Lancaster duo The Lovely Eggs reschedule York gig at The Crescent for May next year

The Lovely Eggs: The Crescent awaits…in May 2022

THE Lovely Eggs will play The Crescent, York, on May 29 next year after reorganising the gig for a second time.

The Lancaster lo-fi psychedelic punk rock band had rescheduled their York date already from February to summer 2021.

Married couple Holly Ross and David Blackwell last released an album in April 2020 when I Am Moron went straight to number one in the UK Independent Album Chart.

“The response to I Am Moron blew us away and we couldn’t wait to get on tour and play the songs live”, said Holly last year.

“We just can’t wait to play live again,” echoed David. “We’re really looking forward to playing all the songs off I am Moron. This is a way of life for us.”

The duo run a Lovely Eggs WhatsApp Lockdown group for supporters to offer support and a friendly ear to anyone struggling during the pandemic. “We’ve just got to try and get through this together” said Holly.

“We set up one What’sApp Group and it was oversubscribed, so we had to set up another. Our fans have always been there for us and it’s important at this time that we are there for them.”

The Lovely Eggs’ York concert is promoted by Please Please You and The Brudenell; tickets cost £15 online via seetickets.com.

Prior engagement changes as Steeleye Span put back Pocklington gig to May 2022

Steeleye Span: 50th anniversary tour date at Pocklington Arts Centre is on the move

FOLK legends Steeleye Span are moving their May 7 show at Pocklington Arts Centre to May 5 2022 in a further delay to their 50th anniversary tour.

Those golden celebrations should have taken place from 2020 onwards but the pandemic ruled out the original Pocklington date in 2021 and now the rearranged tour is being put back to next year.

Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) will be among the smallest venues on the 2022 itinerary, when the seven-piece band, fronted by Maddy Prior, will complement key songs from their ground-breaking June 1970 debut album, Hark The Village Wait, with familiar career favourites.

PAC director Janet Farmer says: “We were, of course, disappointed that Steeleye Span were unable to perform as part of our 20th anniversary programme of live events last year, but we are incredibly excited to be able to bring the legendary band to Pocklington next year for a night of celebration filled with some absolute gems from their famous first album. 

“Things may have been delayed due to the pandemic, but it will absolutely be worth the wait.”

Next year’s concert will be Maddy’s second visit to PAC after appearing there more than a decade ago, billed as Maddy Prior & Friends.

Tickets for Steeleye Span’s 8pm gig are on sale at £35 at pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk. Visit the website too to keep up to date with PAC’s planned live events once reopening is permitted.

The Howl & The Hum turn into the Minster men for live-streamed concert on May 25

The Minster men: The Howl & The Hum pose for “the ultimate York band press shot”

AFTER a year of living under the pandemic cloud, The Howl & The Hum’s Sam Griffiths is judging his mood by a combination of his mental health and what TV programme is catching his eye.

“So, at the moment, I’m very well, and I’m watching Gordon Ramsay, and it does seem that everyone is feeling a little more positive,” says Sam, who will be feeling all the better for the announcement that his ground-breaking York band will play a live-stream concert at York Minster on May 25 from 8pm to 9.30pm.

The last time he graced a York stage with The Howl & The Hum, he was wearing angel wings with a nod to Christmas and Nativity plays at The Crescent in December 2019.

Might we see those wings again in the Nave of northern Europe’s largest medieval Gothic cathedral? “I feel like that’s been done,” says frontman Sam, whose show announcement promises “a unique set to compliment the unique venue”.

“We’re thinking about a different way to approach it because it’s probably the most important gig we’ve done. Definitely no animal sacrifices and no indoor fireworks! But we do have a lot of exciting plans, though some of them I can’t tell you!”

York’s long-standing independent promoters Please Please You, independent York grassroots venue The Crescent and legendary Leeds venue and promoters The Brudenell [Social Club] are teaming up with the Chapter of York to present this one-off live performance by the York alternative rock outfit.

