Interview: The Travelling Band

One of Manchester’s recent, finest exports comes in the form of The Travelling Band….a five-piece wonder who, since uniting in 2006, have specialised in making sumptuous nu-folk-esque music, touring it relentlessly and gaining an ever-increasing number of fans as they go.

Their superb second album Screaming Is Something was released in May of this year and today (Oct 17th), they release a double A-side single – Sundial MMXI / On The Rails….We had the delight of catching up with one fifth of The Travelling Band, Mr Jo Dudderidge, to talk to him about the new singles, music from the hometown, beards and side projects…

The release of their second record Screaming Is Something may have been almost five months ago now, yet it’s popularity doesn’t look like slowing down anytime soon. As Jo points out, reviews from the press have been undeniably positive, however the band are far more eager to hear what the real listeners think, ‘At the end of the day, reviews are just one person’s opinion. I’m proud of the record we’ve made and our fans seem to like it, which is enough for me.’

Moreover, it certainly can’t be denied that they deserve the praise, after such hard work and relentless touring. The Travelling Band couldn’t be a more fitting name, having just returned from a European stretch, before jumping straight into a lengthy UK tour, which will see the band all the way through to December 9th! The gents also treated a number of festival crowds to their country-folk infusions and stunning harmonies over the Summer, and such envious opportunities were certainly relished by the band, ‘Festivals can be very unique experiences and we are very at home playing in muddy fields to less than sober music lovers!’ But do the band prefer the likes of Green Man, Friends Of Mine and 2000Trees Festival, to the more intimate, indoor sets? ‘I suppose you are in more control of indoor gigs and usually play for longer so I’d say both have their plus points. It has actually been a bit of a challenge adjusting to playing indoors again after the festival season. The general atmosphere and the onstage sound are quite different.’

The new double A-side single has also received high acclamation, with the band choosing two of the record’s finest tracks to release. For several weeks now, fans have been treating themselves to a pair of free downloads, in exchange for voting for their favourite, between Sundial MMXI and On The Rails. And, with today being the official release date of the singles, via a special edition 7″ vinyl, we will soon see which is the winner! About the tracks, Jo states, ‘I think those two tracks are my favourites on the album. If I had to choose between the two, I’d say On the Rails. I think Adam’s lyrics and imagery are incredible in that song and the arrangement on the album version shows our more experimental side.’

The Travelling Band quite clearly have a folky vibe about them, the facial hair being just one of the signs – ‘I’m usually forced to trim a little when my mum refuses to give me a hug because i look like a crazy hobo. I’ve clean shaven twice in the last 5 years….I look pretty strange when i do!’ However, we were interested to see how much the folk genre has influenced and inspired them. ‘We listen to a wide range of music, but i’d say as a band we initially listened more to late 60’s and early 70’s second generation folk rock bands who had been influenced themselves by traditional American, English or Celtic roots, country and folk music. People like Neil Young, The Band, (The act Jo would most like to see if on his deathbed!) CSNY, The Grateful Dead, Fairport Convention, Simon and Garfunkel etc… It’s natural to then work backwards to the source of the music you love. My guitar playing is influenced a lot by finger style country musicians but i try and bring that style into a modern context. We don’t just sit in knitted sweaters, stroking our beards and listening to folk music though. There simply isn’t enough herbal tea to go round. We’re not just simply a folk-rock band. In fact, i’d say we’re moving away from that all the time.’

As a predominantly Manchester-based website, we were also keen to see how Jo felt about the current music scene here in the North-West, particularly given that he is the curator of a regular, Sunday night event at the brilliant Odder Bar. ‘The Manchester music scene is as alive and healthy as it has always been. People who say otherwise (and I’ve heard a few) probably have a chip on their shoulder and are too busy moaning and not working hard enough. There’s some great bands out there at the moment. Driver Drive Faster being my current favourite. What I love about Manchester is how much of a melting pot it is for different passions and diverse tastes….Ask Clint Boon, he’s wiser than the Dalai Lama!’

In addition to the Odder Bar events, Jo is known around the city for even grander event organisation. As a keen supporter of Manchester Aid for Kosovo, he became greatly involved with the charity, before being named as Music-Coordinator for MAK. His most recent project was the fantastic album Ten which included tracks from many superb artists such as Elbow and Doves, along with a set of sold-out launch-night gigs. ‘It took me (and Pam from MAK) two years to put the charity album together and there were times when I didn’t think it was going to happen. It was a great relief to finally get it released in April. The sales of the CD and the launch events raised several thousands of pounds in the first week alone which is great! More importantly in some ways, the awareness of MAK’s work has been brought to the attention of many more people and helped grow their volunteer base.’ Jo is also gearing up to release more in aid of the charity…’MAK Records has now been launched and the first in a series of limited 12″ vinyl has just been released, featuring a 16 minute Badly Drawn Boy track. It’s out now exclusively at Piccadilly Records. Go and get one while you can!’

So The Travelling Band are playing to large audiences every night, have released two magnificent albums, have supported huge acts such as Beirut, and are planning new and exciting ventures all the time…but gladly, they’re not about to let it go to their heads…’If you ever think you’ve ‘made it’ musically then you’re probably in trouble of disappearing even further up one’s own self-obsessed arse into the ‘lazy cavity’. In terms of our body of work and the reach the band’s music has spread to – I’d say we’ve along way to go until we’re near the level of our ambition. That said, i was given a really nice jacket for free recently. Maybe it’s time to retire!’

Singles Sundial MMXI / On The Rails are out today on a double A-side vinyl, and can also be downloaded for free, via thetravellingband.co.uk. The band are also touring most of the UK’s major cities, and dates can be viewed via the same link.

Dom Kay