Supergroup turn on the styles at Stratford Folk Club, No.1 Shakespeare Street

"HISTORY is littered with supergroup failures - attempts at putting together a bunch of talented musicians which don't produce the wonderful outcome you'd expect but when it does work, something spellbinding can happen and we got our own taste of that at Stratford Folk Club's latest concert night when The Jigantics topped the bill and played a remarkable set.

With a line-up which can generate the kind of rock family tree that used to be turned into a tv show, The Jigantics have fused the disparate talents of its members to hop between styles almost at will - but always with a touch of class. And just as they varied the styles, so they switched between instruments and vocals with no let-up in the impact.

A large part of the set was taken up by tracks from their debut album Daisy Roots, which is a fine statement of their genre-hopping approach. There's foot-tapping feelgood, then totally convincing tearjerkers, both on record and played live. So there's the infectiously upbeat Bad Liver and a Broken Heart, which sounds like Shania Twain and a bunch of line dancers gone bad, the very different but equally catchy Swimming Song and the quite hypnotic non-album Curve of My Back, telling the story of a mandolin and surely a 'shoe-in' for the next album. The musicianship was as good as you'd expect and the vocals consistently excellent, none more so than Mark Coles lead on The Save and the standout moment of the show, our very own Marion Fleetwood's take on The Valley.

A big shout too for support hand We Died at Sea, from Leeds but with a couple of ex-Stratford College students in their ranks. A delightfully retro 1920s and 1930s set mixing up jazz, ragtime and more."

Richard Howarth, Stratford Herald

 

Square Roots Promotions Review

"The Jigantics brand of Cajun-kissed folk rockery turned out to be the perfect complement (!!), easing us into a high quality selection of songs ranging from the not-a-dry-eye-in-the-house tear jerker, to the Doc-Martins-to-the-floor outlaw country floor shaker.

To be honest, with musicians of this pedigree (Martin Fitzgibbon and Marion Fleetwood of ColvinQuarmby, and Mark Cole, Rick Edwards and Ade Deane of Sons Of The Delta) it shouldn’t really be surprising. These are all seasoned and talented performers, as the stage rammed full of varying types of musical instruments and the sharing of lead vocal duties all round, testifies.

These guys (and gal) can really rock up a storm, especially on the Cole-led Earle-fest “I Ain’t Ever Satisfied”, and blues-driven “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart”. The sound is crisp, with the Fitzgibbon / Deane rhythm axis providing the solid base for the sublime fluidity of Rick Edwards’ guitar lines, and Mark Cole’s exuberant squeezebox meanderings.

Proving the old adage that “it’s always the drummers that have the best voices”, Martin Fitzgibbon takes to the front of the stage and handles the lead vocal on “Lakes Of The Pontchartrain”. His signature velvet tones to the fore (and all the better for it!), enveloping the audience with its mellifluous warmth and insistent vitality.

And as if that’s not enough, we were treated to Marion Fleetwood’s stunning version of Jane Siberry’s “The Valley”. Now I’m a big fan of top quality female vocalists such as Chris While (and indeed KD Lang), and I have to say that Marion Fleetwood is assuredly in that class. The voice is enough. Ethereal, emotive, passionate and at times siren-esque. The closing note of the song is greeted with genuinely affectionate applause, and a number of people standing up to show their appreciation – yes it was one of THOSE moments!

The Jigantics seem to have that innate ability to engender a ‘feel-good factor’. Disarming reticence. Getting peoples feet moving. Mark Cole’s naturally languid stage presence is a key feature as he extols the audience to “Hold On” before we’re assuaged effortlessly into the skanking country groove of “Johnny Too Bad”.

And then all too soon it’s final song time, as once again Marion Fleetwood enshrouds us with her seraphic cadences to the tune of “Black Mountain Lullaby”, a song made all the more striking by the sheer simplistic beauty of the melody contrasting intriguingly with the sorrowful subject matter of the lyric.

Really looking forward to this bands debut CD release, and hopefully we can tempt them back again next year….."

Ken Brown - Square Roots Promotions

 

The Hollywood interview

Marty speaks to folk and roots journalist, James Hollywood...

James

You've played on the folk scene for some time now what prompted you to form the Jigantics

Marty

It wasn't a long held ambition of mine I've honestly never had the desire to be a band leader and dont think of myself as one now, but if you have an idea you can either let it go and never know what the result might be, or get on and do something about it.

James

So what motivated you then, if it wasn’t a long term ambition to put a band together

Marty

I’d been lucky enough to play quite a few festivals around Europe and last year there was one at Cordoba in rural Spain. It seemed as though everyone in the town had turned out, there must have been around twenty thousand people or so filling the massive town square, there were families with kids, people of all ages, it was a great atmosphere and everyone was there to have a good time. I'm sure most of them didn’t speak much English so the lyrics probably went over their heads, but they were all dancing and having a fantastic time regardless. From the stage is was an amazing sight, thousands of people who had no idea what you were singing about nonetheless felt compelled to get up and dance. It was such an amazing buzz it got me thinking about how I could reproduce that at a folk festival back in the UK. I thought about it some more on the flight home and had fun playing around with the idea, trying to see if there was a way of putting a band together that made an audience feel that good.

