Speak, Brother

Updates and musings from the guys

Trying to stop Autumn (Chaos Pt 2)

I’ve been wanting to write this for a couple months now as a follow up to my previous entry way back in October. It’s just been crazy busy. It’s that crazy time of year with so many mixed emotions for many. And busyness reigns.

For me too, it does feel I’ve been hit with a fresh dose of chaos in my life. With some circumstances coming up make for a good amount of uncertainty in my life than otherwise. Sometimes it’s exciting, but sometimes it’s just tiring. Where it’s hard to hold onto any answers or come to any solid conclusions.

But enough of the excuses, here I am finally, writing this on the first day of Winter having sailed through Autumn like it didn’t happen.

Gutted! As Autumn is my favourite season.

However much I wish we had the feature – you can’t ‘live pause’ the Seasons. Regardless of however fast we move around each beat in the Rhythm of the seasons, it won’t change. It remains a steady, effortless rhythm. And from the Atom to the Solar System and everything in-between –  everything has it’s own movement and rhythm.

Even our own breathing just happens to us without effort.

Autumn, I suppose is the exhale of Nature. It’s the season of dying. But it’s funny how it’s arguably the most beautiful of all seasons to witness.

Just as a leaf, full of all it’s vibrant colour and energy. Once confident, proud of it’s summer growth, now in pure disruption, chaos and uncertainty as it falls to the ground. It slowly disintegrates and is now formless as it’s life and energy breaks down into the soil. Enriching the soil for next season’s growth.

There’s a strange beauty isn’t there, in that dying is the same act of giving life.

The leaf can’t stop death. Just as we can’t bury uncertainty.

But it happens. Bad stuff happens. And it’s so hard.

I wonder though if the more we can just sit with the uncertainty. Accept the chaos. Allow it to happen rather than denying and trying to stop it. We might be surprised by the life giving possibilities that come from it.

It’s a risk though. Sitting in the moment is a vulnerable scary place to be. Because you have no idea what could happen next and past hurts and pain have a tight hold on you as always.

Who know’s how things will unravel..

How does this chaos resolve?

One thing for certain is that what is happening, is happening.

It is, what it is, what it is.

Just as the Beatles said:

“And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me speaking words of wisdom, let it be”

Painting by Wildflower Design

You never sing in the shower any more.. (Chaos Pt 1)

I think, like most people, I have the drive to control. To understand. To have something certain to hold onto when it’s tough.

But life seems to be so fluid and full of surprise. For better or worse, who really know’s what’s around the corner? We can try and calculate and predict, but we can’t fully control anything.

Some days it feels like I’ve got this. Sometimes I just want to run away.

I hadn’t thought it through properly really. I suppose you just muddle through the routine of the day like a rock in an ocean current. Except for times like when my wife said to me recently –

“You never sing in the shower any more”

We’ve all got our own problems. But on top of that there’s Trump, Brexit, The Syrian crisis, War in Yemen and everything else.

And then our brothers and sisters who don’t have the luxury of reading this blog on their phone iPad or laptop device – Who’s ever nagging thought is how they will feed their family.

A couple months ago we put the call out inviting anyone to share what Chaos means to them. The following week we had a 3 day stint in a cabin booked to write and record a new song and all we had was the song title:

Meet Me In The Chaos

You truly met with us in that and we had pages and pages of honest, open, gritty stories, poems, imagery, artwork, photos. 

It was heavy and real.

But it was beautiful witnessing the courageous vulnerability in the sharing of people’s darkest times.

There’s something in it. Maybe a spark of movement. A tiny jolt of life. A brooding growth that slowly binds us together as we become more and more aware of our brother and sisterhood.

Take away the labels that divide us. The homeless guy on the corner on the way to work. The refugee trying to get into the country. The colleague who always gossips. The stranger sitting next to us on the train.

Take away those preconceptions and judgments we use to put people in boxes, and what we are left with is the same story of Joy, suffering and chaos as in our own lives.

Despite all the gadget connectivity, 53% of 18-34 year olds have felt depressed because they felt alone, while 11% say they feel lonely often (The Lonely Society, Mental Health Foundation)

It’s no secret Mental Health is a huge problem in the West. 

Chaos isn’t far. You’ll likely find it raging, hidden somewhere under a tired smile.

