Ahead of their gig at Eden Court in March, Pat McGarvey of Southern Tenant Folk Union chats to Chris Lemon of IGigs.
Formed in 2006 and based in Edinburgh, Southern Tenant Folk Union (STFU) blend roots and bluegrass with an increasingly political commentary that have earned them the , well-deserved) attentions of national press. We caught up with Pat McGarvey, vocalist and banjo player for the band before their forthcoming Inverness gig.
IGigs – Mat Snow described you as ‘a folk band for the Occupy era’, how significant do you see protest music in the current culture?
Well, protest music takes many shapes, forms and sounds. All of which are important – our take on it is like many others, to reflect what’s going on around us and for the Folk Union that’s best done through our own take on songwriting, singing and musicianship. What works best for us is to gently convince with humour and ideas rather than straight polemic – that said the latest album is definitely in the ‘protest folk’ mode. Its main significance though is that I think music has a lot more power to persuade than any long speech ever would.
IGigs – Following your 2013 appearance on The Andrew Marr Show, what song, would you choose to play if you were invited back on the show?
I was actually in touch with the show recently and pitched the second track from the new album ‘The Media Attack’ – which is about the difficulty that traditional print media finds itself in with dwindling readerships, advertising revenue and social media providing news content more – also it’s got a really great fiddle break in it from Katherine Stewart – you can listen to it below;
IGigs – Recent album ‘Join Forces’ was influenced by a rapidly shifting political times, apart from the influences, how did it differ from previous recordings?
It’s really a marriage of three things, firstly the political lyrics throughout , like our sixth album (The Chuck Norris Project) but set in UK rather than USA politics. Secondly a return to the more rootsy and bluegrass sounds of our first two albums and thirdly mixed in we have the Scottish folk influences of Katherine and Steve Fivey (Cajon/Percussion) who weren’t around for the earlier STFU albums. So all that whilst referencing past things also gave it a brand new sound and sets it apart – though we recorded in the same way (live in the room together) and in the same place (Red Oktober Studios in Leith) as the four albums before it.
IGigs – Given the band is now is past it’s first decade, what drives Southern Tenant Folk Union forward?
Just that old fashioned love of music and of creativity, there’s no other main reasons to be doing original music (I enjoy playing live immensely but don’t have to go through the difficulty of organising the STFU projects to do that). That plus the fact that it’s an independent band with no one to tell us what to do or not to do – anything we can imagine for our own ‘blank canvas’ can be realised – and then it is great to know that people buy and listen to the music and then get something of their own out of it.
IGigs – If there was a mission statement for Southern Tenant Folk Union, what would it be?
To break even financially whilst we make our albums, to play energetic, beautiful sounding concerts, to drink nice ale in lovely locations after we’re done and to then come home safe again afterwards and see our families and friends.
IGigs – By the time of the Inverness date, you will be nearing the end of the promotion for the album, what do you have planned for the rest of 2017?
I’ve started looking at maybe doing a funding application for the next album (which will be based around a Scottish play from the 1970s – we’ve got the playwrights permission already) – so once that’s done we can get started on the good bit, writing the songs and looking to when it can be recorded and planning the album release tour (probably for late 2018 or 2019 sometime – this will be a big and involved project to do it justice)
Southern Tenant Folk Union plays Eden Court , Inverness on the 23rd of March.
Following Inverness they play at An Lanntair in Stornoway on Fri 24th March and then in Edinburgh the following Monday 27th March at The Traverse.