Skinny Lister Interview
Skinny Lister is a folk band from England, currently playing the Vans Warped Tour. Fellow site co-founder/writer Holmes and I had the pleasure of seeing Skinny Lister on the July 21st date of the tour. Shortly after an energetic acoustic set, we caught up with Dan Heptinstall and Lorna Thomas from the band for an interview. Unfortunately, the full conversation was too long to reproduce here, but I’ve published some of the highlights.
Holmes: How was the set?
Dan: It was good, yeah. We haven’t done our main one yet, but it was good fun.
H: Yeah, the acoustic set kicked ass.
Poe: I never thought I’d hear “Can’t You Dance The Polka” at Warped Tour.
D: Yeah, well, yeah. That’s what we were worried about when we came to do the Warped Tour. We were pretty concerned because there’s no bands really doing that kind of thing on the Warped Tour. It’s all pretty heavy, scary, metal-y.
Lorna: That’s the belief in England, anyway. But actually when you’re here, there is quite a variety of music.
D: It’s really broad-minded, really. More so than the perception of Warped Tour is.
P: Do you guys work a lot of older traditional ballads into your sets usually?
D: We’ve got some in there, yeah. The sea shanties, for instance. They’re traditional sea shanties. Hundreds of years old. And we do a couple polkas in the set. But generally the set is original material, just flavored with traditional English music, I suppose. Even in the original songs we might stick a fragment of a traditional song in there, you know, give it that flavor. We mash it up. It’s not purist folk, then, but then again it is quite folk. We’re just changing stuff, and making it live on.
P: Yeah, that’s what folk is.
D: Yeah, exactly. So in that sense we’re quite traditional. Ha.
H: How’d you guys get started?
D: I met Sam, he’s the guy who sang “John Kanaka,” one of the shanties, I met him in a folk club in Greenwich, in London. And then Max I went to college with years ago, Lorna is Max’s sister, so she was brought along quite naturally. Just playing together in folk clubs and things.
H: The solidarity with you guys is incredible. You’re working as a unit rather than as individuals.
L: Yeah. Well we spend a lot of time together in confined spaces, we’re close. We never fall out or anything. There might be the occasional short word…
D: Well…yeah…actually, this morning…
L: Yeah…I’m lying ha ha.
P: How many recordings do you guys have?
D: Well we did an EP, the Narrow Boat EP that one’s called. Then we did an EP called The Homemade Tour EP, where we toured around England visiting our home towns, because we’re all from different places around England. Then the next thing was our album, which came out in the UK just before we came on the Warped Tour, so about a month and a half ago. And what will happen is it’ll come out in America in the fall, so we’re excited about that.
P: So what part of England are you guys from? You’re all from different parts?
D: We’re all based in London, we all met in London, came together in London, but we’re from…I’m from Yorkshire, in the north of England. The bass player’s from Newcastle, the very north of England, Lorna’s from the Midlands.
L: And Sam’s from the South Coast.
P: Wow, so kind of all over?
L: Yeah, but we live in London.
D: London’s sort of the central hub for music in England.
H: So I thought I heard you say your dad wrote that last song?
L: Yeah, I grew up in folk clubs as a kid. Hated it, ha ha. He’s called George Thomas.
H: So do you like the States?
D: We love it, we love the response.
H: You can be honest.
D: No! We really do!
L: The only thing is we’re not seeing America, we’re seeing parking lots. But we are meeting a lot of American people, and the response has been great.
H: What’s it like touring Ireland?
D: It was great, but we were a bit nervous, because the Irish do, well, not exactly the same type of music as we do. They all know it very well, so we were a bit nervous about taking our brand of what we do over there.
H: Is there any tension over there, with an English band?
D: We’ve got these beer mats, these coasters, with big Union Jacks on them, and we thought that might be a bit contentious. But it was fine, they welcomed us. Had a dance with us and a drink with us.
L: We have a good time, and that’s infectious. We have a good time, and they have a good time.
H: What’s concert culture like over in England?
D: We’re used to the festivals. Last year we did more festivals in the UK than any other band. It’s different. A lot of people drink a hell of a lot. It’s more about the booze than the bands.
L: When I go to a festival, I just go for the party. I’m not particularly thinking ‘I need to see this band.’ Whatever I happen to chance upon, I’ll enjoy it, but then I’ll probably move on and forget what I’ve seen, ha ha.