‘Hold On To The Light’ – Emily Barker Interview And Album Review

Emily Barker And The Red Clay Halo Von Pip

‘Calendar’ By Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo.

As a blogger I’d like to say that I discovered Emily Barker before you, that I had been tipping her for success before she’d even written her first song and like some sort of musical Clinton Baptiste (is there a J..J- a Joh. . .a JOHN  in the audience ?) I am blessed with an innate ability to ‘sense’ talent.  But of course that would be fibbing for pretensions sake and I, like many others,  initially became entranced by Emily’s voice  when her song ‘Nostalgia’ was used as the main theme for the TV show ‘Wallander.’ Suitably impressed I was soon to discover a songwriter who is hugely talented  and blessed with a voice that could make statues weep.

Originally from Australia, Emily has been making waves in the UK for a number of years and 2011 heralds the dawn of her third and arguably finest album to date, ‘Almanac.’ The album is performed by Emily and The Red Clay Halo, a trio of all female musical collaborators consisting of Anna Jenkins, Jo Silverston and Gill Sandell who play violin, cello, accordion and flute respectively. ‘Almanac’ is something of a master class in song-craft and musicianship, suffused with elegiac poetry and heartfelt emotions whilst showcasing the purity and unaffected honesty of Emily’s voice. Well respected on the alt folk circuit Emily, with ‘Almanac’ has produced an album with the potential and commercial appeal to cross over to a wider audience and emulate the success the likes of Laura Marling and chums have recently enjoyed. Indeed she has already gained support from esteemed talent spotters such as Steve Lamacq, Gideon Coe, Tom Robinson and Cerys Matthews (mercifully Dave Lee Travis was unavailable for comment, but doubtless his ‘hilarious’ farm yard animal noises would have rendered our sides well and truly split)  with 6 music’s Nemone making ‘Little Deaths’ her single of the week.

Throughout ‘Almanac’ run themes of love, loss, our relationship with nature and in ‘Bones’ the historical atrocities committed in the name of colonialism  during Australia’s sometimes fraught birth as a nation -‘The whispered Sin on guiltless Knife/ the silenced ring of a bullet in a life.’ But set amongst these ostensibly dark themes there is the resounding sense of hope and of rebirth. For example ‘Ropes’ provides the listener with something of an  anatomy of a disintegrating relationship, yet Emily appears refreshingly free of rancour and in fact seeks to find the positive ‘ The month of August saw us leave behind a love we swore we’d  keep/ and I can afford no hope but I do wish you find yourself through losing me.’

It’s a beautifully literate, poetic and mature album and once again proves that music can be a thing of profound beauty in the right hands, or as The Times rightly pointed out ‘The hills have yet to be emptied of gold if you know where to look.”


We spoke to Emily minus her Red Clay Halo, about her musical career and the latest album.


VP: Emily, when you came to England from Australia was it your intention to make music here or was it purely a travelling holiday? How did the musical side of things actually kick off in Blighty ?

EMILY : I had enrolled at University of Perth, Western Australia and changed from Architecture to Landscape Architecture to a BA of Arts in the space of a few weeks and realised after a few months that I still didn’t feel I was doing the right thing. So I set off, like many young Aussies do, with a back pack and a UK working visa to travel the world. I had no intention of establishing myself in the UK music scene, I was working in pubs and record shops (Andy’s Records in Cambridge) to earn pounds with which to travel through Europe and elsewhere. After a few months of staying with friends of friends in the UK, I settled in Cambridge for a while and lived in the YMCA. I started doing some singer/songwriter floor spots and met Rob Jackson who played electric guitar with The Broken Family Band and also with Boo Hewerdine. Rob was doing a solo set at Cambridge Festival and asked me to sing a few songs. It went down really well and we decided to form a band. Unfortunately this was just a couple of months before my visa expired so we recorded the songs we’d played live and I set off to Canada. Unbeknownst to me, Rob sent a CDR with marker pen on it to John Peel of our home-recordings and he played some of the tracks off it. I arrived back in Australia after 3 years of being away with an email from Rob saying ‘COME BACK TO THE UK! JOHN PEEL HAS BEEN PLAYING US ON THE RADIO! LET’S MAKE AN ALBUM AND FORM A BAND!’ …So I did, we were called the-low-country.

