Amelia’s Magazine | Woodpecker Wooliams at King’s Place: Live Review

Woodpecker Wooliams by Sam Parr

Woodpecker Wooliams by Sam Parr

Turning a corner from King’s Cross station, it was a chill wind that blew as I hurried down York Way. Past those Victorian facades touched by the regeneration that is fast spreading through this part of London, I spied that most modern of constructs, King’s Place. Opened in 2008, a mixture of the artistic and commercial (as well as performance and exhibition space, it’s also home to the Guardian newspaper), this was my destination for the evening.

I’d been to King’s Place once before, to catch Laura J Martin just before Christmas, but tonight’s action was taking place in the venue’s main room, Hall One, a curious space (apparently a structure within a structure, a box sitting on rubber springs to acoustically separate it from the rest of the building, and layered in veneer that comes from the same 500 year old German oak tree) which strangely reminded me of a lecture theatre.

The final day of The Local’s “three day mini-festival of modern-day existential songwriting”, The Stranger The Better, tonight’s fine line-up included Sons Of Noel And Adrian and a solo set by Meursault front-man Neil Pennycook, but opening proceedings was Woodpecker Wooliams.

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Hailing from Crawley but based in that musical hotbed-by-the-sea, Brighton, Woodpecker Wooliams (otherwise known as multi-instrumentalist, shaman and bee-keeper Gemma Williams) was apparently once told by Brian Eno not to bother with music. Ignoring his sage advice, she has instead spent time crafting darkly delicate melodies tinged with electronic flourishes and occasionally unsettling lyrics, delivered in an idiosyncratic style that has drawn comparisons with Björk (“creepy, but in a good way” is how the Guardian described her – creepy from Crawley indeed, to borrow a music journo description of another of that town’s famous sons, Robert Smith of The Cure). Touring around the UK and Europe has led to radio sessions (most recently on BBC Radio 6 Music, with Tom Robinson) and the release of her debut album, The Bird School Of Being Human, on Robot Elephant Records.

Woodpecker Wooliams by Gilly Rochester

Woodpecker Wooliams by Gilly Rochester

It was a prompt 7.30pm start and I’d just made it to King’s Place (having come straight from home), but, on discovering that no drinks were allowed in Hall One, I had to endure that most novel of experiences – a sober gig. As Woodpecker Wooliams (tonight, a full band) walked on stage and settled down in their places, the strangeness of the atmosphere was heightened by the fact that the audience was completely hushed, there was none of the background chatter that you normally get in venues.

The set tonight was a run through of tracks from the album, which all have a common theme (in title, at least, as they’re all named after birds). We got songs like Red Kite and the most recent single, Gull, with Williams sat with her harp as around her dissonant electronic drones warbled, backed with skittish drums, an occasional trumpet (and, on Crow, a grainy sample of the Last Post). There was even the parping of a deflating balloon – not the sort of thing you’d normally encounter, especially somewhere as refined as King’s Place! Williams moved behind a keyboard set-up for an incandescent Sparrow, bobbing to the beat as the searing vocals echoed off the laminated walls. The unusual quiet of the hall added to the often eerie nature of the songs, and focussed attention on the performers.

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Cheers broke the respectful silence as we reached the end, Williams and band taking the crowd’s applause as they walked off the stage as we, in turn, filed out to lay siege to the bar during the brief intermission.

There don’t appear to be any more live performances on the immediate horizon for Woodpecker Wooliams, at least until an appearance at the End Of The Road Festival during the summer, so we can only wait and see what more magic she is concocts in the meantime.

Categories ,BBC Radio 6 Music, ,bjork, ,brian eno, ,brighton, ,Crawley, ,End Of The Road Festival, ,Gemma Williams, ,Gilly Rochester, ,King’s Cross, ,King’s Place, ,Laura J Martin, ,Meursault, ,Neil Pennycook, ,Robert Smith, ,Robot Elephant Records, ,Sam Parr, ,sons of noel and adrian, ,the cure, ,The Guardian, ,The Local, ,The Stranger The Better, ,Tom Robinson, ,Woodpecker Wooliams

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Amelia’s Magazine | Favourite Christmas Indie Tunes for 2012: listen to the best here!

christmas olive grove by bex bourne
Christmas Olive Grove by Bex Bourne, based on As A Child I Awoke by Jo Mango.

