Brighton Photo Fringe – Interview with Ali Tollervey of Dark Horses

Here at Brighton Music Blog we love a festival. The festival we’re writing about today though isn’t actually a music festival but a photography festival. Throughout October Brighton Photo Biennial and Brighton Photo Fringe have events all over town. The event within the festival we’re writing about is music related however – One of the exhibitions that forms part of Brighton Photo Fringe is being held at the Hope and showcases the collaborative photography between Dark Horses and Ali Tollervey, who works so closely with the band that he’s considered a member. Tonight there’s the private view for the exhibition and a Dark Horses gig too, so we sent over a few questions to find out a bit more about his work with the band:

Brighton Music Blog : How did you end up being Dark Horses photographer?

Ali Tollervey : I was already friends with Lisa & had photographed her performing before the band that Dark Horses would become had taken shape. I was actually staying at Lisa’s house for a brief period around the time that Dark Horses were evolving, they were recently back from early recording sessions at the Key Club Studios in Michigan with Richard Fearless. New members were joining. Lisa had played me the recordings from the states, I was excited by the project & believed in the music. It seemed very natural to work together & developed organically. After hearing a demo Kasabian offered them tour support. Things all moved very quickly, within a few short weeks we were on stage at Brixton & Wembley.

BMB : Were you considered a member from the beginning?

TV : Again it’s something that evolved .There was always the idea of collaboration, a collective approach, trying to create an energy, something more than just music. There was visual feedback as counterpoint to the sound..they fed into each other..As I was on board from the start we grew together. It was immersive. I was pretty much at every show / tour for the first couple years. We were a family or better a gang. It felt like we were all working together, my role just happened to be visual. It’s more usual for photographers to be outsiders, quickly meeting a band for a press shot or maybe joining them for part of a tour`. This was different, we’d be lugging equipment together, on stage together, if necessary sharing beds together.. Aside from the photography I was involved with other areas relating to the band.

hells-angels-irving-pennBMB : What do you remember of the first proper shoot you did with them?

TV : It was a late evening group shot at Lisa’s home which became our ‘clubhouse’. They were taken in front of a back wall which happens to be adorned with a giant floor to ceiling black & white print by Irving Penn of the Hell’s Angels – a group portrait in itself. So there were twice the sets of eyes staring back at me. (On a side note we realised afterwards that every male member of the Hell’s Angels in the Penn backdrop bore a striking resemblance to our guitarist Bobby Waterson, the only band member unable to make the shoot)

BMB : When you’re shooting Dark Horses, how much input do they have and how much is about your vision for the band?

TV : Everybody involved with Dark Horses has their own vision they bring but together it works.. Though it’s a collaboration, we all trust each others individual strengths & input. There’s a dialogue but we have our own areas we work in. So I have freedom… Pierre Angélique the filmmaker behind the videos has played a very significant role also.

BMB : Your work with the band covers reportage shots, promo shoots and live shots, have you got any favourite local locations or venues to shoot them?

TV : I’d say it’s the reportage I enjoy the most… I don’t have favourite locations & don’t tend to shoot that much locally… Anywhere can be good.. There was a particularly hot & atmospheric derelict building we used as a rehearsal space in Malta with an abandoned wedding dress floating in a heavy old wardrobe.. a beautiful forest we explored in Switzerland.. We did a show with Sigur Ros in an 8000 seater outdoor amphitheatre in Perth which was an incredible setting, particularly memorable for me as I’d broken my toes earlier that day so fighting my way through the crowd from the stage at the bottom of the valley to the very top for a wide shot was pretty scary. The best however shots could equally come from a Holiday Inn car park.

BMB : You’ve traveled quite a bit with Dark Horses, occasionally taking an exhibition of your photos with you. Are there any tales you can share, or does what happen on tour stay on tour?

TV : It does to an extent stay on tour. it’s an amazing thing to do but mostly not that glamorous. Some of the best after parties happen in the back of the van.The best part is the time spent together, experiences shared & the people you meet along the way. In Malta (with Kinemastik & Bare Bones) we took over an entire subway underpass as an exhibition space, pasting giant prints directly to the walls, we had a launch party down there too with a bar & music. Rather than being taken down afterwards the prints stayed up long after we’d left slowly disintegrating over time. We’ve spent quite a bit of time with the Dandy Warhol’s & that’s always good. We played an impromptu game of Boule with Pete Doherty in a field in France once. I can’t remember who won.

Bjork by Ali Tollervey

Bjork by Ali Tollervey

BMB : Is your music photography just limited to Dark Horses, or have you shot other bands?

TV : I’m not solely a music photographer but I’ve always been involved with music in one way or another, I ran a record shop, promoted shows for several years, worked on music videos etc so I have photographed many bands in different contexts.. My first proper official live show where I had a photo pass was Bjork, I had a very basic old film camera & all the old pros in the photo pit must have thought I was a joke. My first real portrait session was with David Axelrod, I got to spend an hour with him which was amazing. Like a lot photographers I used to document the scenes going on around me. I realise I don’t go to so many gigs with my camera anymore though, I think I just want to enjoy the show.

