40 Shillings on the Drum
Everyman is available at:
16th December, 2016
Folk-Rock; Punk; Gaelic-Folk
IT is hard coming up with new angles to describe bands but, luckily, Brighton’s…
40 Shillings on the Drum provide enough inspiration and personality to compel original aperture. I will get to them in a second but, knowing their influences and type of sound, it gets me thinking about older artists; more about the sheer breadth of Brighton acts and facets missing from contemporary music. A lot of modern bands – and other musical denominations – source their sound from ‘newer’ musicians. I have been following some hot and talented bands this year: by and large, you hear influences from the ’90s – present day – a range of bands from Arctic Monkeys to Oasis, for instance. It is understandable this should occur: they are among the most popular and influential acts we have seen this generation; many have been compelled to start bands and follow in their footsteps. I am interested why certain acts/time periods inspire certain artists. It may be too complex for this short space – lest I forget the reason I am writing a review – but I am finding a lot of bands doubling-up and melting into one another. I can see the lure of, say, having Oasis and The Libertines as guidance: two youthful, pride-against-the-tide bands that took themes of Britishness and modern life and gave it a hopeful, optimistic bent – albeit with their distinct blends of swagger, wit and defiance. There is a validity in admiring such artists; taking their music to heart and creating your own version. The trouble is, too many new bands are either indistinguishable from their heroes or too bland to really spark any sort of interest. I feel, as time progresses, attention spans will become shorter and modern music – in the band market at least – will be very narrow and homogenous. Whilst it is wonderful discovering new groups and the energy they possess: I yearn to find those who cast their minds further back. Often I have mentioned a band (from the ‘60s and ‘70s) and been met with blank-eyed gormlessness.
Many reply with the illogical and clichéd: “That was before my time!” Reassuming you have no access to the Internet, radio or conversation that would wash: the fact that is not the case means such a phrase is inexcusable and stupid. It sounds like a diatribe unfolding but too many people’s musical imaginations begin and end in the last couple of decades. Fortunately, there are some artists breaking through who have grown up with savvy parents and developed a keen taste for music of older decades. Whatever your age or music tastes, it is vital for one, in order to become more rounded and cultured, look back at music’s full spectrum and genealogy. I was brought up listening to the likes of T. Rex, Steely Dan and The Rolling Stones. Being a ’80s child – but preferring ‘90s sounds – I was introduced to the cream of (the previous couple of decades) and actually getting to hear great music of the 1940s and ‘50s. Now, that passion and retrospection have fostered a deeper and more varied musical collection. Was I stubborn and content to stick with the best of the 1980s – perhaps a misnomer and contradiction in terms to most – that would mean denying myself a world of wonderful music. To the same extent, I feel bands that blow second-hand musical smoke is robbing future generations of older artists. This all ties in neatly (or loquaciously) to the Brighton-based band, 40 Shillings on the Drum. The band love modern music but one hears, when digging into their music, shades of The Clash and Elvis Costello – two names very few modern-day bands source. I shall expand on this, but for the minute, let’s learn a bit about the band of the hour:
“After over a year’s preparation, ’40 Shillings On The Drum’ launched online in July 2016 and performed their first gig on Wednesday 27th July as part of Churchill Square’s Busk Stop event in Brighton. Attracting the largest turnout of all the acts to perform, the band subsequently went on to win the competition and recorded a song and music video in famous local studio, Brighton Electric, in September 2016 as a result. As well as the competition, the band have established themselves on the local scene with shows at The Hub, The Marwood and the prestigious Prince Albert. They also appeared at the Brightona Bike Festival (the largest motorcycle festival in Europe) and Oxjam Festival Lewes, along with interviews on national station Heart FM. The band shall be seeing 2016 out with a final performance and single launch show at the Latest Music Bar in Brighton on 21/12/16 where they will also be showcasing their music to the founder of End of the Trail Records.
40 Shillings On The Drum are armed to the teeth with an array of songs about life, love, friendship, and getting smashed out of your brain, and are ready to take on the world, one town at time.
