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Post Holiday Catch-Up

Greetings, one and all, from a parking lot (carpark) in Columbus OH. It seems like only yesterday we were… somewhere near here. In actual fact, we took a couple of weeks off this month. I went to Italy and sunned my pasta-filled self to the point of bronzed incapacity. It was wondrous. But now we’re back at the grindstone, and happy to be so. My email account, upon my return, was something between a snow-drift and a multi-car pile-up, but I’ve just about got to the bottom of it, so I thought I’d do a general round-up of where things are at, as we head into the remainder of this most curious of years, 2016.

Right now we’re at the start of a small US run – we have shows in Cincinnati, Champaign IL, St Louis MO, Maquoketa IA, Milwaukee IL and Kalamazoo MI in the next week or so. Then we have a break in October (I’m working on some secret plans back home; Nigel will be on tour with Sad Song Co). After that, it’s back to the US again for more shows in Athens GA, Charlottesville VA, Morgantown WV, Norfolk VA, Wilmington DE (for Halloween!), Albany and Ithaca NY, and then Toronto.

After that we head to the UK for the Get Better tour – about which I am very excited. The majority of the shows have sold out; there are still a few tickets for Dublin, Carlisle, Doncaster, Oxford, Exeter, Edinburgh, Scunthorpe, Newcastle and Portsmouth. We are still working on an elusive Cornish show – there’s been a lot of changes in venues down there lately which is making it very hard – announcement coming soon. On top of that that, there’s some imminent news for both London and for show 2000.

There was, inevitably, some touting bullshit around the tour. It drives me to distraction, and I’m always looking at ways to combat it. For the time being, I’d say don’t buy from touting sites. Nearer the time there’s almost always people trading tickets fairly, either on twitter or on the forum.

Moving on to charity stuff; I donated a signed guitar to add to my late friend Wayne’s signed record collection, all of which is being raffled off for Music Vs Cancer. Check it out here.

The good people at the Music Venue Trust have launched a new #Fightback initiative, raising money for an emergency venue fund. There’s a show at the Roundhouse on October 18th which is well worth looking into (I won’t be playing this one, alas). In other venue news, there’s a fundraiser here for the great Exeter Cavern, which had a tragic fire while I was away. And if you’re still feeling generous and helpful, the Star & Shadow in Newcastle could use a hand.

Next up, journalism (of a kind). I answered some questions about Nirvana’s Nevermind here, and waxed lyrical about Lucero here.

Finally, for now, lots of my friends have wonderful new music on the way; Xtra Mile sure are busy right now. Skinny Lister have a new record coming, and tour dates in the UK and the US. Will Varley and Beans On Toast have similar. And Koo Koo Kanga Roo put me in a music video, which was fun.

So, in short, the world kept turning while I was roasting by the side of the swimming pool. Which is reassuring. See you all on the road soon.

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Finally – UK Tourmageddon!

It is with GREAT PLEASURE that I can finally announce some more tour dates for the UK.

I know, I know, it’s been a long while since we were on home turf. And last time we toured the UK we only played the major cities. So, as is becoming tradition, this time we are hitting some different places, taking the show around the country to see some different people. Of course I can’t ever please everyone, but this is an attempt to cover as much ground as I can this year.

Support comes from the amazing Felix Hagan & The Family, and the sublime Esme Patterson. Both hand-picked, both awesome, get down early to catch their sets.

The tour will go on a special fan pre-sale this WEDNESDAY AT 9am, and on general sale on Friday. Get ready! Here are the dates:

THE GET BETTER UK TOUR, NOVEMBER / DECEMBER 2016

Fri 18th November 2016, Salisbury City Hall (14+)
Mon 21st November 2016, Liverpool O2 Academy (8+)
Tue 22nd November 2016, Carlisle Sands Centre (All Ages)
Wed 23rd November 2016, Doncaster Dome (14+)
Fri 25th November 2016, Coventry Empire (14+)
Sat 26th November 2016, Cardiff Great Hall (14+)
Sun 27th November 2016, Oxford New Theatre (All Ages)
Mon 28th November 2016, Exeter Great Hall (All Ages)
Wed 30th November 2016, Reading Hexagon (All Ages)
Thu 1st December 2016, Leeds University Refectory (14+)
Fri 2nd December 2016, Aberdeen Garage (14+)
Sat 3rd December 2016, Edinburgh Usher Hall (14+)
Mon 5th December 2016, Scunthorpe Baths Hall (All Ages)
Tue 6th December 2016, Warrington Parr Hall (14+)
Wed 7th December 2016, Newcastle Northumbria University (All Ages)
Fri 9th December 2016, Nottingham Rock City (14+)
Sat 10th December 2016, Bexhill De La Warr Pavilion (14+)
Sun 11th December 2016, Norwich UEA (14+)
Mon 12th December 2016, Guilford G-Live (All Ages)
Wed 14th December 2016, Portsmouth Guildhall (14+)