Meet Me In The Chaos – Out Nov 16th. Be notified by joining the Inner Circle.

Meet Me In The Chaos Tour Dates:

  • Birmingham, 18th November
  • London, 19th November
  • Bristol, 23rd November
  • Salford, 25th November

Details and Tickets

Massive thanks to Wildflower Design for allowing us to use this drawing. (Prints are available on request)

Meet me in the Chaos with stories, art and poetry

A few weeks ago, we set out to write a new song. We had a cabin in the Welsh valleys booked for a few days the following week and all we had was a song title.

Matt, during a long journey to a gig with little sleep and an energy drink, had a golden idea to just put the song name out there and invite people to help write the song.

We didn’t know what to expect to be honest. It felt like we were taking a bit of a risk. But we were absolutely bowled over from the response. Together, on the Inner Circle facebook group or through email, we shared our hearts in the form of past hurts, hope, stories, art, and poetry. It was hard at times to read and try to enter into others hurt. It was a little taste of our shared humanity, and it was beautiful.

Not to mention inspiring. Check this out for example:

This was painted by Martyn who shared his story and allowed me to share it here with you:

“I painted this 6 years ago (this month) it was the start of my divorce, separation, my youngest was only 12/13 weeks old. I had nowhere to sleep so slept in my car and in a church until I found a bed. Finances and work had ended and I was made redundant from a long standing teaching job and I was 3 months away from being sectioned and a week away from my mum passing away. It was the most chaotic point in my life. On one moment when I had my eldest (3 years old) we did some painting together and I painted this. After I finished Will said to me “Daddy you’re in the boat and the wolf and the snake can’t get you. You’re with him” I had never meant to do more than a stormy clouds but it wasn’t until he pointed it out that I saw a wolf howling and a snake curling each side of the boat. It really made me see the attack on both sides of the chaos (more with hindsight than at that time) I was in but I was safe in the eye of the storm. Hope this helps.”

I’d recommend checking out Martyn’s blog here: (Twitter @mr_kitney)
We had 11 pages of your contributions in total and needless to say the song wouldn’t have been the same without them. Hopefully we’ll share some more soon if we can.

Over 2 or so days in a cosy, secluded, signal-free cabin, we recorded the song as we wrote it and have come out with something we are truly buzzing about!

The song comes from a place bigger than just our own perspective. It was written in a context of uncertainty and risk, which is quite fitting as that is the nature of chaos really.

We still have some bits to finish off recording of the song. Then on to mastering, etc etc. So the song won’t be out until November 16th. However, I’m hoping we can play you the song beforehand privately via the Inner Circle. Watch this space and join the Facebook group if you can!

PeakBrother – We made It!!

A few weeks ago we embarked on our 3 Peak Challenge for Hope and Homes for Children and we’re relieved to say we completed it with 4 minutes to spare!

We saw the sun set over Ben Nevis and rise again at Sca Fell and in between the sweat and exhaustion there we some really beautiful moments. But when we realised that it costs Hope and Homes for Children on average £1,200 to free a child from an orphanage and that our fundraising would literally change the lives of at least 2 children, it really ignited something within us. What we were doing was actually changing something for the better.

It’s that ‘why’ factor isn’t it. The ‘doing stuff’ is good at it’s best, and agonising at it’s worst, but when we connect it with the ‘why we do why we do’, it almost doesn’t matter how hard it is. It’s all good and well looking at a nice sunset and all. It does the soul good. But when there’s purpose and meaning beyond yourself, it’s special.

Together we surpassed our target of 3k which is just AWESOME! Thank you all so so so much..

Checkout the songs we sang from the peaks below.

Songs from the tops of Peaks

View all 

We sang a song from the start and top of Ben Nevis and Sca Fell pike and in the foothills of Snowdon! Hauling up those instruments, as light as they were, made it all the more difficult and awkward but it was great fun.

We had to sing the final song at the bottom of Snowdon as we needed to rush up and down the hill to make up lost time. The Sat Nav took through Hardnot Pass in the Lake District which is no go zone for Vans! It was scary and we lost an hour. So we sang Magnesium Burn from the foothills. When I find our recording from the Top of Sca Fell, I’ll add that too!

