Seth Lakeman Interview

Long before Mumford and Sons were winning the Hottest 100 and Laura Marling was being a teenage prodigy, Seth Lakeman was being dragged to his parents’ folk club every Sunday. Since then he has been nominated for a Mercury Prize, sold thousands of albums and played some of the biggest festivals in the UK. Despite this, he recorded his latest album Tales From the Barrel House in a mine using tools and chains as percussion.

“I wanted to play all the instruments on the album because there are all these stories of people who worked with their hands, and I wanted to do it with my own hands” says Lakeman, “The album has defiantly got an edge to it that is cohesive and it continues throughout the whole record. But there’s no doubt you can add other stuff to it a background singer and some conventional percussion but I think it’s left at a place where it represents the songs really well.”

However despite his enthusiasm for the record, his first since leaving EMI, he was hesitant to release it commercially. Instead he made it available as a limited edition release from his website.

“We sold 10,000 within a month and a half and then we released it here again commercially and digitally. Thankfully it’s spreading out to other areas. I’m really happy the happened”

It isn’t just his recorded output that’s been making waves. Having played almost every major UK festival, and an endless list of venues, we’ll finally have a chance to witness his live show this month as he tours Australia for first time. But he’s quick to warn me that it won’t a formal, sit-down affair.

“Over here we like to play stand up shows and people want to dance and drink and enjoy it.” He laughs, “It’s really driving and all the stories are there from the couple of records that we’ve got, but also we try and give people a really good time.”

The venues on this tour are a far cry from the large ones Lakeman and his band play in the UK, with many half the size. But rather than seeing this as a downside, Lakeman is excited about how it will sound.

“Thankfully because we play acoustic instruments they translate better on a smaller stage or pub than a bigger venue. We don’t like playing in this country to 900 people because with the instruments we’ve got we can only get so far with them. We’ll be ripping them apart when we play and shredding them but there’s no doubt it works really well in a smaller, intimate environment. Much better, I think.”

 

Local troubadour Carus Thompson will joining Lakeman along for the ride after spending a lot time touring around Europe. It seems the two of them have quite a history.

Me and Carus have known each other for about 10 years. He comes over here a lot performing and he’s come along as support about three or four times. So it’s about time,” Lakeman laughs.

While his Mercury Prize nomination marked a turning point in the mainstream success of folk, he doesn’t feel threatened by other artists stealing the limelight. In fact, he believes it is a good thing.

“In the UK folk music has always been pretty steady of a genre and the way it’s broken out in this country and has spread to other territories is definitely a trend thing I think.” He pauses before adding “. But it’s exciting for folk music because you can ride the coattails of that.”

Saturday 7 April  Harvester Moon
2330 Portarlington Rd, Bellarine VIC

Sunday 8 April – Bennetts Lane,
25 Bennetts Lane, Melbourne VIC

Monday 9 April – Bennetts Lane,
25 Bennetts Lane, Melbourne VIC

Tuesday 10 April – The Vanguard
42 King St, Newtown, Sydney NSW

Thursday 12 April – Clancy’s Fish Pub

51 Cantonment st, Fremantle WA

Friday 13 April – The Hyde Park Hotel
331 Bulwer St, North Perth WA

Saturday 14 April – Fairbridge Festival
Fairbridge WA

Sunday 15 April – Fairbridge Festival
Fairbridge WA

Fleet Foxes auction off new album and unveil new track

After a natural disaster strikes, we often see musicians helping out. Whether it’s the Foo Fighters playing a show in Christchurch, Powderfinger releasing a B-side or Bono putting his face on every charity campaign he can find.

Fleet Foxes are the latest band to help charity. The band have placed a test vinyl pressing of their second album Helplessness Blues on ebay, with all money going to the Japan earthquake and tsunami relief fund.

The album isn’t released until May 3 and to say it’s highly anticipated would be an understatement. There are just over 5 days left of bidding, and the total is  already $2,125.

Speaking of Fleet Foxes, a new song from Helplessness Blues has been released on British radio. Titled Battery Kinzie, it is everything you would expect from a Fleet Foxes song. Simply stunning.

