A few weeks ago I came across the music of MARY EPWORTH and her Jubilee Band. Her debut album Dream Life, a cool blend of psych folk and singer-songwriter melodies off the beaten tracks, will be released very soon and we already talked about in highest praises. She and her boyfriend and Hand Of Glory partner-in-crime Will Twynham took some time to answer our questions concerning the album, 60s music and all the things to come…
What has been your musical background so far? Sounds like you spent quite some time between your daddy’s record collection, the music school, weekends in the countryside with stuff like the Incredible String Band coming from the car’s speakers and country evenings at the Acoustic Club…!? Just a guess…
MARY- Well, my Dad would often be playing Jean Michel Jarre or Kate Bush when I was really little, which probably seeped in somewhere. My family are all really into nature, so I definitely did get the pastoral thing from them. My folks don’t play music themselves though, so I think a lot of it must have just come from within. We didn’t have piano lessons or anything like that. I started getting into music in a big way when I was about 14, singing in really scuzzy indie bands, and then carried on from there.
The song “Black Doe” is quite an exception on “Dream Life”: Very heavy, groovy, gloomy-doomy. On your 7″ single it sounds even meaner and I love that sound and it suits you well. “Dream Life” as an album is more introverted, tamer but not less interesting. Was it an intentional decision to make the album itself quieter?
WILL- Not quieter as such, but we did try to think of each song as a separate entity, rather than just sticking to one sound for the entire thing. I don’t think it would have been appropriate to have stuck disgusting drum fills and fuzz guitar on something like Sweet Boy. ;)
MARY- Will says it perfectly here. We didn’t want to make there be an overall concept for the songs, we wanted them each to be fully realised, and hoped that the sounds would unite them all as a whole.
How long did it take you to write and record these songs and what were the biggest challenges?
MARY- Quite a long time. Some of them have been in my head for years, some I had in a simpler form and changed them into something new. Black Doe was originally just one vocal and guitar, kind of a hypnotic acoustic finger-picked thing. It got a new lease of life!
Your brother Paul is a popular producer who’s on everyone’s lips these days. To be honest, I really enjoy Adele’s music (whose album Paul produced among others). Has your brother been a big influence or of any help for your own music?
MARY- Well, he’s my big brother, and when we were small I followed his lead. When he got into metal, I got into metal, I’m sure it was really annoying. I do wonder if he had got into something other than music, if I would have ended up in bands. Actually, he loved football and it bores me to tears, so maybe I’ve answered my own question.
Wouldn’t it be the easiest thing for your own success to “conspire” with your brother?
MARY- Would that really be my success, or just his with me tagging along? Since we were teenagers we’ve been very separate about each other’s work. We’re both very strong willed, and I‘m very stubborn and protective of my songs, he likes to collaborate with his artists, so it wouldn’t be a great fit for us to work together. He has helped, but in a very “hands-off” way as he knows that’s what we want.
He’s a great resource for music business knowledge, and a big chunk of the album was recorded on his old Macbook he donated to us. I hope we’ll work on something one day, but it would have to be separate to my solo stuff.
You have an own record label going, Hand Of Glory. When and why did you decide to not only do it all on your own but to release other bands, too?
MARY- I think that at some point we realised that waiting around to be discovered was going to result in us both going insane. We started H.O.G. with a few friends, did some club nights etc. It’s fun to make something, and it’s also nice to do something other than just your own music. There have been times where it was just too frustrating to think about this album, as it took so long. It was like a palate cleanser to think about somebody else’s music. When you do that you don’t have to constantly ask yourself “what am i doing?” and can just be enthusiastic about something brilliant.
What kinds of bands are on your label? The whole appearance looks quite quirky… in a nice way!
WILL- Well as far as ‘on’ the label, it’s just Mary and me. We did put out one single by THE OUTDOOR TYPES, who are friends of ours, and at the moment we’ve got an EP by THE DOWNLINERS SECT (sixties garage band) on our catalogue. So far we’ve only managed to put out a handful of seven inches, and we’d really love to be more productive, as a label.
MARY- We’d both like to expand that side of Hand Of Glory, Will has his own solo album nearly finished, and we have a lot of amazing records that we’d like to reissue. It’s very easy to get excited about. It’s fun
It couldn’t be overlooked in that pub in Bishop’s Stortford that you and especially Will are great vinyl fans. I guess there will be a 12″ release of “Dream Life”, too?
MARY- I should let Will answer this, I’m not a collector, and he lives and breathes vinyl.
WILL- I think you could answer that as well as me ;) Yes- we are pressing the lp on vinyl. We even sequenced it as side a and side b!
It’s no secret that your music breathes very much the air of 60s music, which can be also seen in your videos. I have seen Will carrying tons of old singles around. What fascinates you about that era and can you name some of its artists that are a “must-know” or an essential influence for you?
WILL- I think ‘pop music’ was so new back then, money got chucked at all kinds of weird projects that wouldn’t go anywhere now, so loads of amazing artistic statements got given a huge budget. We are both obsessed with Ramases, who was a plumber from Sheffield who had a realisation that he was a reincarnated Egyptian god, and ended up making a few singles and two lps, all on major labels, with really huge budgets and ambitious productions. That sort of thing doesn’t happen nowadays, and I think that’s a real shame. I don’t think people have got less talented over the years, but there is certainly less investment, and less risks taken, which is dreadful. That aside, I’m really getting into psych records made all around the world. Pre internet, it was difficult to even read the names of most bands from outside your country, but now you can check this stuff out in seconds on youtube, which is amazing. At the moment I’m into Traffic Sound (Peru), John E Sharpe and The Squires (South Africa), The Combustibles (India), and lots of UK Rock and Roll, like Roy Young, Cherry Wainer, Johnny Kidd etc.
MARY- I’d agree with all that, but also say that for me, the 60s and 70s was the absolute flowering epoch of popular music…
Lots of music now is a re-visiting of those eras. I suppose you could say that’s what we do to some extent, but we don’t want to just look back. As for influences, I say every time that The Beach Boys are my religion, and it’s true, but there’s also room for The Zombies, Aphrodite’s Child, early Bee Gees, Curt Boettcher, Todd Rundgren. I could go on forever!
Not to say that modern music is bad, but the point is that those guys invented it. They started in skiffle or beat groups, then went pop, then psych, then prog or glam. It was like a a bud on a tree opening into a flower. Every stage of that journey was beautiful because it was all new, and all experimental. They were making it up as they went along, and it feels totally energised and joyful to me.
What are your plans after you released “Dream Life”?
MARY- Who knows! In small and practical terms, tour the record, think about making another one, put Will’s album out. In wider terms we asked ourselves a lot of questions about life, and the future, so we will have to see where this record takes us. It’s far from easy to make music for a living, that’s why I chose that title. What is a Dream Life and how do you get it? How do you know when you’ve got it? Big questions.
As far as I know you were looking for a distribution company in Germany!? Any news here?
MARY- Well, now we’ve had such a great response to Black Doe on radio in the UK, it’s made a few people take notice that didn’t before. We’ve got a few people interested in working with us here, and we’re talking about how we can come to Germany more often. Fingers crossed!