Interview with the Delta Bell

Kate Gerrard is the singer-songwriter and frontwoman of Americana Brighton band The Delta Bell. They’ve just released their second album ‘Hold Fast the Fire’ and we caught up with Kate to ask her about the band and the songs on the album.

The Delta Bell comprise Kate on lead vocals and guitar, James Brandenburg on bass, Bob Baker on drums, Andrew Blake on guitar and Beth Chesser on backing vocals. The album is released on the Random Acts of Vinyl label on beautiful sounding vinyl (and digital download). It’s a great album of what the band call ‘post-Country’ (rather than alt-country) and builds on their excellent debut ‘Bow out of the Fading Light’ from 2015. It still sounds country, but more like an Americana band who grew up listening to the Velvet Underground, a description that gets a resounding “Yes!” from Kate.

We definitely tried to scuzz it up! We wanted it to sound scratchy and imperfect.

With country music you are always running the risk of sounding cheesy so we made a conscious decision not to do that. We love country music, but we’re all Indie kids as well.

The ten songs on the album were recorded live at Church Road studios in Hove in just two days, and to get the band that tight they hired a house in the countryside by the coast to rehearse, which Kate likened to the movie Spinal Tap, although she says there were more games of scrabble than bottles of spirits involved.

Opening song ‘Berlin’ was actually written a decade ago in Norwich where Kate grew up, after she had returned from her first trip to the German capital. She played the song a bit but she didn’t think it worked as a solo number and she forgot about it until she played it again relatively recently and decided it would work with the band. The song captures that sense of “being a bit lost, feeling tired of life.” (Kate was only 24 when she wrote the song). “The line ‘it feels like such a long time since I felt like a child’ reflects the pressures of being a grown up and having to make decisions.” It also has a big sound, aided by a classy added string section.

Second song ‘Lonesome song’ is a really touching song, full of heart and emotion. But Kate says “I wrote it in twenty minutes. I just sat down with a guitar and there it was.” 

‘Little Girl Lost’ seems to pick up on the theme of vulnerability, but Kate says it’s not about that at all. “This is going to make me sound like a really bad feminist, but it’s a bit of a bitchy song.” It’s directed at someone who’s behaving like a little girl and the song is telling them to pull themselves together, although its subtle harsher edge doesn’t come across directly. “It’s not like saying they’re f++king things up, it’s just telling them to pull themselves together.”

‘Rain on Love’ is a song Kate describes as a power ballad. “I think I was just feeling really sorry for myself. It’s kind of one of those songs. It’s grown on us all and a few people have said it’s their favourite song on the album.

Fifth song ‘Catacombs’ was written about 3 or 4 years ago for her boyfriend, although it’s a maudlin song. “Some people might say I’m intense!” she jokes. The imagery in the song comes from some horrific Sicilian myths about the bodies buried in catacombs, which hardly sounds like material for a love song but this emphasises the album’s battle between romance and edginess., or country and indie-rock.

The song ‘Modern City’ is the least country and most VU-inspired song, with some driven Mo Tucker style drumming (Kate says she banned Bob from playing cymbals). It was written on the plane to Berlin and is another love song, about “when you are just feeling worn out with love and life and someone comes along and rebuilds you.”

Their producer Paul Pascoe called the next song ‘Golden’ a thinking man’s Bond theme (possibly due to the strings at the end). The song came to Kate in a dream and she recorded the chorus into her phone in the middle of the night and then went back to sleep. It’s mainly about “enjoying your life with someone who is awesome“.

‘Killing Heart’ also has obscure origins. “I have a sneaking suspicion it is about the Ugandan President,” Kate says, written at a time when she was working for an HIV charity and thinking a lot about how people can oppress other people.

‘Ride Out’ was “inspired by broken rollercoasters” or “about the end of love, the end of relationships.” It’s the image of things made for fun that break down.

The last song is ‘These Days’ although Kate says she hadn’t heard of the Jackson Browne song of the same name. It’s a song about “people who have no hope of getting out of a situation and there’s nothing you can do to help them. All you can do is hope.” It’s just Kate and Beth playing on this track. “We tried it with the band but it didn’t work so we stripped it all right down.

The album ‘Hold Fast the Fire’ is launched in Brighton on the 16th November at the Pelirocco Hotel and there’s also a London launch on the 18th November at Biddle Brothers in Hackney. Both gigs are free entry – but come to buy the vinyl!

