Wille calls in a few favours for a charity concert with his Bandits

When Wille Edwards wanted to put together a charity concert he thought he may as well aim as high as possible.

Thursday, 21st June 2018, 3:13 pm
Updated Thursday, 21st June 2018, 4:18 pm
Wille and The Bandits

But even he wasn't expecting the acts he asked to immediately say yes. 

His band, the eclectic trio Wille and The Bandits are headlining a show in aid of Planets, a cancer charity based at Southampton General Hospital, dedicated to defeating pancreas, liver, abdominal and neuroendocrine Tumours.

And they will be joined on the bill by folk royalty Show of Hands, who have filled the Royal Albert Hall five times, and fast-rising singer-songwriter Dan Owen.

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'˜I know both of them really well,' says Wille. '˜I just asked a favour '“ I wasn't expecting either of them to say yes, but both of them did, so it was, 'Oh wow, now I've got the two of them on there!'

'˜Show of Hands have sold out the Royal Albert Hall a few times and Dan's very much on the up and we've sold out shows in Southampton before, so it should be a really good gig. '˜Steve Knightley [half of Show of Hands] is a fantastic guy and they do a lot for charity, he's a very giving man, same with Dan as well, it's nice of them to give up their time for it. I'm sure there'll be a few little jams as well.'

Wille's mum tragically died of liver cancer 11 years ago. But the charity was set up by her surgeon, Neil Pearce.

'˜Neil is a really amazing man. There's not a lot funding into liver and pancreatic cancer so he started up this charity to raise money for education and into techniques to help other people in the same situation.

'˜My sister went to a seminar at Southampton General Hospital and he was talking there about it, she told me about it. She did a triathlon to raise money for them and being a touring musician, putting on a gig was the obvious choice for me to do something.'

Over the course of four albums, the Cornwall-based band have built themselves a formidable live reputation, with show-stealing sets at Glastonbury, Isle of Wight and numerous other festivals.

And following a jaunt around Europe, they've recently been recording the follow-up to 2017's Steal.

'˜That's due out next February, so we're just doing festivals and events until the end of the year, not actual touring,' says Wille.

'˜We were touring so hard for so many years now, it's nice to have a bit of a break, recharge the batteries, we've got some great new tracks and it's just going to be getting ready for next year.'

The new album will also see the band taking back control of their own destiny.

'˜The last record was signed and on a label, but we've decided to go back to being independent. We've basically set up our own record label now '“ we're keeping everything close to us and in our control.

'˜We're such an eclectic band and like to play in a lot of genres, which is not necessarily what record labels want, they like to pigeonhole you, and we've decided we want to push ourselves as musicians and artists, and I just feel we want to write the music we want to write. We've built a strong fanbase pretty much ourselves, we're in a good position. We've had a few offers from labels and people interested in signing us, but we're happy, we're making a living playing music and we're pushing it. We're going to put a lot of time and effort into this next release to get it right.'

The trio proudly draws on the influence of other classic three pieces, such as Cream and The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

'˜What we do is guitar-based, it's very instrument based. We get people come see us and say: 'Wow, how do you make such a big sound with just the three of you?' And that's where the influence of bands like Cream and Jimi Hendrix comes in '“ they were really pushing their sound. At the time, in the late '60s it was music people weren't used to.

'And that's what we're trying to do, we're playing that retro-rock guitar-based stuff, but we're mixing it with world music and dance music in the rhythms, it's very experimental in the same way that those bands were.'

One of the highlights of any Bandits show is Angel, which Wille wrote after the death of his mother.

'˜It's a crazy song, it's a 17 minute instrumental epic. Words can never explain what I went through after she died. Words would have just been not enough.

'˜We jammed and that was literally the first time we'd jammed as a band after I came back from what had happened. The music just came out of me. It was an expression of music and emotion that brought out that track, and when I'm performing it, I feel it, definitely.'

And there is extra sadness for Wille that his mum, who lived in Hampshire, never got to see him perform.

'˜That's the unfortunate thing. She never even got to see me play. The band was going but it was down in Cornwall so she never got the chance, but she has a song now which is always going to be in the memory of the band.

'˜It's the track that people get moved by, I don't like to make people cry at gigs, but we get people bawling their eyes out at that one. It has that effect, it's a special song for me and I don't think it'll be leaving the set any time soon.

'˜It is tough, but at the same time it's nice, because whenever we play that song I feel like I'm connecting with her again.'

But for this show Wille just wants to help put a few quid in the charity's coffers.

'˜Hopefully we'll help people who are in the same position as we were so they won't have to go through it. It's a horrible thing '“ the less people go through that the better.'

The 1865, Southampton

Friday, June 29