Dave Eagles of The Young’uns speaks passionately about his love of folk festivals, the people who go to them and their fans. Also, there’s enthusiastic talk of future dates, with a notable appearance at Beverley Folk Festival (17-19 June) to come.
How would you describe your sound?
Highly biasedly, given that I’m in the group. We are three male friends who were inspired to sing together after we discovered our local folk club – which we accidentally happened on, simply because it was taking place in the back room of a pub that we were in at the time. As teenagers, we were completely blown away by our first folk club experience, in Stockton, 2003. People were singing without instruments, belting out harmonies and creating a sound unlike anything we’d heard before. We were also captivated by the fact that people were singing in their own accents, rather than posh choir voices, and singing about subjects that we didn’t know people even sang about: mining, industry, sailing, our local history and heritage. That folk club was the catalyst for our group The Young’uns, a name given to us by the people at the folk club because we were the youngest people in the room by at least 30 years. So, in answer to your question (yes, we’ve reached that point already) we sing a lot of unaccompanied three-part harmony, singing songs about things we are passionate about: our history and heritage and social issues. We also throw a bit of accordion and guitar into the mix now and again, for commercial reasons, you understand.
Tell us what you’ve been up to since last summer?
I was thinking of just sending the Big Issue North a digital copy of my diary from September 22, 2015 to now, then you could sift through it and pick your own highlights for this article. But then I realised the folly of doing such a thing. After all, I am planning on making my millions from my memoirs, so it would be madness to give such scintillating information away for free. Sorry, but you’ll have to wait for the book to find out what I did in that shed in Pontefract on 3 March. One day though… Incidentally, the reason that my answers may be a little weird is due to the fact that I am feeling rather discombobulated after a 30-hour journey back from Australia yesterday. This year we went to Australia for the first time, and performed at some festivals and did a couple of our own gigs. It was an amazing experience, and unbelievable to think that the happy accident of discovering our local folk club in 2003 has led us to play in Australia. The gigs went really well. One of them was set in a jazz club in Melbourne, which seemed a bit odd bearing in mind we are not a jazz group, and all of the other acts who’d played there were jazz groups. However, when we arrived at the place we were told not to worry about that, and that the reason he’d booked us was because it was St Patrick’s Day and he thought it would be nice to put on a bit of Irish folk music. This would have been all well and good were it not for the fact that we aren’t an Irish group and we don’t sing any Irish songs. Despite this, the gig went surprisingly well.
In December we did a UK Christmas tour – a good time to do them, I always find. Some of your less experienced bands who aren’t as clued up can make the mistake of booking their Christmas tour for October, but we’ve been doing this along time now and so we know what we’re doing. In November, we also ran singing weekends, where we brought a group of people to a youth hostel and spent a weekend singing, having a laugh, playing games, teaching harmony, going on walks, eating delicious food and generally having a lovely time. Obviously people come to this on their own volition – we don’t kidnap them and force them to spend a weekend singing with us because we get ever so lonely once the festival season is over. “Right, now you’re all tied up nice and tight and you can’t escape, let’s do some singing. OK, now obviously we’re going to have to take your gags off so that you can sing, but don’t go screaming for help.”
What festivals are you playing this year?
In order: Sheply, Beverley, Lymm, Gooikoorts Festival in Belgium, Ely, Moonbeams Festival in East Yorkshire, then we’re in Canada for the rest of July, Sidmouth, Wickham, Broadstairs, Folk East in Suffolk. Towersey, Settle Victoria Hall Festival, run by Mike Harding and Bromyard. In October we do another great festival, also part-run by Mike Harding, in Portugal. Basically, it’s an excuse for loads of British folk fans to continue the festival season, in spite of the British weather, by having a festival in Portugal. It’s great fun and highly recommended, providing you don’t mind seeing a load of old folkies with their tops off. Last year we did it and we put on an impromptu gig in the outdoor swimming pool, which we called Sing When Your Swimming. Then we come back from Portugal and do Lichfield Festival before heading back in my hometown of Hartlepool, doing their folk festival, which I’m really looking forward to.
So there you go, that’s the list. If you’re reading this on a long journey, a bit bored, then why not try and memorise those festivals and impress your friends by being able to rattle them off from memory, providing you have friends who find that kind of thing impressive, in which case, actually, you might want to spend the rest of your journey re-evaluating your life and working out how you can get some more interesting friends; just a thought.
