Interview with Boat to Row

Boat to Row

By Serenat Kivilcim

Boat to Row brings you an exquisite folk experience unique to the likes of Michael King (guitar, vocals), Ben Gilchrist (bass, guitar, vocals), Anna Bennett (violin, harmonium, vocals), Lydia Glanville (drums), and Hannah Fathers (keys, guitar, bass, harmonium, vocals). Formed in 2010, the group has delivered 3 EP’s and two singles, and soon will bless its fans with a debut album called “I Found You Here” that incudes the intoxicating single “Whistle and I’ll Come to You”. The album will be available for download on November 20, followed by a physical release (CD & LP) in December.

We recently caught up with Boat to Row and talked about their upcoming album…

boat to row


How did Boat To Row get started?

BEN: Boat To Row has been a band for about 6 years now, and it all started when Michael started writing songs on the acoustic guitar. Mike and I had played together for quite a while in other bands, but this was quite a departure from style of writing we’d done together in the past. When Mike started gigging it was only natural for me to find a way to join in and he was  nice enough to let me play! We quickly expanded to a full band line up, adding drums and strings along the way and started to play and record whenever we could.

We went through a lot of line up changes in the early days but things really started to settle down when we met Anna at a gig, she joined the band about 3 years ago on Violin. About a year after the Lydia joined the line up on drums and when we needed someone who could play guitar and keyboard Hannah was the first person Lydia could recommend! We’ve been playing with this line up for about 2 years now and it’s the best we’ve ever sounded, having a settled line up has really helped us and the blend of all our musical influences has helped us to shape the sound of ‘I Found You Here’ and to push each other in different musical directions.

Following 3 EP’s and 2 Singles since forming in 2010, you guys deliver a stunning single ‘Whistle And I’ll Come To You’ from the forthcoming debut album ‘I Found You Here’, which will be released later this year. Could you tell us about the writing and recording process? Do you have any interesting stories to share?

BEN: Writing ‘Whistle And I’ll Come To You’ stands out from the rest of the album. Michael had written the lyrics and the acoustic guitar part for the track, which we’d worked on a little bit, but the song really came to life one night in our practice room. We decided to take the song back to basics and started jamming the song, getting really loose with the feel and just seeing how far we could push ourselves away from our previous ideas. It was just one of those moments where we all seemed to be on the same wavelength and everything just fell into place perfectly.
I definitely think that this song had a big impact on the writing process for the rest of the album, it set a tone of trying new ideas, pulling songs apart and putting them back together in new ways and of exploring new territories and sounds to see how we could reinterpret Michael’s demos and early drafts of the tracks that ended up on the album.

‘Whistle And I’ll Come To You’, as with the rest of the album, was recorded at Highbury Studios, an analogue studio, straight to tape. We recorded as much of the album as we could live, and I really think we managed to capture our true sound for the first time. With the limitation of 16 tracks on the tape it really refined our writing, we had to be sure that any part we added to the song would improve it.

What should your fans expect from this album?

LYDIA: This album probably marks the start of a darker sound for the band. There’s still plenty of acoustic tracks but there’s a lot more louder ones too. The band as a whole is a fair bit older since the early release we’ve matured and so has the music.

Songwriting is something deeply personal to every musician, and usually each artist has a very different approach to songwriting. How do you guys go about writing? Lyrics first then music, or is it the other way around? 

MICHAEL: It’s probably my favourite past time, whenever I’m not at work my mind is piecing together the next song. I have stubborn formula of writing the lyrics first. I suppose the reason I do so is because of how personal it is. It absolutely is a deeply personal experience. I spend the majority of my time writing in my flat on my own and enjoy that isolation from the rest of the guys for that reason. A lot of writers will say they write from the heart and all that, which is great an all, but no matter what angle I’m approaching a subject matter from, a part of me or my life will find its way in there. I rightly or wrongly judge the music I listen to on the lyrics, it’s the first thing I hone in on, so I try and take my time writing lyrics before I show the band. I’ve never really understood how artists can just brush off lyrics or throw something together.

Bish bash bosh, and stick with it. It’s got to mean something or It’ll be scrapped. Over the years, the music has become such a collaborative effort, at the lock up, in the studio, on stage that it’s become instinctive now between the 5 of us. Even if I have an ‘acoustic’ version of a song, It’ll change, develop and take shape over without any of us really thinking too much about it. I suppose writing the music with the guys contrasts the lyric writing process nicely.

To whom do you like to send your tracks for feedback?

MICHAEL: Out of everyone in the band, with the kind of music we write. I’d say Anna and I are like musical minds separated at birth. I think we listen out for the same things in music and kind of know where we’re each going to go next. So I always send over the first demo to her. It’s just become something I always do. Saying that though, it’s nice to be at the stage where actually, it doesn’t really matter what other people think. We’re at a place where personal enjoyment is at an all time high.

What new music are you listening to?

MICHAEL: I’ve been really enjoying Daniel Romano. It’s the best kind of country going as well as the latest release by Kurt Vile. You’ll find some Tim Hardin, Pentangle, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy and Mac DeMarco in most of our cars at the moment.

What’s next for Boat To Row?

ANNA: 2016 will see us touring the album in the spring and then doing the festival circuit in the summer. However, we are pretty much always writing, even when we’re on a heavy schedule of promotional work or gigging. It’s the lifeblood of Boat To Row. We’ve got enough material for at least two more albums! We’re always looking ahead to the next release, so hopefully we’ll start the recording process again.

Author: blackonthecanvas

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