A hugely successful Christmas tune is the holy grail for many musicians: just think how many times Fairytale of New York has been played. With royalties like that you’d never need to work again, not that this is the only motivating factor for the majority of musicians. It would just be nice, wouldn’t it, to have a song played every year… welcomed back like a much missed friend and enjoyed once more as if it were new. All of which is great because it means that every time the Christmas season swings around there is a host of brilliant new themed tunes to add to the mix, each hoping for a slice of immortality.

One release that is raising money for charity is the Olive Grove Records EP which features three original recordings and a cover of that famous Muppets song One More Sleep ’til Christmas.

For Folk's Sake it's Christmas 2012
For Folk’s Sake it’s Christmas 2012 cover illustrated by Sarah Oxley.

For Folk’s Sake It’s Christmas returns with another album featuring an absolutely stellar mix of tunes by the likes of Goodnight Lenin, Boat to Row and many others I don’t know but probably should. If you buy one thing this season make it this: the hard copy album has long since sold out but you can get the digital version for a piddling £7 and all profits go to the Evelina Children’s Hospital. It’s also worth downloading previous versions too.

Zombie Christmas by Lorna Scobie
Zombie Christmas by Lorna Scobie.

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Other returnees are Tim Wheeler and Emmy the Great, who have created a new video to celebrate their Zombie Christmas, just one track from last year’s fab Christmas album. Armed only with an assortment of decorations they must defend themselves from their foes, mid gig.

Kate Nash adopts that most seasonal of instruments, the sleigh bell, for Faith, her lo fi paen to the end of a tough year. It’s a taster of her new grungey sound, with a bass driven melody that segues into some pretty retro style harmonies.

Holiday Joy by Jacqueline Valencia
Holiday Joy by Jacqueline Valencia.

One of my favourite new tracks this season is a cover of Mary Margaret O’Hara’s Evermore by Cold Specks, a gloriously cosy song that makes me want to curl up next to a roaring log fire.

Tracey Thorn has released a collection of Christmas songs entitled Tinsel & Lights which comes accompanied with an innovative bit of marketing: open the doors on this virtual advent calendar to find a series of links leading to exclusive material. I like Joy… which is a self-penned tale of defiant seasonal celebration and In the Cold Cold Night is suitably frosty.

In the Cold Cold Night by-Christine-Charnock
In the Cold Cold Night by Christine Charnock. Tracey Thorn’s ‘In the Cold, Cold Night’ has dark and mysterious undertones to it which I wanted to reflect in my illustration response. The song creates an atmosphere of longing and loneliness, and a determination to find companionship in whatever way possible.

You can always bank on Darren Hayman for something a bit different: this year’s seasonal ditty concerns Oliver Cromwell‘s efforts to ban the festive occasion. He failed, luckily.

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A really sweet video accompanies Dog is Dead‘s cover of Paul McCartney‘s classic Wonderful Christmastime.

Dog is Dead - Wonderful Christmastime Music Illustration by Sharon Farrow
Dog is Dead – Wonderful Christmastime by Sharon Farrow. I tried to take elements of the song and I wanted to include several Christmassy things: reindeer, snow, the tree, crackers, along with the humorous elements of the video. Hence the Christmas jumpers and the veneration of the humble (but essential Christmas delight!) brussel sprout. Where would be without them this time of year? The Christmas jumpers are also a nod to the Save the Children Christmas jumper campaign.

Tender Trap‘s Christmas tune Leaving Christmas Day tells the tale of a girl who discovers that her boyfriend is a Creationist Christian.

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Rock band The Hype Theory cover Winter Wonderland with silky female vocals

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The Other Guys is an A Cappella choir from St Andrews University and their Christmas Gets Worse Every Year is a beautifully sung reminder that sometimes nothing beats a classic bit of choral singing at Christmas time.

Christmas Gets Worse Every Year by Suky Goodfellow
Christmas Gets Worse Every Year by Suky Goodfellow.