Who else are you excited to see at the festivals?
Folk festivals provide a great opportunity for us to meet up with all of our folky friends, not only other performers but also all the friends we’ve made who are fans of what we do and we’ve met at gigs and festivals. We’ve ended up becoming really good friends with a lot of our audience. I think they become our friends in the hope of getting free tickets to our gigs, and we befriend them because the three of us are lonely and sick of just hanging around with each other. So everyone’s a winner.
I think they become our friends in the hope of getting free tickets to our gigs, and we befriend them because the three of us are lonely and sick of just hanging around with each other.
If you could curate your own festival what would the line-up look like? (artists dead or alive)?
We actually did host our own festival in Hartlepool in 2014. Basically we invited loads of our amazing folky friends to perform, including the group who first drew us into unaccompanied singing in 2003, Teesside’s Wilson Family, AKA The Wilsons. If you’ve not seen the Wilsons before, chances are you’ve heard them, because their voices are so loud that if they were performing a couple of miles away you’d likely still hear snatches of their performance floating on the wind.
They are five brothers from Teesside who’ve been singing together all their lives, performing on the folk scene since the 60s. They provide incredible harmonies and hilarity, singing powerful songs and bantering between themselves with an uncannily natural ease. They are proper down-to-earth Teesside lads who’ve got folk music running through their blood, along with all the alcohol, for another fact about the Wilsons is that they love their ale. Not only do they sing about it a lot, but they drink a hell of a lot of it too, which just goes to prove that they are a band who believe in what they sing about. They are great fun and fantastic singers, singing incredible songs.
Our festival also included the Hut People, featuring the outlandishly accomplished, crazy percussion playing of Gary Hammond, former percussionist in the Beautiful South, who plays hundreds of weird and wonderful percussion instruments throughout the show, and the exceptionally brilliant accordionist Sam Pirt. It’s just the two of them, percussion and accordion, but they manage to create such an inspiring and incredible sound together with their musical ability, their rapport with each other and their unbridled enthusiasm.
We also had our friends from Poland, Brasy, playing at the festival – another unaccompanied group, but with a very different style. If you ever get the chance to check them out live I would heartily recommend it, although, maybe go to the toilet beforehand, as the bass singer’s bass notes are bowel-shakingly powerful, resembling more a church organ than the human voice.
Finally, we featured our good friends Mic and Susie Darling, who have been travellers all their lives, and sing self-written songs about Romany life. And this is what is so beautiful and magical about stumbling into this crazy folk world – we have met so many amazing people, singers, songwriters and musicians. Playing such vastly different music and coming from all sorts of cultures and backgrounds, but all sharing the same ethos and values of friendship and a love of music.
If you want to hear this music and the three of us chatting with these people, then listen to our podcast: The Young’s Podcast, which features loads of great music, chat and clips from our gigs. I’m sure you can work out how to find it. You seem like a clever bunch.
What’s your best festival memory?
Often the best festival memories are the spontaneous things. For instance, the impromptu gig we put on in the swimming pool, the spontaneous song that erupts from a corner of a pub, draws everyone in and creates an entire night of people singing together, entering the pub as strangers and leaving as best of friends. Even though we make a living from folk music now, and are doing it all the time, we still relish the opportunity to get into the pub and have a bloody good sing. That’s how it all started for us, and that’s where the amazing memories are formed. It’s such a magical moment when a noisy pub, full of people just chatting suddenly begins to quieten slightly as one or two people start up a song, spontaneously, and then slowly everyone begins to join in and turn around to face each other and sing together. And that’s all it takes sometimes to get a pub or marquee full of strangers singing, laughing and talking together for the rest of the night and beyond.
What’s in your festival survival kit?
Our hotel reservation details.
Apart from music, what should the ideal festival have?
As alluded to in previous questions, a good festival should have a good sense of community and friendship about it. For us it’s about much more than turning up at a venue with your friends and seeing your favourite bands. It’s about meeting new people and having a magical experience that reminds you just how positive and incredible life and people actually can be. Sorry, I think the jetlag has made me sickeningly emotional. Also, a good vegetarian food place is always welcome. It’s good to get some nutrients into you, especially after a night of drinking, and it can be so easy to live off burger and chips at a festival. Check out No Bones Jones and Leon’s for delicious, nutritious vegetarian food. They’re at many of the UK folk festivals. I’m going to send them both this article, which should secure a festival season’s worth of free food for me.