Confirmed at the fourth attempt of settling on a date, the show will be live-streamed at 20:15 (GMT) via ticket.co, and depending on Covid-19 restrictions at the time, a “very limited socially distanced audience may be able to attend”.

“We’re thinking about a different way to approach it because it’s probably the most important gig we’ve done,” says The Howl & The Hum’s Sam Griffiths, front, as he contemplates their York Minster concert

Indoor performances with reduced capacities could re-start from May 17 under the Government’s four-step roadmap, and so updates on this possibility will be delivered exclusively via the band’s mailing list.

What’s more, this concert could turn into the first in a series of York Minster shows promoted by Joe Coates (Please Please You) and Nathan Clark (manager of The Brudenell), “though they will first see how this one goes,” says Sam. Watch this space.

So much happened for The Howl & The Hum last year, headlined by the May release of their debut album, Human Contact, but so much more should have happened until the pandemic tore up their diary.

“All the post-album tour plans were scrapped, hundreds of shows; that all got decapitated. Our jobs were deemed ‘unviable’ by the Government, and so many friends, musicians, technicians, sound engineers, are still not working, so we’ve got friends involved in our show,” says Sam.

“Joe and Nathan, and friends who are musicians, will help on the day, so this our attempt at rebirth and rejuvenating our corner of the music world, and we’ll be able to pay them properly and fairly.”

Singer, songwriter and guitarist Sam, bassist Brad Blackwell, guitarist Conor Hirons and drummer Jack Williams have all supported themselves through the past year by returning to past jobs when Covid measures permitted: Sam as a barman at the Cardigan Arms in Leeds; Brad and Conor in the Rafi’s Spicebox warehouse and Jack at Bettys in York.

“It’s been a really strange in-and-out time, but we’ve been in the privileged position of being able to regain employment,” says Sam.

“We’re in the studio four or five days a week this year with no distractions because there’s nothing else to do,” says Sam, pictured with Jack Williams, Conor Hirons and Brad Blackwell in pre-Covid times

Meanwhile, The Howl & The Hum have not gone into hibernation. “We’re now at the stage of discussing second album deals, and giving ourselves a wage again, and we’ve got a lot done, which lends itself to our mental health being healthier,” says Sam.

“We’ve been lucky that we’ve had the opportunity to go to our studio because it’s our place of business, so we’ve been there over the past nine months, wearing masks and social distancing.

“We’re in the studio four or five days a week this year with no distractions because there’s nothing else to do.”

Sam anticipates The Howl & The Hum releasing two themed EPs “not too far away”, over the months ahead. Will Covid loom large in the subject matter? “It’s a fine line, because I don’t think you can ignore what’s been happening,” he says.

“There’s no way to pretend it’s not happening, but it’s a challenge to address it in an interesting way, though I’ve always written about isolation. Some songs do allude it, some don’t.”

New material may well feature in the May 25 live-stream. “I reckon it will,” says Sam. “We’re really proud of these songs. They’re sounding almost irritatingly good! We really like them; I’m 80 per cent sure some will be in the Minster setlist.”

That setlist will be built around debut album Human Contact, whose prescient title chimed with pandemic times as such contact became more restricted, even barred, through the alienating cycle of pandemic lockdowns.

The artwork for The Howl & The Hum’s 2020 debut album, Human Contact

“At the time it came out, the title was a good line for the press and the press release, though I was worried it was going to haunt us and it would be seen as a joke, a bit of a throwaway, a sly little reference point, but at the end of the day, we were calling it Human Contact because it was about distance in the digital age.

“We’ve had people finding us on social media and telling us about their experiences, about love at this time. It has hit home in more ways than we would have expected, when we suddenly have no idea how to behave as humans towards each other.

‘“Human Contact’ has now taken on such a meaning in itself that the songs seem to resonate even more.”

The Howl & The Hum will be the first rock act to play York Minster since York singer-songwriter Benjamin Francis Leftwich on March 29 2019. What advice on performing there would Ben pass on to Sam, who happened to be busy co-writing songs on Zoom on the day of this interview?

