Having recently wrapped up an enthralling UK tour, along with the release of their critically acclaimed new album Down On Deptford Broadway, thing are looking rosy for faux-Irish seven-piece Skinny Lister.
RUSHONROCK‘s Adam Keys caught up with the band’s leading songwriter, Daniel Heptinstall, to discuss the whirlwind of 2015.
RUSHONROCK: The atmosphere, the energy and the excitement at your shows has been incredible, how’s it been for you guys?
Daniel Heptinstall: The UK Tour was amazing! We love getting out there on the road and having the live interaction with our fans, it’s really what makes the band tick. We love catching up with old friends and making new ones. It’s been great to see the crowds grow since we last hit the road.
RUSHONROCK: Down On Deptford Broadway has had a great response, are you surprised at how quickly fans have latched on to it, and their ability to sing out every word back to you?
DH: Before its release, we already had a number of the tracks from the new album in the set, but having now released it, the crowds are a whole lot more familiar with the tracks, which is great. Tracks like Trouble On Oxford Street and This Is War really come fully to life when you have a full room singing them back at you. It’s also cool to have had so many good reviews for the album. When you’ve got your head buried in the writing and recording process – it’s difficult to know what the reaction will be when you release it upon the world, and yeah – fortunately it’s been very positive so far.
RUSHONROCK: As you came on stage in Newcastle, the tour (and your tweets about the previous night) looked like it was taking it’s toll. Who was the biggest partier on tour and what city saw the maddest night?
DH: Yeah – there is a little tour weariness sometimes creeps in as we get deeper into a tour, though we usually manage to shake this off within seconds of sparking up the music. It’s amazing what a good old Polka can do for you. Great medicine! With regard to Newcastle – we’d played Edinburgh the night before in a venue that that served cocktails – always dangerous – everyone ended up following a cat to the jazz club and throwing some strange dance moves until the early hours of Saturday morning. So yeah – that had been a big night with copious amounts of alcohol involved. Lorna can often out-party the rest of us and it’s difficult to stop her once she’s ‘out out!’. Sean McGowan (our special guest on the tour) has also been great to have about on this tour and can certainly keep up with the pace.
RUSHONROCK: You took Sean McGowan on tour – how did you find his company and performances?
DH: Sean was amazing. As well as being a great songwriter and performer. He’s one of the loveliest guys you could wish to meet which is always a bonus when you’re on the road with someone for a few weeks. It was a real pleasure being able to introduce him to the Skinny crowd and we feel he’s now part of the Skinny family. We even recruited him as fellow shanty man and had him on stage with us for John Kanaka for most of the shows. Cheers Sean!
RUSHONROCK: Throughout shows, you’ve taken to passing a hefty, pirate-styled jug of rum around the audience. Where did this come from?
DH: The band cut its teeth at festivals – we played more than any other artist one year! In fact Lorna joined the band because she wanted to get into them for free. Anyway, at these festivals we’d carry around big bottles of high alcohol content liquids that we’d share between ourselves, then the people we met and so on, often having to sneak it in. We used to call it petrol it was so strong. Anyway, in an attempt to get away with carrying large amounts of alcohol around we decided to whack it in a jug – once the spirit went in – Lorna was like – we don’t really need the mixer do we? And so it happened – the birth of our seventh member!
RUSHONROCK: The rum creates a unity and camaraderie within the crowd, with people laughing and joking as they pass it around. Have you had any hassle from rum hoggers on tour?
DH: Not this tour no, but it is a rare occasion that usually has bad karma running through the consequences! One guy in the States ended up weeing in his Tour Manager’s bed after having too much. There was also one guy who had a ridiculous funnel but the crowd soon put a stop to that! To be honest, we mostly never have problems. People that come to see us buy into the whole thing. And if they don’t buy into it they generally don’t want to go near it! Nobody wants bad vibes at a Skinny Lister gig.
RUSHONROCK: Down On Deptford Broadway is underpinned by a real Pogues vibe – what other influences did you take for this album?