Our previous album, Despite the Snow, was recorded in 4 days in a barn in Norfolk. The first two days were so freezing all the instruments kept going out of tune so we had to scrap all those recordings but thankfully the last two days were warmer and we managed to stay relatively in tune. So that was a lot of pressure to put ourselves under but I had wanted to do a live album for such a long time (I think since reading about how Neil Young recorded ‘Harvest.’) It was a really good but difficult experience due to time limitations and things like the weather, which part-inspired the title: ‘Despite the Snow.’

The first album ‘Photos.Fires.Fables.’ was done on zero budget. I met a wonderful young man, Ruben Engzell, who produced it and we met musicians at gigs and asked them to play in return for me cooking them a meal. It took us two years because we had to do it in Ruben and the studios down time.

So,  ‘Almanac’ has been a much easier process as we’ve had a budget thanks to Pledgemusic.com and also private funding from Spareroom.co.uk who are friends of ours. We worked in a great studio called Cafe Studios in Bow. We tracked the album up which meant we didn’t all need to be there at the same time. We did guide tracks with vocals and guitar, then the drums, the double bass, then cello, etc etc and layered it all up studio album style. This made logistics a lot easier but I think a little magic was lost in that we were seldom all there at the same time- it wasn’t a ‘band’ experience like you get when doing a live recording. Having said that though, we’re all really pleased with the results and we had a great time arranging all the parts together over 4 days up in Leicester prior to the recording.

I really enjoyed working with Ted Barnes who co-produced the album with me. He’s very instinctive, very talented and very experienced at recording. His input was invaluable. Cherif Hashizume was the engineer and he too was wonderful to work with. So focused and meticulous and got a great sound from all the instruments.

VP: Would you say it’s darker than your previous work? It appears to centre around the end of things whilst also touching on themes of renewal.  I believe the album title comes from Primo Levi’s poem of the same name which is about the way man continues to ‘destroy and corrupt’ our environment?

EMILY: I don’t know if it’s darker than my previous work or not…in lots of ways it feels lighter to me, but that’s quite hard for me to judge being so close to it. Definitely there is the continuous theme of beginnings and endings throughout the album. The first song I wrote for the album was ‘Little Deaths’ which is about the death of dreams and plans. Another ‘ending’ song is ‘Ropes’ which tracks the breakdown of a relationship month by month. ‘Bones’ is about all the untold atrocities committed by settlers upon the Indigenous Australians.

So those topics are definitely heavy, but where there are endings, there are beginnings and this is what I hope comes across.  A good example of this is ‘Calendar.’ This song was inspired by Primo Levi’s poem ‘Almanac’ -which also inspired the title. It’s a poem about how man is destroying the earth- an insight into the future where the cities are swamped by sand and the earth is parched. The song ‘Calendar’ is a question to us all and presents us with a choice. It’s a beginning. So it’s an album about continuity and cycles.

VP: Who are The Red Clay Halo and how did you get together with them? I believe one of their number has a link to my home town, Liverpool.?

EMILY: The Red Clay Halo are three women. They are exceptionally talented musicians and some of my absolute best and dearest friends in the world. They are Gill Sandell (accordion, flute, guitar and backing vocals), Jo Silverston (cello, banjo and backing vocals) and Anna Jenkins (violin and backing vocals.) I met Gill through The Broken Family Band as she was playing accordion for them at the Cambridge Folk Festival the same year I played with Rob Jackson. We hit it off immediately. I met Jo when Ruben (producer of Photos.Fires.Fables.) and I were at The Troubadour in London. We saw her play and said to ourselves “we must get her on the album!” Thankfully she said yes.  Jo was studying at Trinity College at the time and I asked her if she knew any shit hot violinists and she recommended…Anna Jenkins. Who by the way, also plays with Amsterdam (Liverpool connection!)  So we’ve played together now for 5 years. We formed the band after the release of ‘ Photos,Fires,Fables’ haven’t looked back since.

VP: The album has many highlights but I’d like to discuss one track ‘Pause’,  due to the fact that it marks a pause in the album and has a celestial otherworldly feel to it , possibly in no small apart to it featuring a ‘pipe organ. How on earth did you get something of that size into the studio? (winking smiley to denote humour)

EMILY : Hee hee, we managed to get into the Royal Festival Hall! Phil Nicholas, our manager, was a producer at South Bank and as his leaving present (he’s sadly moved to Australia) he asked if we could get 2 hours in the festival hall on the pipe organ. It was like jewel-thievery in scale of operation. Cherif Hashizume, our engineer, managed to set all the mics up and sound test the pipe organ within 45 minutes but Gill, who was to play the thing, got stuck on a train and delayed. By the time she arrived we had about half an hour and she had NEVER played one before in her life! So in this space she spoke on the phone to a technician at the South Bank centre and then boshed out a beautiful pipe organ part. We all felt like super heroes afterwards.

