Skinny Lister has had an incredible year, with another fantastic album and a sold out UK tour. RUSHONROCK writer Adam Keys caught up with the band’s frontwoman Lorna Thomas for an exclusive chat.
RUSHONROCK: Since you last spoke to RUSHONROCK, you’ve been all over the UK and America with Frank Turner, brought out an incredible new album and now you’re on your very own headline tour. How would you sum up the last 18 months?
LORNA THOMAS: It really has been an incredible year for us! When we found out we were going on the road with Frank Turner we were really excited. It’s a goal we’d had for a good while. He puts on an amazing live show and is a totally ace guy, so yep that kicked it all off to a really good start! Then we got offered FLogging Molly’s Salty Dog Cruise touring around the Bahamas – not a bad thing at all! Pretty unreal being on a boat with a bunch of mates and as much booze as one needs. This was followed by an Xtra Mile family tour up the east Coast with Beans on Toast and Will Varley, having loads of the tour sold out before we even arrived. That felt pretty good too! After all that we had to rush back and get in the studio to record The Devil, The Heart & The Fight. We knew we loved the songs but as they came together, we were very excited. We actually announced our album launch tour whilst in the studio and the response was amazing. It was clear our biggest ever tours were going to go well. Selling out the whole of the UK tour was a total buzz. Thursday night at the Garage in Islington was insane and a memory to treasure forever. We’re not stopping here though. We’re off to the States this month and then we have a ridiculously exciting arena tour set up supporting the Dropkick Murphys in Europe. We’ve also announced another UK tour starting in April with bigger venues! Got to keep moving!
RUSHONROCK: What was the difference in writing this album after such a great response from Down On Deptford Broadway? How did you manage the heightened expectation?
LT: I think it’s fair to say there was less pressure on this one, though Dan writes all the songs – so it’s easy for me to say. After Trouble On Oxford Street it was clear that everyone liked a true story so it gave us a focus on content. We wanted to include more personal accounts whilst embracing a more global feel. Having spent a lot of time together, there are a lot of stories gathered on the road. For example, Hamburg Drunk quickly became a phrase in our gang for when someone has a bit too much after Dan spent a night on the town in Hamburg and got up to all kinds of bad behaviour.
RUSHONROCK: The Devil, The Heart and The Fight has a more of a mix of songs and styles, with Geordie Lad verging on an indie vibe. Was this intentional or a natural growth of the band?
LT: We have so many influences in the band and whilst we come from very strong folk roots we definitely had fun exploring different sound whilst trying to keep the ‘Skinny’ vibe alive. Sometimes it took a while to get there with arrangements and productions but in the end I think it still sounds like Skinny but yeah, takes people to different places. It keeps it fresh for us too.
RUSHONROCK: You said that making Down On Deptford Broadway was a real blast, full of drinks and good times, but also hard work. How would you describe the creation of The Devil, The Heart and The Fight?
LT: For some reason I felt much more relaxed on this studio session. There were a few beers but not a great deal. We’d just got off tour with Beans on Toast and Will Varley and pickled our livers on the Salty Dog Cruise so I think it was time for a wind down on that! We worked hard as ever but the Silk Mill Studio had a great chill vibe.
RUSHONROCK: Beat It From The Chest is already a Skinny Lister fan favourite. Tell us a bit about the song.
LT: Well, we wanted to incorporate some kind of shanty in our third album, as John Kanaka continues to be a highlight of our shows but again, we wanted to add instrumentation and rock it out. It’s great fun to witness live and I know Mule really likes to go for it on the electric guitar!
RUSHONROCK: On Down On Deptford you had a number of characters throughout (Irene, Cathy etc.) and that has continued into The Devil, The Heart and The Fight. Can you tell us a bit about the reasons / stories behind this?
LT: First off is the one called Geordie Lad. This is about our Geordie band member who left in the early days. We’re pretty estranged now so this was kind of an open letter to let him know that we think about him still and hope he’s doing good. He used to sing an old folk song Geordie Hinny so the chorus was kind of a play on that. Charlie is a long time friend of Dan’s who made it into Hollywood from their council estate in Bridlington. It’s a great story of achievement and everyone is dead proud of what he has achieved, so it seemed like good content for a song. He’s recently found major popularity playing Jonathan Byers in the Netflix series Stranger Things. There are other true stories on there as I mentioned but Fair Winds and Following Seas is written as an ode to all the characters we meet on the road. It’s a sentimental song but we have such a good time meeting new and familiar faces on the road it seemed only fair to include them in a song.
RUSHONROCK: During your Newcastle show, the audience knew every word of every song from the new album, despite it only being out a few weeks. How proud does this make you feel? Does it help show the level the band is reaching?
LT: We feel immensely proud and honoured. We are blown away by how positively people have received this latest album and how many people are coming out to see us. Since we became a member of Xtra Mile Recordings our path is set – we know what we’re aiming for and we will continue to work hard to achieve.
RUSHONROCK: You moved upstairs in the venues you played on this tour. Bigger venues, bigger audiences and bigger sounds. How has the tour gone and how has the overall response been?
LT: Like I say, it’s just been insane. It’s been a while since we have done our headline show and so we really weren’t sure how it was going to pan out. But as mentioned before, when we announced and tickets started flying we knew it was going to be a belter and it was. I don’t think I cried on stage but I was moved every night. We’ve now announced our next UK tour in Spring and the reactions again are so positive! Tickets are already flying out for our London show at Scala on 11th May and we couldn’t be happier. MORE, MORE, MORE!
RUSHONROCK: Although the venues are getting bigger, many of the stages remain a tight squeeze with six members and a double bass. How difficult is it to work a small stage with so many people and still bring so much energy and how important is your role in keeping the crowd going/diving into the audience?
LT: I think sometimes we worry about how we’re going to do it on a smaller stage but once the music gets going we don’t think about it again –that’s until a hand hits a cymbal or a mic stand falls over but that’s quickly forgotten in the heat of the moment and we just have a good time! My role is obviously the most important (hahaha)! No, I have to say, I don’t always crowd surf but if a crowd is rowdy enough I might take to the sea of hands! I think everyone of us has a roll to play in having a good time. Obviously if someone isn’t feeling good then the rest will carry it a long but when everyone is on top form, that’s going to be a top show.
RUSHONROCK: Finally, the audiences are getting bigger, but that jar of liquor doesn’t seem to be growing – is it time to invest in a bigger jug?!
LT: Haha! You should have come to the London show at Garage. We passed out three!