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Paperhouse, from the album Implicit Narrative

STFES NEWS

New video for the song Paperhouse from Implicit Narrative 

We can finally  have a new video to show you, the  first public reveal of a song from Implicit Narrative, a song called Paperhouse, with a video by Blue Dinosaur Animation . The song is about historical and ongoing exploitative practices in Hollywood and entertainment in general. Seems appropriate time to post it, what with the recent conviction of Harvey Weinstein and so on. The video can be found on this site and by following this link...

 

https://youtu.be/JioCMAVDqa4 

Album time at last 

Hi there dear reader. It feels like an age since I typed the words 'album coming soon' into this blog and finally that seems to be happening. The physical discs are a thing of beauty and I have one sat in front of me now, with it's glorious yellow vinyl, it's glowing lily filled ribcage art care of Ani Graves, it's striking design from Darryl Hartley, the graphic novel style inner sleeve from Ester Mace and the poetry of Sarah Jenkin and Barry Fentiman-Hall. The video for the song Paperhouse is due at the end of the week. In fact dance would appear to be the only art we aren't currently supporting at the moment, but with the album launch booked for the 14th of March in Rochester, with other gigs in the offing, we hope you can support the dancing for us. 

We are delighted to be doing the launch gig with our label friends Theatre Royal, who hae their own new album in the offing soon and if you tune into XFM or 6Music these days you are likely to hear them. We also have the Dredgermen, folk-punk troubadours who've comings and going have kept the act fresh and spontaneous. But as with the Phrenology album launch show, we have organised a second singer-songwriter stage for solo acts between the main stage bands. Simon Bunyan, songwriter with the excellent These Guilty Men, blues maestro Stephen Webster and Jack Cade (named after a leader of the Peasants Revolt) will all be providing intimate bar room songsmithery in leu of overloud piped music through the PA whilst amps are moved about and so forth. 

We are also delighted that Sarah Jenkin and Barry Fentiman-Hall have agreed to perform their sleeve note poetry during the STFES set. And if that wasn't enough, David Reed of The Claim has agreed to sing the song Helen with us, a song we wrote for him to sing on our last album, Scowl, but which we have only played live without him. It promises to be a first rate evening.

Slow news year 

Hello there. It would appear that we slightly neglected this website last year. In point of fact this is the first blog entry since 2017. Which is silly. Because 2018 contained some wonderful newsworthy events,  including a highly memorable gig at the Rainham Oasthouse with Fightmilk, Darren Hayman (formerly of Hefner) and label mates (and just mates) Theatre Royal,  which was a packed house and proved what the band could do given half the chance. We played some outdoors things and some indoors things, but mostly we spent the year trying to get our next album together.

We had two thwarted attempts to record it live to tape with vintage 1960s equipment, but the studio in question let us down. So we cut our losses and returned to Ranscombe studios in Rochester and with Jim Riley and Brendan Esmonde once again manning the knobs, we tried to record in the manner we intended,  quickly and with minimal overdubs, to try and keep the live feel, the energy and the spontaneity we were aiming for from the other studio.  Only then the youngest member of the band sustained a nasty back problem and all work was suspended, then tweaked, then finally reworked and seemingly endlessly remixed before it was completed. But not quickly. In fact we failed to finish inside six months.  But finish we did. The energy intact. 

The new albums songs, well most of them, have been in our live set for a while, but in the studio we went to town on several of the vocal arrangements. The wonderful Rachel Lowrie once again putting us all to shame and Ani Graves, who has depped for Rachel at several gigs, also joining us for some sultry vocals, backing vocals and supplying the artwork for the front cover. The album is to be called 'Implicit Narrative' and is the first stfes album to have a title track. Only its a title track in four parts, dispersed among the sequencing and connecting the song sequence into a story. Loosely a concept album if you will, but with a small 'c'. No one plays pinball. But to help or perhaps deliberately muddy the narrative so that the listener can pick their own story out or ignore it altogether, there are storyboard illustrations drawn by Kent based comic book artist Ester Mace for the inner sleeve and two narrative poems from  both male and female perspectives written by two of our favourite Medway poets, Barry Fentiman Hall and Sarah Jenkin, which will also be found  on the inner sleeve. A sleeve that will once again be brought to you by the Vacilando 68 label, later this year. 

We will make sure we remember to post on here about that though. In the meantime we better get rehearsing. All this recording business has dulled our memories of the rest of our songs and there's only two weeks till our first festival of the summer: Cosmic Puffin in Essex, on Mersea Island just outside Colchester. A big tie-died extravaganza of space-rock, psychedelic vibes and freak flags in the sun (hopefully). And all for charity. 

