Studio One at the Brunel Goods Shed

If you’re in an independent band who play the kind of music your mother doesn’t like, and your pure genius has not yet been recompensed with millions of adoring fans throwing their money at you — then you’re probably in constant agony about where to get down to the very loud business of rehearsing.

Which is why we’ve joined up with the SVA team in Stroud and taken over a space at the newly re-opened Brunel Goods Shed. We’re using one of the former offices in this amazing old building as our music studio for rehearsing and recording.

Studio One at the Brunel Goods Shed before we moved in. And painted.

For Herons! and a small collective of other Stroud musicians, having a studio has been like manna from heaven. Situated at the Stroud train station, with no residential neighbours to disturb with our banging and hollering, Studio One (as we’ve christened it) is our musical home. We can rehearse at all hours, which makes us better musicians. We can record, which we’ve been doing — last week, in fact.

Anna and Edwin recording at Studio One

It’s been great fun, and a bit of hard work, getting Studio One into shape. It’s been totally worth it!

Me after cleaning out the dust and rubble from Studio One

Follow the goings-on at Studio One at our Facebook page

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Celebrating Bloomsday

We’re really excited to be marking Bloomsday on Saturday with a special Beatroot Rendez-Vouz event at the Prince Albert in Stroud. For those of you who are justifiably wondering, “What the hell is Bloomsday?” — well, I’ll tell you.

Bloomsday is a celebration of James Joyce’s landmark novel Ulysses. The action of the novel takes place on one day: 16 June 1904, and closely follows the movements and thoughts of its primary and peripheral characters (many of them real Dubliners) on an ordinary day in Dublin. One of these primary characters is Leopold Bloom — hence the name”Bloomsday”.  The 16th of June was, in fact, the day Joyce met his wife-to-be, Nora Barnacle.

The novel caused a great uproar when it was first published, largely due to its stark depiction of the stuff of everyday life; including eating, drinking, pissing, shitting, daydreaming about sex, wanking, getting drunk and singing, getting drunk and crying, getting drunk and trying it on with the object of your desire, getting drunk and fighting in the street — namely, the things that real people do in real life.

Such offensive material was considered by the bulwarks of virtue to be obscene and damaging to society, and was therefore banned in the US and UK, until elderly men in black robes decided to acknowledge that Ulysses is a titan of modernist literature, and not just dimestore smut.

Every 16th of June since 1954, poets, authors, artists and punters who just love the book have marked Bloomsday in Dublin (and abroad) by following in the characters’ footsteps, drinking in the same pubs, eating the same sandwiches — possibly even using the same loos. Many follow the route the characters travelled in the book, between Sandymount (a seaside suburb of Dublin) and a meandering trail around the inner city.

For example, many people flock to Davey Byrne’s pub on South Anne Street at 11:30am to have a gorgonzola sandwich and a glass of burgundy — the very fare in the very same pub enjoyed by Leopold Bloom in the novel. Enthusiasts dressed in period attire will then read aloud from that chapter, often acting out the narrative.

Basically, it’s a bit of fun. I was lucky enough to be living in Dublin on the 100th anniversary of the day Ulysses takes place. It was like a much more sober — and more genuinely Irish — St Patrick’s Day. I’ve celebrated it ever since. This year, I’m chuffed that I’ll have some of my mates from Dublin here in Stroud to celebrate it with me.

Join the Facebook event here.

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Harnessing the power of the tube…

Like many struggling bands, we’ll try almost anything to get our music heard (except murder, animal cruelty, sexual favours and pay-to-play gigs).

So, in the spirit of succumbing to modern technology, we’re dusting off our faces and getting in front of a camera for a few little live videos. We’re trying to keep it creative and in the spirit of everything else we do, so the first one was filmed through a bush at the bottom of a garden:

It’s a new song for Ben’s niece Evie who just turned one. We hope you like it, there’ll be more to come… though we’ve started simple, you can expect more excitement in future. e.g: explosions, car chases, will.i.am style stuff, bangbangbang shapow etc.

Also, we have an AWESOME gig coming up on June 16th, here’s the fb event:

http://www.facebook.com/events/312233422193113/

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Peter Beutel

My friend Peter is dead.

Here was a man with a heart.

Here was a man who typed thousands
of words every day
with one finger.

Here was a man who understood
the fatal black energy
sticky from the earth’s belly
that powers our ignorance.

Here was a man who endured my moods
which may be the most colossal feat
I can list here.

Here was a man who said to me:
“You can write”
then expected me to do it.

