We wish we had stocked the mini-fridge a bit before Skinny Lister's arrival for their recent session with us. Stouts, ales, maybe a handle of Irish Whiskey or Scotch. There's just something about this six-piece, English folk group that makes you want to bend an elbow for an hour or two. Even in the stone cold sober hour of a bright and sunny weekday afternoon, there's a blurry-eyed, inebriated energy zipping through their music.
Swinging by our home in Brooklyn with three songs from their newest, Xtra Mile Recordings release The Devil, The Heart, and The Fight, the band offered their personal, busk-ready sound powered by guitar, standup bass, accordion, mandolin, and sing-along vocals. Through three charming songs ("Grace", "Hamburg Drunk", and "Geordie Lad"), Skinny Lister stomp and holler, turning our modest office setting into a drunken, 2AM pub, at least in spirit. We also talked with singers Dan Heptinstall and Lorna Thomas about the roots of their traditional folk-meets-punk aesthetic and why their fans seem to fall so hard for what they do. "We find generally, wherever we go, people like to drink, they like to have a dance, and they like to have a sing," Lorna told us. So crack open a cold one, press play on our latest NEXT session, and get ready to sing and dance your heart.
this song's called "Grace. " - One, two, three... Hit me inspiration Won't you come on over here Let me hear you sing Throw me anything Save me 'coz I'm lazy Won't you come on out the blue Like you do some days To lead me all a stray I've said it all a thousand time in a thousand different ways I try to rhyme a clever line but all I want to do is say something true Strike me inspiration been a stranger for too long Make this song complete Knock me off my feet Drown me in your ivy Take me over and entwine Try to find in me Some creativity I've said it all a thousand times in a thousand different ways I try to rhyme a clever line but all I want to do is say something true Grace. Grace me with your grace Grace. Grace me with your grace I've said it all a thousand times in a thousand different ways I try to rhyme a clever line but all I want to do is say something true Grace. Grace me with your grace Grace. Grace me with your grace Grace. Grace me with your grace Grace. Grace me with your grace before we were in a band together, which I think is maybe part of the reason why we've survived quite a few years now. But me and Sam used to get together in a folk club in Greenwich, so it used to be like a Tuesday night singalong old-man sort of sea shanty, playing folk music kind of thing. In the meantime, me and Max were playing in peoples', friends' parties sort of diddles and jigs and reels and stuff. Very traditional English stuff, and sort of good time music. I was...we were sort of having fun playing Appalachian folk music in a family band. - Lorna always said she joined the band to get into festivals for free. And that's what we did for the first year, we just went around festivals playing where and when we could. When we started playing, we literally would go to festivals without a booking. - Or a ticket. - If we needed to we'd jump the fence and just play in a field somewhere and try and get a crowd gathered around us. And because we play acoustic instruments we were able to do that. - We found, generally, that wherever we go people like to drink, they like to have a dance and they like to have a sing, so... - It's just all our German tours seem to end in Hamburg, so everyone lets loose a bit in Hamburg. - Hi, we're Skinny Lister and this is a song called "Hamburg Drunk," all about when Dan had one too many down the down at the Reeperbahn. Woke up in the gutter licking your wounds With some raggedy memory of some prostitute Who hit you squarely 'tween bleary eyes You had it coming to you it cannot be denied By rights you should really have come to more harm You're falling and sprawling down the old Reeperbahn Your phone and your dignity you left behind Safe to say you had yourself one hell of a time No answer to be got from the bottle No salvation gonna come from the rum You say you couldn't agree more but tonight we will roar There's nothing to be done but get Hamburg drunk A late night bar we did finally find They took one look at you and said we don't want your kind And your acrobatics did not go down well At least you leave this city with a story to tell No answer to be got from a bottle No salvation gonna come from the rum You say you couldn't agree more But tonight we will roar There's nothing to be done but get Hamburg drunk There's nothing to be done but get Hamburg drunk End of the tour and we got one last night To drink to our travels and St Pauli dry Like sailors before with their last night on shore We'll drink till we drop and then drink us some more (PROST!) There's nothing to be done but get Hamburg drunk There's nothing to be done but get Hamburg drunk There's nothing to be done but get Hamburg drunk - We played "Hamburg Drunk," which is all about when Dan had way too many drinks from a bottle with a red cross on it. When you're drinking what was ever in that brown bottle and to the extent... He was cleaning his teeth with beer like in a bar, he was doing somersaults. A prostitute did actually come up and hit him. So it was pretty wild. Pretty wild. - Yeah, so the new album comes out on the 30th of September. It's called "The Devil, The Heart, and the Fight. " It's our third album and it's probably our most far-reaching album in musical terms. We've tried things a little bit different on this album, we've not kept quite to the regimented folk recipe that we've had maybe on the first album, we've tried different things. And yet, it's also our most personal album, I think as well. But we do try and draw... I mean all the songs, especially on this new album, are very personal and direct songs about people