As ever with these things, we’ve been planning this tour for a long while and the details are set. It’s also not the last tour I ever do, so if there are places I’m missing this time around, fear not, I’ll be back soon enough. See you there.

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Live At 930

It’s been a little while since I did a post on here, so I thought I should update everyone; this is mostly a kind of housekeeping post, but we’ve been adventuring around the place of late, so there are stories to be told.

We got back to a rainy Europe and successfully failed to play either Hurricane or Southside Festivals, due to some seriously inclement weather. That was something of a blow for everyone involved, one we hope to rectify next year. In the meantime we played some more German shows and festivals, played in Italy a few times, and had a wonderful first show in Carcassonne in France. I managed to fit in some UK shows, T in the Park being particularly awesome, with special mentions for a magical show at 2000 Trees Festival. I found time to launch and then play at Ben Morse’s House Of Vans photo exhibition. And I even managed to catch The Boss in Paris of an evening. Quite the month.

Tomorrow I’m finally returning to Latvia to play in Cesis again, which will be wonderful no doubt. Thence we head to the USA for Lollapalooza and our shows with Flogging Molly and Chuck Ragan (all details on the live page). We’ve also added some more US dates in September and October with The Arkells and Will Varley, which I’m excited about. And for those champing at the bit; fear not, these are not the last US shows I’m doing on this album tour.

Finally; last October I made a happy return to my favourite American venue – Washington DC’s legendary 930 Club. Our set was filmed as part of a new TV series – Live At 930. It came out really well, I was honoured to be interviewed by Bob Boilen, and the show features some other great acts. Our episode can be found here. Enjoy.

Right. I have a total of 15 hours in my own flat now. Time to hit the sofa.

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Europa Europa

We had a wonderful time on the road in the USA lately, which was followed by a pretty gruelling and disappointing weekend. Our flights through from Atlanta to Hamburg were variously delayed or changed, our guitars got “misplaced” (thankfully we got them back again), and we arrived to find that Southside Festival had been cancelled. The following jet-lagged day, we got to within 4 minutes of going on stage at Hurricane Festival before that was also pulled, due to the bad weather. Not much fun.

It’s important to state that both decisions were no one’s fault. The people at FKP Scorpio, who book Hurricane & Southside, are some of my best friends in the industry and they did everything they could, but safety has to prevail in the end. We will be back, for sure. Actually, we have shows in Bonn, Munich, Ulm and Münster this coming week. Check out the dates.

The other big news, obviously, was the referendum result, which took place as we were flying over the Atlantic. The older I get the less interested I am in discussing politics in the public forum (if you think I’m going to discuss it on Twitter you’re out of your mind). The only comment I want to make is this: I am international touring musician, and have no plans to change that. I’ll see all my friends on the continent as much as I ever did.

To lighten the mood a little, here’s a thing I did in Richmond just before coming home. Our touring buddy (and new best friend) Jason Isbell was gracious enough to lend us some of his time for a music video. I’d been wanting to do something for the song “Love Forty Down” for a while, and I immediately cast Jason as the bad guy. I’m pleased to say that in total the video took 5 hours (1 hour shopping, two shooting, two editing), and cost $200 all in. I shot it on my phone and edited it myself. DIY Punk Rock! Enjoy the video, happy Wimbledon!

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The Record Buying Public

In 2000 I left school and moved to London as fast as my skinny legs would carry me. I ended up part of a milieu of people living in Caledonian Road and Holloway, forming an ever changing constellation of bands in a primordial soup mainly formed from ex-members of Kneejerk (my old band) and Abjure (friends of ours, with whom we did our first ever tour).

The two most notable bands who came out of all that were Million Dead and Palehorse. But there were others. Sometimes I can remember more band names than actual bands – Sun Starved Day (featuring a young Andrew O’Neill), The Process Of Weeding Out, Concealed Weapons Of Mass Destruction… It was a heady time.

