Soundcheck with Jamie Harper
LAURA Marling, Mumford & Sons, Noah & The Whale; if the recent chart-bothering success of the aforementioned has evidenced anything it's that there are too many artists around who are using proper nouns in band names. It also shows that the mid-noughties meant business when they punted folk back into popular culture. Because the scene is still very much alive and well.
Yet it would seem North Devon has been somewhat bereft of its own troop of young folked-up raconteurs. Until now. Step forward Woodford Green, who have mandolins and accordions and everything.
Not that instruments are the musical barometer of a decent folk band, of course. But as statements of intent go, a mandolin is far more on-brief than a theramin. Or a kaos pad. Or a Kinder Surprise, which you'll have noticed is a particularly percussive treat.
No, Woodford Green are the real deal.
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"We formed early in 2010 and are all about original songs and meaningful live performances."
I'm talking with Zoe Curtis, co-vocalist and player of accordion, ukulele, banjo and guitar for Woodford Green. "Independently we have all been playing music for a long time. But after a few jam sessions we realised that we had to continue making music together."
Good job they did too. Their sound is one of beautifully delicate, coruscating melodies and wistful, intertwined boy/girl vocal melodies. They make a sound replete with effortless lo-fi charm that just about stays the right side of twee. It's heart-warming stuff. And I recommend watching their homemade videos at myspace.com/wood fordgreen. You can also download free demos from last.fm. The mariachi-tinged sparkle of Herman And Hannah is must-hear folk-pop.
Woodford Green's line-up is completed by Matt Street (vocals, guitar, ukulele and trumpet) and Toby Parker (drums and percussion), who you'll know as the ridiculously skilled drummer from Jonny : Black and, more recently, The Dead Atlantic.
"He's a great drummer and has really lifted some of the songs to a new level. He likes to play a suitcase as a bass drum." Yep. A suitcase. Make a note of that. Because it literally sounds amazing.
They're a very talented bunch. And one that have been attracting increasing acclaim across Devon. "We've had some great response from gigs all over, that's very special and important to us," explains Zoe. "We've enjoyed the response locally at open mics and recently played a sold out gig at Boston Tea Party in Exeter. We were also stoked to be asked to play at the Acoustica Festival last year in Exeter at the Phoenix and enjoyed playing at LLAMA immensely. It's what it's all about."
But it's not just locally that Woodford Green are turning heads. "Last year we went to NYC to visit Matt's brother. We made a pilgrimage to the Side Walk Café where Regina Spektor honed her trade as a performer. We played the open mic there and the guy running it has asked us back to play a show this year – we can't wait!"
Never one to eschew the tough questions, however, I couldn't let Woodford Green leave without asking them something more probing. After all, soundCHECK's face would be even deeper into the gutter of journalistic credibility if it failed to exercise the duty of asking what sweets Woodford Green's music would be were it embodied it confectionery form.
"Fizzy cola bottles" comes the reply. "You grow up with them but never grow out of them."
You can catch Woodford Green at The Old Firehouse in Exeter on Friday, March 11. And you really should, you know.
You can e-mail Jamie at: email@example.com