‘Great recordings. Love the distortion, violin and your guitarist. You’ve got a great Brit pop style of vox too!’ Bobby Banjo, Beans On Toast
‘I love the energy on these recordings, it’s something that I think is really missing from contemporary music. There is obviously an Irish influence, but I hear shades of The Clash (at their best), Thin Lizzy, Boomtown Rats, Elvis Costello. You’ve really managed to capture the feeling that you are reflecting real people on the street.’ Mark Flannery, Engineer/Producer (U2, Black Sabbath, Depeche Mode)
‘Opener Ode To Old Reilly set the tone of a band big on musicianship and melody — and intelligent lyrics with both a meaning and enough hooks to get under the skin of even the most hardened music lover.’ The Brighton Magazine, brighton.co.uk
‘Ain’t too many acts have mixed Gaelic folk and rock successfully. Great musicianship, catchy songs, I think you deserve to do really well. I can hear it stands head and shoulders above most of the new stuff I hear.’ Alex McNamara, The Australian Pink Floyd Show (The world’s biggest selling tribute act)”.
PHOTO CREDIT: Kris James Photography
Critical snapshots show keen ears detect some mighty musicians in the songs of 40 Shillings on the Drum. The band’s name itself seems born from the 1970s – how many modern bands have a name as long, interesting and forgoing a preposition (at the start of their name)? The East Sussex crew have, I would imagine, enjoyed a rich and qualitative childhood consisting fine vinyl and their parents’ record collections. Either that or the guys have forgone the worst instinct of their peers and expanded their mind past the 1990s. Before addressing a new topic, I wanted to carry on with the idea of influences. There is a cogent and wonderful blend of 1970s/’80s Punk and Thin Lizzy-esque energy to 40 Shillings on the Drum. It might be doing the band a disservice but you can hear their inspirations blazing on their sleeves. Rather than merely replicate lesser-included influences, they use them as a springboard and provide their inimitable sense of identity, character and delivery. Not only do we you hear some fantastic artists in the music of 40 Shillings’ but that will obviously inspire their peers to be bolder and more original with their sounds. I will go into more depth in the conclusion, but I am excited to hear another Brighton band come to view. Talitha Rise was the last act I reviewed from the city (they are based nearby in Lewes) but it is hard to connect dots from them and 40 Shillings on the Drum. What one gets from the guys is a blend of relatable songwriting tropes – relations, friendships and the bonds that tie us – with a healthy dose of kebab-festooned, beer-scented belch. It would be rather humdrum were (the band) another group of teary-eyed youths toiling under the lash of doomed love. 40 Shillings on the Drum, despite hints to monetary units and older-days whimsy, are capable of staggering into town and vigorously urinating on the nearest lamppost – perhaps it is unsurprising they have been branded with the same iron as The Clash.
Ever since the downward arc of bands like The Libertines and The Strokes; I have been lusting after a group of boys (keep going…) that have that leather-clad, who-gives-a-f%ck attitude but keeps things intelligent, mature and intriguing. Back down on the East Sussex coast, I can talk about Brighton and just what a cornucopia of talent lurks down there. With reputable venues such as Green Door Store on their doorstep, the guys have ample opportunities to cut their teeth and find the perfect canvas for their artistic blend of (young and rowdy) Expressionism and (British, rebellious) Dadaism. Normally, I am ensconced in London and pre-occupied with all the music coming from there. The last few weeks have given me a chance to look at Brighton and what is happening there. It is not a surprise the city should be back in the forefront – it has always been a terrific area for creativity and excellence. There is something about the community, vibes and landscape that inspires so many musicians to do terrific things. More diverse and colourful than many northern enclaves; less suffocating and quasi-homicidal than London’s bustle: Brighton provides a comparable safe haven and vibrant melting pot many are being attracted by.
The band have got a lot of positive reviews and vibes from their current single, Everyman. Looking back, we are still at the early stage of 40 Shillings on the Drum’s career. The boys have released the track Brighton Belle – one that differs from Everyman but is no less alluring, striking and immediate. Brighton Belle begins with explosions – that recall, rather futuristically Jamie T’s Tescoland (from Trick) – and has that smell of the city. You can hear the late-night unpredictability and the sunshine of the day – the contrasts and shades that make Brighton what it is. The song’s heroine, perhaps in the seaside city or somewhere else, grabs a latte and accentuates her figure – flirtatious, fulsome and fun. You are helpless to resist the sheer bonhomie and chanting vocals from the band. The Combat Rock-era Clash comparisons are not so short-sighted. There is that mix of Reggae, Rock and Punk; shades of Folk and some Alternative undertones. Following the story, you get impressions of a rather alluring girl who defines the city and has the hero spellbound. Squalling, flurried guitars and determined percussion is the soundtrack to a one-night dream: a chance to get with the divine heroine. At every stage, there is that sense of abandon and carefree attitude – that flies against the tendency to produce something anxious, heartbroken and sorrowful. It is small wonder the song has captivated so many and provided so important. It will be very well-received in the live environment and surely get the crowds singing along and enraptured. The fiddle/violin inclusion that occurs near the song’s end has been lauded and highlighted. It shows the band can mix Gaelic Folk threads and bond that with something resolutely English, swaggering and spitting. Few bands can pull off such an odd and two-sides-of-the-tracks marriage. The fact they make it work so wonderfully shows how assured and talented they are.