One of the groups in the midst of all this was The Record Buying Public. It featured Tom Fowler on guitar (originally of Abjure, later in Million Dead); John Atkins (of Palehorse); and little 19-year-old me on the drums. We played instrumental, jazzy post-rock, influenced by stuff like Slint, Karate, Tortoise and so on. We played a few shows (listed here) to our friends and then broke up, like most small underground bands do. I had largely forgotten about it, not least because I’m not the world’s greatest drummer.

A few days ago, Tom emailed me to let me know he’d found some recordings, made in 2001; both the 6-track demo that I recorded on a Tascam multi-track thing I had, and four more songs from a rehearsal. Listening back to them was wonderful, nostalgic and bizarre. I’d forgotten the songs, and it was lovely to hear how adventurous yet melodic we had been. The quality isn’t great (the rehearsal recordings in particular, made at the late great Backstreet Rehearsals in Holloway) but you get an impression of what we were trying to do. John, Tom and I all agreed to share them, so here they are. Enjoy.

In other news we are having a blast in the bottom right corner of the USA with our new partners in crime, Gogol Bordello. Florida and Georgia for now, then north to meet up with Mr Isbell. See you soon.

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Sunny Side Up

Greetings from Memphis in May. We have a day off here today. It’s a burning hot Memorial Day outside, but, after paying tribute to Elvis by stuffing myself with brunch, I’m mostly going to be holed up in my hotel working on demoing some new material.

I haven’t blogged in a little while, so I thought I’d set that right. I also noticed that I’ve tended to pick subjects on the more negative side of the divide for the last few posts. So here I’m going to try and be a bit more upbeat. It’s a whole new day.

This US run has been fun. We started at the Elm Street Tattoo Festival in Dallas TX (where I got my Dale Gribble ink done). Then we picked up our road buddies and headed across the south and the midwest. We have one more show with them left – tomorrow, here in Memphis, at the New Daisy Theater – so I thought I’d take a moment to write about them.

First up we have Derek, a.k.a. the Homeless Gospel Choir. We played a show with Derek in Pittsburgh back in 2010 and we were all blown away by his talent, his songs, his personality. I’ve been meaning to do more with the guy since then, but these things always take time. Happy to have him with us now, he’s been reminding me, night on night, what punk rock is supposed to feel like. Check out Musical Preferences if you’re unfamiliar with his stuff. He rules.

Then we have Two Cow Garage. I’ve vaguely known Micah for a few years now, through my good friend (and amazing artist) Vanessa Jean. I had some of their records and enjoyed them. We finally played a show with them last December in Nashville, and I spent their entire set with my jaw on the floor. They are an exceptional rock’n’roll band, and it’s an honour to go on after them night on night on this tour. Here’s a live session to get you started if you don’t know their stuff.

I always pick the openers for my tours, and I’m particularly proud of this line-up. I hope people at the shows have been enjoying them as much as I have, and for the rest of you, waste no time in checking them out. It’s sad that we only have one more show together… for now.

After the Memphis show we are joining up for two weeks of shows with Gogol Bordello, across OK / TX / AL / FL / GA, which I’m stoked about. It’ll be one hell of a bill. Then we meet up with Mr Isbell, but I’ll write more about that later.

In the meantime, I’m pleased to announce what you’ve hopefully already noticed: we’ve overhauled the website completely. Hopefully it now looks and functions a lot better, and I’m working on adding content and smoothing out any bugs. If anyone spots any typos or anything obviously missing or wrong, do let me know. For the time being, I finally added the lyrics to the Mongol Horde record in the songs section. Enjoy.

Finally, a quick shout out for the wonderful Camden Rocks Festival happening in Camden (duh), London, this Saturday June 4th. I’m gutted that I’m missing it, the line-up is ace and it’s one of my favourite musical events of the year, celebrating one of my favourite parts of the world. If you’re in London you should be there.

Right, time to work on some new songs.

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SAFE GIGS FOR WOMEN

I’ve been enjoying my time off the road, especially the show on Friday night in Brixton at the Electric. It was great to play “England Keep My Bones” in full, to see a lot of friendly faces, and to raise a bunch of cash for CALM and the Music Venue Trust. A good night all round.

After the show, I received more than one email from women who’d been at the show who said they’d had bad experiences with harassment from guys in the crowd. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard about this happening at my shows, and I wanted to just say a quick something about this issue.

