Thomas White Interview

This week sees the release of Thomas White’s new album Yalla, and I thought I’d find out a bit more about from him via the pubs he lists in the lyrics of the closing track English Sargasso: The Dorset, the Hand in Hand, Fitzherbert’s and The Globe.

Thomas White - Yalla!

We start things off at The Dorset, or to give it it’s full title, The Dorset Street Bar. There are records of The Dorset being a pub going back to 1845, so it’s been a firm fixture in Brighton for quite some time. Continue reading

Album Review : Thomas White / Yalla!

It’s easy to get bored on holiday. You don’t have all your daily routine to keep you preoccupied. But when most of us get a bit bored when we’re away, we reach for a paperback, or head to the bar. Not Thomas White though. When he was bored on holiday in Egypt (before last year’s Arab Spring), he knocked up a whole new album, just using his guitar, his laptop and the the microphone of his pocket videocamera. He wasn’t even going to release it until he was persuaded by friends that he’d be a fool if he didn’t.

Thomas White - Yalla!

Yalla! is Thomas White’s third solo album, on top of those he’s made with Electric Soft Parade and Brakes (and numerous guest spots with others), and it quite possibly his most personal and accomplished work to date.

The album fades in quietly, opening with All The Fallen Leaves. Nearly a minute passes before the first chord is played. The lyrics tell of a aching for home – Brighton – despite the fact that “the sun beats down on desert ground”, and that home is “cold, wet and brown”. An acoustic guitar plucks away at simple chords, and a haunting close harmony joins in for some of the repeated lyrics which aren’t quite a chorus.

I’ll See Her Again and That Heavy Sunshine Sound are a bit more upbeat, but the undercurrent of yearning is still there – not for Brighton this time, but for a woman. The latter is definitely one of my highlights of the album, with the near perfect stanza “I am a boy / with a crush on a girl / who is out of my league / and is certainly out of this world”, which encapsulates exactly how I felt far too often in my early twenties.

The album continues in it’s psychedelic folk theme – Nick Drake with harmonies by the Beach Boys, with Norwegian Wood by the Beatles playing on the radio in the next room. For a more recent comparison, it occupies the same musical space as Balcony Times, the album put out at the end of last year by Milk & Biscuits (which incidentally, Thomas played on).

The best is saved until last. Album closer The English Sargasso lasts for nearly six and a half minutes, and by this point, Thomas is homesick for his friends and the pubs of Brighton – “We’ll hit the Dorset, and maybe The Hand, and down to Fitzherberts and the Globe after that”. While the last piece clocks in over five minutes, it doesn’t drag, but feels unhurried, moving along at a different, slower pace. The kind of pace that things move at when you’re on holiday with absolutely nothing to do – an incredibly clever trick to nail.

If this is what happens when Mr White goes on holiday, I can’t wait to hear the results of his next trip.

Thomas White playing with Brakes at the Green Door Store 23/1/11

Yalla! by Thomas White is released on Bleeding Heart Recordings on 19th March 2012. The first 50 copies – available through Resident Records in Brighton and Rough Trade in London – come with a bonus five track cd, and there will be a free instore gig at Resident at 6pm on 19th March, where the album will be available for £6.99.

Bleeding Hearts Club / Recordings Profile

Firstly, an apology from me. This was meant to be an interview with Chris Davies, Head honcho of Bleeding Hearts Recordings, and the man behind the long running Bleeding Hearts Club at the Albert. We met and had a good long chat over a few pints, with the intention of turning our conversation into a riveting article about what it’s like to run a label and how to start a successful night. But I forgot to press record. So all I have is my recollection, and none of great quotes which would have made it a much better read. Bleeding Hearts is still something worth writing about though – the night is going from strength to strength, and next Monday the label is putting out Thomas White’s third solo album – so there’s never been a better time to write about them. Anyway, enough with the apologies, and onto the article.

Chris Davies of Bleeding Hearts Recordings

Mid-way through the nineties, Chris Davies headed down to Brighton from the Midlands for a weekend, and ended up staying. He didn’t have any plans to become a leading figure in the local music industry but managed to just fall into running the city’s longest running nights and starting up a record label putting out records by some of the best local talent.

The first Bleeding Hearts Club was around nine years ago. Chris was working at Borders, and lots of his colleagues were musicians, so to provide them with a platform, The Bleeding Hearts Club was born. At the beginning, it never had any real agenda – the music policy was defined pretty much by the acts that were around at the time – but over time the night settled into an acoustic folk type affair. At times, it’s been completely unplugged without any amplification, and the only light coming from candles on the tables. Other times Chris has been a bit playful and put on bands who don’t quite fit the mould, to have a poke at audience members who are taking things a bit too seriously. His philosophy is that the music is there to be enjoyed, not over analysed. Respect the music and be quiet when the bands are on, but also respect everyone at the night who are there to enjoy things.

A few years ago, the night was in a creative trough, and feeling unappreciated (speak to any promoter in town, and they’ll tell you what a thankless task it is) Chris put the night on hold. You can’t keep a good man down though, and it was around this time that Bleeding Hearts Recordings was born. The first release was a compilation of some of Chris’ favourite acts who he’d put on, and in the past 18 months, there’s been an assortment of vinyl, cds and downloads from the likes of BirdEngine, King James, Mute Swimmer, and The Robot Heart. A few months into running the label, the nights restarted, after the realisation that an act could sound good on tape, but it’s how they perform and how they interact with the audience that really matters.

This month, Bleeding Hearts Recordings put out what deserves to be their biggest record yet, when they release Yalla by Thomas White (from Electric Soft Parade, Brakes and a million other Brighton bands). The album was recorded while Tom was bored and homesick on an extended break in Egypt (before last year’s unrest) and was never meant to get a proper release, but everyone who heard it was so impressed that they convinced him that it needed to be heard by the world. We’ll post up our review of the album at the weekend before it’s release on Monday. The first fifty copies (available through Rough Trade and Resident) come with a five track bonus EP, and if you buy the album through, you can grab yourself a signed copy. There’s an instore gig at Resident on Monday, where they’ll be selling the album at a knock down £6.99 (back up to £9.99 the following day), and Thomas will be playing at the next Bleeding Hearts Club on 2nd April.