Review/Interview: Faustus – Broken Down Gentlemen

Faustus, who have recently reformed after a break, have released their latest album BROKEN DOWN GENTLEMEN containing traditional tunes performed with their own unique style. The album’s overall feel is of a traditional folk nature, but it will particularly appeal to anyone who has a liking for the sounds of Bellowhead with a blend of Morris dancing rhythms. Other tracks on the album have an underlying, almost sea faring sea chantey style to them. Whatever the style, each track is well balanced with polished musical compliment to clear and strong vocal performances.

There is some fine fiddle playing on the album along with guitar and even an oboe, the lyrics have a warm tone to them and a confident sound. The albums subject matter varies and covers topics such as memories of a homeland far away and the journeys through life. Some of the more memorable tracks on the album such as “Captains Apprentice” has an element of a coral quality at the beginning bringing a variety and breadth to the album not often encountered.

Taking inspiration from many directions, this album is a great demonstration of how Faustus have managed to embrace the folk/roots tradition while upholding and displaying a unique talent for taking traditional tunes and moulding them, to produce something truly memorable using their own arrangements and approach to the task in hand.  The title track BROKEN DOWN GENTLEMEN is heavily influenced by their updated traditional Morris sound, the back beat will have you tapping your toes in no time.  If you want to get a taste of how the music of Faustus can get under your skin in a single track, just listed to AMERICAN STRANGER it will surely hold your attention, draw you in and take you on a mesmerising journey.  Not the only track to do so, but one surely of the best on the Album.

All in all this is a must listen to album for anyone liking up beat traditional folk sounds with a modern twist, the bands musical skills will give everyone something to appreciate keeping them coming back for more, definitely one to listen to again and again.

We recently caught up with Benji Kirkpatrick from the band to ask him a few questions:

What are your influences – I felt a couple of the tracks on the album seem to have a slightly reggae rhythm to them, wonder where that comes from?

We have a myriad of influences between us so it’s hard to pin down one thing. Saul and I like a bit of reggae but we don’t actively try to crow bar in that feel unless we’re pissing about in rehearsal or having a laugh at an informal ceilidh or something. Informal ceilidhs can be so good for laughing.

Why the split and reform?

Part of the reason for the split was that I joined Seth Lakeman’s band and became rather busy and therefore not so available. Saul did a year in the play ‘Warhorse’ in the west end and Paul is always busy so our time didn’t match up very helpfully. We’d always got on so well, though – personally and musically – and felt that what we had as a trio wasn’t worth letting go so we agreed to revive ourselves (like we have to do on tour every morning with gallons of coffee) and make a proper go of it.

What do you most enjoy traditional vs home grown / written material?

You can have equal amounts of fun with both.

What do you believe you bring to the folk roots scene?

Testosterone, sexual innuendo.

Where was your best gig and why?

Most recently it may well have been in the Rodewolde Suite at Liverpool Philarmonic. We had a great chap on the sound and stayed in a posh hotel, which always buoys the mood.

Where do you draw your main influences from?

This is some music that has influenced us, individually and collectively; The Band, CSNY, Vaughan Williams, Mr. Scruff, Jimi Hendrix, ZZ Top, Led Zeppelin, Morris On, David Munrow, Jethro Tull, Peter Gabriel era Genesis.

What are your rehearsals like?

Boozy.

Have you always been attracted to the folk roots genre or have you come to it later in life.

Saul and I were brought up with it and Paul discovered it at a fairly young age, so it’s been present amongst us for quite some time.

You’re all involved with multiple other projects, both within the folk scene and other artistic ventures. Do you set aside a certain amount of time to concentrate on Faustus, or is it very much as and when your diaries line up.

We block out periods for touring then the festivals are a bit of a scrabble between the different projects. It’s a juggling act when you’ve got multiple ventures but it works out, we have to whore ourselves about in order to make a living.

You are widely regarded as fine interpreters of traditional music. Do you look to try and do something new with the tradition where you can, or find performing this material as you learnt it to be the most satisfying?

We try and do something interesting with every song or tune we play. There’s no point in just reproducing a version of something that’s been in existence for ages and everybody has heard before. But there’s no point doing something different just for the sake of it, we strive to come up with arrangements that compliment the song whilst having melodic and rhythmic interest.

What has been your best/favourite gig with the band?

That one in that venue where lots of people came along and really enjoyed it and we were really good.

Has folk music always been your first love, or do you draw from other influences in your performance?

Having been brought up with folk music it has always been in my life, but my first love was guitar based rock with Hendrix taking pole position. We all listen to and have a great love of lots of different styles of music so those will inevitably find their way into aspects of what we do. Often, however, we just find ourselves playing ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’ by Rainbow.

What’s next for Faustus?

The pub.

 

For more information on the album and band please visit: http://www.faustusband.com/

Review by Andy Weller

Interview by Andy Weller & Phil Daniels