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Skinny Lister

Foot-stompingly good

Written By Hannah Collisson

Skinny Lister is a folk band with a modern feel, and a party vibe. They have been making a name for themselves in the USA and Japan as well as the UK and Europe. Frontman and woman Dan Heptinstall and Lorna Thomas have chosen Hastings as their home, and they talk about their non-stop schedule, touring with Boy George, and the importance of rum.

So far in 2014 you have supported the Dropkick Murphys in the USA, Boy George in the UK, and have a packed festival schedule throughout the summer. 

Where do you find the energy?

Lorna Thomas: It’s as soon as the music starts really. You can have the worst hangover in the world but as soon as you’re on stage and playing the music, and the crowd’s there, it’s easy peasy. 

How was it touring with Boy George?

L: It was amazing - I’m in love with a 52 year-old gay man, he’s an amazing person.

Dan Heptinstall: We were a bit nervous when we were offered the tour that it might be a little bit of a mismatch, because musically we are quite different. He’d seen us at a gig about a year ago. He thought it would go down well with his fans, and actually it did work.

How do the larger venues compare to the smaller pub gigs where you are passing around a flagon of rum?

L: We still pass the flagon around!

D: We try and make it feel as though you are in a smaller venue, and Lorna goes out passing the flagon of rum about so she gets amongst the crowd. Our bass player, often if the crowd’s thick enough, he’ll crowd surf with his double bass - It brings the audience in with us.

In the five years since the band started, you have come a long way - and been crowned the hardest working band in the UK (in 2011). Have there been any particular highlights?

L: We started out to basically get into festivals for free - We didn’t think we’d end up in Tokyo or LA. It’s been an amazing journey.

D: Japan was particularly amazing which we did in July last year. It was completely unexpected.

L: We played the pre-party at Fuji Rock, and there were 5,000 people there. We had a few gigs over the weekend and they were packed out.

D: We did feel like rock stars for a few days after that! Glastonbury is always a great festival, and we’ve got a slot this year on the Avalon stage, which is the most official stage we have ever had at Glastonbury.

Skinny Lister’s second album is due for release at the end of this year, does it mark a change of direction for the band?

L: The new album definitely has more of a pop element, but it’s still got its folky ballads.

D: There’s a song on there called Raise a Wreck which is pretty much a sea shanty, but the music sounds more like Adam and the Ants. It’s a bit of a mishmash of stuff but there’s definitely still a traditional element in there.

L: We have evolved anyway, getting a bit of a harder edge, since the first album Forge and Flagon.

The new album was recorded at quite a famous studio in Wales...

D: It was recorded at Rockfield, which has had endless amazing albums made there. Queen recorded Bohemian Rhapsody there.

L: It has a great energy. And every night round dinner you’d hear all the stories, like when Oasis had a massive bust-up or when Ozzy Osbourne ran through the fields naked!

What are your musical influences?

L: I have grown up on a folk diet - my Dad is a big inspiration to me especially on stage (George Thomas). I like the old stuff, motown, folk...if it’s good I like it.

D: I like a lot of the folky stuff, traditional English music particularly. With contemporary music, I’m a massive fan of a guy called James Yorkston. I love ‘50s music and old rock ‘n’ roll. I love the sense of Englishness of a band like The Smiths. 

I hear the band has recently been awarded a grant through the Government’s Music Export Growth Scheme for ‘US and Japan Tour Support’?

D: That was a good help because touring in America costs a lot of money, so having a grant from the BPI was great. We got granted £14,000, which means we won’t be coming back with a hole in our pocket.

So, Lorna and Dan, what brought you to Hastings?

L: Probably The Stag. We did a Homemade Tour where we went round our hometowns playing gigs and made an EP on the road as well. We came to Hastings, had a great gig in The Stag then had the shanty session afterwards, and fell in love with it then.

D: There’s a really vibrant music scene going on here, and we enjoy the fact that it feels really creative - it’s good to be part of that.

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