It’s an exciting moment when a band really find their audience. With acclaimed new record ‘Follow Them True’, East London five-piece Stick In The Wheel have spread their wings artistically and connected commercially. True, we’re not talking million sellers yet, but get yourself ahead of a trend and find out what connects this gaggle of folkies with a foreboding history. By Alan O’Hare.
“English folk music is different to Irish and Scottish folk music – our oppressors are right next to us.” Nicola Kearey, leader of “Britain’s most exciting new folk band” (The Guardian) Stick In The Wheel, is talking about the group’s place in the grand scheme of things. “We live cheek by jowl with our oppressors and that’s why English folk music is so subversive and has its own codes and weirdness.”
It’s a weirdness that dominates ‘Follow Them True’, the acclaimed new record that Stick In The Wheel bring to The Music Room inside Philharmonic Hall this Sunday. But it’s a beautiful kind of weirdness; after all, true perfection has to be imperfect. “The album’s about the good and bad of who we are,” reveals singer Keary. “But people really seem to be connecting with it which is great… the response has been phenomenal.” She’s not wrong. It’s not just hyperbole from the likes of The Guardian, either, punters are voting with their feet and Stick In The Wheel are playing to more people with each tour. ‘Follow Them True’ is their second album and comes with BBC Folk Award and Mojo ‘Album Of The Year’ plaudits in their rear view mirror.
It’s not all middle-aged men and real ale, though. Led by Kearey and guitarist/producer Ian Carter, Stick In The Wheel are the sound of right now… even if they don’t always sound like they’re around right now. “We worked hard on this record to get it sounding how we want,” says the singer. “But we’re just doing our thing.” It’s a thing that will pack The Music Room this weekend and fill Hope Street with the sound of righteous singing and songs. Time to find out a bit more about your favourite new folkies…
Has something happened with this record or are the rest of us just catching up?
A little bit of both.
How are you feeling about all this new attention?
If it gets people out to see us, then its all good. It means we better be able to back it up live, too, which is fine… because we can.
You’ve talked about the new album being “a new start”. In what way?
More like cycles and rituals, getting stuck, then having to sort it out and having hope – even though it can look like there’s not much to hope for.
Sounds just like folk music!
Folk music means different things to different people…
… what does yours mean to you?
There’s a stigma about English people engaging in their own culture and I just wanna’ break down any preconception that it’s the preserve of others. Folk music belongs to everyone, it’s a shared culture. Even though there’s good and bad in it, artists should know their roots and culture – even if it’s not explicit in the art you make. It informs who you are.
Absolutely. Tell us about the way you sing…
I made a conscious decision to sing the way I talk, this is how it becomes meaningful for me. Vocals are as intrinsic as the instrumentation in expressing the aesthetic we want to convey.
Our intent is to link the past to now, to show everything is the same. We never learn from history and are condemned to repeat the mistakes of the past.
What do you hope to do with the attention that’s coming with this new album?
… point it towards people engaging with their own roots, no matter what that may be, and play more gigs to meet new people.
What can new fans expect this weekend in Liverpool?
A lot of songs from the new album, some things from the old one, loud stuff and quiet stuff – but not a history lesson or lecture. People fainting and fighting usually, too… if it’s a good night.
Stick In The Wheel
Sunday March 4th 2018, 8pm
The Music Room, Sugnall Street, Liverpool
Pic by Toby Amies