“If he asked me, I would say, ‘sing from your heart, perform like your life depends on it, though I would advise that for all gig nights, and pray in your own way, whether you’re religious or not; just surrender to it,” he suggests.

This will not be the first time Sam has sung in the Minster. “I went to one of the Easter services there, in the congregation, singing along…to very few people around me, if any were looking at me at all! This time they’ll all be looking at me!” he says.

York singer-songwriter Benjamin Francis Leftwich at York Minster, where he performed in March 2019

The cathedral setting will have an impact on The Howl & The Hum’s performance. “I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself to be religious, but there’s definitely a spiritual feeling to it, and the Minster is such an iconic representation of a city that has been so good to us: the city that gave me a fresh start ten years ago,” says Sam.

“Also, I think it was the week I moved to York that Laura Marling played the Minster, and I love the CD she released of that concert.”

A blue sky greeted The Howl & The Hum on the day they lined up for their Minster photoshoot. “It’s the press shot for a York band!” says Sam. “We were very aware we were there, standing outside the Minster, because we’re not comfortable as models…but it is one of my very favourite buildings.”

Looking ahead to the prospect of gigs resuming from the summer onwards with crowds, The Howl & The Hum have September shows in place for Paris, Milan, Zurich, Berlin, Amsterdam, Cologne and Antwerp, along with 13 British dates in October that will culminate in two nights at Leeds Brudenell Social Club, close to where Sam now lives, on October 30 and 31.

“It will be such a burst of joy to play to audiences again,” he says. “I think ‘overwhelming’ will be the word for how everyone will feel as we try to make our way through the first song.”

Live-stream tickets for May 25 are on sale via thehowlandthehum.com/.

Did you know?

THE Howl & The Hum’s guitarist, Conor Hirons, designs the band’s artwork. “He’s self-taught,” says Sam. “He basically got bored on tour, got himself an iPad to draw with, and now he’s so in demand he’s designing everyone’s posters and artwork.”

Band member Conor Hirons’ poster for The Howl & The Hum at York Minster

Echo & The Bunnymen rearrange Leeds and Sheffield shows for next February

Echo & The Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant

ECHO & The Bunnymen are rescheduling their May and June itinerary for next year, now opening the tour with two Yorkshire shows on February 1 2022 at Sheffield City Hall and the next night at Leeds O2 Academy.

All tickets for the 20 dates remain valid as influential Liverpool legends Ian McCulloch and Will Sergeant look forward to celebrating their 43-year career, with its 13 Top 40 singles, such as The Back Of Love, The Cutter, The Killing Moon, Bring On The Dancing Horses and Nothing Lasts Forever, and nine Top 40 albums, the latest being The Stars, The Oceans & The Moon, in October 2018.

Frontman McCulloch, 61, says: “Well then, here are the rescheduled dates for our 2022 UK tour. I can’t wait to be out there with the band on all those stages in all those towns and cities, doing what I love most, playing our songs to our brilliant fans and, hopefully, making all our lives a little bit happier along the way”.Tickets are still available at: http://gigst.rs/EATB.

The poster for Echo & The Bunnymen’s rearranged tour

Rapper slowthai heads to Leeds next March on Hell Is Home tour after topping charts

Arrowing experience: Rapper slowthai’s latest publicity shot. Picture: Crowns & Owls

CHART-TOPPING rapper slowthai will play the Refectory, University of Leeds, on March 18 2022 on his Hell Is Home tour.

Last Friday, he had the rapper’s delight of his second album, Tyron, entering both the UK album chart and UK vinyl chart at number one, already selling more than double the units of his May 2019 debut, Nothing Great About Britain.

A stand-out from Tyron being championed by fans is the affecting album closer, adhd, where slowthai “digs deep and finds untold courage to expose the inner workings of his mind”.

The video is a counterpoint to the commotion caused by those for singles Cancelled and Vex, finding Northampton-born slowthai, 26, in a contemplative space: a one-take shot of him with a city-scape backdrop, feeling distant from the noise and bustle of the world. To watch adhd, go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MAYNdjIqcFA.

