This week someofitistrue are very pleased to bring you a band on the brink of releasing their debut album. Hatful of Rain are creating a positive buzz with their first video and have also received airplay on Bob Harris’ radio show. Phil Jones from the band kindly chats to us about how the band got together, making the record, the band’s influences and what the future holds.
Good day Hatful of Rain. How are you? Where are you and, what are you up too?
We are getting ready for our album launch on 30th May, which is sadly now sold out! Shame we didn’t get a bigger venue! There’s been a lot of interest in the album, following the release of the official video on YouTube and it’s very exciting.
We all have day jobs and families. Chloe is studying for her midwifery degree, I’ve just come back from playing in Paris with another band and James has just returned from playing in Mexico with the Balanescu Quartet.
Tell us about how the members of Hatful of Rain came to be in a band together.
In 2009 I met Chloe at the Shoreham-on-Sea folk day. I had done my set and was getting some – ahem – some refreshments and Chloe came on. It was pretty noisy there and the sound system wasn’t quite up to the job, but I could still tell that she had a fabulous presence and a lovely voice. On that day she was accompanied by Ben McGuire on banjo, who was in the Hatfuls for a while and plays on the first EP before heading off to do other musical things. I introduced myself and they obviously saw past my rather overly refreshed demeanour and soon we were playing together.
At the same event the following year, Fred was playing with his other band Porchlight Smoker and Chloe and I were performing as a duo. Fred offered to play some mandolin with us and I brought along James to our first rehearsal with Fred. James and I had played together some years previously in a Cajun/Old Time band called The Crawfish Scrapers with Dave Simner, now of the Curst Sons and fiddle maker Vince Purcell. That first rehearsal was fabulous. Fred and James can really pick and the interplay between them was fabulous. Chloe and I had to pinch ourselves to believe we’d managed to recruit two such fabulous musicians.
I’ve heard you described as Bluegrass, British Folk, Appalachian – all terms I’m aware of but don’t really understand – how do you describe yourselves?
Well those are certainly are our influences! Being and sounding British is important to us and we are looking to retain that in the sound whilst staying true to the classic stringband format. We aren’t bluegrass as we don’t have a Scruggs style banjo sound, although the rhythms are all there and James and Fred trade licks like the bluegrass guys.
The name, ‘Hatful of Rain’ conjures many images – why did you choose the name and what does it mean to you?
“Got a head full of lightning and a hatful of rain”, from the Tom Waits song Long Way Home. Yes it’s got a melancholy feel to it, but we’re actually very cheerful!
How did the link up with the Union Music Store record label come about?
Well Jamie and Stevie are real afficionados of all things rootsy – we couldn’t have escaped their attention for long! They’d come along to a few of our gigs and soon we got to talking. They’d released Jamie’s album and an EP by Zoe Brownrigg and we liked them both. They had a good business background and an enthusiasm for what we were up to which was hard to resist! They have brought so much to the project and really helped us attract attention – we wouldn’t be speaking to you now if it wasn’t for Union Music Store.
You can only save 5 records from your collection…..what would they be?
Sorry did you say 50 ? This is really difficult! My 5 would be “Time The Revelator” by Gillian Welch, “Sticky Fingers” by the Stones, Dylan’s “Blood On The Tracks”, “Heartbreaker” by Ryan Adams and “Be Good to Yourself at Least Once a Day” by childhood favourites and Welsh psychedelic pioneers Man – good advice too J.
You now have a video for ‘Way On Up The Hill’. Is this the first video you’ve made? Who was the most natural in front of the camera?
I’m fairly new to videos, there are a couple, but I’m not telling you where you can see them (no, not that sort of video..) Chloe was wonderful in front of the camera, all first take stuff and she sells the song just enough but no more. I couldn’t keep a straight face.
Your debut album is out soon. What’s it all about?
Well hopefully it sounds coherent – as if it’s produced by the same people – but I don’t know if it’s about anything other than us having a great time. If anything, it reflects us finding our feet together. We are already looking forward to recording the second. In many ways the feel of the record is influenced by Jamie and Stevie, particularly the sleeve, the video and their help in the final aspects of recording and the track listing. Chloe has written most of the songs, one with James who contributes one instrumental. Fred brought “Welcome to the Family”, which is a tender song about family dysfunction, whilst mine in “Rockin’ Chair Daddy” is a bit autobiographical – about growing up in Wales, loving American music.
The hidden gem is Chloe’s “Exit Song” which, at this moment no-one to my knowledge has played on the radio. The first time I heard it sitting at her kitchen table I had to get the hankie out – it’s one of the most beautiful song of love-lost I’ve ever heard. I really hope no-one ever plays it to Simon Cowell.
Are the songs new or ones you’ve been playing for a while?
Bit of a mixture, none had been around for more than a year.
How does the song writing process work within the band?
Chloe wrote most of the songs for the album with contributions from the rest of us on particular tracks. Whoever writes the song, the process seems similar. The writer fetches up to rehearsal with the lyrics, melody and chord patterns and the whole band does the arrangement, adds instrumental flourishes, etc.
How difficult was it harnessing the energy of a live performance within the confines of an album?
We recorded the album in a converted barn, which was nice because it allowed us to play mostly live. Recording always involves that dynamic of energy, whilst playing with sufficiently accuracy to meet the demands of repeated listening. We were delighted to be helped by Simon Scardinelli who recorded the album on his Dr Scardo’s mobile unit, which worked very well. We were pretty relaxed about the whole thing and had a good time, which was in part due to Simon’s steadying influence and forensic ears!
Hatful of Rain are hosting a festival – which 5 acts would you ask to play with you?
Do they have to be alive? If not Hank Williams, Gram Parsons, Sandy Denny, Lowell George and Elvis.
What does the rest of 2012 have in store?
Reaching more audiences by getting out and gigging. Finishing writing the second album. Playing at a couple of great festivals – I’m particularly looking forward to being on the same bill as Jason Ringenberg, Otis Gibbs and the Toy Hearts at Maverick Festival at the end of June (29th, 30th & 1st July).
The Hatful of Rain Album is out 30th May on Union Music Store: www.unionmusicstore.com
All of these excellent photos are by Bob Russell Photography http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bob-Russell-Photography/216781678335227