Amanda Gallagher of rockpig. talks to Brian Barnes of The Woven Project at the Acoustic Stage in the Creative Intentions Café, Willowman Festival on Sunday 24 June 2012.
After braving torrential rain whilst putting my tent up on Friday, then gale force winds (ok well maybe that’s a slight exaggeration) and more rain on Saturday, even a seasoned festival goer such as myself breathed a sign of relief when Sunday emerged into a bright and deliciously mild day. Not that the great British weather had spoiled one minute of the festival I have to point out, after having seen some of the most superb acts; Martha Cook, Cherry Head Cherry Heart, Paul Mosley, Boss Caine, This Little Bird, and, my own personal highlight band, Biscuithead and the Biscuit Badgers.
I caught up with some of The Woven Project band members before their Sunday evening set on the Acoustic Stage – Willowman’s very first acoustic stage to date – located in the Creative Intentions Café, which is reminiscent of an Arabian style Bedouin tent complete with twinkly lights, rich colours and bongs (though of course nothing illegal in them!). The Woven Project consists of seven very talented folks; Brian Batey (lead vocals/classical guitar), Brian Barnes (accordion/melodica/glok/reed organ), Daniel D’Arcy (lead guitar/percussion), Nigel Crinson (cello/guitar), Phillipa Woods (violin/low whistle/mandolin), Ed Leighton (ukulele/bass/mandolin), and, Liz Vandevelden (additional vocals).
As Brian Barnes and I lounged on the scattered floor cushions in the fabulously chilled-out Creative Intentions Café sipping the most welcoming brandy hot chocolate watching great Teesside acts Kate Williams, Rebekah Findlay, Sara Dennis and Danny’s House on the acoustic stage, I took the opportunity to quiz the bands accordion player, also the band’s manager, about a few things.
1. How was the band formed and how did you come up with the band name, give me a brief history?
“The band was formed with just a guitar and an accordion in March 2009 when I was trying to sort out some music for a friend’s birthday party, and I suggested Brian Batey to play solo. As a promoter I had put Brian on before so I knew he used to do a Leveller’s song called Another Man’s Cause, and being a big Levellers fan myself I thought a good idea would be for me to dust off my accordion and play along with him. So we started practising that song round his house, along with Brian’s own material, and we started the band from there.
The name came from a room we used to practice in, on Hart Lane in Hartlepool, where there was a woven flat basket hung on the wall and Brian (Batey) looked up and said “what about the name The Woven?” – so for our first two gigs we were called The Woven, then we went into the studio to record and the engineer asked us what our project was called, and we answered “The Woven Project”…and there it was!”.
2. Have there been any recent band developments, such as; relocations, new members, new influences etc?
“Yeah originally a Hartlepool based band we have grown by quite a few members since 2009 (there’s now seven of us) and now more of the band members actually live outside of the town! Our singer Brian (Batey) has moved to Leeds, and some of the band live in Feltham and Oxton in London, and there’s another one up in Northumberland, so only three members are actually in Hartlepool now. Being split all over now we have been using the phrase “acoustic bliss from the North East of England and beyond”.
3. Many of you have full time jobs, what do you all do?
“I’m a Graphic Designer for a college, and Brian (Batey) is a care worker for autistic kids, and we also have a female backing vocalist who is a primary school teacher. Our cello player Nigel owns a music shop and our guitarist / percussionist D’Arcy is a full time student, looking at going to University next year. Eddie our ukelele player is a games buyer, and Phillipa … erm … I think she may be unemployed I’m not sure …a kept woman (laughs)”.
4. Wow! So alongside working full time, your individual family lives and having band members living in different locations, how on earth do you all find the time to write, create music, rehearse and gig?
“It is very difficult because of what goes on in all our lives. We do have a couple rehearsal spaces around the country and we camp out at these places when we have a weekend free, so if we have any important gigs coming up this is what we try to do. We used to religiously rehearse twice a week when we were all in Hartlepool, but having been doing a lot of our songs for so long now a gig is rehearsal enough. As far as writing and practising new material, we do have a new set of around five songs but unfortunately some recent band member changes have meant that we have lost of couple of the instruments we had, so we are having to pool some money to buy a piano as a lot of the new stuff is piano led. So yes it is difficult to get everyone together but we manage”.
Lets do a Quick Fire round!
1. Best gig you’ve played?
“Tall Ships Festival, Hartlepool in 2012 – all my family were there together to see me”.
2. Worst gig you’ve played?
“When we had just started out as a duo, Brian (Batey) and I played a folk gig in Northumberland…the timings were all wrong, the audience were devout folk fans and we just got no reaction! We were a bit naïve I think…lessons learnt there.”