Speak soon,


Young & Brave: Song stories

We’ve been absolutely blown away from all your feedback from the Album.. It’s kind of a funny to feeling to be working on something for so long for it to be finally out there and finished. Of course, there’s barely time for a breather these days. We’re already making some exciting plans for the next 12 months and can’t wait to share them with you!

Some people say they love the stories that lie within our songs. We were asked to give a short commentry on each song by Cross Rythyms for an article on their site, but thought I’d publish here too.

#1 Magnificent

Remember the last time you held a new-born baby? It’s powerless, frail and vulnerable as it rests in your arms. It has no idea just how precious and beautiful it is. Isn’t it weird to think that we were once a baby, just like that? We all start from that place of Magnificence. I penned all the words to this song in bed one evening after watching the film ‘Fences’. Based in gritty 1950’s black America, it’s a tough story to watch. It takes you through a few generations of a family whose upbringing was dark, lonely and hard, but the last few scenes focus on this beautiful young daughter whose eyes were full of hope and purity. This song is an attempt to capture those emotions. In spite of the fears and pressures that come later in life, this is a song of joy and celebration of the beauty and incredible value each and every human that has ever walked this earth contains.

Lyrics  /  Listen

#2 When We Were Young

When we sat down to start writing the album, this is the first song that came out. Thematically, it actually carries the sentiments from the last track of our previous EP ‘Light Runs After Us’. In a way it also represents the main theme of the album and contains the lyrics of the album title. The song is a little bit of a nostalgic look back over my childhood. Where did my insecurities come from? When did I first begin to fear, or experience treachery? I remember as a kid at school I collected pogs. Remember those? I had quite a nice collection. I was having a game with a friend. It was my first game ‘for keeps’, and it was the day I first learned the concept of gambling. I lost the game and he started pulling all my pogs towards himself and I just burst into tears when others stopped me stopping him. It’s funny to think of my naivety, but that day I lost a little of my innocence as I felt bitter against my friend. As a kid I was unaware of anything. I just wanted to build Lego, explore woodland, discover caves, climb trees, but somewhere down the line I started to fear. Deep down, I still want to do all that stuff. I want to love fearlessly. I don’t want fear to get in the way of my creativity. My work. My relationships. This song is yearning to awaken that fearless inner child again.

Lyrics / Listen

#3 Pond Boy

“Pond Boy” is a song about learning to live life outside of our comfort zone – our “pond”. Our comfortable, familiar, safe little pond. Nothing changes here. Nothing new. Aspirations are managed and dreams are contained or let go completely and there is no vulnerability. I think this was where we were at before we decided to crowdfund for this album. It was always a risk. What if we don’t reach our target? What if we can’t find a producer? What if we can’t write good enough songs? What if we fail? We didn’t know what would happen. But adventure has to include risk. . . right?

Lyrics  /  Listen

#4 Magnesium Burn

This song is the summary of the build-up of frustration of being contained and restrained from the padded safe nature of the pond. It’s a desperate answer to the call of doing something different. Something with meaning. To put a foot out into the unknown. If Pond Boy was the call, then perhaps Magnesium Burn is the spark of a response.

I love what David Bowie said when asked about creativity:

“Always go a little further in the water than what you feel you’re capable of being in. . . When you feel like your feet aren’t quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting.” 

If we ever had a song suitable for running to, then this would be it. Just before recording the vocals, Matt and I decided to jump out of the studio and run down the street till we were gasping for breath (which didn’t take long for me). It was the quickest way to feel the body, and really helped to embody what we were singing about.

Lyrics / Listen / Watch Video

#5 & #6 Father

As babies and young kids we were so unaware of failure. So blissfully ignorant of racisim, sexism, or any cultural divides. This song is an attempt to look back through those wide fearless eyes again and maybe when we look out to other groups of people we can find a brother or sister and our own world becomes a much bigger place. Interestingly, ‘Father’ sums up quite well the core theme of the Young & Brave Album.

Again, this song looks back at the child we were, but looks up and around to see that we aren’t alone in this. That although we are all different and beautiful in our uniqueness, we are all the same. All brothers and sisters, sons and daughters and not on our own in our suffering.

