English Punks Skinny Lister Sharpen Their Songwriting Skills on Latest Effort

click to enlarge English Punks Skinny Lister Sharpen Their Songwriting Skills on Latest Effort
Courtesy of Skinny Lister
Since issuing its full-length debut, Forge & Flagon, in 2013 the UK punk band Skinny Lister has been plenty busy. After Forge & Flagon’s release, it toured with Flogging Molly and played big festivals such as Coachella. Last year, it issued its second full-length, Down on Deptford Broadway, and has been on the road in support of it ever since its release in April of last year.

When we reached singer Lorna Thomas via Skype, she was at her parents' home in rural England where she's busy packing for a flight that will take her and the band to the states for the Flogging Molly cruise and a short tour that includes a stop at the Grog Shop on March 28.

“The band told us that the people on the cruise consume more booze before the boat leaves the dock than most cruises do on the entire cruise,” she says with a laugh when asked about the prospects of heading out on a boat with the party-hearty Flogging Molly. “I’m a bit scared. Maybe I’ll be alright. Maybe I’ll drink them all under the table.”

Band members come from all over England. They met in London and the group came together in 2009. Lorna Thomas’s brother, singer-mandolin player Max Thomas, initially formed the band with singer-guitarist Dan Heptinstall; the two knew each other from playing folk clubs in Greenwich, an old naval town that's just down the river from London. They put the group together and started playing traditional tunes at house parties.

“I thought if they were going to get into so many great festivals for free, I would start singing with them,” she says. “I’ve grown up in a very musical family with lots of family sing-a-longs. I’ve been singing since I came out, but only seriously with Skinny Lister.”

Early on, the group recorded the Grand Union EP on a boat. They tried to record a song a day on the boat, sitting on the roof and playing as it rolled down the river.

“We recorded that in ten days in a very tight space,” she says. “We just recorded what came out at the end of it. We look back fondly on it, though it was a lot of work since there were so many locks in the canal and we had to work the locks and perform other duties."

In 2012, the band got onto the Warped Tour after an impromptu audition for founder Kevin Lyman.

“We played for [Lyman] in a parking lot and then we played in parking lots all summer,” says Thomas. “We hunted him down. We heard he was the man you wanted to know. It was at [the label] Side One Dummy’s lot. We had a contact and they told us to come down.”

Lyman liked the band and often put them on Warped's main stage.

With Down on Deptford Broadway, which the band recorded at historic Rockfield Studios in Wales with producer Ted Hutt (Dropkick Murphys), the band honed its songwriting skills. Album opener “Raise a Wreck,” features fervent call-and-response vocals and the tender "Bonny Away" allows Thomas to show off her supple voice. “Trouble on Oxford Street,” a song about a real brawl that involved Heptinstall and a gang of punks, sounds like vintage Clash.

“[Hepinstall] gets drunk to the point where he doesn’t know where he is or what he’s doing,” Thomas says of the origins of “Trouble on Oxford Street.” “He was messing around with these punks. He got it. He got it seriously. And he was wearing a suit. He had teeth missing. He learned a lesson.”

Thomas says that while the band embraces its pub rock past, it also hopes to transcend the genre.

“We’ve been playing a while, and we definitely sharpened our edges and became a bit more aggressive,” she says. “We really embraced that. We recruited a new drummer, Thom Mills, and we’re really proud of the record. We think we’ve developed our sound but remained true to our folk roots. We like to have a good time in the pubs, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But we want these songs to work at festivals and at other gigs. They go down pretty well; we do what we do and have a good time. What more can I say?”

Skinny Lister, 8:30 p.m. Monday, March 28, Grog Shop, 2785 Euclid Heights Blvd., Cleveland Heights, 216-321-5588. Tickets: $12 ADV, $14 DOS, grogshop.gs.

About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]
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