The song came to me one afternoon when I was at home in Australia. I could hear my mum and dad somewhere in the background pottering about. It was a rare occasion when the lyrics, melody, chords, everything comes at the same time and I wrote it in about 1/2 an hour. The lyrics serve to remind me to take time out from our busy lives and spend some time with those we love. To appreciate the people in our lives, to not take them for granted. To pause and realise the riches we have.

VP:  Do you still play house gigs?  Do you enjoy finding innovative ways of funding your musical projects?

EMILY:  Yes we still play house gigs. We funded ‘Despite the Snow’ through this. We love doing them. Always great fun meeting people from different parts of Britain and learning about their lives and community. We’ve had to always find innovative ways to fund the albums as we’ve not had offers from labels. Also, I’m very impatient and refuse to wait for one to come along! Having a DIY attitude means I enjoy the challenge of working out how we’re going to do things independently. Our manager, Phil Nicholas, has been wonderful in this way of helping strategise.

For ‘Almanac’ we have gone through Pledgemusic.com which has been a great way of interacting with fans and feeling like you’ve got a community of people involved in the process of making the album. Pledge have been so supportive and I thoroughly recommend artists funding their albums this way.

VP: Which sort of artists have influenced you over the years and if you could pick one song you wish you’d written what would that be?

EMILY: Neil Young has been the hugest influence on my writing. I love the way he has changed and not been trapped creatively. Aretha Franklin is right up there too. When I was a teenager I would lock myself in my room and try to sing like her. In the beginning I lost my voice then I discovered my diaphragm. She is the best singer in the world.

My parents listened to loads of 60’s and 70’s folk revival music which had a big impact on me: Joni Mitchell, Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, Bob Dylan also Carol King is a big influence. Contemporary stuff I love: Laura Veirs, Gillian Welch, Peter Broderick, Joanna Newsom, Grizzly Bear and so, so much more. I adore the song ‘First Time I Ever Saw Your Face.’ I think it is the best love song ever written. I wish I had have written that one.

VP:  Are you still based in the UK, or do you split your time between here and Oz?

EMILY: Still based in the UK. I live in Leicester and am soon moving to Stroud. Before this I lived in London for 6 years on a narrow boat. I go home every year to Bridgetown which is in the South West of Western Australia. It’s a beautiful part of the world. My dream is to eventually spend half time there and half time here.

VP:  Have lots of people discovered you, (erm, like me)  since your song ‘Nostalgia’ was used for the theme of TV show ‘Wallander?’

EMILY: Yes! It’s been amazing. I have people coming up to me at gigs saying ‘You’re the Wallander girl!’ Hilarious. It’s been a very popular show and we’ve sold loads of albums off the back of it. Last winter my mother-in-law and I were sitting at the kitchen table for days on end packaging up envelopes (the label shop is in my parents-in-law’s spare room.) My song ‘Nostalgia’ got on ‘Wallander’ through doing a house gig in Tufnell Park. Martin Phipps (composer for the series) was at the party and loved the song. He rang me a couple of days later and asked if I would come into the studio to do a new recording of ‘Nostalgia’ so as to have it on a BBC1 drama show. Of course I immediately said…yes.

VP:  Five words to describe ‘Almanac’……

EMILY: Adventure, renewal, cycles, decay, love.





Lager Pic (click)