close to us or close experiences or experiences of the band and I think maybe more-so on this album than the last one. - Like the last song. - Yeah, the last song we play there was a song called "Geordie Lad" which is about our old bass player. And we did the Vans Walk Tour in 2012 and we got back from there, just about survived, but our bass player at the time...it sort of broke him a bit, and it was just a little bit of a song for him, really. Just a "How you doing?" sort of song. So I missed you on Monday In conversation your name came up Took me back to that summer Geordie Lad What the hell became of us? Geordie Lad How you doing? In the wild wild world? I hope it's treating you well And I wonder what you're up to now You know I think of you still That was us in the young days Bursting out of the photograph Up to our necks in our old ways Geordie Lad I hope it's treating you well And I wonder what you're up to now You know I think of you still I guess I always will I guess I always will Words were thrown and we meant them But what we had was worth more than that Here's to the good and the great times Geordie Lad How you doing In the wild wild world? I hope it's treating you well And I wonder, what you're up to now You know I think of you still Geordie Lad Geordie Lad
Skinny Lister are not your average, modern day, gentrified English folk group. Fronted by Dan Heptinstall and Lorna Thomas; a vocalist with a lusty cackle and flirtatious presence, the London based five-piece hail from across England. Borrowing the nickname from the Lister family, pioneers in the use of anesthetic, the band have grown naturally and organically over the past two years. Yorkshire born songwriter Heptinstall, Lornas older brother Max, and long-time shanty singer Sam 'Mule Brace, met some time ago at a folk club in Londons Greenwich area. The arrival of Hawaiian bassist Michael Camino and the naturally exuberant Lorna lifted them into another realm.
Up on their stomping feet and clicking their heels, the Skinny Lister sound took hold as Dans perceptive ballads and folkie idylls were boosted by an eruption of a rambunctious free spirited rum fueled party music. Soon the Skinny Lister sound was charging down the nations canals and waterways, bursting into spontaneous song in pubs and clubs, kicking up a summer frenzy at numerous festivals. Over 30 festivals in fact, a nonstop work rate that saw them acknowledged and awarded by PRS as the 'Hardest Working Band of summer 2011. We travelled hundreds of miles together in a Land Rover with a double bass strapped to the roof, sharing the driving, playing gigs every night and going out to party afterwards. We didnt make it easy on ourselves but it does bond you as family. Dan recollects.
Their allure is immediate at a time when modern homegrown folk music often spells designer bearded, theme park Americanisation, Skinny Lister are a welcome throwback to earthier bands. Their musical blend has something of The Pogues infectious camaraderie and jovial recklessness combined with the bucolic English landscape of Alfred Wainwrights fell walking guides.
Now, captured by producer David Wrench (Bat for Lashes, James Yorkston) on debut album Forge & Flagon, the bands distinctive qualities make their mark. Titled after a homemade pub ran by Lorna and Maxs family friends, Forge & Flagon marks Skinny Lister as an outfit who are decidedly more than the sum of their parts. Galvanised by months of road action they transform traditional and contemporary influence into a singular sound. See them live and the impression is fortified. Not least as Lornas outgoing crowd connecting personality is replicated by the rum dispensing, skirt hiking, leg shaking, five strong, all female, party starting troupe the Skinny Sisters.
The groups folk roots go back to Leicester where Lorna and melodeon playing Max spent much of their youth at local folk clubs, hanging out under the stairs as the traditional sound filled the air. When Lorna reconnected with Max and Dan in London she found their interest in the local Thameside folk scene had blossomed to provide an exciting outlet for her newly finessed singing and ukulele skills.
As soon as they put the diddles, polkas and jigs in there, there was no holding me back, she laughs.
We never sat down again, explains Dan logically.
The folk fever proved infectious and irresistible; For years on the first weekend after Plough Monday every year, my dad has gone to sing songs and get legless with the local Molly Dancers. I disowned him at the time but now, of course, I join him! notes Lorna.
We all do. Chimes Dan.
The idea of a whole pub belting out a good tune, its what pubs are for, sighs Lorna.
In an era when singing a song in a pub can get you thrown out for rowdiness, Skinny Lister not to mention the Skinny Sisters are a joyful reassertion of community principles.
If you can capture something like that in a gig, people are going to go away feeling part of something bigger rather than just standing around with a beer, Lorna reasons.
We arent taking the piss, its a serious primal thing. You dont need to have been a sailor to appreciate a sea shanty. insists Dan.
The debut album unfurls Skinny Listers charms in detail. Up tempo carouser John Kanaka, a trade sea shanty dating from Mules early Greenwich days, and stomping celebrations Trawler Man and Forty Pound Wedding; (a song written by Party George Lorna and Maxs father which they reinvent with characteristic verve) are winningly contrasted with the reflective coming of age waltz Seventeen Summers, the lovely nature appreciating Peregrine Fly and the skinny-dipping frolics of Colours.
Skinny Lister the stand-apart folk band not afraid to match sensitivity with a high kicking free for all. Time to open the floodgates and get the deck party started. (But beware the Skinny Sisters, folks those ladies take no prisoners!)