3. Favourite movie?
4. Worst movie ever seen?
“The sequel to Blair Witch Project”
5. Favourite up and coming band/artist at the moment?
“The Lake Poets – Martin is a phenomenal songwriter”
6. What’s on your ipod/spotify playlist?
“I’m listening to Talk Talk a lot at the moment”
7. What are you reading at the moment?
“Shaun Ryder’s Twisting My Melon Man…its good!”
8. Who would you most like to sit down and have a cup of tea with?
“I can’t because he is dead but it would have to be John Peel”
9. Who has the most unusual hobby and what is it?
“D’Arcy our guitarist likes carp fishing…when we all go away for weekends etc we are all buying music magazines and there’s D’Arcy over there buying Carp Weekly (laughs)”
5. How have you all enjoyed Willowman, has there been a highlight moment?
“Well I’ve got a few hats on this weekend, I’m manager of the band aswell as playing in it, and I’m also in another band playing here called Silver Trees. On top of that I’m also a promoter and I’ve put on this Acoustic Stage here in the Creative Intentions Café, and have been organising that all weekend too so it’s been busy one for me! Personally, my highlight moment was when Jasmine Kennedy played the Acoustic Stage; she is just phenomenal and if someone doesn’t snap her up and sign her, well then there is no justice in the world.
It’s been a great festival with lovely people and the folks here (Creative Intentions Café) are so lovely; Paula, Nikki, Jethro, Alan, and it looks like we might have this stage to put on next year too”
6. Talking about festivals, you are pretty hot on the festival scene this summer, is there a particular one you have been most looking forward to playing?
“Well I’ve frequented Greenman since about 2006, and when Brian (Batey) and I got together in 2009 we went there. We were under the Greenman just playing our guitar and accordion, some people came and sat around listening and I thought wouldn’t it be great to play this properly! So it’s been our ambition to play there for a long time, and after much beating down of doors, making contacts and building relationships we are finally playing Greenman this year! For me its pinnacle you know…above Glastonbury for me”.
7. Well Done! You describe yourselves as “lo-fi, acoustic and experimental with elements of a folk influence”, let’s talk a bit more about that and tell me what inspires your lyrics and music?
“Brian (Batey) has written most our songs, some are about his past days as a soldier. The new set is more of a joint thing, a couple of Nigel’s songs and a couple co-wrote by myself and Brian (Batey)…its just every day things really, an idea or some words. Some of our songs are completely embryonic and come from a loop or a melody line, and then Brian (Batey) might have some lyrics he has had laying around for years that come from his personal experiences. Some of them are a bit ambiguous and might not mean anything, and some come from our personal experiences”.
8. Your music is available digitally to buy, how do you feel about selling your music online and illegal music download?
“I think because fundamentally this is a hobby for us, we are all working, have our own lives and have our feet on the ground….its a hobby…so for us having the music out their digitally is more about other people hearing us, as many as possible. The selling thing is not really something we have thought about, I would say we are quite niche anyway. But because we are out there, there will be people in other places and different countries listening to us who might not know who we are but might like the music, so that’s one of the reasons we have got it digitally distributed”.
9. What do you predict for the future of CD and vinyl sales, do you think digital music will ever completely replace these formats?
“I think it will. I think in five years time you might have ‘the collector’ collecting CDs but whether CDs will be produced anymore I don’t know. I think vinyl, yeah it’s had a bit of a resurge lately but it’s about having a physical thing and that collecting thing, rather than buying vinyl and putting it on a record player….I reckon a lot of the people who buy vinyl, have got a bit of vinyl but not many of them will actually play it. I think digitally it’s just the way things have gone and my philosophy is that it doesn’t matter what format it is in when it comes out the speakers, for me personally its all about the music”.
10. Tell me what are your future plans and expectations for the band are, do you have any tours or a new release coming up?
“We plan to stop gigging after September until the New Year, and we are looking to make our ethos and philosophy about just playing festivals as we think we suit that environment better (unless a really nice support gig comes up), so other than that we won’t really be looking to play the small venues anymore. We have played some 150 gigs now so we have ‘done our bit’ you could say. We are aiming to do around 8 to 10 festivals next year, from around May to September. We have 12 this year so not sure we will be able to do that many next year, but you never know.
Then theres that new set of around 5 or 6 songs, so we will be looking to re-record in the Autumn, and we do plan to get some new songs done and would like to release an album before April/March next year. We know some really good producers and engineers, and we have got some space we can record in…so it’s not going to be a money thing, it will be more about time and being able to get everyone together”.
And on that note, it just so happens that Brian and I actually have lots more time to waste in the lovely Creative Intentions Café full of wonderful people and vibes. So we shall continue sipping our brandy hot chocolates (newly found festival drink!), watching the most beautiful sunset go down on the last evening of Willowman weekend whilst we sit back to enjoy the final act on the acoustic stage, the very talented Little Giants…ah this is the life!
Written by Amanda Gallagher of rockpig.