Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Best Band You've Never Heard Of: The Singing Loins

An English trio formed in 1990, the Loins consist of lead singer Chris Broderick, guitarist and backup singer Chris 'Arf'ur' Allen and multi-instrumentalist Rob Shepherd. They describe themselves as “authentic raw folk from the Medway Delta,” but their music covers a range including a Dylan-esque folk bordering on Celtic, blues-touched music-hall, and something damn near klezmer. Lyrically, they're satirical and witty, yet heartfelt. They can tell you a story with a quirky character you'll immediately love, bitch about anti-smoking laws, make you cry about lost loved ones, or simply argue amongst the band in a three minute song, never once passing up a pun along the way, and yet you'll believe every word of it.

If I've talked to you about music at any length, chances are you've heard me mention The Singing Loins. So it was with great pleasure when they responded to my request for an email interview.

Lyrics. Who writes 'em? And how do topics get decided on?
BROD: I write the lyrics. Mind you, we've recorded a couple of Arf's. He's good with words and occasionally slings me a line when I'm stuck. Sometimes I'll have a backlog of subjects I want to write about, sometimes the music will suggest something unexpected.
ARF: Words are Brods thang. He doesn't mess with our musical genius and we don't mess with his.

Music. Same question. Describe for me if you can, your song writing process.
BROD: We hate jamming for starters - Leave that to the hippies and proper musos. We've developed a system where Arf & Rob will record loads of rough individual ideas and send me mp3s, then I'll choose the ones I get an emotional response to and set the words to the music. I love that discipline, the real craft of a lyricist, I'm very strict about scanning and rhyming and rhythm. Most times the melody comes with the words, but sometimes Rob & Arf will suggest a great hook. Then we'll meet up and quickly knock it into shape - try a quiet bit here, put a bridge there. Sometimes I'll have put a verse over what they imagined was going to be the chorus, so I show them how to do it properly.
ARF: I rarely write a complete song. Bits of verses and choruses to be worked on as a band. Rob is very good at adding whats needed.
ROB: Yeah, Arf does nice little pencil sketches and I go completely over the bloody top with my box of infant school water colours. Messing up the paper.

I'm always interested in what bands and musicians influence the bands and musicians that influence me. What do you lot listen to on the off days? Or the on days.. Whichever.
BROD: Not much. I don't mean that flippantly, it's just the truth. I'm as much influenced by literature, visual art, or observing people at my day job. Whoever you think we sound like must be who we listen to. But we don't.
ARF: Guitar playing influenced alot by 60's country rock stuff, The Byrds, Neil Young, etc and my sister. She used to play around the folk clubs in late 60's early 70's. Got her old guitar when I was 9. Also have an Irish family and lived in Dublin for a year with my Uncle when I was small. I remember traveling on a bus to the zoo with my cousins singing rebel songs. That's gotta be an influence.
ROB: The Fall. Good days & bad days. I wish they'd never been invented. Noisy fuckers.

Of all yer songs, what's your favourite?
BROD: I'll pick three moods off the last album: Ballad - 'Since You Were My Girl'. Music Hall - 'Please Take My Scissors Away'. Fun - 'Cunny Ann'.
ARF: Fat Boy and Ferry Lane off new one. Oldies...Low November Sun.
ROB: Leytonstone Tom has always been my favourite. All those nurses fussing with sheets. And the fucking & fighting & what not. Can't play it, mind.

So, how hard was it to get Arf in drag for that video?
BROD: You should ask how hard it was to get him out of drag! I was jealous as fuck!
ARF: Yeah. Apparently Ive been gagging to drag up for years. Taught me to appreciate open gusset tights tho. Those dresses are hot hot hot.
ROB: Looked a luv though didn't he. Bit of a coincidence his wife's dress just happened to fit perfectly.

There was a goodly amount of time in between the Complete and Utter recordings, and the reformation. Were there other bands or projects in between?
BROD: I started up a similar sort of combo called cat.fish.dog,I also wrote a few screenplays and stage plays and then started writing musical theatre with Rob. We've done four 'musicals' now.
ARF: Lost my folky mojo and formed a noisy electric band with some mates. Organizing it all was too much like hard work tho.
ROB: I was only a bystander first time round, though I saw em scores of times. I remember standing with a mate when they did the re-union show, with a big smile on me face, turning to him & saying "now that's what they should have been doing."

Where'd the band's name come from?
BROD: When my ex-wife was happy she used to say her loins were singing. She's from Coventry.
ARF: That's no excuse.

Weapon of choice when the zombie apocalypse finally happens?
BROD: Custard pie.
ARF: A pretty dress and an Uzi.
ROB: A ukelele. Scares the shit out of zombies.

Horror stories from the road?
BROD: Resolutely playing all original stuff to two old cunts and a dog in poxy pubs. I've literally had beer glasses chucked at me. I've no idea where the desperate self belief to carry on came from. Oh, did you want something funny? How about the time our guitarist, Graham, who looked like a stick insect, electrocuted himself onstage (which I hadn't seen) and as he stood there rigid and rooted, with his heart stopped, I started booting him up the arse for not moving about enough. (He survived)
ARF: Serbia [is] always interesting. Rob and me spent best part of a night after a show, pinning the promoter, who had downed a bottle of Jim Beam, to a bed in a hotel to stop him trashing the room. Thought it was a good idea to shut him in bathroom only to hear him trying to break the mirror and tiles with his head.
ROB: Now that was a good night. And all the time Brod was in a bar across the road with the driver, who couldn't speak a word of English, singing along to Smiths records, in blissful ignorance to the carnage going on around the corner.

So, when demand finally makes you decide to hit stateside, and my ceaseless hounding convinces you to come here... can I buy you lot a pint?
BROD: If you can find someone to finance it we'll buy you a pint!
ROB: It would be a pleasure. Looking forward to it already.

If you fancy it, you can sample the Loins' loins at www.singingloins.co.uk.
-Tom McSod

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