Futuremusic will run for the next few weeks here on Just Played, looking at how our access to music is changing, how people spend their money on music and some of the artists attempting to do things their way. To begin, the really rather wonderful, Tom Williams & The Boat.
I blame Steve Lamacq for this one. During a not especially sunny week spent in Northumberland almost exactly a year ago, I found myself tuning in to Lammo’s 6music afternoon show rather a lot. This was partly down to me reading his excellent autobiography at the time and partly because it was pretty good at drowning out the sound of incessant rain. One afternoon, his guests were Tom Williams & The Boat. Thinking back now, I can’t be absolutely certain what about them caused them to click so perfectly with me, but they were only half way through their first song as I reached for my phone to store the name of this curious new band. Since then, I’ve immersed myself in the world of their leader and ridiculously keen publicist, Tom Williams.
The music is what you’d broadly term ‘indie’ but each EP they’ve thus far put out meanders backwards and forwards across that rather vague terrain, at times sounding rather folksy, with some very well utilised violin on certain tracks. They fit into the finest indie tradition of ridiculously catchy, storytelling jingle jangle which has kept the NME staff in beer money for decades. At times they gather momentum like Arcade Fire in a power cut, while the love of late sixties folk is hard to deny. The slightly rough around the edges sound also brings to mind recent records by Malcolm Middleton, only less Scottish. Tracks like ‘Got Fuel’, ‘Half Mast’, ‘Train Station Car Park’, ‘Concentrate’ and marvellous new single, ’90mph’ (particularly for fans of Middleton’s recent single, ‘Red Travellin’ Socks’) all deserve the opportunity to caress your ears.
But, I hear you cry, why are Tom Williams & The Boat getting a mention in the rather brilliantly-titled new feature, ‘Futuremusic‘? Well, dear reader, this band are putting in extraordinary levels of effort in their hunt for popularity. Tom has embraced the idea of giving away bits and bobs via the internet and building your online support with aplomb and, having already furnished fans with numerous demos, live tracks and advance songs in recent months, he’s just undertaken a month of extreme generosity, giving away four volumes of ‘Home Recordings’ via his website. You simply need to fill out a request form and the lovely chap will email you a download link for the recordings. Naturally, these are of variable quality – both in terms of songwriting and audio recording – but they give you a pretty good idea of what makes him really rather special.
In addition to the free music, Tom appears to spend most of the time that he’s not using for recording or playing live online, sending endless updates on Myspace and Facebook and taking the time to respond to each and every email that comes his way. Just see what happens if you take him up on his offer of free ‘Home Recordings’ downloads. Finally, Tom Williams & The Boat have thus far released their records themselves in beautiful, handmade packages featuring lyrics sheets, random inserts and even the chance to get a cut price T-shirt. Wireboat Recordings as the label is known, still have stock of some of the earlier EPs and I would suggest you treat yourself right now. If you want to go for one in particular, I’d recommend the ‘Got Fuel EP’.
Regular readers may remember me banging on about Tom’s track ‘Half Mast’ last summer, with its marvellous line, “I don’t have a hoodie set at half mast, sitting on my fringe like balaclava on my chin”. For a short while, here’s a chance to hear that track. Clicky. Naturally, if anyone involved with Tom Williams & The Boat objects to this being here for a little while, I’ll take it down. But I doubt they will. And that’s kind of the point. They want you to hear them, they want you to enjoy their tunes and I suspect you will.