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Essex based band Aloneme have toured continually since their inception in early 2003, taking in hundreds of gigs from London to Dublin, Southend to Stourbridge and many places in between. The hard work has paid off and their reputation as a must-see live band inevitably continues to grow beyond their home county of Essex.
Featuring vocalist Sarah Springett, multi-instrumentalist & singer David Booth, plus drummer, percussionist & programmer Simon Edgoose, the band have recently been complimented by the addition of Liz Townsend on cello, piano and backing vocals and Dan Pask on bass.
Summer 2006 saw the release of their first live album - 13 breathtaking tracks, captured live at their sell-out headline at the stunning High Barn venue (www.high-barn.com). The band has recently been working on new tracks at the Loft Studios, Liverpool, with producer Nigel Stonier (Thea Gilmore, Fairport Convention). They plan to return to the studio in January 07 to complete a full studio album which they hope will take them even further along the road to wider recognition.
Tell us about how the band got together?
Sarah: It all started in 2000 when I met Dave. I’d just started to write my own songs but I don’t play any instruments so I was totally stuck when it came to gigging them or taking them any further. Dave was a friend of a friend who had just released a solo album ‘Open Season’ on a local independent label. I left my demo with him at one of his gigs, initially to see if he could help me with my material but it evolved pretty quickly into a duo/co-writing project. We gigged for a while as ‘SpringettBooth’ and a year or so later met Simon who was playing drums in the house band at a venue in London. He offered his drumming services, we became ‘AloneMe’ and the rest as they say is history! Nowadays we also have Liz Townsend and Dan Pask joining us as to complete the full 5 piece live line-up.
How would you describe the sound of the band?
We’re essentially an acoustic based pop band - the line-up being acoustic guitar, drums & percussion, 2 lead vocals, Liz on backing vocals, piano and cello and Dan on bass. If you can imagine a female fronted Crowded House then you wouldn’t be far off. A newspaper recently refers to us as "...an intoxicating cocktail of cutting lyrics, sweet harmonies and classic pop hooks" …that’s fine by us!
Your reputation as a live act precedes you. What do you enjoy about playing live?
Well that’s good to hear! We love playing live – that’s what it’s all about as far as we’re concerned. It may sound cheesy but I think it’s all about the connection with the audience and also with each other on stage. There’s an energy to a gig that is so hard to capture in the studio. Unfortunately there are too many bands these days who may be able to produce a slick studio album for X million pounds but sound so weak when put onstage which is so disappointing.
Your recent live album was recorded at The High Barn in Bardfield and you played another sell-out gig there recently, what's special about that particular venue?
If we could put down on paper the ‘perfect venue’ for us I think that it would bear an uncanny resemblance to High Barn! The building is spectacular, the staff are fantastic, the sound is second to none, the audiences are welcoming, the bar is well stocked and on top of all that it’s pretty much on our doorstep so no long journey home. Nuff said!
It must only have been a matter of time before a live album came about...
Yeah, it’s something we’ve had in mind to do since the early days and the High Barn gig was the perfect opportunity. We wanted to capture that live ‘energy’ that I mentioned earlier and it was a way of putting out a full length album that summed up our material to date, giving us some time and space to develop the newer stuff before going into the studio with it.
You're obviously working pretty hard on the band. What do you hope to achieve?
We’re giving the band everything we’ve got. We’re realistic about our ambitions - maybe we won’t play huge stadiums across the planet! – but at the same time we believe we’ve got something here that people are really enjoying and the timing is good. Radio 2 has a huge listenership at the moment and is supporting lots of music in our ‘genre’ so hopefully we can catch that wave and ride it for a while!
You're well known for your vocal harmonies. Tell us a bit about how you work when you're writing songs?
No two songs come about in exactly the same way actually. Sometimes Dave will give me a track of guitar and I’ll write the lyric, melody and harmony for it. Sometimes he’ll write it all then bring it to me. Sometimes one of us will bring in a basic verse or chorus idea then we’ll work the rest out together. It’s great now we’ve got Liz as we can get her doing the third part harmonies and have it all going off at once live!
Which is your favourite of the recordings you've done?
That’s hard to say as it’s always the most recent thing! We’re pretty proud of the Live album as it was all a one take gig - no post-production, no over-dubs - a real captured moment – one for the grandkids!
Tell us about the new material you've been recording in Liverpool?
We’re very excited about this! We’ve been working with producer Nigel Stonier at The Loft Studio, right in the city centre. We recorded 4 tracks in June and the good news is we’re going to be able to go back there in January to complete a full studio album. (Two of the finished tracks are up on our My Space page by the way – www.myspace.com/aloneme)
Which other local performers do you admire?
There’s loads of good music around this area at the moment…here goes…in no particular order…Laura Younger, Adorno Stone, Paul Bullen, The Brights, Anna Leddra-Chapman, Pavlov’s Cat, Darwyn, Cara Winter, Songs from the Blue House…Go see! Go visit their websites!…Go support!
What about more widely known artists?
We’ve all got very different musical tastes. I’m looking forward to hearing Damien Rice’s new album, I love Sarah McLachlan, David Gray, Jeff Buckley…
Dave: Finn Brothers, Dave Gray again, Manics, Michael Franti, the guys from the Buena Vista Social Club are/were all amazing… I saw Ibrahim Ferrer in London last year, a month before he died – he looked so frail when he walked on stage, but the voice was still there. Amazing! I could go on.
Simon: I’m more into the big cinematic soundscape sort of thing so I like Ennio Morricone, Trevor Horn and Philip Glass and that sort of thing. On a band level, anything from Propellerheads, Daft Punk, Royksopp to Dave Grusin, The Feeling, Rufus and Chaka Khan, Ian Drury and Donald Fagen. Err… quite varied. Reading this back, it sounds like I’m into electronica, but I’m really not, just give me something that’s honest without excessive ego and attitude… sorry… atitood.
What shows and/or releases have you got coming up?
Our next gig is December 8th at High Barn (www.high-barn.com) which is looking likely to be another sell out. Gigs already booked in this area for 2007 include AcousticCity Colchester, Cramphorn Theatre, Chelmsford & Quay Theatre, Sudbury. As far as releases are concerned we’re keeping our fingers crossed that the Loft studio album will be our next, and our biggest yet!
What is the best album ever made?
Dave: Impossible to answer, but my top few - all for very different reasons - would definitely include Beach Boys Pet Sounds, Miles Davis Kind of Blue and Nick Drake Pink Moon.
Simon: There are so many, I wouldn’t know where to start. But, if you held a gun to me, I would have to say ‘The Nightfly’ by Donald Fagen – beauty, simplicity and accuracy in one album. Lovely.
Where do you see yourselves in 18 months time?
We’re hoping 2007 will take us up to the next step of the ladder and hopefully beyond. Our aim is to take everything up to that next level – the size of gigs, the size of audiences, the size of CD releases…everything except the size of our egos!
Dave: Just keep growing, push our performances all the time, never sit back and presume we’re great just because we sell out High Barn!
Simon: Pretty much where we are now, except for the fact that everything will be bigger and better and demands on our time will have multiplied to the scale where we don’t feel bad about turning stuff down, and it being a necessity to stay sane!
INTERVIEW BY JONNY SCURFIELD