Here is a man who travelled the
length and breadth of the English
language, then came back to the
humdrum world of party tricks
and souvenirs

Here is a man who gave me a dictio-
nary and expected me to use it
which I did and now I’m travelling
the English language too and I keep
finding his footprints wherever I go

Here is a man who exploded with
pride in his gardening
who taught me to crack the earth
who kindly guided me in the
supernatural conversation with
soil that makes lettuce grow
lettuce that becomes salad that
you feed your friends to tell them
that you love them

Here is a man who shed tears for
wolves
who fed a raccoon through a
rip in the screen door next
to his desk

Here is a man who loved the animal
in cats
gave them the names of Roman
emperors
let them stalk their empires
freely even if it killed them
which it sometimes did
but that’s life and they were
animals and he loved the
animal in them

Here is a man who was a viking
without being a barbarian
who locked forearms with
his friends instead of a
touchless wilting handshake
who hugged like a bear because
he really loved you
who never gave up on a friend
who stormed through armies
of knowledge to emerge hurt
but wiser, because he knew
as much as the next guy
who dried as many tears as he
shed
who cooked for 12 even if he
was all alone
who kept milk in the fridge
even though he hated milk
because his friends took milk in
their tea and what if they
surprised him with a visit?
who spread out feasts for the
birds, happy to watch them happy
who knew some terrific insults
who taught me not to shout to the
drowning from the riverbank
but to jump in and convince
them to swim

Here was a man who was my friend

for Peter Beutel, 1955-2012
14 March ’12

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Some Things Run Wild* – Phase one

Phase one of our album recording is complete! We have the bulk of 13 songs recorded, and now have the chance to relax and decide which tracks are shoddy enough to be re-recorded.

The process has begun like a bit of a fairytale, and we hope the magic hasn’t yet run out. After our Buskathon fundraiser, we started the hunt for a place to record. We’re not fans of traditional studios, and wanted to find some kind of secluded house or cottage (an upgrade from the stable we recorded our first album in) which we could fill with microphones, duvets, instruments, home cooking, decent tea, and a backgammon set, and record the album in our own time and with our own stuff. We were busy trawling the internet and local contacts for a musician-friendly cottage, when a medieval manor house fell into our laps. And who can say no to a medieval manor house?

In fact, it’s a medieval and Tudor manor house with notable nineteenth-century additions, full of art and surrounded by sculptures, only a 5 minute drive from our home in Gloucestershire. Legend has it, it was the house in which the gunpowder plot was conceived. Not only convenient, but brilliant beyond our wildest dreams. The owner – a new friend of ours – was going to be away with his family during the time we’d booked Aidan (our engineer/clarinetist) to come over to help, so we wouldn’t be bothering anyone, except Ivanka, the lovely housekeeper and Reggie, the dog (and they were both very accommodating).

Over 7 days we recorded the bulk of 13 songs, working an average of 12 hours a day. Aidan was a powerhouse of an engineer, and I doubt he actually slept at all, working late into the night, comping, stomping, bouncing down, bouncing around, and all the mysterious things that engineers get up to with their mixing desks.

We had some brilliant guest musicians to help out during the week. Marianne from Hot Feet (one of the greatest local bands and best buddies of ours) recorded some gorgeous backing vocals on our new song Tell Me Girls, as did our old collaborator and part-time lover Wallis Bird, who also recorded some kick-ass guitar solos. Aidan barely got a look in on the performance side, but will be adding some clarinets and other bits and bobs over the next few months, if he can fit it in to his tight schedule promoting his own long-awaited studio album. You can see some more photographic evidence of our recording adventure here on the aul’ facebook if you fancy it.

Over the next few months, the incomparable Jo Silverston is going to arrange some strings for certain songs, and we’ll be overdubbing a bunch more arrangement ideas, from trumpets to gangs of children shouting. We hope to release a single in April/May, along with a video. The album should be out by the end of the year LATEST, but hopefully quite a bit sooner than that.

Meanwhile, we’re still trying not to lose steam promoting our first album, which is still pretty new to the world. You can read our first review at wewritelists.com and hopefully more press will follow soon…

Thanks again to everyone who has helped out so far, we can’t wait to be able to put the finished product in your hands… and then charge you a a very reasonable price for it 😉

Yours affectionately,

Herons!

* ‘Some Things Run Wild’ is the title of the new album.

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Putting the ‘fun’ into album funding!

What an incredible weekend!

We busked for 24 hours, raised £750, one Stroud pound, one euro, a bag of mushrooms, a bunch of carrots and some hot apple cider.

We played our own songs, sang songs by everyone from Neil Young to George Michael to Cyndi Lauper to Daft Punk, and we were joined by some special guests who eased the strain on our vocals. Special mention goes to Wallis Bird who was with us Friday evening and all day Saturday and made the whole thing 100 times more enjoyable with her incredible energy, mad guitar skillz and rousing renditions of Eddi Reader’s Per-er-er-er-er-er-fect.

We were also asked to do a last minute interview and song with Paul Moss on BBC Radio Gloucestershire, which you can listen to here for the next few days, and we’ll be appearing in the newspaper Stroud Life next week.

Phew! Thanks to everyone who helped and donated, there are some great snaps up on our facebook page, and remember, if you donated you get to have your name in the album credits – if you didn’t manage to give us your name, please email heronstheband@gmail.com.

Update: Thanks to our ‘Donate’ button, we’re now on £800!! This is amazing, thanks again.

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Help us record our next album!

Join the facebook event here.