Howl 

The EPs worth of material recorded at the same time as the songs that constitute the Scowl LP are now available as a downloadable EP through the Vacilando 68 Recordings Bandcamp page. There are 4 songs: a reworking of live staple 'Decimation', a psychodrama about a small town serial killer featuring Rachel Lowrie, a flamenco sea shanty and a lullaby. These songs only failed to make the cut on the LP due to their eclectic nature: they didn't fit the flow of the sequencing. But we always felt they were good enough to go out, so it's great that they are finally available. In the new year we will be releasing remixes of the EPs songs as a separate download EP.

Here's the link to the EP:

 

http://vacilando68.bandcamp.com/album/howl-the-offcuts-ep

 

'Scowl'; the 2nd review 

Hot on the heals of the 1st review, here is the second:

Buzzin Album of the Month 

"Scowl is a book for small children by Steve Smallman about an owl called Scowl. Scowl was only happy when he was grumpy, perched upon his grumpy branch, screaming ‘Flap off!’ at the other woodland creatures, who tried in vain to cheer him up. 

Scowl is also the fifth album by Medway‘s very own Stuart Turner & the Flat Earth Society (STFES). 

The album cover adorns stern Victorian wetplate images of each band member, courtesy of the talented and esteemed photographer Rikard Osterlund, that make Peaky Blinders look like The Nolans. 

Scowl introduces a much harder, more alt rock than folk edge to the effervescent, ever-changing sound of STFES.  The harder gritted sound may have been sparked by Stuart Turner dropping the acoustic guitar for a Gretsch or the departure of multi folk instrumentalist Rob Shepherd, who left the band part-way through recording the album. 

But STFES has always been a vehicle for other members to bring songs to the table, and this policy gives the band the ability to change direction or sound as a matter of course, rather than a progression or out of any fad or passing style.  A good example of this is the uptempo indie pop overtones of Stoic.  A wonderful pop song driven by the unmistakable guitar sound of Bob Collins. 

The other stand out track for me is Nothing.  The song grew out of an original idea by Shepherd, and is a slow burner that builds into something very special.  A song about lost control, lost innocence and lost life. This should remain in the STFES live set for many years to come. 

Turner’s distinctive growling blues vocal style is perfectly matched with Rachel Lowrie on tracks When, Crash and Solitary.  While David Read of The Claim provides guest vocals on Helen – a song that is surprisingly not a cover version as it couldn’t sound more like The Claim if it tried! 

The evolution of the STFES “sound” is completely natural.  Water, with its banjo-picking, alt folk acoustic-driven sound reminds me more of previous albums, but sits perfectly well among the 9 great songs that together, make Scowl a great album.  For me, the best STFES album so far. 

Scowl by Stuart Turner & the Flat Earth Society (STFES) will be released on 10th November on Vacilando 68 records. 

Terry Lane, Nov 2017"

 

To view this with embedded video features visit: http://www.buzzinmusic.co.uk/album-of-the-month/4737

'Scowl'; the 1st review 

The 5th album by Stuart Turner and The Flat Earth Society is available from today. Here is the first review. Well the first review other than our Mums collectively looking confused. As usual. Anyway, thank you Stephen Morris for these words:

 

"ALBUM REVIEW: STUART TURNER AND THE FLAT EARTH SOCIETY – SCOWL 

Once upon a time (2012 to be precise) Stuart Turner and the Flat Earth Society recorded a song called ‘Unwanted’. Its opening couplet ran as follows: “Tell me will there be good news soon/’cos I am so tired of this bad mood”. 

Five years later and Stuart Turner and his not-so merry band of Flat Earth Society members are still waiting for the mood to lift. It’s only appropriate then that the latest album is called Scowl. 

It’s a belter of an album, thanks – in part at least – to the addition of two things: Rachel Lowrie’s rich, powerful vocals and Stuart Turner’s new guitar. 

In a recent video interview with Bob Collins (see below), the Flat Earth Society’s guitarist explained how, in the lead up to recording Scowl, Rob Shepherd left the band (although he still makes a welcome appearance on this record – and has a writing credit to boot): 

And at the same time that happened, Stuart happened to buy this great, wonderful Gretch guitar that he’d been looking at for so long. And when you plug that in that’s a loud beast. 

So with no mandolin or banjo [from Rob], Stuart with this guitar and me with mine up we suddenly become a very loud band. Which is great. It’s just a different version of Stuart Turner and the Flat Earth Society. And Rachel sounds phenomenal – just having the guest vocal: she does a couple of duets with Stuart. 

He is, of course, right. The mix of Stuart Turner and Rachel Lowrie’s voices is excellent – inspired even. And with the change in musical line up, there is a much heavier, rockier feel to this record compared with the band’s previous (excellent in a different way) self-titled outing. 

Scowl is a record of its austere, post-truth times. 

