The August List: ‘We always heard in our heads a bigger, ramshackle sound’
After two EPs Oxfordshire-based duo Kerraleigh and Martin Child, aka The August List, really hit their stride will the well-received debut album O Hinterland. Its mix of back-porch Americana, blues and diverse instrumentation chimed with a mood for an authenticity that might be more Thames Delta than Mississippi Delta, but that seems particularly relevant right now. First up, Shire Folk asked them …
SF: You’re originally from Dorset, so how did you end up in rural Oxfordshire?
AL: Kerraleigh: Through our day jobs really. We lived in Twickenham when Martin was in the film industry, then we moved near Maidenhead and that’s when we started playing music and writing songs together. When our landlord got divorced, she wanted to move back into the house we were in, so we needed a place quickly! Luckily we stumbled on this tiny barn thing in Oxfordshire, which is great for making music as our only neighbours are horses and sheep.
SF: You’ve been described as Oxford’s answer to the Handsome Family; how would you describe your sound?
AL: Martin: Our jumping-off point was American folk music and we used the tools that were available to us. I’d always had an acoustic guitar knocking around and when we started playing folk clubs, I would play and Kerraleigh would sing. But we always heard in our heads a bigger, ramshackle sound. So we got hold of instruments that we could play as a duo; kick drum, harmonicas, foot percussion, harmoniums, stylophones, along with guitar and our voices. This built the sound up, made it more dynamic, but still maintained an acoustic simplicity that was authentic to us.
SF: I think I can hear the influence of the White Stripes, as well as the likes of the Gun Club; who have been your biggest influences?
AL: Kerraleigh: White Stripes definitely. We are massive Jack White fans. The artists that first drove us to start out were Jenny Lewis (her Rabbit Fur Coat album), Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Wilco, Willard Grant Conspiracy, The Low Anthem, Sparklehorse, Townes Van Zandt and Nina Nastasia.
SF: There’s a real analogue feel to the recording of your album O Hinterland. Was that deliberate or a happy coincidence (and have you thought about a vinyl version)?
AL: Kerraleigh: Graeme Rawson, who recorded the album and both of our EPs, really understands what we’re after in the studio. We never want it to sound overly produced or clean and we want a live feel to the performances. With O Hinterland we wanted to push the idea of creating an atmosphere for the album as a whole. So we used subtle drones or glitchy noises every so often that are there, but not overbearing, just so the feel of the songs is expanded on sonically. We would have loved to put it out on vinyl and it is something we will consider for future releases.
SF: You’re tremendous live and I’ve seen you play as both a duo and with a full band. Any preference?
AL: Martin: The core dynamic of the band will always be the two of us and we really enjoy the freedom that comes with only relying on each other. But playing as a full band was fantastic too! It was a new experience for us as neither of us have ever played in bands before; it also meant we could play songs from the album that don’t really work as a duo, like ‘Cut Yr Teeth’. We will definitely do more full band shows, but the majority of the time it will be the two of us making as much noise as possible!
SF: What next for the August List? More touring? A second album?
AL: Kerraleigh: We are really looking forward to playing a show at the Unicorn Theatre in Abingdon on 25 June. It will be completely unplugged and in a great space. It will give us the chance to play new material alongside our older songs. We have also been writing a lot recently and working out how to present new songs live. We may have rough plans for a new EP maybe early 2016!
O Hinterland is out now on Ubiquity Project Records