DH: As with Forge & Flagon we still have traditional English folk as our core influence. Singing and playing traditional songs in pubs and folk clubs is where the band was born. But yeah – there’s definitely a Pogues, slightly more Irish type feel to a few of the songs, and we certainly love the spirit of The Pogues. But we’ve drawn on a lot of other things in there also. Raise A Wreck, although routed in the style of a traditional sea shanty, has echoes of Adam and The Ants. There are also nods to The Clash, Dexy’s Midnight Runners and The Jam. Lots of stuff really. Touring the States with both Flogging Molly and Dropkick Murphy’s has also had an influence on our live sound, which in turn influenced the sound of Down On Deptford Broadway.
RUSHONROCK: Bonny Away slows everything down and touches on the softer side of the band, whilst also allowing Lorna to show off her vocals. What influenced this song? And do you feel on the live front it creates a nice balance to the show and gives the band and crowd a chance to recover from your faster numbers?
DH: Yeah. As a device in the set, it certainly gives everyone a chance to take a breath before we kick back in with the final onslaught. I think some dynamic change during a set is important, and a track like Bonny Away is good to wheel out. We’ve always had a softer side and I enjoy writing the more delicate tracks. It’s great to be able to give a track like Bonny Away or The Dreich to Lorna to sing – she does them more justice than I could.
RUSHONROCK: The album itself comes soaked in rum and pirate chants, how much fun was it to make? And how much alcohol was consumed in the process?
DH: It’s a balance. We wouldn’t get much done if we were all roaring drunk during the recording sessions. But alcohol did have a place. I remember Lorna indulging in a little rum to loosen her vocal chords while recording Bonny Away for example. One of the most fun parts of the session was when we all sang together, including our producer Ted Hutt, in one room for some of the gang vocals. Everyone was a bit merry at this point and it was great to capture that spirit on record.
RUSHONROCK: Raise A Wreck is the perfect opener to an album and a set, but how did it come about? Was it ever just a drunken chant made into a track?
DH: Yes – it was my attempt at writing a traditional sounding sea shanty that I might get away with singing down our local folk club. My original version was just vocal and no key change. The whole thing was ramped up when we added the staccato rhythm and rising key changes. I like Raise A Wreck because it’s routed in the traditional sound but has a real contemporary twist. It’s a shanty that rocks! It also fits nicely into the genre of Shanty Punk which is how many reviewers have started to categorise Skinny Lister.
RUSHONROCK: Few bands look like they have as much fun as yourselves on stage, but how much does each show take out of you?
DH: Sometimes we’ll come off stage and pretty much collapse but that’s because we want to give 100% at every show. We really do love playing live. If we have the crowd with us, it’s like having the wind behind us and we just sail through the show. Also – our tour diet is generally not that healthy and the performance is a good way of burning off a few calories.
RUSHONROCK: You’re playing a range of festivals across Europe this summer, including four in Germany, are there any you are particularly looking forward to? Why?
DH: I’ve not fully investigated all of the European ones we’re playing yet but Greenfields in Switzerland was fun and we were sharing the main stage with Motorhead who we are big fans of. It’s also great to have been invited back to Cambridge Folk Festival this year – we had an amazing time there last year. We’re also very excited be playing two rather well known UK festivals that we’ve never played before that I can’t yet announce – but watch this space..
RUSHONROCK: Finally, you’ve been added to the line up for Flogging Molly’s famous Salty Dog Cruise in 2016, along with fellow Xtra Mile stars Frank Turner and Beans On Toast. How big an opportunity is this? And the cruise is known for it’s excess, which of the acts do you think will be the craziest to share a ship with?
DH: It was an honour to be asked to do the Salty Dog Cruise. We’d heard all about it from our Xtra Mile buddies and it sounds incredible. Apparently more alcohol was consumed before the ship left port, than is normally consumed during a full cruise. Scary stuff! It’s gonna be great being able to hang out with the Flogging Molly guys again, I know Nathan from Flogging will take some keeping up with. But then I wouldn’t fancy taking on Jay (Beans On Toast) in a party-off either. Just as long as we don’t lose anyone over board. Haul away!