The Voluntary Butler Scheme have released seasonal melody Quinzhee (Building Us A House Out Of Snow) with a grainy film of wintery figures building an igloo.

Katy Edelsten illustrates The Voluntary Butler Scheme
Katy Edelsten illustrates The Voluntary Butler Scheme – House out of Snow. I wanted to create something that mixed the breezy tone of the song with the simple lyrics, I settled on the castle made of snow because i thought it captured both the the air of the song and the dreamy-Beach Boys-esque haze of the lyrics. The colours and naive style were also executed for this reason. 

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Dan Croll gets into the spirit with his cover of Low‘s Just Like Christmas, accompanied by a kitsch video in which he smears his face in chocolate and luxuriates in a bubble bath whilst wearing a woolly jumper and smoking a pipe. Go on, watch it. It’s Christmas time everyone! Enjoy x

Katy Edelsten illustrates Dan Croll - 'Just Like Christmas'
Katy Edelsten illustrates Dan Croll – Just Like Christmas. I was inspired by the artist himself- as the video is pretty captivating! I wanted something quite whimsical, with no line breaks, as the lyrics repeat and continue. I used a continuous line, in conjunction with pale colours, to depict the artist as Father Christmas. Inspired by the song (and Movember perhaps) I incorporated the song title into Dan Croll’s beard.

Light the Night by Roshni Annia
Inspired by Light the Night to accompany the new film The Snowman and The Snowdog by Roshni Annia.

Categories ,2012, ,A Cappella, ,As A Child I Awoke, ,Bex Bourne, ,Boat to Row, ,Choir, ,Choral, ,Christine Charnock, ,Christmas, ,Christmas Gets Worse Every Year, ,Cold Specks, ,Dan Croll, ,Darren Hayman, ,Dog is Dead, ,Evelina Children’s Hospital, ,Evermore, ,Fairytale of New York, ,Faith, ,folk, ,For Folk’s Sake It’s Christmas, ,Goodnight Lenin, ,In the Cold Cold Night, ,Indie, ,Jacqueline Valencia, ,Jo Mango, ,Joy, ,Just Like Christmas, ,Kate Nash, ,Katy Edelsten, ,Leaving Christmas Day, ,Light the Night, ,Lorna Scobie, ,low, ,Mary Margaret O’Hara, ,Muppets, ,Olive Grove Records EP, ,Oliver Cromwell, ,One More Sleep ’til Christmas, ,Paul McCartney, ,Quinzhee (Building Us A House Out Of Snow), ,Roshni Annia, ,Sarah Oxley, ,Save The Children, ,Sharon Farrow, ,St Andrews University, ,Suky Goodfellow, ,Tender Trap, ,The Hype Theory, ,The Other Guys, ,The Snowman and The Snowdog, ,The Voluntary Butler Scheme, ,Tim Wheeler and Emmy the Great, ,Tinsel & Lights, ,Tracey Thorn, ,Tunes, ,Winter Wonderland, ,Wonderful Christmastime, ,Zombie Christmas

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Amelia’s Magazine | An interview with Boat to Row

Boat to Row by Rebecca Strickson
Boat to Row by Rebecca Strickson.

Sometimes someone sends me something that quite simply blows me away: and so it was when Michael King of Boat to Row got in touch and sent me the link to his new song A Boat to Row, approved to Row to You. Who, page then, more about is this Boat to Row? They’ve toured with and supported the likes of Willy Mason, The Vaccines, Johnny Flynn and Slow Club. You can hear the influences in there, but they’ve made something beautifully their own. I just had to find out more.

Boat to Row by Maria Papadimitriou aka Slowly the Eggs
Boat to Row by Maria Papadimitriou aka Slowly the Eggs.

Is that your lips in the video? How did it feel to be filmed so close up and was it unnerving?
It was quite a weird yet exciting experience filming a video, especially with it being our first. There was lots of shooting involved as it was filmed over two weekends in October/November in a London flat and in Broadstairs and Margate. By the end of it you kind of forget just how much was filmed, so when the director Pete sent the end product over there was a lot of anticipation, suspense and excitement involved. The lips do belong to me (Mike) which is quite funny on reflection as I noticed I hadn’t shaved quite as close as I thought! Ha! I wasn’t aware of the close ups at the time, which I think was for the best as my nerves may have crept in.

