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Music Interview

Paul Sartin of eleven-piece folk group Bellowhead chats to Alice Rook about the band’s new album ‘Broadside,’ his love for Hampshire and why it pays to work your socks off

Bellowhead’s UK tour starts next month – how difficult is it taking an eleven-piece band on the road? Touring is a Herculean task. When we were touring last November, we had a sizeable crew as well as the eleven members of the band. Two sleeper buses had to ferry us about! Despite the claustrophobia, inconveniences and privations, we try to muck in and get along – we like to suffer for our art.

What do you enjoy most about touring?

Without doubt, the 90 minutes on stage are what make the rest of it bearable. After all, the gigs are our raison d’être, and to look out on a sea of (hopefully!) happy faces which we are there to serve

42Listed and entertain, renders it worthwhile.

Is there anywhere in particular you are looking forward to playing? We each enjoy playing to home crowds. For me, that’s Hampshire. We’ve played at Southampton and Portsmouth, and over in Salisbury. One of our favourite venues is the Assembly Rooms at Leamington Spa. The hall is Art Deco, and the Green Room is full of fairground artefacts, and Tammy Wynette’s rather OTT tour trailer. Oh, and there is a bar…

Would you ever consider expanding the band or do you think eleven members is enough? Please, no more! We’d only do it if there was a musical reason, which is why we

expanded from the original 10-piece by adding a helicon/tuba, as we felt we needed a firmer and deeper bass line. We’ve been in this line-up for so long that it would be too bizarre and unsettling to add someone else.

Bellowhead are renowned for flamboyant and energetic live performances. How do you prepare before going on stage? Sam and I have a routine of stretches and warm-ups in readiness for our (rather poor) dancing, which lasts approximately 20 seconds. We do rehearse during soundchecks, and then try to ensure that we get enough time to eat, drink and relax before the show.


You have clearly transgressed any sort of ‘traditional folk’ label, how would you sum up your new album ‘Broadside’? What can we expect from the album? Transgression was never our intention, as we have enormous respect for the folk tradition. Rather, we just want to have some fun with it, and to experiment with it. ‘Broadside’ has a range of ‘treatments’ of folksong, including new tunes to old words, and a range of influences such as music theatre, rock, Macedonian folk and 60s cop show music. It still sounds like Bellowhead, though!

All of you play more than one instrument – do you think it is the means to easily change

NOV 11

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