Three albums in and the Keston Cobblers’ Club is Almost Home

Keston Cobblers Club
Keston Cobblers Club
The Coal Porters, 2017. Picture by Chico Vaughn

The Coal Porters are putting the punk spirit of ’76 into the finest bluegrass around

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With the release of their third album, Almost Home, Keston Cobblers’ Club are stretching out sonically and physically as they head out on their biggest tour to date.

The Guide spoke with co-founders Matt Lowe and Tom Sweet (along with Matt’s sister Julia) on the eve of the album’s release, and the pair were champing at the bit to set it loose.

Tom says: ‘We’re really excited to get it out, you can spend up to a year recording an album and building up to releasing it, so the release is almost the most exciting part.

‘Basically we’ve always recorded our music in our home studio, initially to keep the cost down as much as anything. I think we could potentially record in another studio now, but we like the way we do it, and we get quite controlling of it.’

Matt adds: ‘Me and Tom live quite near each other so we can work on it whenever we want, we don’t need to take up the time of an engineer or producer, and it means we can just dip in and out.’

The home studio is a legacy of the Lowes’ dad working for the BBC World Service.

‘He wasn’t on the music side of thing’s, says Matt, ‘but he’s always been very technically-minded. I used it quite a bit when I was doing my music GCSE and then slowly we started buying more bits and pieces and building it up. It’s really useful.

‘I think we just enjoy the process, and it feels fun and it feels like friends together, rather than panicking that we’ve got two weeks to get it all done in.’

The band are often labelled as folk, and while this isn’t something they’ve shied away from – they’ve played the circuit and opened for genre giants Bellowhead on their farewell tour – the new album finds them dipping their toes into different genres.

Matt says: ‘We’ve got five of us and we all love different stuff, even just between me and Tom we cover most genres in terms of what we listen to and we have to be careful that you don’t make it just your plaything, where you do one of every song.

When we first started out doing gigs in Camden, we’d be playing with these indie-rock bands or we’d be between a hip-hop act and a heavy metal band

Matt Lowe

‘We do have a certain type of demographic with our fans – we started out very folky with accordions and tubas and we do try and stay roughly within that realm, or otherwise it can go a bit crazy, but we like to chuck a few little influences in here and there, to mix it up a little bit.

‘You don’t want to change it too much, but you want to change it enough that you feel like you’re moving.’

How do they feel about the folk tag?

‘It’s a great community to get into, and going around the UK,’ says Tom, ‘there’s a really nice “career” feel to it – it doesn’t feel like one year you’d be big and then the next year you’d be nowhere.

‘There’s so many folk clubs and folk festivals, it’s great, but obviously we’re not traditional folk and it can put some people off if they think we’re too trad, but it’s treading a line – it’s not like we’ve been an all-out commercial band either.

‘Our instrumentation led us down the folk road to start with, but we’ve never been trad folk, and we’re happy with where we are now in that we’ve been accepted by that community.

‘Some of the best crowds we’ve played to are folk crowds – they really listen too.

‘I guess it’s wanting the best of both worlds,’ he laughs.

‘We don’t take ourself too seriously, and we do get quite a lot of kids follow us which has been an unexpected surprise. When we first started out doing gigs in Camden, we’d be playing with these indie-rock bands or we’d be between a hip-hop act and a heavy metal band.

‘We’ve got such a range of fans, Some of our friends just have 18-22 year olds follow them, which is a shame, but I couldn’t tell you what our demographic is, it’s very, very broad which is nice.’

The packaging for the new album continues a playful tradition the band has – the CD casing unfolds into a house.

‘We’ve always been quite hands on with the creative side,’ says Tom. ‘When we started touring we got a manager and an agent and PR team, so they all take care of the business side of things and that means we can do it even more – like we want to do more sessions and little random things so it’s more fun for us.

‘I think even the company that makes up the CD package, they’d never done anything like that before, so it was a question of will this work? And then a trial version came out and it, was, ah, it worked!

‘Jules and Harry (Stasinopoulos – drums) do graphic design, which helps the band massively, so they have fun coming up with various ideas on the theme of the album.

‘We always try and do something a bit different – we had an EP that turned into a working train set when you folded it all out. People like something that’s a bit different.’

And while things are on the up and up for the Club, they’re well-grounded.

Matt adds: ‘Each album and each tour you just push to the next level. You’ve got to keep yourself aware of the great things that can happen when you’re in a band.

‘If you suddenly got massive after your first single, then I’m sure it would be different, but starting small as we did – we just started for fun – and working your way up, you get an appreciation for all sorts of things and any opportunity that comes your way is an exciting thing.’

The Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea

Thursday, April 20

wedgewood-rooms.co.uk