Hello there, how are you?

Herons! is an independent band. We’re not signed, we have no manager or publisher or any type of investment, but we don’t see that as a bad thing. There’s a lot of work involved in managing our own band, but it also means that we have complete freedom and control. Continue reading

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Stroud, The Prince Albert & Sam Shepard

Why, hello there.  Haven’t spoken to you in a while.  Just thought I’d say hi and let you know some of the more interesting things we’ve been up to lately.

After trading the crushing monotony of London for a life resembling real life in Gloucestershire, Anna and I have finally settled in.  The Stroud area, where we’ve made our home, is an old industrial hub of the Cotswolds, making it less posh than other Cotswold towns, and also quite a bit more gritty and interesting.  Its 40,000 (or so) inhabitants are as varied as any city I’ve been to; so as well as Wurzels and Fred Wests, you also find coffee experts, brilliant anarchist letter-press artists and poets, dozens of young bands, old beardy legends, my favourite brewery in the Cotswolds — and the greatest farmers’ market that just about takes over the entire pedestrian-friendly town every Saturday.

When we first arrived, I was skint and in need of a beer.  Hence, I arrived at The Prince Albert pub, on Rodborough Hill.  From experience, I’ve learned that playing music is the best way to make friends, and if you’re skint it’s also a good way to get people to buy you beers.  When I rocked up to the Albert’s open mic night, I killed a few birds with one stone.  Between songs, I admitted to the audience my need of work; when I got off stage, three people offered.

The Prince Albert has become a kind of Mecca for other London expats seeking clean air and cheaper rent in the area.  Herons! have been lucky enough to collaborate with some amazing musicians who’ve found themselves situated cosily in the Five Valleys.  Last weekend, we performed at our beloved Albert with cellist and producer/arranger extraordinaire Jo SilverstonEmily Barker also graced us with her dulcet tones, when she, Anna and I brought the set to a finish with a cover of Crosby, Stills & Nash’s “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” — not without trepidation!  As an encore, special guests Vena Portae (Emily Barker & Dom Coyote), joined us on stage to sing “The Old Triangle”, which sounded great with Dom’s wonderful bass harmony.

In other news, I was lucky enough to work with actor Jack Tarlton and director Simon Usher on a short theatre piece entitled Making The Sound Of Loneliness, which explored the work of American poet, playwright and actor Sam Shepard, set to music that I composed for the piece.  The performance used extracts from a large cross-section of Shepard’s prose, and was performed by Jack Tarlton and David Beames.  The performance took place at the Arcola Theatre in Dalston on the 22nd of September as part of the Side Orders festival, courtesy of Actors Touring Company.

Making The Sound Of Loneliness counts as my first musical foray into theatre, and I hope it won’t be the last.  The experience was doubly rewarding for me, as I’d never really heard of Sam Shepard (besides as Patti Smith’s ex-boyfriend); I spent the whole workshopping week being blown away by this great American writer whose whole body of work I can look forward to reading.  Luckily, there is a possibility of Making The Sound Of Loneliness getting a full run in the New Year, so watch this space for more info.

Until next time, keep your chins up this autumn.  Port and Stilton help.

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Folk in a Box

Herons! are very excited to be involved with Folk in a Box at the upcoming Stroud Fringe, sponsored by The Prince Albert.

What on earth is Folk in a Box? Some of you may ask. Well, it’s probably best described as ‘Britain’s smallest music venue’ (if not the world’s). It’s one performer, one audience member, one song, all in a box about the size of a luxury shed. Possibly the most intimate performance you could ever experience!

Herons! will be joining forces with Folk in a Box veteran Emily Barker, plus the excellent Johnny Barlow, (no relation of Gary, sadly) Tom Jacob out of hermes, and a couple of ‘celebrity guests’, plus more acts to be announced. We’ll all be buzzing about the box in Stroud on Saturday the 3rd of September at the Shambles Market, between 10:00 and 15:00; and Sunday the 4th of September at the Cornhill market place, between 13:00 and 17:00. We’ll be serving tea and coffee and wearing silly hats and ‘the craic will be mighty’ as they say.

See you there!

In other news, we now have a facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/heronstheband

Please ‘like’ us. Oh please oh please oh please! We ‘like’ you!

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Playing at the River Cottage Canteen

Anna and I are Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall fans — big time.  We can watch a whole series (or more) of River Cottage on 4od in one sitting.  It’s embarrassing.  We often refer to the man behind River Cottage on a first name basis, as though we share saucepans with him:

“What shall we have for dinner tonight?”

“How about Hugh’s nettle gnocchi?”

Or:

“How do you reckon I should cook this saddle of venison?”

“I don’t know, check with Hugh.”

So you can imagine the heart palpitations and buckets of anxious sweat when Anna told me that the River Cottage team tweeted for bands to play at their River Cottage Canteen in Axminster.  Anna responded in a flash, and a date was set. Having followed the progress of the River Cottage project from the beginning, a trip to the River Cottage Canteen promised to be a kind of pilgrimage for us.

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