40 Shillings on the Drum have original songs in their arsenal such as Ode to Old Reilly – which was, and several other tracks were, played at Busk Stop at Brighton’s Churchill Square Shopping Centre (back in July). One imagines these recordings will find their way onto a future E.P. but, as they explain to interviewers and YouTube commentators, they are full of spirit and looking to make some big moves in 2017. One can hear where the band have come from and how their material has developed. Brighton Belle, when it was performed in July, was hugely popular with local shoppers and has been compared to bands like The Waterboys. It is interesting to see which other groups commentators compare the Brighton band with. The Levellers have been mentioned as have Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls. Dan Scully, Steven Cobley and Seb Cole; Barry Bloye, Sue Buckler and Danny Woodford make up the intrepid gang and have grown more confident and assured with every new song. When Scully travelled from Miami to the Bahamas, in search of inspiration, that is what he got. Having played in other bands and other genres: the exposure to tropical seas and island breeze directly compelled a new direction – 40 Shillings on the Drum and their Folk-Rock mantras. Not only is it (Folk-Rock) a place Scully could express his feelings and stories organically and openly – he could expand his imagination with a large and supportive band; there are fewer limitations in terms of sonic ambitions and personnel numbers. All that has come before – and Everyman among us – it appears the group have a proper set of songs and definite vision. It would be nice to see their previous numbers like Ode to Old Reilly and Brighton Belle included: put some newer moments in there and really throw their all into it. Just how far they can go is anyone’s guess: do not bet against them being one of the hottest-tipped acts of 2017.
There is psychogeography and flâneur mixture that greets Everyman. In that sense, there is the impression of floating around urban conurbations and spectral in a city; on the other hand, a certain casualness and romantic stroll – it is rather exciting, contradictory and unpredictable. Those wanting a Brighton Belle-like bull out of the (Folk) gate will be rather taken aback. Conversely, Everyman opens with plaintive, elegant pianos. You get flecks of the Irish countryside and a rogue figure traversing the craggy heath: the wind in his hair and the bare, twilight horizon in the middle-distance. The band’s idiomatic beauty and tenderness make the song less a Folk classic and more a sweeping, shivering epic. If the composition is spine-tingling, full and heart-warming: the scenes and images it provokes are peripatetic and fast-moving. Anybody who can predict what comes next is prescient and clairvoyant. The guys, in the video, plug in their gear and take the song in another direction. The guitars and plugged – the amps go up to twelve – and the strings and pianos sharpen; percussion tight and fierce; the bass strong and resolute. Again, you get a Clash-esque burst mixed with The Undertones, Levellers and The Jam. Sure, there are ‘70s Punk-Rock suggestions but the band are completely separate from any influences. None of the band mentioned would start so sweetly and graceful. At the beginning, you feel we’re bedding-in for a song about heartbreak and confusion: one where the hero would bemoan his lack of luck and survey the ruins in which he stands. The fact Everyman turns into an after-hours lock-in is to be commended. It certainly catches the most astute ears by surprise and destroys images of literary alpha males wiping the rain from their brows. In fact, you get a clean-shaven drunk wiping the cigarette ash from their teeth.
