INTERVIEW: Hector Gannet | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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North Shields’ Hector Gannet release their second album The Land Belongs To Us in January and I caught up with songwriter, vocalist and guitarist Aaron Duff on a dark November evening to discuss his music, nature, the local music scene, a ‘big secret’ and lots more.

It’s an easy conversation, he’s a local lad and his welcoming tone lets us dive right in when I ask how it came about that he – as the songwriter – came to form Hector Gannet and augment his songs with other musicians rather than keeping things just solo.

I think I always had the band in mind really. When we started, my old band had split up and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, basically. I had this archive footage of North Shields in the 50s that had my grandparents in and I was compelled to write some music to that.”

This resulted in a 45-minute soundtrack for which Duff needed a band to soundtrack the footage live as a BFI project, and he duly recruited drummer Jack Coe from his previous band and a “floating line-up” of others, including Joe Coady (bass) and Martin Wann (guitar), who “kept showing up” and eventually stuck.

So far Hector Gannet have garnered a slew of praise and radio play for their debut album, numerous singles and the EP released so far. They’ve also toured both solo and as a band with friend and former schoolmate Sam Fender, Sea Power, The Felice Brothers, Lanterns On The Lake, Pete Doherty, Kathryn Williams and folk legend Richard Thompson. The local musicians in particular bonding strongly to inspire each other and build solid relationships. There’s a real momentum here which makes the release of The Land Belongs To Us a big deal to many.

Duff’s songwriting is a poetic mix of odes to the region’s landscape, people, fauna and our coexistence within that ecosystem

Duff’s songwriting is a poetic mix of odes to the region’s landscape, people, fauna and our coexistence within that ecosystem. There’s existential consideration, love and appreciation of the past too; feeling positive despite concerns with the climate crisis when lessons need to be learned fast.

When asked about his inspiration, Duff explains: “I don’t think I would want to put things across overtly. Lyrically it’s just sort of looking backwards and forwards (simultaneously) and history is one of those things you shouldn’t ignore, because you can learn a lot.” Which brings us around to one track, the tenderly treated Blue Murder by former Lindisfarne member Alan Hull. A long-standing live favourite that Duff concedes he’s “never really kind of got the subject matter of” – until now. It’s a sparkling rendition describing being at the end of your tether emotionally but treated in a way the listeners’ own interpretation is valid.

His own songs fit perfectly around this central cover. The rousing The Eighth Day in particular. “It’s based on a childhood memory of staring up the night sky and the stars and suddenly becoming, like, totally overwhelmed and frightened by feeling so insignificant.” It’s this mix of respectful awe that permeates throughout the album perfectly which makes it essential listening.

Catch the band at their special Hibernal Festivities in Alnmouth and Hexham in December (if you can get a ticket!) Oh, and ‘that big secret’? I’m bound by silence on that too, but it’s huge…and will be announced soon!

Hector Gannet release The Land Belongs To Us on 27th January via Guga Records.

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