one for myself sorry )
CM: Care about what you do, and enjoy it. It’s very easy to get caught up in what other people think about your music, or where you fall on the arc of ‘success’. And while you should always try and make good business decisions, your main job as an artist is to do good work. And in order to do that you have to care about what you’re doing. You have to be willing to put yourself into it as much as you can and approach things with sincerity.
Annd try, as much as you can, to not worry about other people’s success. That’s a tricky one, but it’s absolutely key. Other people’s success is not a detriment to your own ability to achieve. Don’t talk trash. Making music is not a competition. Making music is about creating shared experience and connecting with people in a deeply personal way. Just try and consistently perform at the highest level you can and people will notice.
Oh, and when I say don’t talk trash, I also mean about your own work. The goal is to get people to listen to you, and nobody’s going to do that if you’re constantly putting down what you do. There is a difference between confidence and arrogance, figure out what it is and then go forth with confidence. If you put time and work into something that you care about, there’s no reason not to be proud of it.
SN: What are your aspirations for the coming year and most importantly have you any plans to come and play in the UK again soon?
CM: I’ve already done around forty shows this year so I’m going to take a little time to hang out with my wife and daughter, and to get back into writing the next project. But I’m hopefully going to do a series of house concerts here in the US later this year and maybe another short tour of the UK before year’s end.
SN: Do you have anything you’d like to add, a message, or anything that I’ve missed out in my amateurishness that I really shouldn’t have haha?
CM: Nah, you did great!
Normally I start these with my standard – On this day and this date Scunthorpe Nights went to this event etc. But I can’t this time because it was actually a Scunthorpe Nights event in association with SMB management. We called it AlterEgo. So on Saturday 20th december we didn’t come to you, you came to Scunthorpe Nights. The venue was Cafe Indiependent, the place was full and the line up were 3 top rated alternative bands.
Opening the show with furious enthusiasm were Odd Rival a 3 piece from London consisting of Patrick Smith – Bass/Vocals, Chris Smith – Guitar/Vocals, Alastair Batchelor – Drums. These boys don’t do things by halves, they weren’t holding back. I liked their hard edge, lyrics can get lost when you smashing it out but I found their words catchy and involving and there riffs and
arrangements compelling. This was a very good set and I hope they come back up this way because I’d take the opportunity to see them again.
Middle of the bill were Iron Hands. Chris Garbutt (Lead Vocals/Guitar), Shag Goodall (Keys/Guitar), Harry Bullas (Bass), Dan Stephenson (Drums). Local boys with a new image that have been touring the big cities. Not as hard as the previous band but still rocky enough, anthemic in places, captivating, fully entertaining. And man they had some nice instruments to play, the lead singers silver gretsch was beautiful. They were very good headliners in their own right but this day belonged to someone else.
Last up for the last time were Ameira a well-loved band who sadly were splitting to try new things but for one final time they took to the stage to rock their way out. Unfortunately for me (because I wont get another chance) this was the first time I’ve seen them live and I have to say the hype didn’t lie. It was obvious the crowd knew the words. It was obvious the band – Luke Colclough – Vocals/Guitar, Josh Graham – Guitar,Gary Butler – Bass,James Hughes – Drums, knew exactly what they were doing. They just let loose. It would have been exhilarating enough for the capacity crowd as it was, but with the added drama of it being the farewell it added an emotional charge to the proceedings that made this gig quite unique and special. There were tears at the end, one poor girl was just stood on her own crying that it was all over, a poignant moment to draw a line under a bitter-sweet but altogether brilliant night. Ameira had something good, respect and a nod of the head for going out in style.
Hopefully Scunthorpe Nights will be back with more AlterEgo gigs in the new year after the success of this one. Thank you all for your support in 2014 its been amazing to help out and promote this town and the wonderful people who live in it. No matter what people say about it I do love Scunny. Leanne does most of the hard work you know, I just write the odd review now and again. We’ve come so far in 2014, here’s to bigger and better things in 2015. Happy New Year from everyone at Scunthorpe Nights.
Photo Album courtesy of Energy by Motion Photography
I like it when a story ends where it began, comes full circle you know. On Saturday 22nd November I went to see The Hackney Colliery Band perform at Cafe INDIEpendent. Now if you have never heard of them they are, well they’re something else, a reinvention of the brass band. A brass band you can dance to. And I don’t mean dance like old folks waltzing by the bandstand in the park I mean proper, arm-waving, foot-jiving, hair all over the place kind of dancing. The support act were the very talented local band Ramble Gamble, soon to play the Great British Folk Festival. They did a full set of originals (the first time I’ve seen them do this) and they owned it. There was a very loud call for an encore (deservedly so) but they gracefully declined in deference to the act they were supporting. I overheard one person exclaim while they were performing “These are brilliant!”. From the opener Beneath The Water which stands up to any good Decemberists tale, to the raw intensity of Nobody’s Who You Think They Are, the dark irish sounding pound of Tennessee Jack and the sentimentally catchy All I Ever Wanted to name a few. These guys (and girl) have a powerful mix of original songs and I think they’ll do alright. So anyway. The Gamblers finish up, the lights go on everyone wanders back upstairs. “What time are the main act on?” “Dunno” Bit of chat. Sip of the drinks. More chat. The sound of a Trumpet from somewhere. This is how it begins. The trumpet is followed by another and then a trombone, another, a sax. A procession is coming out of the dressing room each joining in playing as they appear. What is that beast that guys playing! Its so big the pipes circle his body and the giant horn part is above his head. Is it a Tuba? I have no idea. And then some drummers. They come up to the cafe, circle, playing all the while and with a pointed finger at the stage beckon us all to come back down and watch. So we do. And they’re just awesome. They’re not dressed up, just a bunch of guys, jeans and t-shirts but their playing isn’t casual, its packed full of energy and talent. Their own compositions are modern and vital. I think their latest release is called A Bit Of Common Decency (check it out see link). Their covers are well chosen and enjoyably diverse. There’s some Kanye, some Adele, and The Prodigy, yeah Outer Space played by a brass band amazing! This is looking like another plaudit for Cafe Indie, who’s list of great gigs is just getting longer and longer. There are ensembles, solos and jazzy parts, some trance sounds played on a tablet, the snare drummer losing his mind (in a good way). They do No Diggety, folks are all jumping around. Each musician has a little bit of their own to play. And you know that beast I mentioned, it was a sousaphone, it was the thrumming bass line throughout, have you ever heard a sousaphone solo? You haven’t lived until you have. They finished up and of course they got an encore. It was heralded by a trumpeter who had snuck to the back and jumped on a chair. They all came back on and brought the house down. And then they’re off the stage into the crowd playing Toto’s Africa. And they’re leading us back upstairs to the cafe. This is definietely one of the coolest gigs I’ve been to I reckon, I would highly recommend you go see them. And thats where it comes to a glorious end, all of us mixing together playing and clapping and dancing back where we all started. I like it when a story ends where it began, comes full circle you know. Nick
Sam “Bam” Burman is a local motor sports star and this Saturday 22nd November she is hosting a full day of events and entertainment at The Green Tree Pub in Messingham. It’s all to raise funds to help support her team – Sam Burman Racing throughout the 2015 Motostar season.
