This hugely promising Leeds-based trio cite influences as diverse as George Martin and The Beatles, William Byrd, Syd Barrett, Curtis Mayfield and Jagwar Ma. Hailing from various parts of Yorkshire, they congregate in Leeds and have just launched debut EP, ‘Sound of Ravens’. Their music has been described as “quintessentially English” which in many respects does go some way to encapsulating their sound, but on listening there are certainly many layers that defy easy classification.
Speaking to Louder Than War, guitarist Richard McTague explained how Ravens are keen “to tip our hats to what has gone before, but create something as equally current and modern day.” That is probably as near as we’ll get to a description to songs that demand you listen once, then listen again. The line-up is completed by Foxy (Rob Last) on keyboards and Rob Dann on drums. The vocals are superbly constructed with the lead duties shared between Foxy and Rob, with Richard supplying harmonies whilst all three share writing duties and are clearly bursting with ideas.
As a devotee of Renaissance music, I was intrigued by a new band that referenced the genius of William Byrd as an influence.
“Rob (vocals & drums) introduced us to the work of William Byrd and Thomas Tallis and we became totally enamoured. Spem in Alium is a firm favourite and often makes an appearance at band gatherings; usually late at night when our ears have been battered by Pink Floyd and Chuck Berry. Byrd and Tallis were total visionaries. Their compositions and arrangements are completely out there and they were so ahead of their time. They still are.”
Live work has been carefully planned so far. “We are really selective about our shows and have been fortunate so far to play with some amazing artists. Our first public performance was in support of Jack Bruce which was rather epic. Straight from a practice room in Leeds to a packed 800-seat theatre. Nerve racking but great fun and once you taste that you don’t really want to go backwards. Let’s hope we don’t! The last show we played was at the Kazimier in Liverpool, what an amazing venue. We have a lot of friends and family over there so it’s a really special place. Our manager used to look after Arthur Lee and Love, who are like gods round that way, so a lot of folk turned up to see what all the fuss was about. It was a great night.”
‘The Sound of Ravens’ is an incredibly promising debut and could almost inhabit a private slipstream between the Summer of Love and the present day. There is a clear late-60s groove but it’s cleverly immersed in a fresh modern sound that ensures the vital stamp of individuality is retained. Beginning with ‘Brothers’, superbly crafted harmonies, infectious keyboard runs and some great guitar work drives bouncing melodies that get you hooked easily.
Speaking about ‘Sound of Ravens’, Richard said “We’re over the moon with how the EP has turned out. Zac Bajjon at Silverbear produced it and is a dear friend of the band. He believed in the ‘Sound of Ravens’ concept from day one and recording it was some of the most fun I’ve ever had. Essentially we set out to create music for people to enjoy and the early feedback has been really positive. We pressed 500 discs and have about 30 left which is great. I think we will do a second edition. Most of the sales were in the US and Canada which is really interesting. We’ve had some great support from radio over there which has really helped to get the word out.”
The next few months promise to be very busy with announcements of new shows in 2014 expected very soon. Ravens will be appearing at festivals next summer, including Willowman, and continue to work on new material. The new video for ‘Brothers’ will be available in early 2014 and, as Richard explains, sounds like one to really look forward to. “We were lucky to work with Howard Storey and Lee Isserow, who were beyond amazing. Part of it was filmed in the old offices for Merseybeat in Liverpool and there was definitely an energy in the room. Or maybe it was the strength of the coffee. The video will be unveiled early next year and we can’t wait to unleash it on the world. It’s like a modern take on a Monty Python with a dash of Mr Benn and L.S. Lowry thrown in for good measure.”
Keep following Louder Than War for the first news of this exciting release and we’ll be keeping a close eye on the progress of Ravens throughout 2014, which looks like it could be a great year for them.
If you want to check out what they sound like hit up their Website where you can stream Sound of Ravens in full.
All words by Dave Jennings. More of Dave’s writing on Louder Than War can be found in his author archive. He is also on Twitter @blackfoxwrexham.