What’s the story behind the video for a Boat to Row to You?
The story behind the video is about someone who is completely lost and besides themselves in loosing their love and won’t stop at any cost in getting them back, basically meaning if they can’t have them, then no one can. The dark undertones of the video are quite a contrast to story behind the lyric: when I originally wrote the song it was about the declaration and commitment of loving someone. I really like how a song can come across as something completely to someone else: Pete helped give a different perspective to what I had originally wrote.

Boat to Row by Alison Day
Boat to Row by Alison Day.

Why the convoluted/similar name?
The track title mainly stems from the lyrics and overall theme of the song, nothing felt too forced or out of place with the song name so I decided to stick with it. At the time the track was written I was heavily influenced in maritime tales and the coastal trips I had been on, so the imagery of the sea was something I felt very attached to and can be heard in the song.

Boat to Row in tree

What were you doing before Boat to Row?
I’ve been gigging since the age of 16 in various punk bands and I would take little jobs to fund my music and record collection. Along side all that I finished my degree in Popular Music and dived straight into the early form of Boat to Row.

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Autumn Glow

Can you introduce the other band members please?
The rest of Boat to Row are….
David Sharpe on Drums, Vocals and percussion, Benjamin Gilchrist on Bass, Vocals, Guitar & Banjo, Faye Haddon on the Violin, Mandolin and Vocals, and Hannah Riley with the Lead Vocals, Guitar, Melodica and glockenspiel. They are all lovely people!

Boat to Row photo

On 114 Miles you have a female singer: who is she and where has she come from?
Hannah is the lady in question! She has played in Boat to Row since the band formed really. Hannah studies French and German at Oxford University and tries to fit the band around her busy schedule, so we are lucky that we get to see her a lot and play as many shows with her as we can. It’s great having her in the band as it adds another dynamic to what I write; her parts really make the songs gleam.

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114 Miles

Who or what are your biggest influences?
That is such a tough question and one that is almost impossible to narrow down. I’d say my gran singing me Lonnie Donegan songs to get me to sleep was pretty important! Without realising she planted the seeds from an early age. Check out The Rock Island Line… it was my favorite.

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The Rock Island Line by Lonnie Donegan.

Why is it important to still produce proper records?
Records are one of the original formats in which you could listen to your favorite artists and although there have been a lot of improvements in the ease of listening to music, you can’t beat the sound of a vinyl record. It’s more than that though, you take home a piece of work, Artwork that was intended to be seen on a 12″ record looks so much better, there’s something a little more personal about vinyl records to me. Nowadays you can pick up a record with the MP3 download codes included, so it makes complete sense to continue to produce records like we have done now for the past 80 years or so.

Boat to row front cover record by Rosie Moss
A Boat to Row, to Row to You front cover by Rosie Moss

Which festivals can we catch you at this year?
We’re delighted to be playing at the Moseley Folk Festival again, it’s a huge favorite of ours and with a line-up that includes Villagers and Willy Mason it’s set to be a brilliant weekend. We have a few more festivals in the pipeline that we’ll hopefully announce really soon!

The new single came out this week. Make sure you’re first to know. Find out more on Bandcamp and Myspace. Honestly, these guys are great, trust me. Full Boat to Row tour listing information here.

Categories ,A Boat to Row, ,Alison Day, ,Autumn Glow, ,Benjamin Gilchrist, ,Boat to Row, ,Broadstairs, ,David Sharpe, ,Faye Haddon, ,Flawed Equation, ,folk, ,Hannah Riley, ,Independent, ,Indie, ,Johnny Flynn, ,Lonnie Donegan, ,Margate, ,Maria Papadimitriou, ,Michael King, ,Moseley Folk Festival, ,Oxford University, ,Rebecca Strickson, ,Rosie Elizabeth Grace Moss, ,Slow Club, ,Slowly the Eggs, ,The Vaccines, ,to Row to You, ,Villagers, ,Willy Mason, ,Yarn and Glue

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