Tickets for slowthai’s Leeds gig, one of 12 dates on next year’s tour, will go on general sale on Friday (5/3/2021) via slowthai.com.

Did you know?

Tyron takes its title from slowthai’s name, Tyron Kaymone Frampton.

Ryedale council funding boost to make Malton’s Milton Rooms a 21st century venue

A socially distanced audience at the Milton Rooms, Malton, in 2020

THE ambitious programme to transform the Milton Rooms in Malton into a “21st century community and arts venue” is to be boosted by £193,000 funding from Ryedale District Council.

The grant was confirmed at last Thursday’s meeting of the full council, prompting chairman of trustees Ray King to say: “We are grateful for what is the first major investment in the Milton Rooms, probably since it was built in the 1930s, and the money will be focused on key infrastructure areas that our local community and audiences have identified as being issues.”

Welcoming the kick-start funding, King says: “It will allow us to upgrade toilet areas, further address the access challenges that a building of this age presents and look at improving the overall fabric and technical facilities to prepare it for reopening after Covid restrictions are fully lifted.

“But, at the same time, the trustees recognise that this has to be regarded as simply the first in a new phase of investment to transform the building into a 21st century community and arts venue and we are constantly looking for additional funding from a range of sources.

“I believe this funding is also a recognition of the tremendous work that has been put in by the dedicated volunteers past and present, who have kept this iconic building open and available to all.’’

At an earlier meeting, on February 18, Ryedale District Council voted to ring-fence £307,000 in this year’s budget for the Milton Rooms to carry out further improvement work to bring it up to standard as a top-class venue for the 2020s.

The money will be released only for fully costed projects agreed by the Milton Rooms committee and the council and its officers. 

King says: “While we are delighted to receive the £193,000, the hard work starts now in developing a business plan to access the further funds and so make the Milton Rooms an even more attractive venue for the community to use and enjoy.’’

Run as a charitable company, mainly by volunteers, the Milton Rooms has just had its Covid-safe accreditation extended for 2021 by British tourism body Visit Britain.

Venue manager Lisa Rich says: “We always welcome new volunteers to the team, particularly any with experience of the technical side of arts production and presentation, so please make contact by emailing info@themiltonrooms.com, should you have a few spare hours.’’

James release “sweet 16th” album All The Colours Of You in June ahead of Leeds gig

Time to go surfing again: James frontman Tim Booth looks forward to riding the wave of crowd adulation once more at Leeds First Direct Arena in November

JAMES are to release their “sweet 16th” studio album, All The Colours Of You, on June 4.

Billed as a “miraculous conception” by Clifford-born frontman Tim Booth, it was recorded in part before the Covid pandemic struck, with the Grammy award-winning Jacknife Lee on production duties with the Manchester band for the first time.

Lee has been at the desk previously for U2, REM, Taylor Swift, Snow Patrol and The Killers, and has brought a fresh approach to James’s sound. Working remotely from his studio, he liaised with vocalist Booth, his neighbour in Topanga Canyon, California, and bassist Jim Glenni, reimagining their demos and capturing the band in all their virtual glory.

“The result is a record with the most arena-ready and fresh tracks of their 38-year career; the sound of one of Britain’s best bands deconstructed and reassembled by one of the world’s most renowned producers,” proclaims the press release.

The artwork for James’s 16th studio album, All The Colours Of You, blooming in June

Booth says: “With all the s**t that went down in 2020, this was a miraculous conception and another big jump forward for us on the back of the last three albums. I hope it reflects the colours of these crazy times. Sweet sixteen is a proper album, no fillers and is up there with our best. With love, Tim.”

Glennie is pleased, proud and surprised by the record in equal measure. “Jacknife has pushed us and the songs somewhere new and it’s very exciting,” he says. “After all these years, we are still challenging ourselves and our fans. Enjoy.”