It’s a song about inclusiveness, and I love that we managed to get loads of voices on it. It features the beautiful voice of Kirstie Smith (Dan’s wife) and a gospel choir at the end. I can’t tell you what the strange words at the end of the song mean. Gavin Monaghan, our producer, who convinced me the end needed something, told me to get into the vocal booth and “channel my inner goat herder” (whatever that means ha ha). So I just switched all the lights off and in the pitch black I sang what ever came out.

Following the grand calling of Pond Boy (Track #3) and the sprint-like energy of Magnesium Burn (Track #4), this song is separated by a super chilled instrumental track we called ‘The Wild’ (Track #5) – A brief hault before entering the wild unknown and uncertainty.

Lyrics  /  Listen

#7 Princess

I read a news article a few years ago about a young girl of 12 who was found in a park hanging from a tree. She had written on her arms words like:

“The voices told me to do this. They told me I have no purpose. So there’s no point of me being here.”

Naturally, I was heartbroken and angry. How could this happen? What led her to the point where she felt she wasn’t worth being alive?

The words she wrote on her arms really stuck with me. I’ve heard the same words from my own mouth. I’ve heard them from people I love dearly. It’s glaringly clear to me that the sense of having no purpose in this world is so harmful to our own well being. That purpose and identity are at the core of what it is to be human.

This song is like a love letter to that girl, and anyone who needs to hear that the world really needs them. The world needed that girl. And it needs you. You are not slaves of your own feelings and thoughts, but you are royalty. Beautiful, Magnificent.

A work in progress, yes. But a work in progress of discovering the beauty you are, rather than trying to be beautiful.

The words in the middle section are those of someone dear to me in the depths of depression. A kick back I guess. Such is the nature of depression. There’s no quick fix. It takes time, patience, love and then a little more time and patience.

Lyrics / Listen

#8 Lions Roar

Inspired by a moment I had with my nephew, Liam. He was very young and it was his first time at the seaside. His first time looking out at the endless horizon. I walked him to the waves, holding him steady. It was a chilly British seaside evening and the wind and waves were loud. Liam was a little scared and he was about to cry. It must have been very new, threatening and uncertain. But suddenly he let out his loudest roar. As if to silence the waves. Like a little fragile boy could stand up to the forces of nature? But as long as I held him there, and his mum wasn’t far off, he was as strong as a lion. It’s that strength from knowing who we are and that we’re not alone even in the midst of uncertainty, inspired this song.

Lyrics / Listen

#9 Man of Honour

Man of Honour is probably the darkest sounding song on the Album. Written by Dan, it was inspired by a friend of ours who was a police officer. He told us about an incident he was in where a man was in crisis and was at the end of his will to live. He was on his own with this man, trying to talk him round while at one point wrestling with him while he had a knife, trying to keep himself and the man from being harmed.

The self-sacrificial heart and willingness to go deep into a brother or sister’s mess when it’s so much easier to avoid it is poignant and beautiful.

Lyrics / Listen

#10 Two Bands of Gold

A song dear to me about my grandparents and their life together. I guess, in the midst of my own insecurities growing up, their dedication to each other right till the end demonstrated to me the power of real, vulnerable, self-sacrificial love and the purpose of marriage.

I wrote it at a time between my grandad passing just before my nan passed and got to play the song at my nans funeral a few months before my own wedding so there are many emotions mixed into one for me here. Hope you enjoy.

Lyrics / Listen

#11 Empire

A song dear to me about my grandparents and their life together. I guess, in the midst of my own insecurities growing up, their dedication to each other right till the end demonstrated to me the power of real, vulnerable, self-sacrificial love and the purpose of marriage.

I wrote it at a time between my grandad passing just before my nan passed and got to play the song at my nans funeral a few months before my own wedding so there are many emotions mixed into one for me here. Hope you enjoy.

Lyrics / Listen

The full Album Young & Brave is now available on CD, 12″ Vinyl and Stream and Download. Listen here

Adventures? Nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable things. Make you late for dinner!

The song ‘Magnesium Burn’ came out last week and I felt inspired to pen some thoughts after watching the Hobbit 😉

The song comes from a deep well of frustration in my life. And it’s kinda funny how it actually took 9 months to finish writing it (Literally finding the chorus on the last day of pre-production – ureka!).

