Ahead of performing at this year’s Hebden Bridge Folk Roots Festival, taking place from 10 to 12 May, we were delighted to have interview, in partnership with “Last Night I Dreamt Of…”, Leo and Anna from alternative pop/folk duo Birds and the Beasts.
Q. How did Birds and the Beasts come about and where did the band’s name come from?
Leo – As well as loving music we are equally passionate about animals. We have always enjoyed nature documentaries and getting out in the wild areas around us in Yorkshire and Anna’s native Germany. The first song we wrote for the project was about how albatross remain monogamous and find each other on their island homes after their globe spanning migrations.
Anna – Once we had written this song and found we really enjoyed singing together we put together Birds and Beasts and started writing more songs. Once we realised what a great source of inspiration we had found the name just seemed obvious.
Q. Tell us more about animal themed pop?
Anna – Our songs are written to put the listener in the animal’s position. We try to focus on the things that make us the same as animals; our family lives, our struggles, triumphs and determination. We find the animal kingdom is a massive well of ideas we can draw upon but we like to keep it all relatable to the human experience too. Leo – We love a lot of different genres of music – folk, rock and roll, blues, jazz, reggae. We like the ‘pop’ label as it can encompass so many different styles.
Q. How would you describe your music in five words?
Fun, engaging, joyful, thought provoking.
Q. What inspires you as band?
Leo – Aside from the obvious animal inspiration, the thing that keeps us going is that we love spending time together and sharing our musical journey.
Anna – Meeting audience members who love our songs is very special. Having someone tell you how a song made them feel is magic. Our last single about crows’ family lives and how they respond to a loss in the family is one of our most affecting songs and seems to connect with people.
Q. What can audience members expect from your set as part of the Hebden Folk Roots Festival?
Leo – We take our audience on a journey. You will visit the deep ocean, tall mountains, barren desert and dense jungle. You will find yourself singing along with songs you have only just heard and joining in with the actions for our squirrel song. There will be songs that make you laugh and songs that make you cry.
Q. What’s your favourite song to perform as part of your set and why?
Leo – I like Deep Down, the tale of a scorpion searching for a mate. I love to sing this part, the music puts me in a spaghetti western mood and it reminds me of the teenage years; out in town looking for love.
Anna – My favourite is Torn Apart, because it does not have the usual verse – chorus structure and it build and builds and goes proper bonkers at the end.
Q. Who else would you recommend festival goers seeing during the festival?
We love the Magic Numbers and Michele Stobart is fantastic, we cannot wait to see her. We also love a good sing-a-long so recommend The LandLubbers for a rousing shanty.
Q. What do you love most about performing on the festival circuit?
Leo – Meeting people and just getting the chance to perform, it is a real privilege.
Anna – The excitement of playing and meeting many lovely people and being able to watch other performers as well.
Q. What can fans expect from your album Entwined and what was it like mastering your record at the legendary Abbey Road Studios?
Leo – It has some of our most emotional and heartfelt songs on it. If the album were a season it would be winter as the themes are – struggle, determination, family, loss and ultimately rebirth. The cover yin yang picture sums it up nicely as the balance between light and dark, endings and beginnings.
Anna – Recording and producing ourselves was really fun and it was very nerve racking putting the final touches on it and cutting the vinyl masters at Abbey Road. Quite a journey from our studio to Abbey Road Studios. We celebrated with a drink in the canteen afterwards. We were very star struck to be on such hallowed ground!
Q. What’s coming up next for the band?
Leo – we are working on some summer sounds, exploring ways to realise different arrangements and moods with just the two of us. We have a lot of material to record and are writing new songs all the time.
Anna – there are some very exciting plans coming up for later this year, we have been filming a few music videos and really performing our sound. We have a few gigs over the summer and we have lots of things coming up…watch this space!
Q. And finally, if you could turn into any bird or beast which would you choose and why?
Anna – I would become a wolf because they are such beautiful animals and live in such fantastically remote places. Their family lives are also fascinating.
Leo – I would regret choosing anything that could not fly so if not a flying squirrel or fish it’s going to have to be a bird. Following that logic I am going to select the condor, the world’s biggest flying bird. Riding the thermals high up in the clouds would be amazing
Birds and the Beasts will be performing at the Trades Club at 7pm on Sunday 12 May as part of Hebden Bridge Folk Roots Festival. For further information on Birds and the Beasts visit www.birdsandbeasts.net. For further information on the Hebden Bridge Folk Roots Festival visit www.hebdenfolkroots.org.
As mentioned, this interview was in partnership with Last Night I Dreamt, a website dedicated to art and theatre in South Yorkshire. For further information visit http://www.lastnightidreamtof.co.uk