All The Colours Of You follows last December’s release of Live In Extraordinary Times, a live double album and DVD with a title twist on their 2018 studio set, Living In Extraordinary Times.

“As requested by many lovers of the band – a live DVD and album to capture the spirit of the gigs of the last few years,” said Booth at the time. “Hopefully, this will help us through the long nights of lockdown – reliving these gatherings of intimacy and passion. Thank you for coming along for the ride in the crazy world of James.”

“Hopefully, this will help us through the long nights of lockdown,” said Tim Booth, when James released their live double album, Live In Extraordinary Times, last December

All The Colours Of You will be James’s first album since being signed by joint managing directors Jim Chancellor and Mike Roe to  Virgin Music Label & Artists Services, formerly Caroline International.

They have a new publishing home too in Kobalt Music, these changes “reinforcing the endless and restless ambition they have” as they approach their fourth decade as a band. 

The track listing will be: ZERO; All The Colours Of You; Recover; Beautiful Beaches; Wherever It Takes Us; Hush; Miss America; Getting Myself Into; Magic Bus; Isabella and XYST.

From the first line on ZERO – “We’re all gonna die” – Booth addresses difficult subjects throughout the 11 tracks, with themes ranging from politics and climate change to dealing with the loss of a loved one during the pandemic.

James: Touring in the autumn in a maverick Manchester double bill with Happy Mondays

Miss America examines that disunited country’s tarnished image through the eyes of a beauty pageant (“Miss America’s wearing thin, she’s all tiaras and glamour”), while Beautiful Beaches focuses on the fires that ravished California and follows a vision Booth had of an earthquake that caused his family to flee for refuge (“That life we left behind, we’re racing down to those beautiful beaches”). 

The title-track first single tackles the Trump years head on. Based in the USA for many years, Booth, 61, has witnessed at first hand the divisiveness and hatred stoked by the former President. Highlighting the sharp rise of white supremacy during Trump’s four years in office, the song nevertheless ultimately offers hope of a new and brighter future with the refrain “Love all the colours, all the colours of you”.

Recover, the album’s most poignant and delicate song, deals with the death of Tim’s father-in-law from Covid-19 in the UK. Uplifting and joyful in honouring a loved one’s legacy and spirit, it offers a celebration of life, not the sadness of death, affirming that “We will remember how to pass your spirit on”.

All The Colours Of You will be available in myriad formats: standard CD; D2C deluxe CD with bonus artwork, photos and pictures in a DVD hardback book package; standard LP; D2C deluxe LP on swirl coloured vinyl; D2C deluxe LP on picture-disc vinyl; indies and HMV deluxe LP on multi-coloured vinyl and even on cassette. Pre-orders can be made at: https://james.lnk.to/AllTheColoursOfYouSo.

The tour poster to accompany last November’s announcement of James and Happy Mondays’ 2021 itinerary

James will open their seven-date 2021 tour at Leeds First Direct Arena on November 25, supported by fellow Manchester maverick institution Happy Mondays. “Soo looking forward to seeing you,” said Booth, when announcing the gigs last November on Twitter and at wearejames.com. “We’re playing with the brilliant Happy Mondays. Last played with them in 1988, hopefully this time they won’t steal our rider or try and spike my drink…”

The tour has sold faster than any previous James tour, chalking up 60,000 ticket sales for shows in Leeds, Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, Dublin, Manchester and London. Remaining tickets are available at: https://wearejames.com/live/

In the summer, James will headline the Saturday bill at Deer Shed Festival 11, confirmed to run from July 30 to August 1 at Baldersby Park, Topcliffe, near Thirsk. “In light of the recent Government unlocking roadmap, we are now working flat out to bring you an amazing festival,” say the festival team, led by director Oliver Jones.

“We will bring you the maximum possible fun in July and that currently looks like a full fat Deer Shed 11. The safety of everyone in attendance will always come first, and should circumstances change, none of our audience will lose out.” Tickets are available at https://www.deershedfestival.com/tickets/.