Raising awareness of this kind of behaviour strikes me as important. I want my shows (and, I’d hope, others too) to be welcoming places, where everyone can relax, enjoy themselves, be part of the show, make friends. As a man, I don’t have direct experience of being on the receiving end of sexually inappropriate behaviour at shows. In fact, I find it almost impossible to conceive that it happens – I would never, ever behave like that to a woman in any context, and I like to think none of my friends would either. So I suppose the first person whose awareness needs raising is mine.

It’s actually really fucking dumb that I have to spell this out, but if you’re the kind of guy who has ever behaved like that towards a woman in any context, I’d like you to do two things: firstly, just be a fucking human, consider yourself in the other person’s shoes, ask yourself if you could defend your actions if publicly called out in front of your friends, your family, the whole crowd. And secondly, if that first part didn’t work, I’d like you to *fuck off and never come to any of my shows again*.

Seriously. The idea of this shit happening in my crowd, at my shows, makes me feel enraged. People like that are not welcome at my shows. If it happens to anyone again, please try and alert me, or one of my band or crew, or the bouncers. These fuckers need shaming. There is no possible excuse, including alcohol.

In the meantime, check out and follow people like Girls Against and Safe Gigs For Women. I hope this is a blog I never have to write again. Peace.

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CHARITY SHIRT AUCTIONS

Afternoon all. I’ve been enjoying time off the road in London, doing history walks, writing songs and lounging in the unseasonable sunshine. Bliss.

I’ve also been clearing out some old storage units and the like, and in the process I stumbled across some old shirts. Rather than throw them out or charity-shop them, I decided it’d be a better use of my time and resources to auction them off and give the proceeds to Shelter. They’re a little shabby – showing their age – and could use a wash and an iron, but they’re bona fide bits of (my) music history. I’ve listed them up on my E-Bay site, the auctions are open now.

Go check it out.

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HOME SWEET HOLLOWAY

We made it. I’m pleased to say that at about 8am this morning I walked in through my front door, threw everything I own into the washing machine, and made myself some toast. That was quite a tour. We travelled roughly 14,763 kilometres, playing 25 shows in 14 different countries (including two I hadn’t visited before). I came home with a lovely new guitar; we lost Ronnie Corbett, Merle Haggard and Prince. We ended up with a killer set on the main stage at Groezrock Festival, during which I managed to smash my in-ear monitor earpiece inside my head; the lovely Belgian doctors got everything out and patched me up. Hats off to the Sleeping Souls, and our crew – Johnny, Cahir, Doug, Martine and Tre. We now have a few weeks off the road, which I am going to enjoy.

There’s a few things in the diary coming up – a 6 Music takeover tomorrow, a songwriting class in Camden, the show in Brixton (sold out alas). I’m also getting my knee fixed and my back-piece finished. After that we’ll be heading back to the USA. The summer run we have coming up is killer; shows across the states with Gogol Bordello, Jason Isbell, Flogging Molly, and just headlining, as well as a few festivals. Check out the dates, my American friends, and I’ll see you on the road.

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Hope In The Ruins

From Prague (which was an amazing, wonderful show) up through Poland we have wandered, and now I write from Copenhagen Airport, en route to Aarhus, Denmark. I had a day off yesterday, and spent it, with some friends, visiting the camp museum at Auschwitz Birkenau.

I’ve long nerded out about the history of Central and Eastern Europe; I read Hilberg and Gilbert when I was younger, and I have recently been devastated by Timothy Snyder’s “Bloodlands”. Even so, I’d never visited one of the camps before, and so when the opportunity to got o Auschwitz came up, I thought it was important for me to go, to be humble, to learn.

I don’t want to write a long post about the place; others have written much more eloquently than I ever will about the experience. I had one thought that I wanted to share. At one point I was in the area where they unloaded the cattle trucks and made the selections, a long dusty railway siding. There’s a solitary train car there now (not an original, as it goes; it was paid for by an Australian Holocaust survivor to commemorate his parents). As we were there, a group of Israeli school kids were hanging around, playing pranks, chatting, on their phones, generally being irreverent and not paying much attention to their impatient teacher. My initial reaction was mild horror at their open lack of respect for the place we were in. But then it occurred to me that a class of free, happy, vivacious young Jews enjoying themselves was the most wonderful sight to see in that godforsaken place.

It felt like a victory of sorts. I left there feeling weirdly optimistic. If you get a chance, you should go.

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