It’s the choakhold that fear can have on us, that’s often hidden in comfort and safety. I’ve held myself from saying things, doing things or helping people because of the fear of not knowing what would happen.

In being more concerned with keeping safe and comfortable in my own life and personal routine, I feel I’ve become numb to what it means to be human.

I love what David Bowie said when asked about creativity:

“Always go a little further in the water than what you feel you’re capable of being in… When you feel like your feet aren’t quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting”

But David, that is a scary place. Ever remember as a kid learning to swim in the pool. You venture a little out towards the deep end – the furthest you’ve ever been. You’re just about keeping your head above the water and getting a little tired as your limbs are all over the place. Then when kicking your foot down to find the bottom and for the first time the ground doesn’t meet you and your face submerges unexpectedly.. for a second, a flash of fear rushes through you!

Yeh, like you I’ve got ideals and dreams, but day to day it seems better to just autonomously play it safe, stay afloat and hope one day ill make it to the deep end. One day, something will change.

One day..

But maybe now is the time to listen to and act on that yearning in you to test the waters. To explore the boundaries. Run into the unknown, dark places in our lives. Like a child into the tall grass fields. I think it’s in those most uncomfortable places, where we’re just about out of control of the outcome, where we really grow and truly live.

Fear helps us understand the dangers, but it shouldn’t stop us or contain us. Regardless of what fears we have picked up in our lives (of which there are many for me) we all still have that same DNA to be a bit more wild.

For me it’s taking that little risk and of talking to a homeless person, or sharing something personal with someone or letting go of the fear of not achieving my goals or the fear of wondering what people will think of this blog entry…..

But Bilbo Baggins once said..

“Adventures? Nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable things. Make you late for dinner!”

Little did he know he would soon almost become a Troll’s dinner. But it turned out ok for him, in the end.

Speak soon,



It’s already the third week of January, and the Christmas break now seems a distant memory.

Over too soon, but I was blessed to get a few days to myself. As my head has been in a bit of a whirl recently, I thought of taking on the gargantuan task of sorting through the last remaining junk room in the house would be useful. It had once been my ‘Man Room’, but steadily collected junk during 2017 as it whizzed by. Three days of endless clearing, throwing, sorting, I’ve finally reclaimed it.

Ahh.. It’s flippin’ awesome. A little place to sit, write, play my guitar. Around me now are things that inspire me, memories, pictures and books. And it’s from here now that I write this blog lifted from today’s journal entry.

I’ve never kept a journal before. It’s been my aim to start one for years and just never got round to it. I’m hoping it’ll help me to catch and hold onto the moments of the day and process them. As I have a nasty habit of overthinking things. I hope it’ll help me creatively too. We’ll see..

Anyways, already 15 days on through the year, the lights, the chocolates and other remnants of Christmas are gone. Our mechanical cogs after a moan, start to sync with the machine world routine once again. Life yanks back into gear and starts to pull forward, and whatever dreamy thoughts to on new years day got left behind as I ran to keep up.

Things already seem less clear and a little more uncertain. Not knowing how things are gonna turn out when out on a limb is hard.

But looking back to my first journal entry on new years eve, amongst the splurdge of mess, I wrote underling and circling the words:

“LET GO of the things you cannot control”

It’s easy to say. Easy to forget. But when I’m centered on who I am and what I can do and change, just accepting that it is, what it is. What will be, will be. It’s pretty darn freeing, and empowering.

But that requires an active choice. I’ve coasted through from day to day with constant nagging worries tugging on my mind. What a waste. Steadily just leaking energy till I eventually drop.

Better to use that energy doing what we love, what we CAN change and keep believing.

I truly hope that 2018 is all you want and need it to be.

For Speak, Brother it’s the year of the Album. The year we finally get to share it with the world. Who know’s what’s gonna happen..

Onwards into the deeper unknown!

Speak soon,


Those eyes. That smile. Magnificent.

So I was in bed, and I couldn’t get that face I saw out of my head.. Those eyes.. That smile. I scribbled down words which ended up becoming quickest set of lyrics I’ve ever written..

That night was date night and we went to one of the oldest working cinemas in the country. Quite different – They don’t do popcorn. Initially gutted, but they have sofas and you can order drinks and really nice cakes via text. Nice!