Pocklington choir Forgotten Voices seeks new members for lockdown sessions

Online session: Forgotten Voices director Sam Dunkley hosts a remote rehearsal with members

POCKLINGTON Arts Centre’s community choir, Forgotten Voices, is reaching out for new members “at a time when some people might need it the most”.

A regular participant in the National Street Choirs Festival, the choir celebrated its tenth anniversary last year and has maintained momentum in lockdown by helping members stay connected and socially engaged through moving rehearsals online.

Forgotten Voices was set up ten years ago, under the directorship of Sam Dunkley, with the aim of helping people rediscover the joys of singing in a friendly, sociable setting. 

The group usually meets at Pocklington Arts Centre (PAC) on Tuesday evenings, from 7pm to 9pm, to rehearse songs from a wide range of genres, such as pop, folk, classical and musical theatre.

However, the pandemic has forced Dunkley to move rehearsals online, and while members say they miss their face-to-face sessions, their remote gatherings are not only morale boosting but also help to combat social isolation at this time.  

Retired teacher Jane Smith, of Pocklington, joined Forgotten Voices at the very start, spurred on by there being no audition and wanting to find a way to “switch off for a couple of hours”. 

Despite missing performing in person and the chance to socialise with everyone, Jane believes the online rehearsals have been good for her mental wellbeing. “Over the years, I’ve made good friends through the choir. I’ve learnt a lot from Sam and he always manages to make us laugh. I love it when we’ve worked on a song and then all the parts come together,” she says. 

Forgotten Voices in pre-pandemic days

“It’s so uplifting to be a part of something bigger than yourself. I love it when we can perform for and with other people, whether it’s at a summer fair, a wedding, on stage at the arts centre or around the country as part of the National Street Choirs Festival. It’s an absolute joy.”

Reflecting on the past year, Jane says: “I miss being able to hear everybody else’s voices, being in the same room, with all the parts resounding around us. I miss being able to socialise, have a chat and a cup of tea. I miss having a performance to work towards – and performing.

“On the other hand, it’s been very good for morale, to see friends ‘virtually’ every week, have a little chat and a laugh, as well as singing some old favourites and learning some new songs. 

“I think it’s been good for our mental health, at a time when so many of us are isolated from each other.”

Retired teacher Pamela Quarmby, of Stamford Bridge, joined Forgotten Voices a decade ago for her love of singing. “I’ve always enjoyed being a part of the choir, especially being able to sing alto parts and meeting other members,” she says. “While I miss seeing the friends I’ve made, and hearing each other sing, I would encourage others to come and join us – we are like a family.”

At present, the Forgotten Voices community choir meets online every Tuesday, from 7pm to 8pm, with no audition necessary. To find out more and to join a virtual rehearsal, contact Sam Dunkley at info@performingartsetc.co.uk or send a message via the Facebook page, @ForgottenVoicesCommunityChoir.

Scarborough’s Penny Whispers lost home and work but still make waves in lockdown

Penny Whispers: Scarborough duo Harry Bullen and Terri-Ann Prendergast

AN email nudge dropped into the inbox from the intriguingly named Penny Whispers, with its echo of Ian Fleming’s “Bond girls” or a one-hit-wonder Sixties’ pop ingenue.

“You may not remember me but in 2012 you wrote a review for The York Press on York Settlement Players’ version of ‘Black Potatoes’ and quoted me as ‘one to watch’ – a review I’ve held dear to this day,” it began.

Ah yes, Black Potatoes, a musical by Alan Combes and Steve Cassidy, the one with Irish accents, that ran at Upstage Centre Theatre @41 Monkgate, York, in November 2010 (not 2012!).

The “one to watch” – or “definitely one to watch” as the review said even more emphatically of her performance as young wife Peigi – was one Terri-Ann Prendergast, now one half of the Scarborough duo Penny Whispers.

On March 7, Terri-Ann and Harry Bullen release their third single, Upside Down, the follow-up to December’s “ray of hope” lockdown song Wave and their debut, Stay A While.

