Exposure: A Genuine Freakshow
A Genuine Freakshow - I Can Feel His Heartbeats
Reading based 7 piece, A Genuine Freakshow is Timothy Sutcliffe (vocals, guitar), Jack Bryant (drums), Marianne Casey Canning (violin), Melanie Dickson (cello), John Dunstan (trumpet), Simon Evans (guitar) and John Szmidt (bass). Combining the grandeur of post-rock with lush orchestration, pop sensibility and a rare vocal sincerity, A Genuine Freakshow is an exciting band with a potentially great future ahead. Traces of Arcade Fire, Elbow and Radiohead are evident, however, there is far more under the surface. Their downloadable EP has been very well received and a debut album is due at the end of the year. I spoke to lead singer and songwriter Tim to find out more.
First of all, can you tell us a little about how long you have been together and any major achievements you have accomplished as a band?
Simon, Mel, and I have been together since 2005. The rest of the band has gone through several line-up changes over that past 4 years – we were a 5-piece for a long time – but have finally settled in Reading (mostly) with the 7-piece line-up we currently have. We’ve managed to release an EP and two singles on our own since then, and get BBC radio play on top of that, but the highlight to date has to be playing in front of 3000 people at a gig in Holland in March 2009, being filmed by 16 cameras. The band Marillion invited us over to play at one of their fan conventions, so we couldn’t really say no!
Tell us a little about the tour you have just completed. Were there any definite highlights? Where was your favourite city or venue to play?
The first day of the tour, four of us had the flu, the sound desk was behind us, Mel had crashed her car and Simon got a parking ticket, so it wasn’t off to a good start. But it went uphill from there the whole way. We tried to sell my shoes in Staines, got into a round of golf on the way up to Scotland, and bagged nearly £1000 of free swag from Levi’s when we played one of their showcase shows at The Barfly in London. Our favourite show was probably Aberdeen - we were so far away from home but there was so much love!
How did the audience react to your performance, and in particular to any new songs you played? Do you play any covers?
When you're a 'new' band, the likelihood is that the majority of the audience have not heard any of your songs, so you never really know what you’re going to get. Generally speaking the reaction has been fantastic, which can only be a good thing. Most of the songs we played are from the new album, but there are a few songs that have been in the set for a while like ‘Luckmore Drive’. We haven’t recorded it but it’s one of our favourites to play and it always goes down well. We don’t play cover songs. We wouldn’t rule out the odd one if we all really agreed on something, but there’s 7 of us, so that’s unlikely. There was talk of ‘Heart of Glass’ by Blondie…
I understand your debut album is released later this year. Can you tell us a little about what we can expect?
The album is going to be a lot of the songs we’ve been playing live this year, plus we’ve re-recorded a couple of the previous single tracks with the new line-up to fit more with how we play them now. We’ve started with the live versions of the songs and then started adding new noises, re-arranging parts, or in a few cases cutting bits out – the track ‘She’s Got A Shooter’ has a big ending live, but that won’t be on the album. Some things work live, some don’t - which just makes our live shows more interesting!. There are also a couple of songs that we have played only once or twice on this tour which will be included on the album.
Who is the main songwriter, and what is your main inspiration for writing?
I am the main songwriter. I bring songs into rehearsal with the band, and we work out who plays what, and then just bash it around a bit until it feels right. I generally write about things that have annoyed me. It’s almost like a way of channelling the anger. However, I have managed to write my first love song for the album, so I’m very proud of that. As is my shrink.
I would say one of the most striking things about A Genuine Freakshow is the range of instruments you incorporate in your music. How did this ensemble come together? Was it planned or did it happen by chance?
Simon and I always have these really grand ideas, it’s just that getting strings and brass was the only one we've ever managed to follow through.
You have allowed your audience to download your EP on a free/pay-as-much-as-you-like basis. Were there any particular reasons for releasing an EP this way? How successful do you think this has been?
We used to give away the tracks on CDRs that we would post out if you sent us an email, or hand out at shows. It was great – we’ve sent CDs to most countries in Europe, the USA, Canada, and even Argentina. But when we headed out on tour it wasn’t really practical to carry that many around with us. Plus by giving it away online, it meant you would get it straight away instead of having to wait to get a shoddy CDR by post.
We just want to know who our fans are, and want them to have the music. If they like it and want to help us out and buy it, why should we stop them? If your mate does you a favour, you buy him a pint. This is sort of like that – if you like the music, come to see us play, pick up a shirt, or if you can’t do that, ‘buy us a pint’ and pay what you like. It’s been really successful, and you can see the downloads pick up the day after a show, so we’ll keep doing it.
What are your plans for promoting your upcoming album release? Where can we find out more information?
People have 'Plan A' and 'Plan B' ... I think we’re probably on 'Plan R' by now. We had most of the album recorded, but for quite a few reasons we decided we had to start again. We weren’t expecting to do this, so with holidays and conflicts and studio bookings it took most of the summer. In fact, because of the tour and the fact that most of us had the death flu during September, I only just finished recording the last vocals this week.
It’s our first album, so we’re still looking at a lot of options. But one thing we hope to do is thank everyone that’s followed us to this point by releasing a special edition that you can only get from our website. We’ll be putting in a bonus disc of previous recordings that are out of print, some remixes, maybe a few live tracks. Then we’re going to spend a weekend packaging them all into bags, putting notes in them, tying them up with string, that kind of thing – so that you’ll get more than just an album. There’s more in the pipeline but I’m sworn to secrecy, although I can tell you it’s called Oftentimes. We’ve just launched our new website and will be posting regular updates and hope to have the pre-order on sale before the end of the year. Perhaps. Maybe. Please don’t hold me to that!