Music Q&A:

The Blackpool four piece have just released the first single in their Release the Bow project, which culminates with a celebration gig in April. Frontman Michael Shanagher chats about the project

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What informs your music and songwriting?
It differs from track to track, really. Some songs are written after an experience I’ve had myself or even an experience that someone close to me has had. Others can be based on things in the news or stuff that people say. Emotions are key to songwriting, I believe. If you’re tuned into an experience emotionally it helps you to connect with it and consume every iota of detail; good and bad experiences can turn into great songs. Being aware of the fragility of everything and having the will to try and capture it all in a melody I suppose is a big part of it for me. It’s all about vibration too. When we go through something as a band we all have to feel a certain energy off the music or the song just doesn’t work and gets shelved.

How have you evolved as a band over the years?
We started as a two piece acoustic act quite a while ago and played everywhere pretty much. We did loads of folk gigs and festivals and even got a mini tour of New York in. It was great but we were yearning for something more. Bigger, louder and with more throttle. We turned into a three piece without a bass player but it didn’t really work live – there was too much missing – so after a quick change of drummers, we added a bass player and it just clicked. We’re all totally on the same page and at the same point in our lives. We all have kids so get the fact that it’s not about partying like a 20-year-old indie band on their first night out. It’s about the music, this – the dynamics we can tap into live, the messages we can convey with our lyrics and the connection we can make with ourselves and our audience. Music means more now to us than it ever has before. If there was ever a time for this band to realise its full potential, it’s now.

What are you up to at the moment artistically?

At the moment we have just launched our new project Release the Bow. We’re doing things differently though this time, for ourselves and for our fans. We’re putting out one single every month for the next six months that’s built around lots of different content. On the 21st of each month our fans that have signed up to our project will receive a single to download, an exclusive video of us performing the track, play-along sheets, interviews, behind the scenes photos, stories of the songs and one free ticket to our celebration concert in April next year when we complete the project.

We wanted a way to do something different that engaged our fans on a regular basis and gave them stuff that was really exclusive – not just another album that’s lost among the vast archives of iTunes. It also makes the whole creative process more intense for us, which I think will drive us to becoming a better band.

What’s on your rider?
PG Tips have got to be on the rider. How can you do a gig without a brew? We quite like a biscuit with it too but we all argue about which biscuit is the best to have with a brew. Andy our guitar/banjo reckons it’s Rich Tea but I’m not having that. It’s clearly Bourbons. Bobby our bass player would have me for saying that though – he’s quite precious about his biscuits. He’s a Chocolate Hobnob fan. We did a show recently for Warsteiner beer so we’ve all been drinking that recently at gigs after getting a taste for it! I think we also have a severe problem with chicken wings as there are a ridiculous amount of empty boxes in the tour bus.

Tell us your most embarrassing or surreal experience.

After we played some gigs in New York a few years ago, we were all at the airport waiting to get the flight home and the whole place came to a standstill because of an Icelandic volcano that had erupted. All flights east out of America were cancelled completely, so we headed back into New York to bunk down somewhere for the night, waiting to see what would happen next. I remember the next morning being stood in Grand Central Station on the phone to the airline company with them saying that they were really sorry but couldn’t get us out of the States for at least another 10 days. After another five minutes on the phone and some very British discourse, the airline company agreed to fly us out to San Francisco for no charge where we could chill out for 10 days whilst they were arranging to fly us home. We got on the flight west still not sure if it was all going to happen but as soon as the wheels lifted off the ground we all relaxed. We literally went all over the coast of California for 10 days for free. That was pretty surreal.

What song do you wish you’d written?
As a band we have a pretty eclectic list of influences we draw from so I know you could get four completely different answers here and also, depending on the mood we’re in, we would probably all change our answers anyway. However for me, right at this moment I wish I’d written Once by Laura Marling, it’s just beautiful and the control she has over her delivery is amazing. I’m really into a lot of singer-songwriters.

What’s your worst lyric?
Ha ha. I once wrote a lyric when I was lot younger that went “…the star, the star, the star, fell down to earth at 100mph, you were the star that I wished on…” That’s probably the worst line I’ve ever written but I was about 14! I hope I’ve moved on a lot since then.

Photo: Phil Salisbury. Visit for more

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