 

Mumford and Sons- Sigh No More

Little Lion Man by English folk band Mumford and Sons could quite possibly be one of the year’s best singles. It has a hoedown, features banjo and has a soaring chorus that uses the word “fuck” to express vulnerability rather than just for the sake of it. And when played on the radio alongside the likes of Lady GaGa, it is a breath of fresh air.

The problem with Mumford and Sons’ debut album Sigh No More is that while all the aforementioned elements are brilliant when used together in moderation, when applied to twelve tracks they become heavy and repetitive. That’s not to say that it is a bad album, because it isn’t. But whenever I listen to it all I think about is how great the album could have been rather than how good it is.

There really are some great moments on the album Aside from Little Lion Man the second track on the album The Cave is driving folk song with great banjo plucking and the verses contain some of the most poetic lyrics on the entire album. The horns on Winter Winds help lift up the catchy but repetitive chorus making it  one of the album’s better songs and the hoedowns throughout the album set them apart from many of today’s folk bands.

The album is far form perfect though. While it would be ridiculous to suggest that all folk bands should have the lyrical prowess of say, The Decemberists, but at times Mumford and Sons leave a lot to be desired in the lyrics department. The lyrics are very heartfelt and deal with love, hate and anger. But after twelve tracks it all becomes too heavy and boarders on cheesy. Another problem is that this old style of folk music often relies on good storytelling in the lyrics, which is something the band is yet to perfect.  Luckily Marcus Mumford’s gravely voice manages to keep the album afloat.

The production is very polished, which is great for mainstream appeal but not so good if you like your folk music a little bit grimey. Even the hoedowns seem a bit restrained, which is a shame because if they had been a little less controlled they would have made the album great.

Sigh No More had the potential to be a great album and shows that Mumford and Sons are very capable musicians who just need to let loose and lighten up. That said, any release that can get the general public interested in folk can’t be a bad thing.

6.5/10

Christmas Songs That Don’t (Completely) Suck, Part 2

Christmas. Two more sleeps and it will all be over. Thank god.

Christmas is stressful in general and for us folks working in retail it is even worse. In the words of one of my colleagues “At Christmas everyone turns into grumpy pricks.”

So to celebrate this wonderful time of year I think we need another dose of half-decent christmas songs.

Bah, Humbug.

First-Aid Kit- Blue Christmas.mp3

Why it doesn’t suck: I posted the Bright Eyes version of this song a few days ago but this one is much better because they actually sound blue, rather than mildly depressed.

Noah and the Whale- To Cyril At Crunkmas.mp3

Why it doesn’t suck: While it may not be the coolest genre, I am sucker for a good folk song. And there seems to a be a bit of a shortage of good Christmas folks songs. This track from Noah and the Whale has a bit of a demo-ey feel about it which adds to it I think.  I’m willing to forgive the annoying bells in the background of  because it is one of those Christmas songs that can be enjoyed at other times of the year, mainly because it doesn’t mention Santa or reindeer.

Camera Obscura- The Blizzard.mp3

Why it doesn’t suck: One of the problems with Christmas songs is that they are almost always happy and after spending three hours battling the crowds at Chadstone, having an argument with your family and witnessing your cousin block the upstairs toilet causing poo-water to drip into your living room(true story) the last thing you will feel is happy. Camera Obscura’s cover of  The Blizzard, a tale of a man and a horse being found dead in the snow, is as far from a happy Christmas song as you will get.  So when it all goes wrong, open up a bottle of gin, sit on the couch and listen to this marvelously depressing track. Thanks to Aaron Underground for sharing this one.

Fun.-Believe in me.mp3

Why it doesn’t suck: Remember The Format? Well they broke up last year, but luckily one of the members has formed a new band called fun. who make indie-pop music that suit Disney movies. And I say that with the utmost respect. Belive In Me is written from the perspective of Santa. Kind of like Santa Claus is Coming To Town for people with taste. They even manage to incorporate Jingle Bells without making you want to kill someone, which is an achievement in itself.