TLOBF Interview :: Erland & The Carnival

With their debut album on the shelves of your favourite independent record store already, Simon Tong’s latest project, Erland & The Carnival, got the TLOBF Recommended tag last week. We caught up with Tong to find out a bit more about the project, the stories behind the songs and the low down on their Myspace Goat…

First up – thanks for taking the time to answer these questions, and congratulations on the album, we’re big fans over at TLOBF. Have you been surprised by the positive reception to the album?
We knew the album was good because we made it to our own quality control standard but you can never be sure whether other people will like it as well.

How did the band come together and form, and how did you decide on its name?
I met Erland at a folk night I used to put on in Portobello Road and we got chatting and discovered we had a shared love of Jackson C Frank and in particular a song of his called ‘My Name is Carnival.’ We did an afternoon of playing and writing with engineer and drummer friend David Nock and pretty much decided there and then to form a band taking the Jackson C Frank song as inspiration for the band name.

There’s a definite link to Tong’s involvement with The Good, The Bad and The Queen, and the album feels very “Olde English” in both sound and content- was this a conscious effort, or was it something that happened by accident?
We have a Scottish singer in Erland, an English guitarist in me and a Welsh drummer in David so we are pretty representative of mainland Britain. It was definitely important to sound British rather than say… American- which can be harder than you think.

Where do you see your influences coming from? Is it mainly “folk” or the “60s Garage Rock” side of things?
Guitar wise there is a 60′s garage feel. With the keyboards we tried to get a ‘Ethiopique’ feel- ‘Desert psyche’ if you like. (Just invented a new genre!) For the lyrics we stole from everywhere: old folk songs, political speeches, poems, newspaper articles.

Tell us a bit about the single ‘Trouble In Mind’. It sounds like a right old scrap book of a song – originally a blues track by Alan Lomax with lyrics borrowed from Springsteen…
The title is from an old blues track but that’s all. We borrowed the theme of ‘My Fathers House’ by Springsteen which is about returning to a childhood place either in a dream or in reality. Also ‘Last night I dreamt…..’ the first line of the song is from the first line of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.

What’s “The Derby Ram” about? It sounds like it’s about a real event, but I couldn’t make out exactly what from the lyrics!
It’s the story of a tragic suicide jump that happened in Derby town centre a few years ago where a baying crowd gathered to watch and shout abuse at the jumper in a kind of horrific medievil re-enactment while recording it on their mobile phones. We based the lyrics on a newspaper article about the event.

How did you go about writing songs for this album? Where any of themconceived prior to the band getting together, then reworked, or was it all new material?
It was all new material. We write independently and also together. The concept of the album I suppose was the reworking of traditional folk songs and related materials is a modern 21st century way.

Is Erland & The Carnival a one off event, or will we see the band record a follow-up and continue into the future? If so, any firm ideas yet on which direction it might take?
We are already writing and recording a follow up which will be a development of the first album. we have a way of working, be that recording or writing, that really works for us and its permiations are pretty endless. As a live band we are growing with every gig and I see it as a long on-going project in the future.

Was the imagery associated with the album, which has been carried through to your Myspace, Facebook fan page etc, something that the band came up? The sinister black and white photos, yellow text and goat all seem a little sinister!
I suppose the imagery is a bit of a reaction against a lot of very safe, middle of the road folk music that is around at the moment. Folk music should be a little unnerving and dark.

Who’s the old pagan goat that rambles on your Myspace blog? The call to burn all ukulele’s made me chuckle…
The goat is our mentor and spiritual leader and yes he really f**king hates ukuleles.

How did you find playing The Union Chapel before Christmas? It’s such a lovely venue and you played with one of our favourite new bands Fuzzy Lights!
The Union Chapel is a great venue. It really suited our slightly religious/monk backing vocals and we are big fans of the Fuzzy Lights as well!