In this special double feature we have a video premiere and an interview between two artists, a first for Folk Radio UK. Kicking things off though is The Dreaming Spires. There’s no denying they’ve had a big year; the band, led by brothers Robin and Joe Bennett, recently returned home for a successful UK tour after an exciting and productive visit to the US. They were selected to showcase at AmericanaFest in Nashville and recorded at Ardent Studios, Memphis, the studios where some of their most loved albums by the likes of Big Star and R.E.M. were recorded. On the trip they even found time to film a video for live favourite Dusty in Memphis, featuring glimpses of their US trip. Watch it below
Their Searching For The Supertruth album has garnered widespread acclaim and has been just been nominated for UK Album of the Year at the UK Americana Awards, to be held on February 3rd 2016 and organized by the Americana Association UK. The band are also nominated for Artist of the Year and Joe is nominated for UK Instrumentalist of the Year.
Whilst The Dreaming Spires have completed their live engagements for 2015, brothers Robin and Joe Bennett are also part of Sarah Cracknell’s (Saint Etienne) live band for Saturday’s show (28 Nov) at the glorious Cadogan Hall in London, bring their multi-instrumental talents to the live setting of Sarah’s Red Kite LP. The latest single from that album, Take the Silver, is out on Monday, it’s a co-write between Robin and Sarah and also features The Rails. Listen below:
The collaborations don’t end there as Sarah features on the Spires’ album too, singing on the country weepie We used to have Parties. The brothers are also part of Saint Etienne’s live band for their upcoming Christmas tour.
With all these connections it seemed like a good idea to have Sarah and Robin interview each other…
Robin: Hi Sarah. Can you tell us what sparked the idea for a new solo album? It’s been a few years since your last one, “Lipslide”.
Sarah: Wotcha’ Robin.
It’s been more than a few years since “Lipslide”, something like 18 I think. Probably some kind of a record!
I think there are a couple of reasons why I decided to make a new record along with the fact here was a window of opportunity as Saint Etienne weren’t too busy. I’d met some other fabulous musicians like your good self who can play things like strings, acoustic guitar and flute which, combined with my beautiful surroundings, inspired me to create something more pastoral, a bit of a departure from the usual Saint Etienne sound. I have woodland to one side of my house and fields on the other and I feel very in tune with nature and the seasons. I’m currently hibernating!
S: I saw Dreaming Spires on The Andrew Marr Show the other day, which was great by the way. How did that come about, is Andrew Marr a fan? And how did you find the ‘live’ tv experience? I had my heart in my mouth just watching!
R: It came about after one of the producers of the show saw us play at a venue in Hove, now sadly no longer hosting music, called The Palmeira. Unlike most such things nowadays, there were no middlemen involved. Andrew Marr certainly seemed to enjoy the performance, and was very complimentary. We had breakfast with him afterwards! The advantage of it being so early in the morning was there wasn’t much time to get nervous. It was the first time our keyboards man Tom had ever played with us in public, so I can only guess how he felt. Our mothers were all very proud.
R: Your album is produced by Carwyn Ellis of Colorama. What was it that drew you to his music and thought he’d be a good fit for the album? I loved hearing what he did with “Take the Silver”.
S: A while back Carwyn came over to my house to play us some of his new stuff, he’d recorded a lot of instrumentals which I absolutely loved and some great new Colorama material. I think our mutual liking for film music and songs with a cinematic feel was an indicator that we’d work well together. Carwyn’s also very nurturing and seems to get the best out of me.
S: I hear you’ve been nominated in the UK Americana Awards, well done. Which categories have you been nominated in and when are the winners announced?
R: Thank you very much. We have been nominated for UK Album of the year and UK Artist of the year, and my brother Joe has been nominated for UK Instrumentalist of the year. There’s an inaugural UK Americana awards show on February 3rd in Hackney, and Bob Harris is presenting the awards with Ethan Johns running the house band. Should be fun!
R: I first got involved being part of Pete Wiggs’ “How We Used to Live” film soundtrack. The film covers several decades from the sixties to the eighties, approximately. Do you have a favourite era of music?
S: I guess I do like all things 60’s, music, films and clothes but don’t want people to think I’m always dwelling on the past. I like to think I have a handle on the ‘now’ as well. Possibly the future!
S: I know you were in the US recently playing some shows, where did you visit? Did you do any recording while you were there?
R: We played at AmericanaFest in Nashville, staying there for a week, and visited Little Rock, Memphis and New Orleans. A bit of a dream road trip, really. We managed a day recording at Ardent Studios in Memphis and even managed lunch in Manhattan while waiting to change planes.
R: There’s a full live band for Saturday’s show, with members of Colorama, Dreaming Spires and the addition of the mighty James Walbourne on guitar.
How does playing with your own backing band compare to singing with Saint Etienne?
S: I love both because they’re completely different experiences. There are two types of disciplines vocally. With Saint Etienne’s dance stuff it’s quite fast and wordy so I really have to think about breathing. Whereas on the Red Kite tours I have more space in which to sing, but my voice is more exposed, so I’d better get it right!
Obviously having toured with Bob and Pete for about 24 years we’re very comfortable in each other’s company and share lots of silly in-jokes, I’m sure you’ve noticed! But I think the Sarah Cracknell band are really easy to get along with and have fun with too. I think everyone’s on the same page. I miss Debsey though!
S: I think you and your brother Joe are very integral to the whole Oxfordshire Music scene with Truck and Wood festivals and instigating the Truck Store, every town or city needs a good record shop. You also seem to have played with members of every well known Oxford band of the last fifteen years! How did you become so interested in music and who have been your biggest influences?
R: We grew up in quite a musical household, and started learning classical instruments at a fairly young age, but for me it was the film Backbeat that lit the rock and roll candle, sending me to check out the writers of all those songs the Beatles covered in their earliest days. The soundtrack was done by members of REM and Nirvana so I got into them as well! My biggest early influences probably came from the depths of my dad’s record collection, starting with a few Bs: The Beatles, The Band and The Byrds.
S: I’ve seen your new video for ‘Dusty In Memphis’, it’s got a great atmosphere. Did you film it when you were in the US and where did you find all the extras?
R: It’s filmed in the place we rehearsed at while in Nashville, run by a legend called Mo who speaks cosmically at the beginning and end. The other shots are all from our travels, including many of the famous Memphis studios where the music we love originated. You can even catch a glimpse of Jody Stephens of Big Star at the end singing “you know we’ve got soul”.
R: ‘Red Kite’ has been very well received. Is it too early to ask about more new solo recordings?
S: I’m still accumulating and working on songs so maybe there will be enough for a new album soon. Take The Silver part 2, Robin??
Ticket Link for Sarah Cracknell + support Jane Weaver
Saturday 28 November 2015, 6.30pm
Cadogan Hall, London