Anyone who made their way to the Sports Centre to see Deacon Blue, would have heard the set of Zervas and Pepper. There was no chance of us being fashionably late for this gig as we caught up with them just minutes before they went on stage.
Welsh duo Paul Zervas and Kath Pepper have wide ranging appeal and count amongst their admirers Bob Harris, Sir Terry Wogan, and obviously, Ricky Ross. They account for this, as Paul puts it, ‘we like to write songs in almost a classic tradition in the sense that the adult contemporary sound that we have is something that has been popular for probably, 40, 45 even 50 years.And that’s not necessarily to say that it is a dated sound, it is a pretty timeless sound and that is where our palette musically comes from.’
Kath adds, ‘Yeah, it seems to definitely have a broad appeal, it is something that always surprises us that we get played on Lauren Laverne, Don Letts and Sir Terry Wogan with the same singles. I think it’s because it’s musically kind of meaty; it’s really hooky. It just has a broad appeal.’
I asked how it felt to be supporting a band like Deacon Blue and had they done anything as big as this before. Kath enthused ‘We have done nothing on this size. We have a huge admiration for the band because they have been putting out music for such a long time and with great quality and touring with them, their fans absolutely love them.They are singing every word to every song. What they are doing is still very strong.’
Paul shares this admiration ‘They are musician’s musicians as well. The real avid music fan seems to love Deacon Blue as well as a whole range of other genres. We are fortunate that they are coming and embracing our stuff as well.’
Zervas and Pepper came to Ricky Ross’s attention through his radio show. Kath expands on this ‘He has been playing us for about 18 months and he has been really really supportive of our album ‘Lifebringer’ and he interviewed us at Celtic Connections.’ Paul also mentions that ‘We did a session in the CCA in Glasgow and that was great.’
We talk about the Deacon Blue songbook and which songs they would like to have as their own. Kath is keen on the new material ‘I really love the opening track from their new album (Bethlehem Begins). I love New House, that is really great.’ Paul relates to the back catalogue ‘There are so many – Fergus Sings the Blues, what a chorus. Real Gone Kid, a stone cold classic.’
2014 has been a big year for the band with them recording a session for Bob Harris and festival slots at the likes of Beautiful Days but they both know what the highlight of the year is. ‘Definitely this tour’ says Kath. Paul takes it further ‘It’s nice to actually leave our locality with our band. That’s what we’ve been aiming at. We’ve done a lot of acoustic tours with just myself and Kath and it is nice to actually get out there. This is certainly the most northerly that we’ve ever been.’
Kath contrasts the tour with the recording of their new album. ‘We’ve also been recording our album just before we came away and it’s nice to have a break from the record and it’s nice to have a break having been totally consumed by that for months.’
We then talked about the new album and the process of recording, in comparison to Lifebringer, and their ambitions for it. Paul starts ‘It’s tricky’ and Kath continues ‘Slightly different. Lifebringer happened in 6 weeks and we didn’t have any expectations because we just threw out songs.’
Paul goes on ‘We had the songs ready. We put it together in a whirlwind.’ Kath adds ‘We want it to stand next to it (Lifebringer) and be as good. We have taken our time a little bit more with it.’ Paul is positive about the album, ‘I think this album is consistent with Lifebringer. I think it follows on the trend rather than trying to deviate in that what we started.’
In terms of ambition for the album Kath says ‘Just that people love it as much as they loved Lifebringer. I think we’ve grown in our production skills. We produce ourselves mostly. It’s possibly a slicker album in places and I think it’s more groovy. We don’t want to churn out the same record.’ Paul agrees, ‘Definitely not. We need to move on and we’ve done it thematically as well. We have several guest musicians; they’re a secret at the moment.’
Giving nothing away Kath adds ‘We have some really nice guest musicians. It’s a bit more of an introspective record. The last album was a little bit of a fantasy record really in it’s storytelling approach. This is much more personal, more introspective and I think the audience will maybe enjoy getting a little closer to us as people.’ Paul believes that ‘our followers at the moment will like the insight. ‘
With time running close to 7.30 it was time for Paul and Kath to make their way to the stage and add some new followers from what was to be a well received set. Hopefully it won’t be too long before we see them back up north again.