I interviewed Sam, she’s friendly, polite, laughs and smiles a lot and was quite happy to talk to Scunthorpe Nights about her racing. Not to stereotype anyone but I think you’d be forgiven if your first guess at what she does on a weekend wasn’t that she races motorbikes at you know only 140mph. But, well she does and she doesn’t mess about at it either. The Motostar season takes her to circuits all around the country and in Europe, and as part of Saturday’s goings on her fantastic Moto 3 machine will be on display in the car park at Green Tree for you to check out. But there’s plenty more going on as well
The day starts at 10am with a Coffee Morning and then through the rest of the day there will be displays to view and games for the kids. Sam and some of her team will also be around to chat with. There will be competitions including a very popular “prize every time” lucky dip with specially donated quality Motorsports prizes. In the evening from 7pm it is ticketed, but for £5 you get entry into the raffle for even more prizes, you get food – pulled pork sarnies and Lincolnshire sausage hot dogs, and you getmusic in the form of the very entertaining Box Pavilion. You can purchase tickets from the pub or by phone – 07850 276534 or by email – firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets are also available on the door.
Sam’s aspirations are to progress further in the British Championship, maybe to follow in the footsteps of her heroes Kevin Schwantz, Valentino Rossi and her biggest inspiration her father Phill Burman, also a motorcycle racer in his time. And I suppose we can help her do this. On sale will be what is the focus of the day her Official 2015 Calendar. There will also be plenty of SamBam merchandise available as well (for the first time ever apparently).
The overwhelming amount of local support she gets is one thing Sam says is very important to her and she is very grateful for any she receives. She is hoping to make this years calendar launch the biggest most successful so far. So if you are interested in Motorsport, or bikes, or your kids are, or you would like to be, or maybe you fancy a good time, a prize, or even just a coffee and you want to help out a really quite nice local sportswoman then why not head down to The Green Tree on Saturday.
And please check out the links to her website and Facebook as well as to The Green Tree and Box Pavilion for more info.
On Saturday 8th November we wandered down to Café Indie to watch part 2 of the Bridging The Gap Tour, a set of three shows collecting together three of the best original bands in the region from north and south of the river.
It was held upstairs amongst the retro lampshades in the acoustic corner. The sofas and chairs were set out for the audience with tall candles on the tables. A set up made for people who have come to listen rather than dance, perfect for this sort of gig.
The evening began with the Happy Endings a 4-piece from Kingston upon Hull. Made up mainly by members of the Fee family, with Emma on Vocals and Guitar (Emma Fee is also a solo artist in her own right), Rachel on guitar and vocals, Adam lead guitar and Michael Jessop on the Cajon. Their songs were melodic, captivating, filled with hope and longing, some sadder, some more stirring just beautiful really. Perfect for the candlelit venue. With 3 guitarists I couldn’t quite tell who was playing the acoustic solos or even if they all were playing them but they were a personal highlight for me.
The second of the three bands; The Finest Hour from Cleethorpes brought what I would describe as a mixture of acoustic punk and folk rock. It was the perfect second course accompaniment to the Happy Endings delicate starter. Not brash but catchy. The rockiness of the electric guitar tempered by a folky style, really enjoyable. The three of them, Rob Bywater on Vocals and Guitar, Sam Simmons on Guitar and Vocals and Iain Carpenter on Drums finished their set with a fantastic cover of the Rolling Stones’ You Can’t Always Get What You Want.
As it was the Scunthorpe leg of the tour The Chris Cooper Band rounded things up. I’ve seen them a few times before, and they’re always good, but I think this was a stand out performance. Simon Barley’s keys really came through working with Chris Cooper’s and Daz Ebbatson’s guitar lines to create that atmospheric wistful but driven signature CCB sound. Jack Spence and Gav Mcarthur provided the rhythm section on Bass and Cajon. They had two hard acts to follow but they just weaved their magic did their thing and it was a superb ending to the best gig I’ve been to in a long time.
Well done to the groups for coming up with the idea of this mini tour. They each complemented the others style really well and because they are all on the same sort of level, it was an event that maintained a level of high quality throughout. So a great weekend with three original bands and a trilogy of gigs (original trilogies are always better you know). I really hope they arrange to do this again soon.
(Please check out the links to the bands. They all have music of some kind available to buy and plenty of shows coming up.)