The past two years have been an exhilarating journey for Leeds-based folk rockers Ellen and the Escapades. Blending the three elements of folk, pop and rock, the band’s distinctive and appealing sound seems to have everyone talking. After winning 2010’s Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition and playing BBC Introducing stages at both Reading and Leeds Festivals, the band has gone from strength to strength.
Ellen’s dusky, enchanting vocals and strikingly well crafted songs have already captured the attention of BBC Radio 2, BBC 6 Music and Amazing Radio listeners. Fans include Lauren Laverne and Steve Lamacq, and the band was recently play listed for ten weeks on Amazing Radio. Supporting the likes of Josh T. Pearson, First Aid Kit and Paolo Nutini have brought the band’s music to even bigger audiences all over the country.
We were fortunate enough to catch up with the band on their extensive UK tour- prior to the launch of the eagerly anticipated ‘All The Crooked Scenes‘ album. We saw the band at the superb Boiler Room venue in Guildford, Surrey.
Ellen (Smith) (lead vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica) introduced Ben on the bass guitar. By her side was Jeff (guitar, backing vocals) and Chris (keyboards). James was on drums.
Playing the Surrey crowd a selection of titles from their new album, as well as old favourites, we enjoyed songs like ‘Yours To Keep’ which starts off with an intensely tinselly shimmer of cymbals, then the night-line beat whispers along. Helpful churchy piano helps to fill out the sound, as big bags of bountiful bass and pleasurable lines of southern electric vibe start to ease your troubled mind. All the while the soda-stained, hickory-smoked rusty voice of Ellen embraces you, coiling gently around the room. Seductive.
‘I’ll Keep You Warm’ is a tender love song that has syrupy shiny guitars cascading gently over ripples of lush percussion. ‘All the Crooked Scenes’ has an onslaught of savory beats, sizeable chunks of chunky pattering chords and those foggy vocals that loom like spectres from a moist moor. Eventually the song starts smashing and crashing with an intense energy and commitment not normally witnessed in a folk song. And there is more than a hint of wild west attitude corralled into this piece. Sizzling.
‘Coming Back Home’ – This song, about outstaying your welcome, is the most ‘Janis Ian’ sounding piece in the Ellen and the Escapades repertoire. With a rattle of drums and a slow rise to a flowering of lush sounds before the chorus takes a cheeky hold. This is enchanting stuff.
With imaginative guitar-work, old school-hall piano accompaniments and fragile, mossy, almost translucent vocals from Ellen, this was a sumptuous show filled with quality musicianship and stirring song-writing. I cannot wait for the album!
© Neil Mach. March 2012
Album Out 16th April
APRIL LIVE DATES
Sunday 15 April
Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
Monday 16 April
The Lexington, London
Tuesday 17 April
Buffalo Bar, Cardiff
Wednesday 18 April
Thursday 19 April
Hare & Hounds, Birmingham