Anyway the film began and at times it was quite a hard watch. 1950’s Black america. Full of inequality, poverty. racism, bitterness, loneliness, depression.

Films like these invite you into the suffering. It’s uncomfortable. But it pulls you out of your own world for a second and you start to share in something.

But actually it was one particular frame right at the end of the film that imprinted something on me, and still remains.

It was a face. The face of a child, born from an adulterous relationship. Doomed to the same life of pain and suffering as the generations before it you see in the film. Yet somehow there was an innocence in her eyes and a hope in her smile. Almost wild. That she dared to believe something better. Something new.

It’s so natural to label things and see things as comparisons and opposites, right? Tall – short. Pretty – ugly. Rich – poor. Black – white. Christian – Buddhist. Us – them. In – out.

It moves us to a place where we don’t see what’s in front of us any more. The label or judgement is all we see. Things just can’t ‘be’, without requiring some kind of distinction. Something good on one side, and not so good on the other.

But what would be left if all those labels where peeled away right in front of us?

I think I got a glimpse of that in the face of that girl in the film.

Like a Father holding a new born child. In all it’s frailty, smallness and vulnerability the natural response is just:

‘Flippin heck.. you are MAGNIFICENT’

No judgement based on the past, or worries of the future. Just that moment.

This child. This Magnificent child is you. It’s even me. It’s every brother and sister on this planet. From birth.

The single ‘Magnificent’ came out Sept 22 and is available here on download and Vinyl


Racing Red Wagons and Den Building

These days seem to be so flippin’ complicated and hectic at times don’t they? I used to think it’d get easier as I grow up as I make my own decisions, but actually life used to be so much simpler didn’t it?

I walked past a house with a really cool metal red wagon outside it which brought back some sweet memories.. It looked just like the one in the picture above. Yep, that’s me.. The little chubby squishy thing sitting in my cousin’s rusty old red wagon. When I was a little older, I had one for myself.

I loved that thing..

Yeh, typically I’d drag all by best stuff around with me, particularly to and from the Dens I’d make. But we lived on a large hill. And the best thing you could do was sit inside the wagon, pull back the handle, turning it into the coolest go-kart ever, and push myself down this crazy big rocky hill..

Didn’t it feel like we had all the time in the world back then? Now there doesn’t seem to be enough time..

I don’t know about you, but I’ve hit plenty of times where I’ve tripped and fallen out of the hamster wheel and thought ‘why am I doing this’?

But why should we be these serious robots, to work all the time, accept the crushing pressures, to just get on with it, stiff upper lip, life goes on, working harder and harder and seemingly getting no where?

Well, we all have responsibilities now.. there’s not much you can do about that can you??

Of course, there’s so much more stuff we have to do and be responsible for as we grow older. And that’s awesome..

But as a young kid, I didn’t compare myself with others. I didn’t continually put myself down because others were better or further along than me. I didn’t care I was obviously a chubby little tyke either! I just enjoyed life. Building stuff. Racing stuff. Playing with friends.

There’s something in that childlike simplicity that I don’t think should grow old. There’s a Joy in the risk taking freedom. Isn’t that our natural state with which we are born? Joy. I think it’s time to rediscover it.

Maybe complexity in life isn’t really that bad.. In fact, when looking at it with child-like enthusiasm, it’s kinda fascinating. Something to be discovered, chased down, figured out.

Maybe then even build something. Like we did out of lego, sand or a even a Den in the woods.

These thoughts and more are all threaded in the upcoming Album Young & Brave.

The first installment is out Sept 22 which you can Pre Order here if you like.

Speak soon,


Album Recording Studio update

After 9 months of crafting our songs, we finally took to the studio in May to finish recording of the full Album at Magic Garden Studios. We had the chance to work with the legend Gavin Monaghan and Joe Murray (Editors, Jaws, The Twang, Ocean Colour Scene) to help us to find and hone our sound. One month later and it’s all done..

It was such an incredible experience, with lots of incredible stories of how bare outlines of songs were filled with exciting colour and detail.. We can’t wait to get them to you!

A Day In the Studio

Gary, a good friend of ours came to the studio with his trusty Tuk Tuk and wrote of his observations..