BMB : Finally, will you be shooting the band at their gig on 12th October?

TV : I haven’t decided yet, it will be hard not to but they’ve worked out an amazing set for this one off show so I may wish to simply be a spectator.

Horse Latitudes, an exhibition of Ali Tollervey’s photos of Dark Horses is on at The Hope now and runs until the 2nd November, with Dark Horses playing live tonight.

Dark Horses gig

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Birdengine, supporting Samantha Crain

Lawry Tilbury III aka Birdengine has a small red label that dangles from his guitar with the word ‘Happy’ inscribed on it. I now know that ‘Happy’ is the name of his guitar. Not that you can label his music, so maybe it’s doubly ironic.

Brighton-based Birdengine hasn’t been playing live much of late so it was a real treat to find him and Happy in the tiny Komedia Studio Bar, supporting the American touring songsmith Samantha Crain for a Melting Vinyl gig.

It’s hard to believe it’s been two and a half years since the The Crooked Mile was released, one of the best albums to emerge from the psych-folk scene. Not a happy record, it’s full-to-the-brim with melancholy imaginative gothic folk tunes, from which the sublime Ghost Club was a stand-out tonight. We were also treated to the stunning Heads off Dogs from his first album released on Drift records, and a number of new songs involving increasing use of a loop pedal which helps add a fuller sound to the trademark Birdengine pluck and strum. We were also treated to a charming jazz interlude thanks to the previous owner of one of the Birdengine guitar pedals, with Lawry’s usual hesitant interaction with the audience forming a kind of obscure sub-genre of rapping. Maybe.

It was good to see Lawry back in action, and a new album will hopefully start to emerge shortly.

Birdengine Birdengine BirdengineSamantha Crain is touring to promote her new album Kid Face, which is well worth exploring – one of three excellent female songwriter’s albums released over the last month and which I’ve been enjoying this week (see also New Yorker Nicole Atkins’ excellent Slow Phaser and Brightonian Sharon Lewis’ classy Roses at the Top, more of which some other time). The small studio bar made for a lovely intimate venue and hopefully Melting Vinyl will use it more.

Samantha Crain

Photos and words by Jon Southcoasting

Electric Soft Parade – One night in December

Gallery

This gallery contains 8 photos.

The brothers Alex and Tom White brought their Electric Soft Parade back to hometown Brighton for the first gig of a short pre-Xmas tour. Playing songs from their latest album ‘Idiots’, a contender for many people’s end-of-year best-of lists for sure, they … Continue reading

Your Garden Day flatstream EP launch

Robin Coward and his band yourgardenday launched their new EP ‘flat stream’ at St Andrew’s Church on Friday night. They were ably supported by an array of extrordinary Brighton talent in the form of Sophie Reid, Zoe Hazel and Bella Kardasis.

Brighton Music Blog was there to witness a celebration of new local music.

All photographs are by Jon Southcoasting.

Your Garden Day flatstream EP launch

The Gnomes are about

Your Garden Day flatstream EP launch

Zoe Hazel’s gentle soulful songs in English and Spanish

Your Garden Day flatstream EP launch

Sophie Reid showing her versatility and skill

Your Garden Day flatstream EP launch

Bella Kardasis playing stunning instrumental guitar in the style of Johns Martyn and Fahey

Your Garden Day flatstream EP launch

Robin Coward, our host for the evening

Robin Coward

Robin sings out

The band play on

The band play on

Your Garden Day

Your Garden Day

Willkommen’s ECHO featuring Damo Suzuki

On Friday night, Brighton’s Willkommen collective hosted another of their mini-ECHO festivals with a headliner Damo Suzuki of CAN backed by some of Brighton’s finest young musicians.

The show featured an amazing supporting line up: Sons of Noel and Adrian, Soccer 96 and (from London) Eyes & No Eyes, all perfect headliners in their own right. The music was amazing, and there were also visuals supplied by the Innerstrings Psychedelic Lightshow. A definite candidate for one of the gigs of the year.

Jon Southcoasting was there to take some pictures.

Eyes and No Eyes

Eyes & No Eyes

Soccer 96

Soccer 96

Sons of Noel and Adrian

Sons of Noel and Adrian

Sons of Noel and Adrian

Sons of Noel and Adrian

Damo Suzuki

Damo playing with Alastair Strachan and Patrick Lawrence

Marcus Hamblett, Alastair Strachan and Patrick Lawrence

Marcus Hamblett and Alistair Strachan playing with Damo Suzuki

Damo Suzuki

Damo Suzuki

Abi Wade – interview

Brighton celloist Abi Wade has just finished a European jaunt supporting Patrick Wolf on his tenth anniversary tour. Her unusual phrasings and rhythms sit well with Patrick Wolf’s set and she even joins him on stage for a couple of songs. We caught up with her for a brief chat before their final gig together in Brighton’s beautiful St Mary’s church.