One of the minor, if completely understandable, criticisms is the sheer pace of the delivery. It means the words can overlaps and create run-on sentences: you might be a few seconds behind and trying to piece the song together with little success at the start. It is not a big issue because it is the song’s energy and dance that resonates and impresses most. One can glean thoughts of the hero avoiding a licking fire and remaining above the heat; other succumbing to a certain fatefulness and limitation. Maturity is investigated and the hero does not want to be (like his counterpart). Whether endless drinking sessions and a lack of responsibility are compelling our man; the need to taunt risk and keep his life interesting and changeable – you interpret the song and try to get to the bottom of it. In terms of genres/sounds, you can hear 1970s inspiration but there is a bit of the ‘80s in there as well. The big arena bands of the decade are all in there so too are the more credible Punk artists. Everyman is such a standout track that no other band is attempting. Vintage, classic compositional tones melt with modern, relevant lyrics that we can all relate to. The performances from all are exceptional and tight. As the song races along, the band keep up with things and ensure proceedings do not get undisciplined, rambunctious and needlessly sprawling. It is, at this juncture, you can hear a continuation of Brighton Belle: that same knees-up festivity and lack of future plans. The hero is taking advantage of his age and lack of commitments; he is embracing what it is to be regular and ‘normal’. That is what I got from the song: a parable of a soul who will not submit the boredom and nine-to-five attitudes that surround him. That is one of the strong points of Everyman: it can be taken a number of ways and will mean different things to different people.
Our man is trying to be tied down and defined: neutered and brainwashed into being Just Another Human. The song’s fierce, rousing and brothers-in-arms fizz makes it an insatiable, moreish cocktail of sharp spirits and cooling cocktail fruits. Crunching, head-nodding and a real swinging beast: another song that will get the audiences diving, jiving and lost in a sea of sweat and hoarse chorusing. Given that misleading, if utterly beautiful, introduction, you have a lot of catching up to do. The fact the song is neither too intense nor too slight makes it nuanced and repeatable. You come back to experience that moment: the one where Classical pianos give way to pissed-up strings. It is that intoxicated, fingers-up-to-the-authorities jailbreak that sounds like a superhero theme. In a way, that is what Everyman is: an epic, bracing song that could score a sort of twenty-first-century super adventure – one where domesticity, maturity and responsibility are favoured over superpowers, arch villains and saving the brave citizens. The hero does not want to be a man “like you” – perhaps someone who is too buttoned-up and safe. Our man gives no quarter to such overly-safe attitudes and wants to revel in his crapulence; embrace something much less advisable and ‘adult’. Again, I might be overlooking something more pure and contrasting. I hear these themes and concerns being raised; something that matches the trouser-kick rowdiness of the performance. With Rock and modern Alternative bands too mannered, watered-down and riskless: what place have artists like 40 Shillings on the Drum in the modern scene? Well, the answer is very obvious: they are more needed and necessary than ever before. Everyman is a song whose title tells you all you need to know. It is a song for the masses that speaks for them – even if the overall desires and electioneering is a little teenage and destructive. The band deals with heartaches and love but love to ladle lashings of gin, rum and lager.
In fact, the band name suggests shanties about seaside rumpus and oiled blokes spilling into the street. One hears strings ache in the distance; the bass cutting in and driving the song; the percussion cracks and gives punch and pugnaciousness to the lyrics. It is the shredding and axe work that makes the biggest impression. The fire-handed arpeggios and sheer epicness of the delivery puts a smile on the face. I have mentioned superheroes and dramatic themes songs. Everyman could score a film or an awesome, action-packed scene. The guitars are scintillating and the heavens open with cosmic ballet, impending invasion and spiralling winds. The hero is trying to make it where he can and grab opportunities that come his way. He is, after all, honest and real – perhaps something that is holding him back. Into the final moments, the band throws it all together in an awesome way. Strings strike with Classic beauty; the bass, piano and percussion create their own weather systems and emotions – the guitar continues to ignite, explode; uttering fireworks and expletive wherever it chooses to roam. You are left giddy with excitement and energy: always grabbing onto the composition like a raft in the tormented seas. Everyman is another stunning song that shows Brighton Belle is no one-off fluke. That is quite reassuring and pleasurable: the band has that inbred talent and natural affinity for what they do. How this develops, with talk of a rumoured debut album afoot, will be wonderful to see. The blossoming, blooming marvellous boys (and girl) are going to be one hell of an exciting band to see in 2017.