‘Little Deaths’ By Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo

‘Nostalgia’ By Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo



“Shine On” – Marina And The Diamonds Interview

“Mowgali’s Road” By Marina & The Diamonds

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As soon as I began listening to Marina And The Diamonds I quickly experienced the same sort of “brain-gasam” enjoyed by Alan Yentob  as featured in BBC arts show “Imagine”. This disturbing spectacle occurred during an episode in which Yentob investigated the core elements of Dr. Oliver Sacks book “Musiciophillia: Tales Of Music & The Brain” which examines our physiological relationship with music. As part of the show our facially hirsute hero underwent an MRI scan which purported to show his brains emotional response to certain pieces of  music.  This in turn led me to ponder on my love of music and wonder what an MRI scan would reveal in terms of my own response to certain pieces of music. For example if I found myself  forced to listen to the tuneless ego-centric bleatings of failed Butlins Redcoat, Robbie Williams, I’m fairly certain the only emotion this highly sophisticated piece of medical equipment would be able to discern, would be mild irritation. On the other hand, such is the euphoria induced when listening to the aforementioned Marina And The Diamonds I could quite easily envisage my brain lighting up like a firework display at the Epcot centre on the 4th of July! (Technically an intense pleasurable emotional response to music observed during such a scan would actually show areas of my brain literally becoming “bathed in blood”, as happened with Yentob when listening to Slipknot.. oh wait..no..my mistake, it was Chopin. However I’m not so sure Marina would have readily agreed to an interview if my factually accurate but somewhat scary opening gambit had been “I love your music so much that it floods my organ with blood”)


Marina and The Diamonds is in reality the incredibly talented Marina Diamandis  from Wales, or possibly ancient Greece, or even both, and she has followed up her fabulous debut single  “Obsessions/ Mowgali’s Road” with the amazing “Crown Jewels” EP. Her work has sometimes lazily been compared to the likes of Kate Nash , Lily Allen, Florence and The Machine (insert any upcoming female singers name here ) but other than the fact that they are all female, write songs, play instruments and have a head and arms and legs there is little similarity or as Marina rather more bluntly puts it “I’m sooo like Kate Nash because OOPS! I have a vagina and a keyboard.” Marina’s songs stand on their own merits, they are distinctive, unique, intelligent,literate, powerful and moving. I’m not going to dub Marina “kooky” or “quirky” or “off the wall” as this could erroneously hint that there is some sort of novelty or gimmick at play here, which simply isn’t the case. And another thing, why on earth are innovative female performers so often described in such terms, yet their male counterparts, who have also torn up the musical rule book are called “experimental” whilst heroically depicted as “visionaries” or “mavericks”? If we must make comparisons ( and I’m afraid we must, because where in the world would  music bloggers and journalists be without them,) then a new wave Kate Bush, may be a slightly better fit, but even this doesn’t really do Marina’s music justice, maybe you should just listen to it because writing about music is like having a foot massage with  your wellies on, to experience it fully you have to really feel it.

Despite the recent success of female performers in 2009 such as Florence, La Roux and Little Boots, Marina doesn’t see herself at the vanguard of some sort of “female movement” as she explains ‘When Britpop was at its peak, all the Britpop bands got lumped together but, personally, I do my thing; I write songs, I perform and I couldn’t give two shits about what X, Y or Z are doing. If we have 15 girls rise to the top this year and they’re all super-talented, then brilliant. But good music is good music; who cares if you are male or female?’… She certainly tells it like it is and demonstrates a refreshing candour which may one day have the suites at “big label music” twitching nervously, whilst they work on a marketing strategy aimed at airbrushing and diluting her personality. But such an attempt would rather be missing the point, I mean do we really want an army of interchangeable “Stepford popstars” all nice, polite, safe musicians who have nothing to say and merely front a corporate vision of what pop should be? That may be Cowell’s vision of nirvana but it’s my vision of pop hell! Besides, such brutal honesty only makes Marina more endearingly real to her ever growing army of admirers as regular readers of her blog will surely testify. In fact it’s the people with passion and talent like Marina who can actually help halt the apotheosis of the bland, the celebration of the talentless and the beatification of the terminally stupid.

And so after being seduced by her music I simply had to tell her that if she isn’t a huge success in 2010, I’ll be demanding that the Great British record buying public undergo a compulsory MRI scan to ascertain whether they actually have brains. 😉  And that’s what I did …….

VP: Hello there, let’s begin with a bit of background…you’ve been  releasing  some of the best new music I’ve heard for quite some time under the name Marina & The Diamonds, but who are the Diamonds  I thought this was  essentially a solo project?

MARINA: I am a solo artist. But I like fantasy and I hate loneliness so the idea of Marina & the Diamonds instantly felt cute and warming and not so egocentric as Marina Diamond.

VP: You’ve just followed up your debut single “Obsessions”/“Mowgli’s Road”, with equally majestic “Crown Jewels EP” can you tell us a little bit about the songs on the EP ?

MARINA: It’s down to you whether you want to read into the songs or not. I’m a pretty open person in my songs and so don’t feel it’s right to elaborate any more on themes or subjects.