James

Did you think that was something missing here in the UK then ?

Marty

There are plenty of great singer songwriters out there covering the thoughtful side of things, but it seems to me fewer and fewer bands with a rhythm section which I for one miss. I felt it was the right time for me to try something and I believed there was a niche that a specific type of band could fit into. It became a really interesting project especially because being an organiser wasn't something I'd had to deal with before. I had ideas for songs and how they might sound that came quickly, so then I started thinking about my experience of what makes a band work, not just in musical terms but in every way and that became another exercise in itself. I had to think about the logistics of playing gigs with a five piece band when money was tight and see if there was a way of making that work, because it would be my responsibility. I figured out a way of cutting down on kit so that we could all fit into a people carrier and how to play acoustic gigs by altering things around a bit, the blend of instruments, that kind of thing. I surprised myself by enjoying the theory.

James

What about the other musicians then. It sounds as though you had certain individuals in mind

Marty

I knew the people I wanted because they're brilliant musicians, but when they all said no I settled for the lineup we've got now. Sorry guys, I'm only kidding, as well as being top players they're all great characters which was another consideration when asking them to get involved. I'd toured with them all individually so I knew they had the right attitude. They like a drink and a laugh, which is an essential part of being on the road, but the gig is the most important thing and your day has to revolve around that. I've been in bands where guys have disappeared for days at a time, or you end up bailing them out of jail a hundred miles away from where you're supposed to be. I wasn’t looking for that kind of stress. I played in a band years ago with Mark [Cole] our front man. Aside from his singing talent he has huge enthusiasm for whatever he does, which has been invaluable and he's one of those people who can pick up any instrument and get a great noise out of it. Marion [Fleetwood] our fiddle player, is a brilliant but totally under used vocalist and I was determined to change that because she should up there with the best. Rick [Edwards] our guitarist I've been working with for a while now and was the natural choice because he's such a great all round player, including slide, which I wanted to use on a few songs and Ade [Deane] is exactly what I look for in a bass guitarist, an absolutely solid player with great musical sensibility. What surprised me with Ade was his vocals. I'd done gigs with him many times, but never heard him sing and suddenly there he was throwing in all these great harmonies.

James

How was the first rehearsal. Did you know instantly that it was going to work, or did it take some time to settle.

Marty

I was nervous to be honest, because I was responsible for all these people being in the room and there I was trying to explain my ideas to them. I had things I wanted to try, but it was important for everyone to have their input and use their creativity to good effect. I wanted them to buy into the idea that this was an inclusive band and not one persons vanity trip. I wasn’t going to tell Rick what to play on guitar or ask Marion to play something specific on mandolin, because anything they came up with would be a hundred times better than my efforts. Everyone has a say, everyone's ideas and opinions are listened to and respected that's part of the ethos. Then when we started playing, the thing that was immediately striking were the harmonies and Mark and Marion’s vocals working so well together. I knew everyone could play, there was never going to be a problem with the instrumentation side, but you can’t be sure until you start bashing around and making some noise if it’s going to be a train crash or something worthwhile. We recorded everything for reference because sometimes there are small gems you only get with first run throughs. I took it home with me and didn’t stop smiling for the next three days

James

Let’s talk a bit about the music itself then. I've heard the promo CD and seen you play live, so I have my own idea of The Jigantics style, but I'm interested in how you would describe it, because I think you cross a number of musical boundaries.

Marty

Well I'm interested in what your definition would be as well, because I dont find it easy explaining how this band sounds and the moment you mention certain trigger words you get pigeonholed into a potentially misleading category. Ideally, I'd rather people hear a few tracks and judge for themselves, but I'd say we're essentially an English band who play folk music which derives from lots of differing cultures. If you put it under the Folk section in a music shop I'll be very happy because that's where all the most interesting CDs are these days. There's a real acceptance of new styles and new approaches to some great traditional folk music that’s what makes it so exciting and its going to get better and better as a result

James

Well I hear lots of styles and influences in what you do, so if you had to tie a label on it would you call it Nu Folk or not

Marty

I'm not sure what Nu Folk is really. I know some of the names associated with that and I like what they're doing, however I'm not sure if we qualify in that category or not. To me all music is folk music in the sense that it’s all had to come from somewhere. We are eclectic that’s for sure but we haven’t tried to cover lots of styles in a deliberate attempt to be all things to all men. We play songs that we like and we play them in a style which hopefully works, but it's not done in a contrived way. For instance, we have a song in the set that's played as a kind of reggae, that's because it felt right to do that when we ran it for the first time, it wasn’t us saying we have to have a reggae song in the set. There's a definite African American influence in there, because Mark and Rick are both Blues devotees, they go on about people I've never heard of, but if we can adapt something they like, or something Ade has found and it works, it goes in the set. The kind of music I find most interesting is something that's generally been bashed about quite a bit, taken on some new influences and come out slightly altered on the other side. I don't know if you've seen the "Transatlantic Sessions" which goes out on BBC Four ? They're a great example of traditional music crossing the water, being influenced by other cultures then modified and coming back with their own identity, but still retaining some original ingredients. It’s a brilliant series with fantastic real music. There's lots of great Celtic stuff in there too.