OK, I’ll start this  blog with a request. I ask you to accept that I cannot play any form of musical instrument whatsoever, I’ve never been inside a recording studio before, never mind seen a full album being produced, and have no idea of how to distinguish a crotchet from a quaver. I’m most certainly not a Music Journalist. But I  DO love music, particularly live music, and particularly music of the Speak, Brother variety. I guess that makes me a fan right? So that’s the deal, I’m a fan, writing from the heart about a debut album from a great band. Biased? Probably. Is this blog clumsy and cliche ridden?  Most definitely. Despite all that, if it prompts you to take a listen, it’s done its job. Accept all that and we’re good to go!

A bit of background. I have been familiar with the music of Speak, Brother since the release of their single ‘Lions Roar’, the unofficial Rugby World Cup song, when the tournament  came to England’s shores in 2015. They appeared on the BBC regional news to promote the song, and my curiosity was aroused. A catchy, punchy, anthemic song which should, if there was any justice in the world, have become the OFFICIAL World Cup song, I suppose you could say my Faith was in Speak,Brother, not Paloma (go on, Google it, I know you want to)Several live gigs later, and S,B  were firmly on my musical radar. A couple of EP releases,  a listen to  a smattering of James Herring solo singles, and it’s fair to say I was hooked. Musically mature beyond their years, with an innate ability to make their music sound sincere but not studied; earnest, but free of  schmaltz,  uplifting, but not over the top. Not easy to pull off, but they do it with aplomb.

So with an abundance  of live gigs under their belt, and some memorable songs already established in their back catalogue, they announced almost a year ago that they were going to write and produce a full length album.Through the wonders of crowd funding and anonymous (and VERY generous  individual backing,) S,B find themselves in residence at the very wonderful, quirky, Magic Garden music studios in Wolverhampton. I announce here without a hint of shame that I asked to come along to witness proceedings. They agree, and I find myself inside the studio, which is exactly as I imagine it; shabby chic, packed to bursting with some really cool vintage instruments, ex Army parachutes draped from the ceiling, all accompanied by a tryptyche of pencil drawings of Donald Sutherland as the spy in the 39 Steps, and a huge hand painted image of Bill Murray on the wall. Why Bill Murray? Well,  why not?

I met the Magic Garden lynchpins, Producer Gavin Monaghan and Engineer Joe Murray and hit it off immediately; they’re my kind of people. The jokes  never stop,  but neither does the professionalism, they’ve a job of work to do and they are masters at getting things done. I hear a couple of contenders for the album being worked up. Starting with ‘Magnificent’ Soaring, anthemic (that word again), a song comfortable in its own skin,  proud of itself, and rightly so. A powerful percussive beat keeping things on track. It’s easy to visualise this song being played in a stadium, James Herring’s powerful and increasingly confident vocals stealing the show.  A hymn on steroids right there.

A great start, followed immediately by a song which on first listening, is a polar opposite to Magnificent. ‘Man of Honour,slow, quiet brooding, introspective, thoughtful, considered. Reminiscent of REM’s ‘Sweetness Follows’ from 90’s masterpiece album ‘Automatic For the People’ Not necessarily similar in sound, but in temperament, in feel, a song to sit down and really listen to. Some songs can get away with being heard, some demand to be listened to; this is one such song.

Dan, the S,B drummer gets to work on the percussion element of the 3rd song I hear; Princess. A song about a 12 year old girl committing suicide, feeling helpless and ignored, worthless with no-one to turn to. Guitars, Drums, Mandolin, The standout element to me was the Harmonium in the background, mesmeric, haunting, a hybrid of church organ and Hare Krishna Ashram, it draws you in, and compels you to listen. A little bit of Matt Cotterill genius right there. That man knows how to tickle the ivories..

A day of doughnuts (not any old doughnuts, Krispy Kreme doughnuts!), coffee, hot and black, poured from a kettle last used on Little House on the Prairie, surreal, stream of consciousness stories from Joe, and trips from the studio to town in my tuk tuk to blow away the cobwebs in the late Spring.  What’s not to like? If the 3 songs I heard from S,B are anything to go by, this debut album is going to be….Magnificent. I pull away from the studio in my blinged out tuk tuk for the long drive home, and in a week of terror and horror in Manchester, feel hope and optimism coursing through my veins. The music’s done its job.

Gary Cross, June 2017