VP: Any news on when we might expect the debut album or are you still writing and biding your time waiting for the right moment to unleash your album on the Great British public…?

MARINA: Ha ha. I am planning to release it January 2010. I can’t wait.

VP: How did Glastonbury go ? I believe you nearly got strangled? What other festivals are you playing this year ?

MARINA: Oh they totally dramatised that! I just wrapped the mic lead around my neck. Hardly near death experience. Im playing Bestival, Latitude, Camp Bestival, Under age, Get Loaded and a few overseas. Not many left to play now.

VP: You have a very interesting blog on your site in which you are pretty candid about how you feel, you certainly don’t pull any punches. You were particularly scathing about certain vapid female celebs describing them as “Vacant. Airbrushed. Empty. People. Getting. Paid. To talk. About fuck all…” Does the obsession with celeb culture irritate you?

MARINA: Well, we created our own monster here. I’m not so irritated anymore. I mean, that quote above was written almost 2 years ago. I’m a very different person now to how I was back then.  We’re all privy to lolling about over some sensationalised pieces of celeb news from time to time. I don’t think its the worst thing in the world but I certainly would like to avoid becoming that type of person. It gives you nothing only takes. I just feel celeb world is very unhealthy and I do not want to be like those people nor live their lives just because I am headed for show business.

VP: You’ve also said that record labels are so obsessed with acts producing an album containing twelve potential number one singles that they “actually forget that there needs to be a tiny bit of soul in the music “. What sort of music inspires and moves you?

MARINA: Honest music. Music that is creatively risky. I like musicians who genuinely don’t care about what a song will do for them/ their label/ their fans. They just write it for the love of writing it.

VP: Is it true that 14 record labels were all vying to sign you up ?

MARINA: ‘Vying’ is the key word. None of them wanted to take a bet. Except for 679 that is 🙂

VP: As mentioned you blog a fair bit, although you admit you have quite an ambivalent attitude to blogging, what do you make of all this social networking malarky.  Is it a great way to meet likeminded people from all walks of life?  The Daily Mail, in their usual understated style have actually claimed facebook can cause cancer( link here)  !…. However health risks aside  it must be a great tool for  helping upcoming musical artists connect with a bigger audience..?

MARINA: Oh definitely. As the ancient greeks said.. “All in moderation”. As long as it doesn’t substitute normal real life relationships then I think it’s a great way to communicate.

VP: What was the first single and album  you ever bought?

MARINA: Eesh… I think it was Pretty Fly by The Offspring. And Alisha’s Attic was my first album.

VP: Five words to describe Marina And The Diamonds ?

MARINA: Strong, hyper, driven, heavy, dark, dazzling


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Buy “The Crown Jewels EP here ,

or digital download here




“Iam Not A Robot”- Marina And The Diamonds

“Obsessions”-Marina And The Diamonds

“Mowgli’s Road “-Marina And The Diamonds (Live)

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The Mummers And The Poppers-The Mummers Interview

“Lorca & The Orange Tree” By The Mummers

Free Legal Download of “Wonderland” here

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Just think, if Bjork hadn’t suffered that nasty trauma to her elfin like noggin when plummeting towards Wonderland via the rabbit hole, her recent output may well have been somewhat less self indulgent and a little more palatable.  Maybe she too would have been able to produce something as magical and majestic as The Mummers “Tale To Tell”. Unlike Bjork the Mummers do not indulge in ludicrous “avant garde” squawking, shrieking or gurning,  nor do they feel the need to resort to incoherent babbling  relating their somewhat misguided belief  that they have the ability to commune with  imps, pixies  and other magical woodland creatures, and to be honest their music sounds all the better for it . The Mummers have also remembered that it’s often beneficial when writing a song to include oft overlooked necessities, for example … a tune.  There will always be artists who, when given the freedom to experiment, can produce something profoundly beautiful and by the same token there are others who, rather like Al Pachino without a firm directorial hand, will sadly lapse into laughable over the top self parody. The Mummers quite firmly fall into the former category whereas The Icelandic Princess of La-la Land has drifted dangerously close to the latter.

