Monday, 26 September 2011

Facial Hair Philosophising

I regularly conisder the man beard, and those who've read my blog may be aware of my love. I do not wish to be a beardy bore, even though I feel there is a PhD to be written on the subject. I may instead slip in a brief thought or musing from time to time, reflective of my facial hair philosophising. Today's is written in a handy Twitter style 140 characters:

The beard is the antithesis of fake-tanned man. Whilst the facial hair fearing perceive it as unkempt, to me it suggests a natural skinned academic/artistic man-combo.

Confirmation of my theory: 

William Fitzsimmons, songwriter and psychotherapist. 
The man is uber-talented and uber-bearded.

Photo Credit: Erin Brown.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Shy and the Fight - Havana Specials and Unprintable Tales

As soon as I shook hands with the members of Shy and the Fight in Cardiff’s Ten Feet Tall on August 9th 2011, the guys confessed to being "rubbish at interviews", and invited me to conduct ours in the bar’s outdoor smoking area. Cigarettes in hand, the seven strong band circled me on the paving stones of Church Street, and asked me not to print everything I heard that evening. I found my usual interview-y nerves quickly subsiding with their banter and light hearted self-deprecation. “That’s why we’re in a band, so we don’t have to talk”, they grinned, telling the unprintable tales. I promised to keep some secrets – at least until they’re famous and I can sell the stories to The Sun.

Pic by Pippa Bennett:

Shy and the Fight consists of original members Tom Hyndman (vocals, guitar, banjo), Carrie Anderson (violin, tuned percussion, melodica), Chris Done (bass, vocals, banjo), Jackson Almond (keyboards, live electronics and lap steel) Michael Deponeo (known as Depo) (guitar, vocals, banjo) and Tom Wootton (drums, percussion)…as well as the later drafted in Sam Williams to stand in for repeated wrist breaking drummer Tom W! The idea of having both Sam and Tom W simultaneously drumming on stage has now been realised.

I asked the obvious question first, one I imagine most who encounter the band will wonder. What’s the story behind their name? The guys had decided amongst themselves to answer a question each in turn, but this one was batted back to Tom H – as the band’s main vocalist and founder, he seemed the natural spokesperson. He told me it was representative of emotional opposites, feeling shy in contrast to fighting, and an analogy for his song writing style which allows him to say things he wouldn’t otherwise. One of his lyrics sums this up; “There is more truth in what I sing than what I speak.”

I read the lyrics for one of their tracks, Imploding Man, which are a mix of surrealism and personal experience…as the street filled with blood/and all of my friends were all sporting fangs/and at first I was scared but then I just smiled and put on my coat/thought finally something to leave the house for…I asked whether this was typical of their song writing, and what the process behind it involved. I also wondered if the location which inspired the lyrics could be revealed? The band told me Tom H, Depo and Chris tend to initiate the words, tune or both, and then everyone contributes collaboratively to the song during practice. As mentioned earlier when the band name was discussed, their song lyrics convey ideas which would be difficult in verbal conversation, and this particular track is about life in Chester and Tom H’s feelings as many of his friends left the city to do “better things.” “I never write political songs,” Tom H told me. “People need to be clever enough to know how, but songs don’t have to be political to be powerful.” I asked what the music scene is like in Chester and North Wales. “Dry,” was the response. “Some really good bands come out of Chester but haven’t come out of Chester.” But Shy and the Fight don’t plan to leave just yet. They feel they may be lost in the masses within a place such as London and would prefer to grab attention whilst travelling to bigger cities and keep a local name and following. 

Pic by Pippa Bennett:
A claim to fame the band hold is being featured on a banned advert for the clothing company Jack Wills. One of their tracks was put forward for the advert by a synching agency, and in turn, selected for use – but a complaint from the Daily Mail about the ad’s content led to its withdrawal and meant their connection with the brand was short lived. “Not quite our style anyway, and we definitely don’t wear the clothes”, added Tom H. More fitting boosts to the band’s profile have included playing at 2010’s Stop Making Sense Festival in Croatia, and plenty of airplay from BBC Radio Wales’ Adam Walton, and more recently, BBC Radio One's Jen Long.

So what’s next for Shy and the Fight, I wondered? “Having fun!” was the reply, as most members were off for their annual band holiday, this time in Newquay. “Playing lots of festivals,” was a more long term plan, and “to play lots of places we’ve never appeared live before.” Finally, I asked whether the guys wanted to add anything else to my write up. Chris was keen. “The rum in Ten Feet Tall is great,” he stated enthusiastically. “Especially the Havana Special!” 

Pic by Pippa Bennett:
This punctuated the interview perfectly, and summarises the fun, warm and friendly attitude of Shy and the Fight. They aren’t all about banter however, as their thoughtful song writing and instrumental talent conveys. The gig which followed further demonstrated a band with a genuine love for their music and one another. They smiled and chatted to the audience and each other throughout the set, playing an engaging mix of both gentle and lively folk pop, sometimes ethereal and dreamy, sometimes dance evoking, always with a full, instrument-rich sound and a happy-making feel. Shy and the Fight are a lovely band to talk to, listen to, and watch live. I imagine they’re a great band to drink Havana Specials with too.

You can listen to Shy and the Fight via their myspace, or bandcamp. Their single 'All that we See or Seem' will be released by label Popty Ping in January 2012.