You can hear or order ‘Hold Fast the Fire’ at the bandcamp link below

 

 

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The Delta Bell release ‘Bow Out Of The Fading Light’

4PP DIGIPACK.inddBrighton’s favourite gospel-tinged alt-country Americana band The Delta Bell release their debut album today on At The Helm records. It’s a wonderful collection of songs written by Kate Gerrard, and highly praised by the blogsphere.

Listen to album opener ‘Carry Us Home’ below

The album launch show is on August 20th at the Verdict Jazz Bar on Edward Street, and the CD is available now from all good record shop.

Hiawatha Telephone Company release Dave

Hiawatha Telephone Company

The lead single from the forthcoming Hiawatha Telephone Company album has a name, and it’s called ‘Dave’.

Dave has a powerful lyric and after its forceful but quiet, steady introduction, a strident John Cale-style violin riff (by Maria Marzaioli of Reds) that will appeal to fans of the Velvet Underground and Bill Callahan along with the act’s more typical singer-songwriter, alt-Country, alt-Folk fans.

The song was recorded at Brighton’s Margaret Street loft by Martyn Lewis Moss (Butterfly House) in one-take, straight onto cassette. The resultant sound is unusually primitive but has a special lo-fi warmth.

The song ‘Dave’ is being released independently on-line on Monday (17th March) via Bandcamp (as a free download) and as part of an EP with another taster from the album and two non-album tracks. However, Brighton Music Blog has an exclusive first-listen at the link below:

You can find the Hiawatha Telephone Company on Facebook here

(Photograph by Will Georgantas)

The Self Help Group: the new Fleetwood Mac?

The Self Help Group launched their album ‘Not Waving, But Drowning’ at the Prince Albert pub last night, ably supported by Fiona Sally Miller.

Fiona Sally Miller 20130207 Prince Albert 02

Fiona Sally Miller hasn’t been seen out and about much over the last year which is a shame as she’s one of the most engaging singer-songwriters around town. Simple little riffs set the scene for her personal songs sung in a warm voice that engrosses you like a hug. If you see her on a support bill, make sure you get there early. At this gig she was accompanied on some songs by a cellist, and gave an outing to her old goldie ‘I’m Going to miss you smiling at me like that’.

Mark Bruce

Mark Bruce

The Self Help Group album launch was a bit of a party for family and friends friends, starting off with them getting the whole audience to turn around to watch their video Needles played on the back wall. The launch got even more shambolic, with the band talking as much between themselves as to the audience, losing the banjo on one song and limiting their nervous wit to a strange bit of banter about their song about Birds. Not women, the ones with wings. Odd thing to say to any audience, let alone a Brighton one.Self Help Group 20130207 Prince Albert 03 Mark Bruce, Ian Bliszczak and Sarah Wood

But we needn’t have worried. The thing about Self Help Group is the music, beautifully played, and Mark Bruce’s excellent songs, and the gorgeous twin vocals of sisters Sarah and Clara Wood. The thing is, this is just a truly great band and once they get going you forget about the fluff and hesitation and just get swallowed up by this wave of really wonderful fol rock Americana.

The album is very good indeed. Reviews refer to that Laurel Canyon soft-rock early-70s sensibility but if there’s one band they remind me most of it’s possibly Fleetwood Mac, with the charming female vocals, some sweet guitar and meaty rhythm section but mainly that wonderful mix of west coast Americana with English self-aware folk-blues.

Mark Bruce joked about the lack of happy songs last night – the album is full of songs about death and murder and stories of grim times – but the thing is they don’t sound depressing these songs, they are heart-warming and rich stories that bear repeating. And they have a song about murmuration. What’s not to love?

The final song Sand was a perfect ending, with its closing refrain of

  “You must take the steps towards what you want and make things better

sending us home with a lovely inner-glow.

Clara Wood-Keeley

Clara Wood-Keeley

You  can order the album via the Union Music Store here or any good record shop (it’s one of Resident’s picks of the week this week).

Oh, and our interview with lead Groupie Mark Bruce is here https://brightonmusicblog.co.uk/2013/01/28/interview-with-the-self-help-group

 

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Review and Photographs by Jon Southcoasting