[Images courtesy of skinnylister.com]
Skinny Lister have been gathering momentum and growing in size for a couple of years now. While the folk group are based in London, they love the life on the road, previously picking up accreditation for the most performances at festivals in 2011 and joining a prestigious list of punk and hardcore bands on America’s Vans Warped Tour in 2012. With their new record, Down on Deptford Broadway released just last week, I caught up with Lorna Thomas – lead vocalist in the group – to talk about the album, life on the road and their UK tour…
TSOTA: With the album coming out today in the US and yesterday in the UK I bet you must have had a busy couple of weeks?
LT: I’ve had a busy couple of months really, I can’t remember what a weekend is but I’m having a good time. Everything’s very exciting, bottles of champagne everywhere… haha, I wish.
TSOTA: How does the excitement of releasing a new album blur with an eagerness and almost impatience to get it out in the public eye?
LT: We’ve waited quite a long time for it but now it’s here it’s almost like child-birth I guess. It was painful making it, just in the fact that we all have an opinion and each of us wanted to make sure our stamp was put on it and then there was a long wait after that. Now it’s out though, I’ve forgotten about the wait and it’s just really exciting.
TSOTA: Was there a particular part of the writing and recording process that you found more frustrating than the rest?
LT: Well… not really. Obviously being in the studio is hard work because you’re there for three weeks and there are plenty of sleepless nights and times when you’ve just got to push yourself but it’s not really painful that’s just a part of the process I guess. Some people prefer being in the studio to gigging but I personally love the gigging side of things, but it is really nice to have the finished product there in your hands, especially when it’s a vinyl, so I’ve got very excited about that.
TSOTA: What was it that encouraged an increase in the size of the band with a drummer, was that something that the new album was influencing or was that more for the live shows?
LT: Obviously the live shows feed into the recordings and vice versa, but it was definitely influenced by playing with the likes of the Dropkick Murphy’s, Flogging Molly and playing on the Vans Warped Tour with loads of hardcore bands. We love the stomp-box and we occasionally do acoustic sessions with that but there’s nothing like having the drums to push things to different levels. I think we’ve got more dynamics now and a bit more energy captured in Down on Deptford Broadway.
TSOTA: Would you say that your time on the Vans Warped Tour would influence your sound further and push you away from folk and closer towards punk?
LT: Well I don’t think you can class us a punk band really, we sort of embrace that punkish attitude, but more the punk world in America sort of embraced us. It definitely changed our DNA slightly, but we’re not going to be a band that stands still, we’re always looking for new inspiration and getting something different out the music, that’s what keeps us fresh.
TSOTA: You’ve previously been recognised with the most performance at festivals, is there a particular reason you enjoy playing festivals more than normal shows?
LT: I joined the band so I could get into festivals for free, that’s the accolade of hard earned partying!
TSOTA: How do you keep up the energy when you’re out partying on tour?
LT: I carry a flagon of rum round with me, haha… that and the music and the crowds of course. Hopefully you can tell from the crowd that we are genuinely having fun and I feel that’s quite infectious really. Half the reason I am in a band is that you get to meet loads of interesting people along the way. It’s always nice hanging out with people before and after a gig, having a beer and that.
TSOTA: Are there any unusual habits you or any of the band have while you are out on tour?
LT: Haha, not particularly. We’ve all got things we take the mick out of each other for; we always say my brother sighs a lot! It’s like ‘god Max, are you having a shit time?’ As for my habits, I usually get far too drunk on an evening and boss everyone round!
TSOTA: Being in a band with your brother, does the family side of things ever seep in to the group dynamic? Do you ever see yourself looking after him?
LT: I possibly do, even though he’s my older brother, haha. I don’t know, we’re all such good friends so that side of things doesn’t really come across, it might do occasionally but we’re all just long-term friends. It’s just good fun.
TSOTA: You supported Boy George around a year ago, how did that opportunity come about and did you find playing alongside such a massive British icon intimidating?
LT: Oh god, he’s lovely! I didn’t really find it intimidating though because he was coming to some of our shows. We were doing a lot of shows to promote the first album in a little pub in London called The Ship, and we noticed him in the crowd one day. He had contacted our manager saying he loved our traditional Celtic influences as he’s from an Irish family. We were a little surprised that he wanted us to tour with him, but you can completely tell why he’s an international superstar, he’s got something about him and he is so nice. Not daunting though, it was nice knowing that he liked what we were doing. I mean, it was an odd pairing but we had a great time and managed to win over a lot of his fans.
TSOTA: You’ve recorded Down on Deptford Broadway with Ted Hutt, who’s worked with bands like The Gaslight Anthem and Flogging Molly, what was it that drew you towards him as a producer?
LT: He’s put out a lot of the bands that we know on the road. The music industry is quite small really. There’s a group of bands like Flogging Molly, The Dropkick Murphy’s, Chuck Ragan, and we’ve played shows with all of them at some point so Ted Hutt seemed like a natural selection really and our label in America suggested him. He came to some of our shows and saw the live element and was willing to get on board. We said we wanted to capture our live energy and he did a really good job of that and he also pushed the song-writing quite a lot as well.
TSOTA: You’ve said before that you don’t regard yourself as a musician. While there’s a large part of folk music which involves telling other peoples stories do you have further aspirations to tell more of your own stories in the future?
LT: My mum said I should stop talking myself down, I’m not allowed to say that anymore! With the writing side of things, I’d love to but I think it’s amazing the way people come up with melodies. At the moment, I like singing but yeah I’d love to become more involved with that in the future.
TSOTA: You recorded the Grand Union EP whilst touring on a barge boat, what was the most interesting part of the recording process for Down On Deptford Broadway for you?
LT: That was more of holiday than a tour! On the new album I love the piano parts. We got our good freind to play piano on it and there’s a very Beatles-esque part in Cathy where we all went crazy on the piano strings, that was quite fun!
TSOTA: With your UK tour round the corner – you’re playing the Brudenell Social Club when you get to Leeds – is there anywhere you’re particularly looking forward to playing on that tour and where would you like to play that you’ve not yet had the chance?
LT: I really want to go to Australia, I’ve never been there and it’s always exciting going to a new territory and not knowing how you’re going to be received. As for this tour, I’d say the Brudenell, haha, we’ve never played Leeds before! We’re excited for all those towns that we’ve never played and don’t really know what to expect, they’ll probably be the more exciting ones. And then there’s Leicester and London, because I’m originally from Leicester and both those towns are always really good fun. Newcastle’s looking like it might sell out too! I’m looking forward to all of them, I can’t wait to celebrate the album and get on the road.
David Campbell Olson
Skinny Lister are currently on their UK tour for more info on dates and venues visit their website