Exposure: The Dawn Chorus
The Dawn Chorus: Long For Antoinette
They made the greatest album of 2008 you probably never heard, but it's not too late to love The Dawn Chorus. Taking influence from Bright Eyes and Wilco, their debut, The Big Adventure, is most blissful, fascinating alt-folk since I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning – not bad for some high-school teachers from Portsmouth. Headlining Glastonbury beckons, but for now, it's Dexter's in Dundee, and a chat with The List. Guitarist, Neil Elliot, does the talking.
How did the Dawn Chorus come to be?
We were all school friends from way back apart from Kyle’s little brother Keith, who we stuck on bass. Luckily, he turned out to be rather good at it. After finishing degrees from various universities across the country we came together to form the band in late 2005. We started as a standard indie rock four-piece adding Paul (trumpet, keys) and more recently Ben (mandolin) to the lineup later on.
You play the sort of music we'd expect from mid-west America, not Portsmouth. What made you go down that route?
Clearly we have big influences from Saddle Creek artists such as Bright Eyes and The Good Life. The band was formed over a passion for this form of music, not to mention our love for folk heroes such as Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. But as our friend Frank Turner states: Why should folk/country music only be made by people from Nashville, Tennessee?
Your lyrics seem to focus more on genuine stories than vague generalisations. How do you write a Dawn Chorus song?
It’s good to see you have picked up on this. Generally as a band we get very tired of formulaic songwriting with meaningless and vague lyrics. Kyle (singer, acoustic guitarist) uses a song as a chance to tell a story. It can be about a fictional subject or something that has happened in real life and quite often a song will draw influence from both.
You're still not on everybody's lips, but those that have heard you seem to like you a lot. You made top 10 in Planet Sound's album of the year countdown for example. What kind of feeling do you get when you know people really love what you're doing?
Obviously it’s a great feeling when people like the music we make. It certainly gives us the motivation to carry on with silly tours, especially this leg – Bristol to Dundee! Who booked that! When we play a great show, or get a positive album review, we refer to it as a shot in the arm. It’s not the sole reason we do what we do, but it certainly helps us to keep going.
Is there a hope that this acclaim will transfer to more commercial success?
We have a song that addresses this. It’s entitled The Hope Will Kill Us. We enjoy what we do and people tend to like what we do. If we keep hoping for more and it never materializes we will have lost the real reasons we play in a band and travel silly distances to play to three people.
There are a couple of former teachers in the band. Have there been reactions from old pupils?
Former teachers! They still teach and I imagine get abuse from their students for playing dreary old indie folk. Let me refer you to our budget YouTube video with countless humorous comments from students. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xmLJGrH4L10
What makes a maths teacher want to write a song?
I know! He should be an English teacher really. Can’t answer that one. In fact I don’t know what makes me want to spend hours writing music. I guess it’s an inner drive that certainly isn’t driven by any financial reward!
What's the nicest thing anyone's ever said about your music?
It’s nice when a guy like Frank Turner says you are his new favourite band. I also particularly like this quote from Organ magazine: 'A fine five piece from nowhere in particular, as honest and beautiful as the day is long.'
In five words, why should people listen to The Dawn Chorus?
Storytelling in music is fun
The Dawn Chorus play Dexter's, Dundee on Apr 5.