Penny for your thoughts, Terri-Ann. Here she answers CharlesHutchPress’s questions on her musical past and present, the name Penny Whispers, the impact of Covid lockdowns on musicians, song-writing in 2020/21, album plans and the year ahead.

When did Harry meet Terri-Ann?

“We’re both from sunny Scarborough and we met in 2015, having secured contracts to work on cruise ships, performing to audiences all over the world.   

“For the past five years, we’ve been travelling all over the world playing music and have never been in one place for very long. In 2020, we were heading back to the UK to record. We were aiming for London until the pandemic hit and we ended up grounded in Scarborough. It’s been quite nice really as it’s been ages since we were both at home.” 

What have you done since your performance theatre student days at York St John? You mention working on cruise ships…

“I’ve done lots of theatre work around Leeds and York, including a stint performing at the York Dungeon! While building up my solo singing career, I performed at some really amazing events including Camp Bestival [at Lulworth Castle, Dorset].

“I worked alongside The Prince’s Trust for a while and had the opportunity to perform at some really wonderful events for them. In 2015, I joined a band – where I met Harry – and we secured some contracts on cruise ships, travelling around the world and playing music.

“I’ve been song-writing the whole time and it was here that Harry and I started to write songs together.” 

Terri-Ann Prendergast, middle row, second from right, pictured in the role of Peigi in York Settlement Community Players’ production of Black Potatoes in 2010

When did Penny Whispers form and why are the duo called Penny Whispers?

“One night after a gig on the ship, Harry and I had a writing session in our cabin and we sort of haven’t stopped writing since! It’s so great when you find someone to write with who just hears what you hear in your head and the music just starts to flow.

“Since we met in 2015, we’ve written hundreds of songs and officially launched Penny Whispers in 2020. One of our first gigs was at The Hard Rock Cafe in Manchester, which was great. 

“We chose ‘Penny Whispers’ as we loved the idea that it sounds like some quaint Victorian service like ‘penny for your thoughts’ or ‘penny for a secret’. Because it’s not person specific – it could be a solo artist, or a whole band – it’s not a title that immediately paints the whole picture. It makes you think about it for a second and decide what it says to you. 

“One night after a gig, someone said to us, ‘Are you called ‘Penny Whispers’ because ‘money doesn’t talk’ but pennies whisper?’. We said, ‘No…but that’s really cool; we should’ve thought of that’.

“Pennies also have personal meaning to me because my Nan used to collect pennies in a jar for me and my brothers. She saved up so many 1p coins and we used to sit and count them all up into money bags.

“My Nan’s not here anymore but I still find pennies in the most bizarre places and at very peculiar times. One time I was having a bit of a panic in the toilet before an audition and right there in the toilet bowl was a penny! I like to think of it as Nan looking out for me a little, though I wish she would leave me £5 notes instead!”

Where did you record your self-produced pandemic song Wave?

“Wave was recorded in Harry’s mum’s basement. They turned the space into a recording studio and we recorded the vocals there.

“It’s a duet of emotionally charged harmony that balances tragedy and hope beautifully on the uplifting orchestration of Jon Pattison, co-founder and musical director of Beach Hut Theatre Company in Scarborough. He’s written loads of great material, including scores for many of Alan Ayckbourn’s plays at the Stephen Joseph Theatre.

“Harry produced the track after consuming hours of reading and watching YouTube videos. 2020 has given us a lot of time to explore new skills, other than just song-writing. We now aspire to do everything ourselves, 100 per cent DIY independent musicians, multi-tasking from writing and recording to marketing.”

The artwork for Penny Whispers’ pandemic single, Wave, released last December

What’s the story behind Wave, a song for these strange, enervating, fearful days?

“2020 has been a tough time for everyone across the globe, especially for creative people, but sometimes out of the darkest places, something good emerges.

“Amid lockdown 2020, we knew we wanted to say something in response to what was happening around us, but we didn’t want it to come solely from our point of view. 