Over the course of the album there are diatribes against power, corruption and lies, courtesy of ‘When?’, ‘Stoic’ and ‘No’ and thumbnail sketches of vulnerable victims of circumstance: children in rush-hour car crashes (‘Crash’), a dying friend (‘Solitary’) and a woman driven to attempted murder by her manipulative husband (the Archers referencing ‘Helen’). 

While resolute in its devotion to its theme of the heartless vs. the heartbroken, the long player fluctuates between anger at the status quo (“Strip all our assets to stock our defences/run up debts and charge them to expenses” as ‘When?’ puts it) and a clear headed desire to make the best of things. 

In ‘Nothing’, with its nod to David Bowie’s ‘“Heroes”’, a friend who has fallen on hard times (“your breath smells of discount rum/it’s not even half past one”) is urged to “sort your life out”. Later another friend who has “hit the ground one too many times” is given the most tender of farewells (‘Solitary’). 

Even in the single moment of serenity there is an ambiguity. In ‘Water’, we get a tranquil portrait of a woman paddling in the sea. But the image is darkened when the narrator’s scream “fail to attract her” and, having eventually acknowledged him, she “slowly turns her back”. 

At the centre of the album, ‘Winterborn’ turns the canvas 90 degrees, producing a detailed landscape of a brutal chill bearing down on broken buildings. The gruelling hardship is made harsher still by the relentless chain gang chant delivery, the gritty blues riffs and John Whitaker’s ghostly trumpet. 

Though Scowl’s other songs focus so much on characters and ideas, this aural picture of decline and disarray still retains an intense humanity that aches and groans. Rarely has the phrase “I feel like going home” sounded so desperately futile. 

It is, quite possibly, the album’s finest, most beautiful moment. 

The album’s finale comes in the form of a duet between Rachel Lowrie and guest vocalist (and Claim frontman) Dave Read. For all its jaunty pace and hand claps, ‘Helen’ tells the darkest of dark tales: marital manipulation leading to attempted murder. 

Using an Archers plotline as its inspiration, both Lowrie and Read sing from Helen’s point of view, using lines (almost) directly taken from the original scripts (“put a knife in my hand and tell me to die”). 

It’s a rousing – if deeply disturbing – end to an album filled with doom and gloom. But there is hope – and that can often be said about STFES album closers. 

As the song approaches its climax, Turner’s voice emerges, repeating the mantra: “We won’t let life get the better of us/each of us stuck in a soap opera kiss”. 

It’s an apt couplet for the final moments of a record that has listed so many moments of human frailty and inhumane callousness. 

Very apt indeed."

To see this with embedded video features visit: http://www.reviewage.net/index.php/reviews/album-review-stuart-turner-and-the-flat-earth-society-scowl/

Something Else  

The last Saturday in September saw us booked to play at the lovely Something Else in the Dean Festival. Had been looking forward to it pretty much since the last one and we set off in plenty of time to hit out allocated stage time of 14:30. Stuart and a car full of drums and guitars left home at 08:00. However he foolishly ignored a sign that said 'Traffic congestion ahead' and found himself stuck for 4 hours on the M4, anxious and angry at himself. The rest of the band went a different way and were oblivious to the traffic congestion on the M4 until Stuarts lateness presented itself as a problem. Fortunately for us the festival is really rather lovely and so are our chums in the band Ghosts of Men. Our slot was swapped with their slot and when Stuart did make it to the site at 14:32, he found Ghosts of Men on the tea tent stage we were supposed to be on playing a stirring rendition of 'Decimation' by Stuart Turner and The Flat Earth Society, with the lyrics somewhat altered to be about traffic problems. Wonderful. A few hours later we took to a different stage outdoors, only to find the amps we thought were going to be ok were too big for the solar power source on the stage we now found ourselves on. A string of power leads and extension had to be run from the tea tent stage to the outdoor stage to accommodate the valves. We commenced playing and the heavens opened. It rained solidly from the moment we started playing until the early hours of the morning, which had the unusual effect of driving everyone in earshot under the bar marquee, slightly out of sight from the stage, leaving just Dan 'Funkee and the Two Tone Baby' Turbull standing watching us in the rain by himself, with applause coming from seemingly nowhere after each song. It was an unusual gig to say the least and for all the muck ups, logistical problems and inconvenient weather, we played and people spoke to us afterwards about how much they liked it when you could have thought no one was listening. So thank you Something Else in the Dean, you were friendly, accommodating, forgiving and somewhat soggy. And thank you Ghosts of Men, we'll see you in November when you come to play with us in Chatham.

