An Interview with
The Dawn Chorus
The Dawn Chorus, a six piece indie folk band from Hampshire, visited
Cambridge last October, admitting it was the furthest north they had
ever played. Like many musical nights in our fair city (not naming any
names!) the evening was a shambolic affair; poorly organised equipment,
no communication, an unsuitable mix of bands (for those that turned
up) and clearly no proper promotion or support. Luckily for me, although
I was one of only a few who had the pleasure, the non Cambridgeshire
band, who released their debut album - The Big Adventure - in 2008,
werent phased by the lack of professionalism shown to them. They
simply responded by stepping on stage and being every bit as energetic,
evocative and intelligent as their recordings suggest. Slightly embarrassed
by the welcome they had received and amidst all the confusion, I tentatively
spoke to guitarist and songwriter Neil before they performed.
Starting life as a standard four part indie band they have spent the
past few years getting their sound. With the addition of
mandolin and keyboards, aside from giving them more presence on stage,
they have grown into their modem folk skin which had been building up
through their debut EPs and came to fruition with The Big Adventure.
Neil explained how this came about: Wed done EPs and that
was all cool but we got to the point where we wanted to do an album,
we thought this is the time. With Kyles lyrics and
writing ability we had a great thread running through the whole thing.
It is quite clear that the glue that holds the band together and a great
deal of the power that The Dawn Chorus create stems from the lyrics
of front man Kyle which constantly juxtapose imagery and ideas; light
with dark, dream and fantasy with reality. Kyle likes story telling.
Quite often they are complete stories. He may see something on the TV
or in a newspaper and his imagination goes a bit wild. The Big Adventure
is based on Peter Pan, finding Neverland, and obviously theres
the fantasy of Peter Pan but based on the real life of the guy the book
is based on and the juxtaposition between the two. Quite often
it is difficult to separate the fantastical from the mundane of everyday
life but it is always presented to the listener in such a way that it
is almost unimportant and the journey you go on with the band is far
more crucial than anything else. The Summer of 99 is a perfect example
its not completely about a friend of ours who died
when we were young but it is kind of based on that. That kind of sums
it up maybe theres one element, a feeling or whatever that
That one feeing then blossoms and takes over the
song in a highly emotive and imaginative manner.
The fact that the lyrics take centre stage and they spring from one
source does not seem to cause the band any problems when it comes to
arranging their songs nor to their quality. Much like everything they
do, the whole process feels somehow organic; Well write
a rough structure, hell (Kyle) write some gibberish and Ill
(Neil) write a rough guitar riff and hell take it away. He doesnt
sit down with a piece of paper and say Im going to write a song.
His lyrics are never ever written down. When it came to printing the
lyrics for the album he had to try and remember them all.
The second you open the lyric sheet to The Big Adventure you can see
how important words are to this band and, like a teenager locked in
their room pouring over the words of their musical idols, you cannot
help but be inescapable drawn in by them. Comparing Kyles lyrics
to something like the poetry of Wordsworth, Neil excitedly carries on
thats what I love about his lyrics. You can just read them.
Obviously we were on a budget and we had to think how are we going
to get on these bloody lyrics on these page but our main thought
is the lyrics. Weve got other elements as well but that is the
most interesting thing.
Despite their insistence about the prominence of the lyrics on the album
and printed words on the inlay, they still remained fairly relaxed about
the rest of the artwork. We knew we had to have something that
presented the words and looked like it had been made but we just let
the artist run with it and he just got it. When he sent us the artwork
we just really liked it. The Dawn Chorus logo he actually made out of
a wood block and the first time we saw it we knew that was our logo
forever. Such naturally real examples of their creative processes
only support the authenticity of the band.
The Dawn Chorus do not feel alone in this modern form of folk storytelling
and Neil seems enthused about the potential there is. What gives
me hope is that there seems to be a little undercurrent of folk and
storytelling. Its very underground at the moment. Id like
to believe there is sort of a scene though. Spear heading this
potential new scene is Frank Turner, someone who has made
a big impression in Britain in the last year and who openly, to myself
and others such as Radio One, professes his feelings for The Dawn Chorus.
We supported him a while back and he just fell in love with us.
Were basically his favourite UK band
he wants to take us
on tour and at the moment thats where were looking because
people who like Frank Turner generally like us. Thats about the
best thing weve got going for us at the moment. Hes promised
us. We cant hold him to it but hes basically said March
or September. I guess he has to see how things go for him. His tour
at the moment is selling out all over but his gigs are different from
any Ive been to. The thing about his lyrics are they are so stark.
Everyone can relate to it. Its about life. Theres a sort
of punk spirit to it.
Their current tour, as is proven by their night in Cambridge, is not
quite so glamorous. Theres no tour bus only a car. Weve
been trying to do a tour for ages, trying to string places together.
We organised it ourselves. Were in a position where we are up
for playing anywhere. Travelling and then playing to five people
you kind of get used to that but its difficult. No-one wants to
put an unknown band on outside of their city. Someone in Cambridge
did at least take that risk on them but yet again it was another difficult
night for them in front of an empty room.
Aside from the reality of the road they have begun to see some small
appreciation for their work. Theyve had some good reviews and
been picked up by magazines such as Rocksound. The album is selling
and so far theyve seen over 1000 sales. However, there is still
a long way to go before the band reach their Neverland and
already their thoughts are turning to a bigger and better second album.
I never stop writing really. Me and Kyle have probably got three
quarters of an album. Very early stages. Theyll see a lot of changes.
This will be the first album where we know we have mandolin at our disposal
and we want to use it in an intelligent way. We intend to get a new
member every album at the moment
This Saturday, the 7th March, the band bravely return to Cambridge to
perform at The Globe. I highly recommend anyone interested in thoughtful
and insightful lyrics and music that takes you an emotional journey
to go and support them and show them a warmer welcome than the last
one they received.