In terms of the mainstream artists making moves through 2016: there have been so many great albums produced and it all looks really promising for next year. I am keen to see how 2017 plays out for the established artists but more so for those just starting out. The musicians making their initial steps are competing for longevity and future acclaim. It is always encouraging finding an act that seems ready and prepared for all music will throw their way. 40 Shillings on the Drum not only have the live experience and zeal to succeed but a special sound that belong to them alone. I started by looking at themes like older influences and what is missing from a lot of musicians – I shall return to those topics before I finish off. Everyman is a confident and terrific track from a Brighton band already being recognised and proffered. It is not just the local press that is seeing what they’re capable of. The group are getting respect further afield which brings me to their nationwide potential and international accessibility. Every time I review an artist, I am seeing where they can head and who they’d most likely appeal to. 40 Shillings on the Drum are not just reserved to those who like a bit of Rock or prefer their bands looking a certain way. There is a chameleon-like ability to the boys that bleeds into their music. It is hard to define what genres they play and they seem to cover a wide spectrum of emotions and sounds. At its heart, you have a group that look at common issues but never make it sound too serious and morbid – something many can take note of. That originality and flair are being lauded in Brighton but I feel there are bigger opportunities for the band. I know London has plenty of venues and fans waiting; there will be other cities primed and oiled (waiting for the boys). In terms of non-U.K. gigs, I would expect 40 Shillings on the Drum to look around Europe and the U.S. Even though the majority of our people seem content to abandon the E.U. – that is not the case with regards our musical talent. If budget and time allow such adventurousness: I can picture the group performing a few gigs on the continent and enjoying success there. Given their fondness for loose beer taps, loose tongues and loose morals: who knows what carnage and chaos they can bring?! That does them down but they do have that youthful energy and ambition that should not be faulted.
If this year has proved anything it is how the landscape is changing and what is currently being favoured. By that, I mean there is a definite desire for music infused with urgency and truth. There are acts/bands who talk of romance and their experiences finding success – mainly, it is those acts who focus on other areas that are being afforded the biggest slice of the critical cake. I have tried to explain why 2016 has differed from previous years in terms of its success, consistency and themes. A lot of the top albums of this year has been defined by a certain energy and defiance: a need to hit against oppression and address important issues. I am not sure whether this will continue into 2017 or whether there is going to be a change. It is always hard predicting which artists are going to impress critics at any given time: I am sure 40 Shillings on the Drum are going to get their share of acclaim and create some rather special memories. I would love to see an E.P. from them – I think they may be planning an album next year – and more songs like Everyman. They have a great sound and attitude to music that is reflected in their songs. In addition, they have that live reputation and a collection of solid reviews. It is the location, dynamic and attitude of the band that really excites me. Were they based in London they might feel a little suffocated and struggle to get the acclaim they hoped for – with so many other artists playing in the city. Sure, they would be successful but there would be a sense of anxiety and stress. The fact they are in Brighton not only provides more space and breathing room but a different (perhaps easier) way of life is proving conducive to fantastic music. The city has some great venues and is starting to take some attention away from London – bands such as The Wytches have made sure of that.
I know the 40 Shillings on the Drum armada will be travelling around the country next year but have a good and reputable base in Brighton. It is, unlike many smaller towns, somewhere they’ll always be opportunities and willing audiences. The group manage to balance a relatable core of love and relations with their own lyrical bent. You never feel bored or uninspired listening to Everyman: it has some familiar lines and ideas but is one of the more original and interesting songs I have heard this year. The guys are young and living life: they have had their hearts broken but are resolute and defiant. As they state quite flatly: they like a beer and night out and do not want to grow old gracefully. That spirit and youthfulness are already seducing the media and pulling in a loyal core of fans. Let’s hope they keep the juggernaut steaming ahead and continue to provide the same wonderful music they have ended this year with. It is not just the brilliant songwriting and tight performances that define Everyman: any influences you hear are quite unexpected and add a certain something to the song. It might sound odd but one grows tired of the same bands employing the same influences. I won’t name names (on either side of the coin) but you know the type of thing I mean. There are a lot of modern sounds being reinterpreted by modern bands – you do not get many older acts coming in. Perhaps it is not a huge issue but it is refreshing finding a young band who cast their mind and attention back to the legends of the 1970s. I mentioned elements of The Clash, which other reviewers have alluded to, and bits of Elvis Costello. There are faint hints but it is always pleasing finding this type of musician inspiring the new crop. All of these considerations, elements and strands put together have led to a band worth watching next year. It is the sort of time those eager and forward-thinking start to look at those artists they feel will define 2017. I will start making lists (the ones to watch 2017) and will add 40 Shillings on the Drum to that. The band are hungry and know what they want to achieve: they are looking for success and expand their fanbase. If they continue to work as they have, and provide incredible music to the people, that will be…
A reality very soon.
Follow 40 Shillings on the Drum