INTERVIEW: The Union Choir | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image by Richard Milburn

This August there’s some ‘unfinished business’ being taken care of by a few longstanding participants in the North East’s musical landscape.

It’s been a while since I’ve sat looking at the faces of Jon Melvin (singer) and Grant Lagan (drummer) of The Union Choir, and the unfinished business soon becomes apparent, as Jon elaborates: “Extending way back to 2013 when the band stopped gigging and a period when the album (The Ghosts in the Room) was unfinished, unmixed, untracked. The album was finished and saw the light of day in 2017.” With the album released and a one off ‘beautiful gig’ in support that could have been that. Hiatus ensued.

Itchy feet won after a while and following the Decade Dissolve EP (2020) the feeling that the band had more to offer remained. Despite, or perhaps because of the pandemic lockdowns, this feeling grew. Grant, who Melvin says is always the catalyst in these decisions, suggested a very casual thing, getting members who remained in the area together, as much socially as musically. “The band always felt, for me, like the best hangouts with your friends,” Jon admits, “with the music being a nice offshoot.” So, the revitalised cogs kept whirring, Grant’s famed “tunnel vision and getting carried away” led to a session at Harbourmaster’s studios with studio owner, producer and Union Choir guitarist Martin Trollope helming the session.

The band always felt like the best hangouts with your friends, with the music being a nice offshoot

We like hanging out with Martin,” confirms Grant, “and the only way you can hang out with him these days is hiring him in the studio!” It’s a good point; Harbourmaster is in huge demand with so many of the region’s singer-songwriters and bands, due to Martin’s production experience and expertise, and he’s becoming somewhat ubiquitous!

So, with their producer/hard taskmaster running the session, the music flowed and the resulting release, The Leopard Print EP, took form. Lead track The Settlement has always been in need of an overhaul as far as Jon’s concerned, it now shines brightly, and drives with fresh impetus and optimism. Grant also spent a couple of hours writing another song (Pink Mink, an energetic questioning ode to ageing amongst other things) that was “virtually finished minus some bits and bobs” that same night, and it’s these demos that inspired the rest of the musicians. Despite some songs existing in some form going back years, Jessica (rampant, explosive) and Drawing Lines (chiming, brooding indie rock) complete the EP’s tracks, the latter reworked and newly filtered by the band in 2023. Opportunities to work with band members who’d moved away, or recently returned, were raised, even Rebecca Evans (saxophone, clarinet) living in Australia, tracked her parts there.

For a band with such diverse personalities, the ’choir’ has always been a defining characteristic, the cohesive sum of the many individuals all pulling in the same direction. This extends to friends like artist Richard Milburn (Lazerray Motion) who’s created the visuals this time around having worked with the band on artwork and videos previously. Distilling the humour, relationships and music into neat visuals, and sealing the deal on that unfinished businessuntil those inevitable creative cogs begin whirring again!

The Union Choir celebrate The Leopard Print EP release at The Cumberland Arms on Saturday 12th August alongside friends Waves of Dread, Detroit Tourist Board and Kristos Kabiotis.


Video directed by Lazerray Motion

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