“So, we reached out to our followers on social media, asking them how they were coping, and the response was astounding: an influx of words showing shared feelings of loneliness but also, overwhelmingly, a huge undertone of hope.

“We wrote the song as a direct response to the pandemic, taking the messages we received from our followers and turned them into Wave. They truly were the inspiration behind it.

“The reaction has been really positive. Jonathan Cowap, on BBC Radio York, said the song ‘radiated hope’, which is exactly what we wanted it to bring: hope. 

“Music has such a powerful way of lifting spirits and this is something everyone can embrace. We received messages telling us that it made people feel less alone when listening to the song and reading the comments we received from our followers.

“It was wonderful to hear that Wave could be a reflection of 2020, not just from our perspective, but from everyone else’s too. After all, we’ve all felt lonely at times throughout this, but we’ve been lonely together and there’s comfort to be taken from that.

“You can see the messages we received by watching the Wave lyric video on our YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/CnqcfeTuqXM, demonstrating the amazing strength of the human spirit to remain positive in these troubling times.” 

What have been the challenges of being a musician in Covid times? How has lockdown affected your life as well as your music-making?

“2020 was a really tough year for us. We were only just launching our first single and had a lot of plans mapped out that were completely wiped. We lost all our income and our home too. 

“The toughest thing is, not only did we lose our living, but we also lost the very thing that sort of gives us life! Music is everything; it isn’t just our job. We felt like we sort of lost our place in the world a little bit. 

“On a positive note, having the time to write and record has been great as we are often so busy. But after a while, inspiration started to dwindle. How can you write about life when it’s just Groundhog Day every day? We did some live-streams too to try keep people’s spirits up but nothing compares to performing live. 

“Making Wave really lifted our spirits at a time when we were feeling uninspired.”

Terri-Ann Prendergast and Harry Bullen wrote Wave in Scarborough as a direct response to the pandemic

What are your plans/hopes for Penny Whispers in 2021?

“All being well, we will be back gigging again by the summer! We’ve been waiting for this moment for so long. 

“There’s a fantastic organisation for Yorkshire-based musicians, The Sound of Scarborough, who are creating lots of fantastic opportunities and support for local artists, so we’ll hopefully be doing stuff with them.

“No matter what happens with live performances, we’ve got so much new music to release, so keep an eye on our socials for updates. We want to reach as many people as possible and keep writing songs that people enjoy.” 

New single Upside Down: what’s the musical style, theme and release format?

“It’s been described as ‘fierce lively indie rock and pop mixed with some triumphant energy and even a bit of a folk twang to it’. 

“It draws on a deep pool of genres that swim together with waves of influence to create an adrenaline-fuelling track! There’s a haunting quality to this song that’s comfortably uncomfortable. It highlights an inner battle that runs throughout us all, as we strive for meaning and deny unstoppable second guessing. 

“The lyrics highlight a push/pull vibe that’s present throughout the song: ‘Falling highs and climbing lows, grabbing hold to let you go’. It’s the idea of wanting something badly but then getting it and discovering it’s not what you expected, but you know you can’t walk away, because you’re already drawn in too deep.

“Upside Down is out everywhere on March 7. You can download the track directly from our Bandcamp and this is a great platform for musicians to be directly supported by their fans. The track is set at a certain price, but fans can pay more for it if they wish, and unlike streaming services, artists keep a much higher per cent of the royalties.”

Is an album on its way?

“We’ve talked a lot about release strategy and what is the best way to release our songs. The industry has changed so much in the past ten years and with music being so accessible, albums aren’t consumed in the way they once were. 

“As a new band, our plan is to release singles initially, to allow people to get to know us more and get to know our sound. 

“That being said, we do have plans for an album in the future.”

And finally, Terri-Ann, do you still perform in musical theatre shows?

“I haven’t done any musical theatre for a few years now; I decided to shelve it temporarily to focus on music, my first love.
“I do miss it, though! I wouldn’t rule it out for the future but for now it’s all about the music. Harry is keen on writing a musical in the future and is forever writing down ideas, so who knows…”