added: 10 Aug 2012
interviewed by: Nathalie Bonney
In the aftermath of Mumford & Sons, you couldn’t move for banjo, ukulele and accordion-toting acts. It’s fair to say that the inevitable roll call of bands that have followed (and still keep popping up at small gig venues and pubs across the country) vary considerably in terms of ability and talent: a banjo maketh a folk band not.
But in amongst the faux-folk are acts that deserve attention. One such is band Flight Brigade. No diddley-dee folk band, the 7-piece’s sound packs a big punch and they are gaining momentum, playing gigs alongside the likes of Stornoway and King Charles and becoming regulars on the summer festival circuit, having played at Hop Farm Festival this summer with a an upcoming slot at Greenbelt for a second year running.
Radio 2 no less has championed Flight Brigade’s music and the band is working on its debut album with Gavin Monaghan, who has recorded with Kings of Leon, Ryan Adams and Editors. It doesn’t hurt that they are a pretty attractive bunch too, headed up by lead singer and songwriter Oliver Baines.
Music-news spoke to lead singer Oliver and his wife Miriam (accordion and vocals) after a gig at Hoxton Bar and Kitchen, where Ash’s Tim Wheeler no less was in the audience. Here’s what they said – and note the couple’s excellent ability to finish each other’s sentences.
Music News: There are a lot of you in the band how did you all come together to form Flight Brigade?
Ollie: Miriam’s parents were folk musicians and my dad used to drive them around in his campervan…
Miriam:… when they were lucky. They mostly used to hitch but occasionally your [Ollie’s] dad would give them a lift…
Ollie: And they both live in a village down in Hampshire and so we’ve grown up just down the road from each other.
Miriam: Then Dorry [vocals and violin] is my sister and we’re married. We’ve been living in London for years on a big estate behind Clapham Junction called the Winstanley Estate and there is a big deserted church, where Ollie and Dorry started to play together. I would go along at first just to watch and then the rest of us gradually all met there. [College friends Tom Pink (Lead guitar), Neil Blandford (Drums) and Tom Clay (Bass) completed the initial lineup until seventh member Jonny Barker (piano) joined in late 2010.
Music News: Being such a large band have you faced any challenges at smaller venues?
Miriam: The church we met in has nearly caught fire a few times but still exists and is brilliant to practice in and to store stuff, which is what you need when you’re a 7 piece.
Ollie: We’ve played on stages so small that the piano player has had to play off stage. One gig in Epsom Dorry just went home because there was nowhere for her to stand. We had drunk people coming up on stage and I was playing with my guitar pointing upright. Sometimes it’s hard but ultimately it’s more fun to be in a big band.
Music News: What upcoming gigs and festivals are you particularly excited by?
Miriam: Hop Farm was really exciting for us and Greenbelt and Eastleigh we loved doing last year and are doing again. We are also going up to the Isle of Jura in Scotland, in the Inner Hebrides so that’s going to be fun. You can’t get there in one day so I think we are going to have a kind of holiday and go stay somewhere before in Scotland.
Music News: And what will you be doing after the summer festivals?
Ollie: We are very close to finishing our first album so getting that mixed and finished. We don’t really plan on having a break. Getting to travel and play gigs is like having a mini holiday every weekend.
Miriam: Plus we still all work part time. Ollie has worked for British Gas, British Telecom, Royal Mail, the council – you name it.
Music News: Tell us about playing new material – scary or exciting?
Ollie: It’s so exciting when you have a new song. It feels almost like a gift because you don’t know where it came from.
Miriam: It’s quite an experience because it [new song] arrives in one rehearsal and you’re like ‘wow where did that come from?’
Music News: Who is the main songwriter?
Ollie: It’s mainly me but since the band’s been together its getting more collaborative so with ‘Creature’ [A pounding intro of drum beats swirls into life before going quiet to let Ollie sing and then ends with an even louder crescendo of drums and violin] for example we came up with a riff together in rehearsal then I wrote the words and melody and all that kind of thing.
I think the more collaborative we are the better and more interesting it sounds and I hope in the future it will become increasingly collaborative.
Music News: What do you most like writing about?
Ollie: The things I like most are stories about people. You can find amazing stories in the circle of your friends and family. It is amazing what has happened to people. So I’ll often put myself in place of the person who you’ve heard the story from.
Music News: How would you describe your sound and what have been the influences on it?
Ollie: We’ve grown up listening to stuff like Fairport Convention and James Taylor and Van Morrison, Dylan – folksy and classic American stuff. But I also quite like really heavy stuff like Sepultura and Queens of Stone Age …
Miriam: and particularly Dem Crooked Vultures – that’s one of his favourite bands
Ollie: My natural tendency is to write melodies and stories I suppose but we like to make it as bosh as we can because music can be really powerful when you really give it some. We try and have melodic songs that have a lot of dynamics so we try and make it not like folk music but it’s got a bit more welly.
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