“Tale To Tell” is an incredibly liberating album; it conjures up memories of those seemingly endless sun filled summer holidays of yore, when life was full of magic and infinite possibilities. Yup, it really does transport you back to the days when the world seemed a place of discovery and wonder,  before you donned the blinkers of adulthood, conformed, and somehow became all that you once despised.  The album could also serve as a useful point of reference for Mark Ronson, namely with regard to “the correct use of horns”. It’s an album that combines a myriad of influences and the result is a gorgeous euphony of sound and styles that skillfully combines pop music with classical,  film scores with cabaret  and includes swathes of  swooning orchestral flourishes all underpinned by Rassia’s amazing voice . It’s the sound of a West End musical written by David Lynch and could also quite easily fit rather snuggly into the soundtrack of Tim Burton’s forthcoming much anticipated adaptation of Alice In Wonderland”

The Mummers universe is essentially centered around London-born singer/songwriter Raissa Khan-Panni, a musician who previous musical incarnation “Rassia”, discovered that critical acclaim doesn’t always result in commercial success. When her solo work started to stutter she returned to long joyless hours of waitressing, but continued to write  and make “fairytale versions of the mundane”, for what would come to form the basis of her latest musical project. We spoke to Rassia  to find out more about The Mummers and the art of Mumming…

VP: Tell us the story of The Mummers, how the project came about and who is involved?

Raissa: ….Naturally ….
It was during a time when I went back to waitressing in a slightly bleak period of having nothing again. I was writing lyrics and thinking about creating a project that was the farthest removed from my life at the at the time, when by chance Mark Horwood sent  me an orchestrated version of a ‘Riverman’ cover I’d done. It was so perfect and I hunted him down for a year (he’d disappeared off to LA) eventually finding him in the countryside outside Brighton living in a Treehouse studio he’d built and it was full of the most wonderful instruments and it inspired a lot of the imagery in the album. So we started The Mummers straight away with a former collaborator of mine Paul Sandrone gradually expanding it to include about 20 musicians from Brighton and around.

VP:  So you recorded the album “Tale to Tell” in a tree house! One assumes this was not your average tree house!!?

Raissa: It is a wooden extension of a house that Mark built high up in between two massive Pine Trees. You access it by a steep and slippery wooden staircase and it is filled with old keyboards, harmoniums, organs and percussion instruments.

VP: You’ve previously been involved in the music business, but despite the critical acclaim, as mentioned, you went back to waitressing. Did you always believe that you would return to music? Was it a case of just waiting
it out?

Raissa:  I always knew I would return to music – in fact I never stopped, after my solo project I started experimenting with underground garage, drum n bass and house whilst preparing for The Mummers.

VP:  How would you describe “Tale To Tell” to the uninitiated?

Raissa: An intimate and personal perspective of the world that creates fairytale versions of the mundane.

VP:  What sort of music/ musicians have been major influences on your work?

Raissa: Rickie Lee Jones, my all-time favourite singer-songwriter, Rufus Wainwight’s huge sound and worldly lyrics, John Barry’s film scores, Miles Davis ‘in a silent way’ era, keyboard textures,

VP: How did you enjoy the recent appearance on Jools Holland?

Raissa: It was amazing to be a part of a show that included The Specials and Carol King, we were in awe. Scary to be performing on live TV especially as I’d lost my voice the week before. It was a total buzz however and we were like over-excited school children.

VP:  What musicians past or present, dead or alive would you love/have loved, to work with?

Raissa: Leonard Bernstein, Carol King, Freddy Mercury

VP:  What are your plans for the remainder of 2009?

Raissa: Festivals all summer, and then a UK tour in autumn hopefully, finishing the next album.

VP: What’s been the highlight of The Mummers thus far?

Raissa: Jools Holland and seeing the album racked in HMV for the first time.

VP: What are the five most important words in the Mummers’ vocabulary?

Raissa:  Tea, Train, Treehouse, Twitter (as of last week), Tea.



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“Wonderland”-The Mummers Live On Jools Holland

The Birth Of The Mummers

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Next Stop Dawn-Fanfarlo Interview

“I am A Pilot” By Fanfarlo

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Fanfarlo are

Amos, Cathy, Justin
Leon and Simon

Normally my heart sinks faster than Dawn French ensconced in a leaky pedalo when I hear one of pops elder statesmen tip a new upcoming band for greatness. Morrissey for example has such a woeful track record for predicting “the next big thing” that one imagines he’d have trouble tipping his own hat. Who can forget his misguided patronage of, and gushing praise for, the lamentable yet incredibly accurately named Ordinary Boys? To be fair its not just singers whose judgment is questionable, take Jonathan Ross’s new best mate,  former Creation label boss Alan  McGee and his ludicrous assertions that Oasis are the greatest band that ever drew breath, James Allan is the messiah, and his current hobbyhorse, The Grants, are apparently  the greatest scouse band to emerge from Liverpool since The Beatles.  Unfortunately such over the top hyperbole can actually hinder a bands progress and  credibility (Joe Lean And The Jing Jang Jong anybody?) and is normally viewed with deep suspicion by the music buying public.

