With their brand new and highly-anticipated third album Almost Home due for release next Friday (March 31st), we caught up with Keston Cobblers Club lead-singer and songwriter Matthew Lowe, to discuss their success so far, heading back on the road and what home means to him and his bandmates…
2013-2015 were defining years for you guys, and from our end, although you’d been together for several years previous, it felt like you exploded onto the wider scene – with radio plays, a lot of highly-acclaimed live performances, and your superb second album Wildfire – did it feel like that to you guys and was it moment of ‘yes, we’ve made it!’ or ‘right, time to concentrate and keep this going!’
Yeah I think that’s true. I’ve always said, it feels like there’s two eras of Cobblers so far. I suppose you could sum it up really as the pre album/tour era and post. As soon as we released our debut album, after 3 years of pretty much just playing London and all working full time jobs, we suddenly got loads of attention, did a BBC Maida Vale session, a Bob Harris Session, a Dermot O’Leary session; this was followed up in the same 12 months, with a support tour around the UK with The Leisure Society (our first proper trip out of London with the band), a Summer packed full of amazing festivals, finished with our first ever headline UK tour, with all dates selling out and welcoming our manager Liz at the end of the Summer. I think that period from Sep 2012- Sep 2013, was the defining year which led to the Cobblers of today.
Almost Home is the title of your exciting new record. It’s clear that home, family and nostalgia are key themes of the record, and we even noticed a couple of photos on your Facebook page of your childhoods! – was music always around you from an early age?
Yes, definitely for Jules and me; we grew up with our parents playing in a Scottish dance and English Folk dance band, my Mum on accordion and Dad on snare or guitar. This really did help shape our folk roots I’m sure, going to different folk festivals at an early age. Our Primary School in Keston was great for that as well though, obviously there was the recorder clubs and singing, but Tom and I were in the same year (we met at Nursery) and we both started playing the trumpet (like Jules also did) at the age of 9 and played in our school wind orchestra. This carried on through secondary school and it was similar with Harry and Bethan at their schools. It’s not vital, but it must help having music around you from an early age, it makes it so familiar and easy to pursue when you’ve known it all your life.
Home can mean many things to many people – what does it mean to you and was it always the plan to write a record to reflect those memories and feelings?
For me personally – it’s 2 places; My fairly new flat in Forest Hill with my girlfriend and then my parent’s home in Keston, where I lived all my life until 2 years ago. I still go back to my parent’s all the time and regularly stay over. We’re lucky enough to have a studio there, so Tom and I are always co-producing stuff there. In the Summer you can open the French windows to the garden and record with the sun coming in. It really has helped so much. Mine and Jules’s parents home is basically Cobblers HQ, our van is there, all our merch, CDs, the studio Tom and I record everything from, our rehearsal room etc.. I think everyone thinks of it as a second home really! This album is about everyone’s home though and what it means to them, whether it’s romantic, happy, sad, nostalgic. There are so many memories attached to home.
We understand that yourself and Jules wrote a fair number of the tracks for the record – how easy was it for the rest of the band to immerse in the family stories and emotions?
As the one answering this – I couldn’t fully say. Jules and I have always written the Cobblers tracks, but Tom actually did his first for this album (Walls). I don’t think the others really have to immerse themselves in our family stories to be honest, as I say this is about whatever home means to you, the listener. Everyone has their own stories and memories, it’s not about mine and Jules, we just use our own home to illustrate what it means to us. But I don’t over concentrate on my own story when I’m writing, this is for everyone and my stories won’t be as nearly as interesting as how other people interpret them. For that reason, Bethan, Harry and Tom can read as much or little as they want into my lyrics, just as you can.
We’re delighted that you’ll be back on tour next month! How excited are you to be taking the new record on the road, and what are the things you most look forward to when on tour?
Tour really is amazing, my two favourite things about being in the band is writing/producing a track and being able to tour it. I think probably just seeing the amount of people who actually come to our shows is probably the highlight really. Simple as that. It’s amazing.
Festivals will also be a feature of your trip around Blighty this Summer, and personally, we always get jealous of seeing bands performing to festival crowds – it looks like so much fun! Do you prefer these kind of shows, or would you rather be in front of an intimate, indoor congregation?
It really does vary, we all have different preferences when it comes to gigs. At the moment the big topic is whether we do more seated gigs on tours or standing – there seems to be a massive split, almost 50/50 of what people would prefer and I’m sure we’ll never fully solve it, so we like to try and keep as much variety from gig to gig as we can control ourselves. I love festivals, especially when the sun’s out. Some of our greatest experiences have been at festivals and when we can, we try to fully immerse ourselves in the festival experience, camp, drink, look around, dance around. I couldn’t decide between festivals or gigs though, it’s like choosing between children!
And now for the final, cheesy question! Where do you hope to be in the next 5 years?
Hopefully still alive and in relatively good health!
I think Cobblers’ will continue till we physically can’t do it anymore, I’m sure we’ll have quiet periods and really busy ones over the years, everyone needs breaks from even their favourite things, but I think we’ve all decided it’s something that we can just do as long as we enjoy it. Hopefully we’ll be touring lots, it’d be amazing to make the trip to a few countries we’re yet to explore. We all do extra little bits on the side of Cobblers; Harry and Jules do graphic design, Jules also runs festivals, Tom and I compose and produce for soundtracks and I have a little side folk project I started last year, and Bethan does all sorts! But Cobblers is the main, full time part of our lives and will continue to be for as long as people come to our gigs, so I think we just want to enjoy the experiences now and not worry where we’ll be in 5 years… probably doing what we’re doing now, so we just need to make the most of it now and enjoy every moment!
Almost Home is released March 31st – for more info, tour dates and to order the record, head to kestoncobblers.club
Questions by Dom Kay