Keston Cobblers’ Club

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Sam Norris caught up with foot-tapping five-some Keston Cobblers' Club to chat about their genre-defying music and the state of live music today.

It’s safe to say that no two of your songs sound quite the same. What are your musical influences and how have they shaped what you write?
I think it’s been a mix of ideas. Speaking for myself, I generally try and mix a few different genres. I’m a little greedy with sounds and want to do everything. Strong vocal melodies and harmonies surrounded by varying instrumentation is key to me. I love rich, big sounds of bands like Beirut, Sigur Ross, Bellowhead etc. but the simplicity of artists like Bon Iver, The Tallest Man On Earth, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon etc. – and everything in between.

How did you write the new album? Was it a communal process or the result of individual ideas?
I guess our writing starts very much individually – Jules and I start with an idea individually, then we move with that idea. I generally record a decent quality demo at my studio to take to the others so they can see what I’m talking about and we’ll get everyone into the studio to record parts around the original idea. This varies from song to song. I tend to have a strong idea of how I see the track finished from the beginning and treat the demos as if they were being released. Then everyone can spend time with the demos and listen to them as outsiders. Then when we come to recording final versions, everyone has ideas of what should stay and what should go.

Some people have described your sound as folk, others orchestral, indie, and pop. If you had to put a label on your sound, how would you describe yourselves?
This has been a hard one since we started. I like the Folk label, but we’re definitely not traditional in any way. Some people say we’re a new Mumford & Sons (which is very complimentary), but I don’t see it at all. We play guitars and have a banjo in our earlier works, but it’s just too easy to label us the new M&S and if people take time to listen to tracks like Children With Socks On Their Heads or Handless Man, or most of our tracks for that matter, they’d see it’s not the case. I think a folk-orchestral-indie-pop fusion is easiest to say because we try to avoid being tied into just one genre. I definitely don’t like going too electronic though. If you rely too much on synths and gimmicks, you slowly lose the ability to perform at a stripped back level and become reliant on gadgets. One day I plan to write an electronic, dance/funk album – I love artists like Daft Punk, Lemon Jelly, Justice etc. but we definitely don’t need to add any more genres for some time! As I say: we’re greedy with our genres, we love them all and want to try them all. For now we just use “Cobblers” as an adjective to describe our sound.

You’re known for getting people involved and dancing at your live shows. What has been your favourite gig on your recent tours and why?
Woah this is a hard one. We love it when people dance – we sometimes even do dance competitions. It’s not compulsory though. People can just sit or stand and take in the music. Sometimes people (like me) are shy to move too much at gigs; you’ve just come from work and feel a little rigid, so when people let go and dance you leave the gig feeling like you’ve really got involved with the atmosphere. We’re currently half way through touring, having just finished the mainland Europe leg. I had a wonderful time at our sold out Dresden show. I don’t know what’s in their water, but everyone was up and dancing on a Monday night, it was brilliant!

You recently held your own adventure weekend/festival, Camp Wildfire. Having such a focus on an exciting live environment, and taking into account the recent closures of small music venues, what is your opinion of what’s in store for live music in the future?
Personally I feel like live music is only getting stronger. I think there’re so many options and so many people want to go out and watch bands. That’s the positive thing about the Internet: there may be falls in purchasing albums because of streaming, but you can’t experience a gig on YouTube. You can watch it, but not really experience it, so people that get a taste online can then Google the band and see where they’re playing next, purchase tickets and plan the night in a couple of minutes. We’re very lucky to be able to play loads of amazing festivals as well. There’re so many different options these days and gigs seem to be open to a wider range of ages within an audience. It’s no longer uncool to go to a gig with your parents – we have all ages mixing at our gigs, not just a load of 18-21 year olds, or just over 50s. People just see what they fancy and go to it. I don’t know, but I imagine forty years ago there’d be a much bigger divide in ages of people at gigs. Now… who cares?!

What does the future hold for the “Club”? 
Boring answer, but hopefully lots more music and lots more gigging!