James

I have seen it, you're right it’s a brilliant series with some wonderful players, American, Scots, Irish

Marty

And the great Danny Thompson on double bass, I guess he's the token Englishman there. If the Jigantics are crossing a few musical boundaries, that's just us reflecting our own influences as all bands do. There's nothing new under the sun. I'd love to claim that we're breaking new ground, but we're trying to play songs we like, have fun and make it fun for anyone we can drag along to a gig. Making people feel good was always one of our original aims so we try to keep things mostly upbeat, up tempo and play a few songs that people can throw themselves around to. Making people smile, making people dance, was always part of the game plan because it was something I experienced in Cordoba and I thought was maybe missing at some festivals last year. If we're playing a Club or Art Centre, then that requires a different approach with more light and shade in the set. You have to adapt to your audience because sending them and the promoter home happy, is the main objective.

James

You've mentioned the songs a couple of times now, are they all original, or traditional, or a mixture

Marty

Everyone in the Jigs writes songs, but at the moment we're not doing anything written by a band member. It sounds a bit bizarre doesn’t it ? but it demonstrates that the quality of the song is more important than who wrote it. I think there are far too many artists where exactly the opposite applies. I've spent years in bands playing sub standard songs in order to placate certain members and their ego's. Where is the sense in that ? In the Jigs we dont do that. Anyone can bring a song along and if it’s good enough then who wrote it is not an issue. I'd rather do a great song written by someone like Richard Thompson than a mediocre one written by me and so would anyone who's out there listening. The trick with your own material is to be objective enough to recognise its quality, or lack of. That’s very hard to do, especially if you feel passionate about and believe you have something to say on a subject, but it’s not an excuse. I've been lucky enough to work with a few good songwriters and I'm still not sure if it’s a craft you can teach, or whether the great ones are a slightly different breed. You can go away with a guitar, woodshed yourself for six months and come back a better player, but I dont know if the same applies to songwriting or not.

James

On a general point and as a newish band trying to establish yourselves, do you see the cut backs in the Arts being a problem in the future

Marty

It will have an impact for sure, some of my friends tell me it already has with fewer people committing in advance and more walkups on the night. I've never had a direct grant from the Arts Council or anybody, but I've played in venues that have, so I've benefited in that way. In an ideal world I'm all for funding but you won't kill the arts by not giving it any money. People have been singing and dancing for hundreds of years and that isn’t going to change because some guy in Whitehall hasn’t written out a cheque. Music's such a powerful force for good it really is. I'd suggest everyone go listen to some live music, it'll make you feel better.

James

You're in the process of recording your first CD so how's that going

Marty

We're about halfway through it now. We've finished the first five tracks which we put down at Blue Moon Studios in Banbury. I've recorded there before, most of the folk world has been through the doors at some time or another and Mark the engineer has a good handle on that type of music and instrumentation, so he was really helpful with lots of constructive suggestions. The next six or seven we're looking to record at a studio in Gloucester, partly because they have analogue as well as digital and I'm excited to see what we can do with that. I like different sounds for different tracks and one way to achieve that is by using different studios. Most albums have a uniform sound because they're recorded in the same place with the same acoustics, same mics and so on, which is fine, but if I had the time I'd like to have each track coming out of a different studio and see how that works. It’s not cost effective or practical to do of course so I doubt it’s going to happen anytime soon, if ever.

James

When do you think the whole thing will be finished and available

Marty

I dont know exactly. You could spend years working on albums, tweaking a bit here and changing this or that. Somebody told me Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys is still remixing Pet Sounds which they recorded in 1965. Apparently he goes in and changes a note here or something else there, I know how he feels but I'm hoping it’s not going to take quite that long. I would think we'll be ready before Christmas

James

What do you hope to achieve for the Jigantics in the year ahead

Marty

Gaining a foothold is always tough, but we're optimistic people who work hard so I'd really like to play as many gigs as possible, because everything flows from that. There's no point in aiming anywhere other than high and because we offer something different that's been in short supply for a while, that gives us an angle and hopefully a slight edge as far as bookers are concerned. We've got some good live radio coming up which will raise the profile and a few festivals to look forward to. Then ironically, we're off to Spain for a couple of festivals in Segovia and Gandia, so it’s come full circle for me. I'm looking forward to standing on stage and watching some happy faces in the crowd, but nobody will be smiling more than me.