Abi Wade

Any highlights on this tour? I really enjoyed Germany. Amsterdam was amazing as well. I liked Bristol a lot. And the north of England. It’s just all been great and the venues have been beautiful. Lots of churches which were lovely and some crazy places like in Germany an old warehouse that was really cool and had lots of things going on. I liked that one a lot.

How’s the album coming along? (Abi laughs) I just want to put feelers out and see how things go and get an idea of my sound and what I want to do before I turn out an album. Although I want to do it soon I haven’t completely decided what I want to put on it.

Abi played in a duo, the Wellingtons, but now performs solo. So she says the album may be quite sparse like her EPs but also with more electronics.

Abi Wade in St Mary's Church

What are your influences? I love folk and when I started I was writing folky stuff and was influenced by Laura Marling. Always loved Kate Bush and I grew up on the Beach Boys and that kind of thing, so the melodic thing was always there. Then lately I’ve been listening to Grimes and recently went to a Ghost Poet gig, so really eclectic. I love all kinds of music but all I guess on the unusual side. Apart from the Beach Boys maybe, but  the Beach Boys were original in their time.

I don’t really think I’m going to write a song ‘like this’, I just write. I don’t get directly influenced by anyone I just listen. But I also love phrasing and think about that a lot.

Abi has been taking advantage of the bigger venues on the Patrick Wolf tour and has been  playing a song on piano when her set usually consists of just her and her cello.

How did the piano song come about? My first instrument was the piano and I love it but I don’t normally get to play it because there’s usually no way to bring a piano to the kind of gigs I play. But this tour’s been different. There’s only one piano song at the moment but I may be doing some more tours with Patrick so maybe I will write another one.

You studied in Brighton but not at BIMM? I studied music and visual arts here, but I originally came from Cambridge. I never performed at all before I came to University, so Brighton was really where I started to do that, in small venues, and that’s all I’d really experienced until this tour and seeing and playing in lots of different places. But it’s nice to come home of course.

Any bands in Brighton we should be listening to? All the people I love turn out to be friends, like Jennifer Left (Ed note: our Brighton Music Blog Advent Calender pick today), Aneka – I went to University with her – they’re my key musical fellows at the moment. And Esben and the Witch of course. It’s such a big scene though. I love Brighton, the buzz that it has and the community, the support that gives you. 

Thank you Abi, it’s been lovely speaking to you.

Abi Wade will be headlining her next show at the Wednesday slot in the One Inch Badge Seamonsters festival in Brighton next month.

More here at abiwade.com

Abi Wade in St Mary's Church

(Words and pictures: Jon Southcoasting)

Woodpecker Wooliams launches The Birdschool of Being Human

It’s a great album. This blog has already said that. And today, Monday, it gets its official release.

But if you were lucky enough to be at St Andrew’s Church in Hove on Saturday night you would have got to hear the whole thing played through in a beautiful setting.

Entering to the buzzing of bees and twittering of birds, the first 50 through the door were offered a small glass of home-made honey mead, made by Gemma Woodpecker herself, a keen beekeeper. And delicious it was.

Opening act Ichi is from Japan and has to be seen, to be believed. Entering stage-left on stilts, which turn out to be part of his musical equipment, he performs a funky witty entrancing set on a series of home-made instruments and objects, including a battered trumpet, kettle drum, balloon and ping pong ball.

The intermission, in-between the intermissions, featured a sword-dance act, where a veiled woman with the longest hair I’ve ever seen danced to the sounds of a saw being played with a bow. It was enchanting.

Saw-player and dancer - photograph by Southcoasting

The headliner then came on, with the unusual addition of a band who proceeded to reproduce the full album in all its odd beauty and electrifying rush. Marcus Hamblett (producer of the album) added some beautiful flourishes on the trumpet and a variety of noises from a desk full of knobs and pedals. The drumming was subtle and inventive, and the occasional addition of Emma Gatrill offered further depth to a sound that filled the whole church hall.

The star of course was Gemma, who was clearly enjoying herself, full of empassioned vocals and smiles. She ended with an unplanned encore, just herself sitting on the steps at the front of the stage playing a lovely acoustic number and charming the audience.

Woodpecker Wooliams

Woodpecker Wooliams

This gig followed a successful London launch the night before and a series of radio appearances. The songs are born of a darker place, but seem joyful and ecstatic in performance. This was a brilliant set, and the album should go far. I recommend you hear it and if you like it, go buy it.

http://store.robotelephant.co.uk/products/502507-woodpecker-wooliams-the-bird-school-of-being-human

http://www.woodpeckerwooliams.com/

Woodpecker Wooliams in St Andrews Church

Woodpecker Wooliams in St Andrews Church playing an encore on the steps

Photographs are by Jon Southcoasting