So when  news reached me  that a band called Fanfarlo had gained  David Bowie’s approval I didn’t get my hopes up, I mean the mans got taste, but he also he did live in a basement in West Berlin with Iggy Pop BY CHOICE and also considered Tin Machine  a really  good idea.   However a quick listen to Fanfarlo via myspace did leave me suitably impressed, this was quickly followed by a fantastic performance on Manchester’s Channel M recently that only confirmed what a fine band they are, and I have to admit, Mr Bowies got it 100% right!

Fanfarlo’s recently released debut album “Reservoir” is an album of such quality you’d swear the band were seasoned veterans and comparisons to the likes of  the legendary Talking Heads are not, actually, that far off the mark.  The album is without doubt  a lush, soaring melodic tour de force and  has provided my ears with unadulterated aural bliss since its release, it soothes yet excites, is streaked with  melancholy, yet is uplifting, and it’s definitely in  “top albums of the year” territory.   In between supporting Snow Patrol and jetting off to SXSW we had a quick chat to the band, who must be one of the busiest around!

VP: What’s the bands back-story, how did you all come together?

FANFARLO: A sort of mass exodus from the cultural void to the locus of much that is good i.e. London.

VP:  The bands name is a reference to Charles Baudelaire’s short story “La Fanfarlo”, are you all fans? What are you all most likely to be caught reading on the tour bus?

FANFARLO: None of us are huge fans. It’s a pretty little story and the title spoke to Simon at the time. We are all big anthropologists so we tend to read philosophy, history or travel books. Our guitarist reads Heat or Nuts magazine which adds some light relief.

VP:  Your debut album has recently been released- where can people get hold of it?

FANFARLO: Internet, shows or the Music and Video Exchange.

VP: What’s it been like playing massive arenas supporting Snow Patrol, Exciting? Daunting? Has the crowd reaction been positive?

FANFARLO: The rigmarole surrounding the big shows makes the arena shows very exciting. Stepping onto a stage in front of twelve thousand people has no rival, being enveloped by the sound onstage is something you can only get at an intimate gig. Crowd reaction is favourable anywhere we go.

VP:  You’re playing at SXSW again this year? What do you make of it out there?

FANFARLO: Austin is incredible. Think of Camden Town, London transplanted to the middle of Austin, Texas with less crackheads, goths and gross food.

VP:  What inspired you to write a song about Harold T. Wilkins? Can we expect one on Erich Von Däniken in the future?

FANFARLO: We come across interesting characters in the books we read. Sometimes one of them inspires us. Wilkins was a strange one. I guess the subject matter was laying dormant and Harold was a sort of catalyst. A lot of our songs are about random interesting characters.

VP: You’ve gigged tirelessly over the last few years, what’s the most depraved tale of rock n roll excess that you feel able to share?

FANFARLO: There have been a lot of very interesting scenarios due to excess. All of them in Europe where home was a distant memory. Rape was attempted on our drummer by a dwarf in Sweden. That sounds like a lie but is so very true.

VP:  I know the year is still in its infancy, but have you heard any albums released thus far what have made you swoon with joy, and conversely any that have made you want to stuff socks in your ears?

FANFARLO: (Amos Justin)  I personally am into the the new records by BLUT AUS NORD and WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM. Great Black Metal, none of which originates from Norway.

VP:  How do you keep healthy on tour , or is it a losing battle, awash with fast food, alcoholic beverages and irregular bath nights ?

FANFARLO: I think we eat quite well compared to a lot of bands we know. Most of us are vegetarians which dictate the quality in a lot of cases. Catering at the big gigs is gourmet. We are being spoiled.

VP:  If Fanfarlo had a motto what would it be?

FANFARLO: “There’s a bit of gay in everyone.”


On Myspace

Official Site



“Fire Escape” By Fanfarlo

Harold T. Wilkins or How To Wait For A Very Long Time” By Fanfalro

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