Andrew Foster: ‘This gig could be a real eye-opener’

Andrew Foster and The Watchmen
Andrew Foster and The Watchmen

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Multiple Guide Award-nominee Andrew Foster says he’s had ‘a very peculiar year’. The once acoustic solo artist is rounding off 2011 with an electric band show with The Watchmen. JODIE JEYNES catches-up with him ahead of tomorrow’s New Theatre Royal show.

Firstly, Andrew, can you tell us about the watchmen. Who are each of the members and what are their backgrounds?

Loz Bridge is a fantastic musician and a fine songwriter himself. When he plays on my material, we become musically entwined. He’s a rare find and a big part of what I’ve done musically over the last few years as his textures have become part of my sound.

Dave Jones is a bass player I liked when he was in local band Surburbian and he did a fine job at the start of the year.

Drummer Matt Eldridge has been a close collaborator with my latest album, Panic Moon, and my main musical go-to guy of late. Although I write all the songs and have a vision of the whole sound, he helped me bring it to life. We recorded the album over the course of six days and had a lot of fun making it. He’s an exceptional drummer.

But The Watchmen banner could essentially be anyone. It could evolve.

You were a solo artist before The Watchmen. How did the collaboration come about?

As my recordings generally reflect a band sound (even though I predominantly play acoustically), I thought it was time to realize the potential of the songs to the full by putting together a band.

The obvious choices were people around me who I already have a close musical relationship with, so The Watchmen were born of close musical ties that had already been forged. We help each other out and have done for a while now.

Have you ever been in a band before and how are you finding it?

I have been in a band before but that was many years ago now. I’ve also played guitar for lots of other artists, but this is only the second gig in a band with my own solo material. The first was an album launch at the start of the year at The Cellars at Eastney. Logistically, it’s been hard to get everyone in a room to play, which I’m not used to (I usually just pick up my guitar) and it’s been draining. Also, I’ve had to adapt my playing to accommodate being on rails with the band. In an acoustic solo environment, the song breathes and flows naturally in and out of time, so it’s been a learning curve for me. It really gives me a buzz, though, to work with other musicians and ones as good as these.

It gives a full sonic representation of what I had in my head when I wrote the material. I love acoustic music and the dynamics involved in being a solo performer, but I have a rockier side that I don’t usually exercise. I adore Neil Young for this ideal. There is no limit to his output. It’s a great feeling to be amp’d up again!

How has 2011 been for you?

I’m not going to lie – 2011 has been a very peculiar year. If I could only focus on one direction, maybe I’d be dangerous! I have had some amazing gigs and opportunities, such as support slots and working with producers, and I believe I’m currently writing some of my best material.

What’s going on with the band at the moment?

Preparing for this New Theatre Royal gig has taken quite a lot of head-space, especially to get the people I wanted involved in the project. I want to make these shows special, rather than to saturate it.

So what do you have planned to make this gig special?

The line-up is exceptional. Kassassin Street are on fire at the moment, so it’s a hot ticket for them alone. I think this gig could be a real eye-opener for people who have boxed me in an acoustic mould. And, in this beautiful setting, it could really be a one-off. You don’t often get the chance to play a venue as graceful and special as the New Theatre Royal and I think it will bring the music to life.

What’s with the top hat and cloaks? Is that just for the CD cover or an image you’re sticking with?

There’s something quintessentially English and a little mysterious about top hat and tails. I feel it reflects my music well: a little eccentricity, Englishness, psychedelia, and a nod to an older time. It’s also a sly reference to Doctor Who, who (I’m not ashamed to say) I’m a huge fan of. I don’t think I’ll be walking around town like it, but I thought it was a good image to represent the band.

What’s planned for 2012?

Next year is going to have a whole new set of material, I think... a new canvas and a new start. I want to try everything and to think out of the box. I will keep-up the acoustic performances and maybe, some more band shows if this works as well as I think it could.

See Andrew Foster and The Watchmen with support from Kassassin Street and Calico Ghost (in their debut gig) at the New Theatre Royal in Guildhall Walk, Portsmouth, tomorrow from 8pm.

Tickets cost £8 for the dress circle or £10 for stalls from (023) 9264 9000, thecellars.co.uk, ticketweb.co.uk or on the door from 7.30pm.