On The Old Dance School’s latest album ‘Chasing the Light’ you can really appreciate how they have continued to develop their sound giving it that deeply layered ‘cinematic’ quality. They are by far one of the most unique and original bands on the British folk music scene today. We managed to sit down with the band on a lovely sunny day at this year’s Purbeck Folk Festival to chat about their music and wild swimming! We also have an exclusive video session of the band performing at this year’s Shambala Festival which we’re very pleased to be sharing with you!
Whilst we were waiting for the rest of the band to join us I got talking to band member Aaron Diaz who also plays in the fabulous ‘The Destroyers’ who also played at Purbeck. Aaron who plays trumpet also lives in Sweden and Nordic jazz is never far from his heart. “There was a sort of period that I went through and I still listen to a great deal of Norwegian and Swedish music and that influenced how I operate in this band [The Old Dance School], it’s much more about textural things, sounds and tones rather than just harmonies, and those trumpet and saxophone players were a real influence on the tonal aspect of our playing.”
It was whilst watching them perform at Purbeck that I realised it was Aaron who was also providing a lot of the effects with a neat box of tricks. “I also use a Loop station, a DL4 guitar delay pedal” he reveals. “With these I can mix in other effects such as reverb, delay, pitch changing…so I can make one sound into a few colours, layer myself…so play the horn lines against myself.”
After a short while we’re joined by new band member Jim Molyneux who I bumped into earlier on in the summer at Halsway Manor’s Somerfest when he was playing in ‘4 Sqaure’. Jim has replaced Tom Chapman in the band and plays drums, yambu, bodhran and accordion as well as providing some fine vocals. Jim became a centre stage attraction during The Old Dance School set at Purbeck thanks to the arrival on stage of a large dragonfly (see photo’s at the end) which perched on his drum kit for the majority of the set. The band seem to get on together incredibly well although Jim hasn’t yet been persuaded to pack some swimming trunks to join Helen Lancaster (violin, viola) and Robin Beatty (guitar, vocals) for a spot of wild swimming! “I am a bit obsessed with wild swimming” admits Helen laughing who has also been inspired to write a tune about Dancing Ledge in Dorset, a favourite wild swimming spot. Robin adds by way of explanation to this shared passion “it’s always nice to have a quick swim if you’ve been travelling for a while.” Although this past-time is not without its risks as Robin tells us about being chased by a swan in a recent dip. Jim wisely opts-out for the pub visit instead.
With their other side-projects it’s a wonder they manage to pull off tours let alone find studio time to record an album. “Getting us together is quite tricky” Helen explains and tells me quite proudly that they were the first band to record in Calum Malcom’s smart new studio Gorbel Sound that they all seem to love. That was for two weeks, something that required careful planning. Diaries have no doubt been synchronised for November when they will start recording new material.
We talk a about Birmingham and its folk music scene, the bands soul-home where most of them live and hang-out together. They agree that the folk scene there is more “homogenous and closely knit” than London. One impression that did come across from talking to them was how close they are as a band. Robin adds “ it’s what powered this whole thing along…we’re such good mates” upon which he gets a ribbing from everyone present.
They were joy to chat to and share a drink with, a genuinely really nice down-to-earth bunch! If you get a chance to see them live this month then make sure you do as they have a few tour dates yet!
Exclusive: Old Dance School – Peforming ‘Wen’ Live
10 Oct CLITHEROE, The Grand
11 Oct BANGOR, Blue Sky Cafe
12 Oct MUCH WENLOCK, The Edge Arts Centre
13 Oct COCKERMOUTH, Kirkgate Centre
16 Oct BRISTOL, Thunderbolt
17 Oct LONDON, The Forge Arts Centre
18 Oct MILTON KEYNES, Stables Theatre
19 Oct WOLVERHAMPTON, Newhampton Arts Centre
21 Oct MANCHESTER, RNCM
22 Oct SHEFFIELD, Greystones
23 Oct BUNGAY, Fisher Theatre
24 Oct PEEBLES, Eastgate Theatre
25 Oct BELLINGHAM, Masonic Hall
26 Oct HEREFORDSHIRE, Dilwyn Village Hall
27 Oct ANDOVER, The Lights
28 Oct BOURNEMOUTH, Centre Stage
30 Oct BIRMINGHAM, Town Hall