INTERVIEW: Cattle & Cane | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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For a band who were tipped for huge things five years ago, Cattle & Cane’s debut album has been a long time coming. The Stockton-based quintet – made up of siblings Joe, Helen, Fran and Vin Hammill plus friend Tom Chapman – had a taste of success back in 2010 when they were courted by labels, had BBC Radio support in abundance, and played T In The Park. “We’d only be going for two months and we recorded some songs quite quickly, then all of a sudden we were getting asked to play T In The Park. Looking back, it was probably a bit soon.” Remembers chief songwriter and vocalist Joe. “I’d just done my GCSE’s and I didn’t know what was going on!” says co-vocalist Helen.

Having been taken unawares somewhat, the band retreated; Joe attended university, Helen took on babysitting duties for their large extended family, the rest of the band started jobs and had children – life, as it has a tendency to do, got in the way. But Joe reflects that taking the band a little slower perhaps wasn’t such a bad thing. “In 2010 people felt like Cattle & Cane were going to be the next big thing. For all of us it was our first band, and we’ve done a lot of learning in those years. In the past year I feel more confident in the songs we’re writing and the way we play them.”

Finally ready to grab the bull by the horns, Cattle & Cane are now in the position to throw everything they’ve got at their new album. “We have no responsibilities now, so it’s full steam ahead!” Helen jokes, but it’s obvious that the band have never been more ready to grasp their forthcoming success with both hands. That may sound presumptuous, but it’s a confident assertion; their album is full of the wide-open melodies and expansive indie pop that charmed back in 2010. Opening with the sprawling Americana of Skies, spearheaded by their trademark dual vocals, the verses’ subtle guitar licks explode into a sing-along chorus, while the heart-wrenching We Were Children and the hushed beauty of Then You Came Along offer up a softer side. Elsewhere, the subtle strings and massive chorus of Red and the faintly menacing marching percussion on Birdsong hint at a more complex future direction. A lot of the album is big and bold, but when they strip things down a core of great songwriting is exposed; it’s a charming album, and one which delivers more on each listen. Given drummer Tom’s arrangement skills, it’s an obvious next step for the band to include a more symphonic approach to their future work.

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“we want to be a band people get excited about live. We want to create a bit of joy in our music”

A large chunk of the songs were written during the band’s inception, and Joe’s keen to move the narrative on. “Quite a lot of the album is about childhood. Some of those songs I wrote when I was 18. We’ve started writing the second album and it’s taken on a new direction. We listen to a lot of artists from the 70s and 80s like Andrew Gold and 10cc; they write massive anthems, and that’s where we are at the moment. We’re moving on and keeping it interesting for the audience. Musically, it’s always evolving.”

“We’ve covered the childhood stuff, now we’re ready to write the teenage years.” Helen agrees.

While tracks like the massive sounding In Your Arms hint at a more epic approach on future material, Joe’s keen to assert the position of their newer work. “It’s still melodic, I don’t want to reduce it and say it’s upbeat and fun – it’s not throwaway – but we want to be a band people get excited about live. We want to create a bit of joy in our music.”

Having found considerable support for the album already from their legion of fans, they found their PledgeMusic campaign to get the album released was a huge success. “People like to be part of the process. It feels like a grassroots thing, everyone being connected in the project together.” Joe says. “Having a record deal doesn’t mean the same as it used to. We’ve had interest, but it doesn’t change a lot, you just need an ability to get through to your fans and for them to buy your work.”

It’s obvious the band have a lot of love for their audience; having enjoyed sell-out gigs in Teesside for several years, it’s clear their fans always had faith the band would fulfil their potential. Joe fully admits that their stagecraft has been one of the things they’ve felt they needed to improve on, so they’re able to give as much back to their audience. “We never really thought about how important that audience interaction was. We didn’t really address it, we were a bit shy and reserved, but now the interaction is much more natural. We’re more confident in the songs we’re writing and we’ve matured.”

Whether they’re playing mega gigs like their album launch at Teesside University on Friday 18th September, or their more intimate Newcastle date on Friday 16th October at Head of Steam, the band are eager to get their music out to as many people as they can. That they’ve named their debut album Home is somewhat telling – this album represents merely the beginning of Cattle & Cane’s success. Today, home; tomorrow…who knows.

Cattle & Cane release Home on 14th September. The band play Teesside University on Friday 18th September and Newcastle’s Head of Steam on Friday 16th October.

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