Ahead of their Highland gigs and album launch in March, David Rudge and Martin Bell of Ernest Rambles chat to Chris Lemon of IGigs.
It’s near the end of the day and we are overlooking the Lochan from Inverness College, where, for the first time in a while I have the opportunity to catch up with local musicians and it’s both refreshing and vitalising.
Ernest Rambles consists of David Rudge on acoustic guitar & vocals and brothers Martin Bell on double bass and Richard on brush drums. I caught up with David and Martin to talk about the band, their forthcoming album and their upcoming ‘wee tour’.
The first time I encountered Ernest Rambles was when they were supporting Bloodlines. For readers new to both bands, they certainly were coming from contrasting genres but came together to make a great night at Mad Hatters.
Indeed, when reflecting on where Ernest Rambles ‘fits in’ Dave observes, “Indie folk has become a term, and we are on the periphery of that”. He readily acknowledging influences from a variety of genres, “it is blues, it is country, it is folk…” He goes on to add, “there is a deep lying groove in all our music, it is hard to explain!” Dave mentions acts such as James Vincent McMorrow, The National, Ben Howard and Bears Den noting that combination of, “melancholy songs and positive melodies” has had a big influence on the way he writes.
Despite it being one of the most obvious and commonly asked questions in interviews, it’s hard not to ask about a band’s name when it stands out. Ernest Rambles, it transpires is taken from a song written by Dave when he was sixteen entitled Ernest Shambles which in turn was had been inspired by one of his mates over 20 years ago. Whilst Dave is clear that it was the best song he had ever written, interestingly the band have never played the song live. Although on reflection of this point today, this may change.
The name is also important for Dave, Martin and Richard as it emphasises the importance of the group as a whole. “I didn’t want to be The Dave Rudge Trio”. Dave is clear that the band is a band, everyone is equal. “It’s been really organic” Martin adds when talking about how they formed. Whilst the songs are written by Dave, he acknowledges that taking full responsibility for the songs is impossible and it’s clear that each member has a significant role in the development.
“My friends call me…” is the debut album from the band, although an EP was circulated last year. The decision to make an album, is one that Dave in particular has considered carefully as a means to capture a moment in time. The motive is not to gain success and fame, but to celebrate what the band has achieved so far. An album made sense, “because we had a bundle of great songs” and Martin adds, “it seemed to fit, there’s plenty of material and we have been gigging regularly, the time was right”.
The idea of all killer and no filler rings true for this album. ‘Questions’ feels like the ‘Top of the Pops’ track, whilst ‘Slidin’ Away’ epitomises the sound of the band with brush drums, double bass, a slow build and a big chorus. When discussing the album, Dave says, “There are some big hooks in there, it’s actually quite catchy.”
The album features Ashley Mackay on the majority of tracks, with her haunting vocals the perfect foil for Dave, particularly in the beautiful ‘Save Your Prayers’. The boys are clearly impressed by Ashley, “she’s just fantastic, she has the amazing ability to adapt her voice to whatever is needed”.
The album was recorded at Watercolour studios, an experience that the band clearly enjoyed and valued. “We wanted a good studio…It couldn’t have worked out better”. It also fitted in with their intention of, “keeping the album lo-fi, rootsy and not over produced”.
But what’s next for Ernest Rambles? “We want to keep exploring and see how far we can go” says Martin “we’re in it for the enjoyment of playing and making new tunes”. Festivals are firmly on the agenda this summer. They may have a date with Belladrum, an important for Dave given that his first child is due that very weekend.
On reflecting back over the gigs that they have played so far the band gives plaudits to The Market Bar giving them the opportunity to hone their stagecraft and to play at a local venue where, “the atmosphere is amazing”.
The band is looking forward to their album launch, which sees them play three dates over the weekend of the 24th – 26th of March. Support will be provided by Dave’s old friend from London, SJ Downes, an accomplished blues guitarist. The band is delighted to have support form a musician that will give Highland audiences a new experience. “He’s phenomenal, completely mesmerising”. They start with a gig on Friday the 24th at Mad Hatters, Saturday the 25th will see them play The Arch Inn, where they will be joined by Ashley playing to a home crowd. The last of the trio of gigs sees the band open the new community venue, The Muir Hub in Muir of Ord, “a really intimate setting, that should be a special gig” on Sunday the 26.
The darkness gathers on the Lochan as the interview ends and I can’t help but reflect on the enthusiasm that Dave and Martin have for the band, its future and the forthcoming album. Bright days ahead for Ernest Rambles.