Scowl 

Ok, so here we finally are. 10 months on from the last recording and mixing sessions, the 5th album by STFES is ready to leave the nest and a date of the 10th of November has been set for pushing our baby off the branch in the hope that it flies. Once again our most splendid label (Vacilando 68) are releasing our efforts on vinyl (with download) and download. In the intervening months between completion and release, the talented and esteemed photographer Rikard Osterlund fashioned some striking images of the band on metal plates using a Victorian wet-plate camera, which were very much in keeping with the lyrical themes of an album appropriately entitled Scowl. He did such a cracking job that we asked him to put the artwork together for us, coupled to a swirling aquatic inner sleeve image from the also marvelous Joseph Wise (from the bands Frau Pouch and Punching Swans). We always feel the artwork should reflect the music and the chaps have done a bang up job of doing just that.

And what of the music? Well, as ever, it's a departure from our last release (the eponymous LP), in part due to the departure of Rob Shepherd from the band, (although he still cam and played on some of the album after the fact). This galvanised the core of the band into a harder sounding unit. But the harder times we find ourselves living in have done much the same and we feel the music reflects that too. We recorded way too many songs for a vinyl release and a follow-up EP of offcuts is planned, with very interesting dub remixes of all the tracks by The Closer We Are To Dying (aka Terry Lane) accompanying.This will be a download only release.

On the 10th of November there will be a show. An album launch, a musical review, a live album recording, a release party and all the dancing horses, (I may have lied about the last, but the rest is true). And at Sun Pier House, Medway Street, Chatham, starting at 8pm, we will commence. There will be live remixing of Medway music by the aforementioned The Closer We Are To Dying, which will start at 8 and continue between the other acts. There will be support slots from Punching Swans (featuring the aforementioned Joe Wise) and our chums from the far flung reaches of Colchester, Ghosts of Men. Then there will be an extended performance from ourselves in a review format: we will be inviting guests who appear on the album to get up with us and perform one of their own songs with us as the backing band (Booker T and The MGs style), before staying on to perform the songs they feature on on our album. To this end Rachel Lowerie, Rastko (featuring Rob Shepherd, but we couldn't have Rob without Arf now could we) and Dave Read will also feature. And because he's so enthusiastic and has a cracking voice, Stuart Blakeledge from the Sweetchunks Band is coming along to do a duet too. All of this is being recorded for posterity and potential future release. 

That is the news. How've you been?

 

2017 

Happy new years to you all. 

The end of 2016 brought with it the completion of the recording of our 5th album, entitled 'Scowl'. It is a progression from the eponymous 4th longplayer and because we recorded more than we could feasibly fit on what we hope will be a vinyl release, we have four songs left over for 'The Offcuts EP' which we will put out as a download only release in February. When the LP will be available is anyones guess, but the artwork is well underway, with the talented Mr Rikard Osterland having taken Victorian wet-plate photographs of the various band memembers and guests, giving the project a feel all of its own even before you've heard a note.

We have also played our first musical engagement of the year, at The Penny Theatre in Canterbury, the place where a young and unjadded Mr Turner first opened his mouth to sing in public back in the days before internet, blogs, social media, hashtags and the digital photograph. Obviously therefore I have no means of proving this. 

6th review of the 4th album 

Sad to report that we have had our first bad review in years. Not since the second Stuart Turner solo album has anyone gone to the bother of putting in print their qualified dislike of what they heard. Which is four albums and quite a lot of reviews ago. So this came as a surprise, especially as all the other reviews had been both glowing and focussed on how melodic the vocals were relative to earlier, more guttural albums. Maybe we should send the fellow one of those? Anyway, here is what appeared in R2 Magazine (formerly Rock 'n' Reel, who had previously refused to review us, so progress of a sort):

"Stuart Turner has a voice that takes some getting used to. At first you think his is a voice that will just take a bit of time to love, like the growl of Tom Waits or the sneering snarl of Lemmy. So I listened to Turner's explosions and snorts knowing that in time it would all start to fall into place and I'd see how this fusion of English pop and delta blues made sense. It didn't.

There are great songs on this album which take folk and blues stylings and tie them to some very English melodies: echoes of The Kinks and 60's psychedelica, and some darker elements of the folk tradition. The playing is spot-on and enlivened by John Whitakers trumpet. It is, however, Turner's spittle-filled bark that cuts through the unbridled joy of the music and brings it back to earth with a considerable wallop.

There are a couple of interludes provided by James Worse's Medway-flavoured nonsense poetry: a kind of Kentish Jabberwocky. In many ways these serve merely to highlight the problem I faced with the rest of the album. I am sure Turner's voice is an acquired delight; but I have failed to acquire it."

Peter Tomkins, Sept. 2016 edition, R2 Magazine

 
STUART TURNER AND THE FLAT EARTH SOCIETY RECORDINGS ARE AVAILABLE FROM THIS WEBSITE

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