NOW WE ARE FIVE – new band members, our first gig after lockdown and the French Revolution
It’s been a while since the last blog, probably because I’ve been writing for the next album. It feels weird to write those words when we only released the last one a few months ago. In this one I want to bring readers up to date on our latest incarnation, and how it’s all going. So here’s the new line-up with our two new guys.
In fact, Lukas started practising with us this time last year but we didn’t want to confuse matters with the album coming out, and he has brought a new dimension to our live sound. We had been debating whether to introduce a keyboard player for about three years and the one or two we tried didn’t work out for one reason or another. In one gig we brought on Andrew Baird to play guitar while I did keys for three songs but that would never have been sustainable. As we came close to finishing the album we realised the necessity of keyboards if we were going to do justice to the tracks we worked so hard to produce. We subscribed to Bandmix, a site that introduces musicians to bands, so was Lukas and we all met in my garden last June after the end of the first lockdown. As he lives in south London it’s a 45 minute drive down to the rehearsal studios in Outwood but through the winter up to Christmas and since April, Lukas has made the trip week after week. He takes his music seriously. Not only have we worked as a band but I’ve been up to Crown Lane Studios, his base, to work on projects. A little bit about him… he was born in Dublin, moved over to London in his teens. He’s got a solo career alongside his work with us. Check out his Facebook page at(16) Lukas Kelly | Facebook. He has a great album due out, well worth listening to when it’s released.
The two new boys, Lukas (left) and Russell
Russell joined us a little later, in October. He lives quite close to me , and we have loads of friends in common, including our old band-mate Andrew Baird, but we had never met until I found him, again, on good old Bandmix. Russell may not have as much band experience but he too works really hard. We’ve spent several sessions round at mine working on his guitar parts. To be honest, we’d nearly given up until he came along. We had tried out a couple of lead guitarists, one who lasted half a rehearsal before packing up his kit and leaving. The idea with Russell is to let him play his way in very gradually and he’s doing a great job, bringing some skills on acoustic guitar which provides real scope for live performances.
Having been a trio for quite a while it was strange for us, and for our new band-mates. When you’re only used to listening to two other instruments and you’re taking your cues off them, and suddenly there are two more to listen to, it takes concentration and application. But we’re lucky they’re as keen as we are to be a cohesive unit. That means you go home and work on the areas you’re not certain about, where you think you might be weak, and where you think there is room for improvement. Being a musician requires a lot of self-criticism. Best to get it right before anyone else hears it and blasts your self-penned masterpiece to pieces! And as the weeks go by and we know each other better, we get better.
So it was on 28 May we did our first gig as a five-piece. It was also our first time out of lockdown, first time after release of the album. A lot of firsts. Our hosts were the Sound Lounge at Morden. Lukas had introduced us to the venue as it’s just around the corner from Crown Lane Studios where he records his solo music. It was so great to be up on stage playing our music. It’s fair to say that before lockdown, although we did some 7 or 8 original songs, the rest of our repertoire were covers. This gig really reversed the two. I think we did 6 covers, the rest being our songs from the 2017 EP and the album. Yes, there were some strange elements to it. The audience had to remain seated at tables of no more than 6, and it wasn’t as full as we would have liked but I get the sense a lot of people are still rather reticent to be in a crowd. And the problem with playing original music is that it takes a little time for audiences to become familiar with your music and sound. But it went well. We can… we will improve, but with the new songs for the next album coming through, we have some exciting material to try out live.
I have to include one surreal episode. A lady in the front row had brought her embroidery with her. First time I’ve ever seen that at a gig and it reminded me of the French Revolution. Wait a minute, you may be saying. Isn’t it a bit of a stretch from the Reign of Terror in 1792 to a gig in 2021 in Morden? To the best of my knowledge there were no French aristocrats on stage waiting to be guillotined, although my Dad is a direct descendant of Viscount Savage of Rocksavage (absolutely true, but possibly a story for another blog). But here’s the connection: over there in Place de la Revolution (now called Place de la Concorde), where the guillotine did its dirty work, a bunch of women called ‘tricoteuses’ used to sit knitting, just under the part of the platform where the heads of the unfortunate aristocrats fell into a basket. OK, you had to be there. Happily, we didn’t lose our heads, and thanks to Hannah, Alex and all at the Sound Lounge. And of course, our ‘tricoteuse’.