Music Interview: Boat to Row

Hailing from the darkest corner of the Midlands, Boat to Row have evolved from a solo university project into a fully fledged folk band of the highest order. They’ve been working their way up from grass roots level while building a steady following through word of mouth and some sensational live festival performances over the summer.

I spoke to them to find out more…

Boat to Row

How did you go from a solo university project to your current line up?
(Ben) The band has expanded quite naturally over the past few years both through need and through a desire to push our sound as far as we can. When Michael first recorded the earliest songs he’d written he got people to play things he couldn’t such as the drums, which Lloyd could, and once the tracks were recorded in that way that’s the way you want to hear them live so drums were soon a regular fixture. We’re all friends anyway so we’d all be around so I was asked to play bass.

Once we had the core of the group down we’ve added instruments as we felt our sound requires, violin came quite early on, keys and electric guitar was added when we played our first headline slot on a festival stage as we wanted to sound big enough for the occasion and the brass parts were added this summer as we thought we could do more with the songs and we knew Emma would be a great addition! 

Do you have any unusual instruments?
(Billy) We have a few weird ones, me and Michael recently bought a Harmonium between us which is somewhere between an accordian and a keyboard. It sounds great and we managed to sneak it onto a song or two on this recording! We keep an eye out for strange instruments, anything we can use to add to a recording or an acoustic session to make it sound interesting but they have to prove their worth to make it into our already overloaded live show! 

Your music seems to belong at festivals, do you have a favourite one?
(Emma) This years festival season was great, we had so much fun that it’d be really difficult to pick a favourite. Saying that 2000 Trees was definitely a highlight – we had three power cuts during our set so resorted to playing unplugged in the crowd.  Luckily this was really well received and just proved to be a really special moment this summer for us!  I’ve also really enjoyed performing at No Direction Home, Truck, Y-Not…well everything really, it’s impossible to name just one! 

Do you try and get into the vibe of a festival before or after? 
(Ben) We do! We’ve stayed at a couple of festivals for the weekend and where we haven’t been able to we’ve stuck around as long as possible. It’s been brilliant to have the chance to see so many great bands at some brilliant festivals this summer so we consider ourselves very lucky. It’s fun to see how festival goers forget about the weather and mud and have fun regardless.

How would be your ideal band to go out on tour with?
(Mike) Wow, that’s a tough question. I mean you could name an endless list of people you’d like to play with and in doing so miss out even more! I guess ideally it’d just be to tour with cool like-minded people, easy to hang out with and to get involved with, it’s awesome when you can really grow from bands playing together to friendships outside of music and touring certainly helps that. Nothing more ideal than playing music with friends! 

Do you use social media (facebook / twitter etc)  much to communicate with your fans?
(lloyd) We’re all trying to find new ways to interact with people. Emma has taken over our Instagram duties and we have a blog which we try to keep on top of. We try to keep as many avenues open as possible for people to talk to us and for us to get our messages out. 

boat to row interview

What songs will be on the forthcoming EP?

(Billy) There’ll be 5 tracks on the EP, all songs you may have heard us playing over the summer. We’re just wrestling with the tracklisting at the minute but the tracks will be Freedom, Dreaming Wild Flowers, Loyal Light, Ode to Work A Day and Old Scenes.

Where are you recording it?
(Emma) We’re recording it at Craig Thorneycroft’s studio in Nuneaton.  We’ve recorded with him in the past so its good to work with someone who knows the band and our sound well.  

How do you go about things in the studio, do you all play together? 
(Ben) We record with a friend in a small studio so we don’t have the room to all play at once on a recording so we record drums first and build up from there. Where possible we’ll track instruments together to get a live feel but we have to be careful about sounds bleeding into each other. I’d love to try recording live at some point though! 

Do you feel like you have found ‘your’ sound yet? 
(Mike) We’ve certainly grown more as musicians over the past year or so and continue to learn from one another as writers as well. I guess it’s when you listen to those early demo’s or releases and compare them to where you are at present that you soon see either a change in mood or sound. It’s starting to feel instinctive to us now, each new song is taking us somewhere else and with each new song your hearing more of who we are individually and collectively.

Any plans to release a full length record by the end of the year? 
(lloyd) We’re about to release our next ep “loyal light” in time for our end of year run of shows. 2013 looks to be an exciting time for us as we’re planning more regular releases leading up-to a full length album. 

Boat to Row are:
Michael King – Guitar/Vocals/Banjo/Mandolin
Ben Gilchrist – Bass/Vocals/Banjo/Percussion
Lloyd Miller – Drums/Percussion/Vocals
Faye Haddon – Violin/Mandolin/Vocals
Billy Moss – Keys/Guitar

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