The UK’s Skinny Lister are not your average, modern day 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. The band’s style combines infectious traditional folk with elements of indie rock, capturing fans across the country with an energetic live performance.
The band released their debut album, Forge & Flagon (titled after a homemade pub ran by family friends)via SideOneDummy Records on Tuesday. The effort was captured by producer David Wrench (Bat for Lashes, James Yorkston). For the last week, they’ve been on the road with Flogging Molly, supporting the album and Flogging Molly’s annual Green 17 tour, before they head to South By Southwest for a string of shows.
Ghettoblaster caught up with vocalist Thomas while the band were in the midst of the tour to talk about Forge & Flagon. This is what she said about it…
When did you begin writing the material for your most recent album?
We’ve been performing for a couple of years now so the live show definitely impacted the writing. We were keen to incorporate the more traditional music into our original compositions to give it that flavour.
What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing? Why was it so troublesome?
We recorded the album in 10 days in an old house in Wales. None of the tracks were ever really considered a struggle although the waltz “Seventeen Summers” felt a little flat at first. It really came to life when we added the fiddle part by Kathryn Tickell, a renowned folk artist from the north of England.
Which of the songs on the record is most different from your original concept for the song?
“Trawlerman” started off as a delicate ballad about one of Dan’s friends who lost his father at sea in a trawler accident. When we worked on arrangements as a band and performed live, it became more bombastic. The transformation was complete when we added the shanty style haul away section and group foot stomps throughout. The foot stomps were actually my favourite part of recording…watching the fellas all in a row with mic’d up boots stomping was hilarious.
Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record?
Yes, quite a few. Our good friend and fiddle extraordinaire, Roger Wilson joins us on a number of tracks. Kathryn Tickell joined us on “Fiddle” and Northumbrian Pipes on “Seventeen Summers.” We also had other friends covering whistle, snare and violin duties.
Who produced the record? What input did that person have that changed the face of the record?
We co-produced the album with Wales’ finest David Wrench. He fed us whiskey, rum and Bourbon biscuits to make sure we created a real live experience.
Is there an overarching concept behind your new album that ties the record together?
It’s a snapshot of Skinny’s experiences in the year leading up to the recording. It’s scattered with traditional references, soaked in rum and left in the sun to dry.
Have you begun playing these songs live and which songs have elicited the strongest reaction from your fans?
“John Kanaka” gets an amazing response live. Everyone gets involved and hollers at the top of their lungs. We’ve had loads of other people recording versions when they’re out drinking too which is great.