Steve Farell – Knotted

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Knotted are a pop/folk band formed in Great Yarmouth during 2009 by singer/songwriter Steve Farrell. Over the past 12 years, the band have released 8 studio albums of self-penned songs and performed at a range of different venues across the UK. They currently have 2 gig dates for the region this spring and I caught up with Steve for a chat:

HC: Let’s start with who does what in the band:
SF: Steve Farell (lead vocals), Will Allinson (guitar/vocals), Lennon Price-Morris (guitar), Robbie Birtwell (cajon) and Richard Bennett (keyboard).

HC: There have been a lot of changes to the band over the last 13 years, however, how do you think that has influenced the band’s sound?
SF: It is true that there have been a fair few changes since we started back in 2009, although in recent years it has been quite steady and consistent.  I always fear the question about line-up changes because I dread to think it reflects badly on me and people might think there have been loads of band bust ups resulting in change.  That would be quite a story actually and a lot more exciting than the reality, which is simply people’s circumstances change which means they can no longer commit.  For example, Simon Kippen was there from the start up until 2017 but alongside music, he was a pro wrestler and ended up making the big time through his hard work and moved to the States a few years ago and is now signed to All Elite Wrestling (AEW) where he wrestles as Kip Sabian.  So, its circumstances like that which have resulted in line-up changes.  The changes that have happened over the years have not really influenced the band’s sound much because the vocals are still the same and the range of song styles remain the same due to me writing them.  I have been lucky in writing with a number of people who ‘get’ the Knotted sound and therefore that has not been impacted.  The only major sound change was last year we finally brought in a keyboard player and that has opened up a few more nice little options in terms of sound.  I guess many years ago we did also have a stint as just two of us for a while so that was stripped back acoustic sound, the songs in the rawest form possible, whereas now the sound is a lot more full.  I do still occasionally enjoy doing a stripped back acoustic show though!  We are in a good position and I love the current line up, Will has been with us for 6 years now and is one of the most trusted guitarists I have ever come across, Robbie is great at banging his box, Richard has offered so much with the keyboards and we are lucky to have him, and Lennon is the baby of the band, he’s about to turn 16 and joined us last year to get some experience and stuff, we love having him and that lad is going to go far in music!

HC: And with these changes, you’ve been at its core since the start. What’s the secret for your longevity?
SF: Good question.  Knotted was my first ever band I was involved in and it has some history there with quite a back catalogue of songs, so it would be hard to let that go.  I guess with that in mind, the secret of longevity is determination to make sure it always carries on.  I could never be one of these people who forms a band then after a few setbacks ends it then forms another.  I do feel older now though, when I think back to our early days, pretty much all the bands who supported us, or who we supported no longer exist! 

HC: Where did the name come from and were there any others shortlisted?
SF: It was a total accident.  In 2009 when I jammed with a guy called John Nottage, we wrote a bunch of songs which would go on to form the first Knotted album.  When I was labelling the songs I had no idea what to put because we had not really at that point thought about stuff like a band name, so I just took some of Nottage’s surname and wrote ‘Knotted’ and thought ‘oh I like that’.  We did later chat about it and I said that the name ‘Morning Glory’ would be a good band name.  John gave me a weird look and said ‘you do realise that term has another meaning dont you?’, he was right and on second thoughts we would have also sounded like some Oasis tribute band.  So Knotted just stuck, total accident. 

HC: What was the role of music in your early life?
SF: Music was played a lot in my houses, I say houses because I lived between two, I was at my Mum’s house in the day and stayed with my Nana at night who lived just across the street.  My Mum was always listening to music – not all of it my cup of tea, she liked Blondie, Abba and often played 60’s and 70’s mega mix albums.  I remember one day going through my step dad’s cassette tape collection and coming across the Beatles, I was blown away listening to them.  My Mum also listened to the Beautiful South and that rubbed off on me big style as Paul Heaton’s music became one of my main influences and remains so to this day.  My Nana was always listening to the radio and loved all the old songs, she was a massive Elvis fan, that stuck with me as sometimes when we do a rare cover we so the beautiful ‘I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You’.  By my teenage years, I spent a lot of time in my bedroom just listening to the huge collection of albums I had built up and going off to gigs.  The first gig I went to was Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze, within minutes of that show, I knew I wanted to do music.  

HC: How would you describe the band’s musical style?
SF: I always struggle with this as I think we are one of those bands where it’s hard to just put one style on, so I think some of our stuff would come under pop where as some would come under folk.  

HC: You released your 8th studio album last year, how does that make you feel?
SF: In truth, the release of ‘The Weekender’ made me quite proud as it was one of our best sounding albums yet.  Whilst working on a NHS charity single with a number of other Norfolk based musicians during the first lockdown, I came across a guy called Christopher Barwix who mixed the charity song.  In addition to being an excellent musician himself, he is a producer and agreed to mix our next album.  He had ideas I would never have thought of and did such a great job with the Weekender and brought a lot to the songs.  He has also mixed our new album and again it’s made for some stuff I would never have thought of.  

HC: What’s your song writing process? Who does what, is it a collaborative process?
SF: I hope I don’t come across as some difficult person but the basic of the song is not really a collaborative thing with the whole band involved.  These days, its often a case that I get a catchy little tune in my head with some words then record it so I don’t forget it.  I then write the lyrics to that tune and then the basic of the song is done.  Other times I will write a lyric and fit it to a tune that one of my song writing partners such as Joe Burns has come up with.  You can ask this question to so many people and the answer will always be different, that’s the beauty of song writing, there is no right or wrong.  With me, if the song does not seem to click within about ten minutes then I will scrap it and move on, I have to find that it works pretty quickly, where as I know others who may spend three months or so just writing one song.  Anyway, after the basic of the song is done, the rest of the band then input their own parts to build the rest of the song up from being just a vocal and acoustic guitar.  So in the end, everyone does get to have input on their parts for their instrument.    

HC: What is your main inspiration to keep writing?
SF: Life.  There is always a story to tell isn’t there? Songs become a bit like a photo album and represent different parts of your life, what you were doing and feeling at a certain point of time, what was happening in the world, how you felt.  I want to keep that going and to have each period of my life represented in the form of a song, and a big inspiration to keep doing that is always that buzz of playing a new song to someone for the first time and getting the reaction.  Mind you, that’s two-fold, if people hate the new songs we play then I guess we just have to run for the exit.   

HC: How would you describe your fans?
SF: The people who come to our shows and the ones who listen to our music are lovely, they are always filled with such kind and encouraging words.  It makes it so worthwhile and as a writer, it’s just the best feeling when someone mentions one of our songs and says how they can relate to it.  A few years back when playing in my hometown of Newcastle, one of my childhood friends came along for the show and sat near the front with his wife.  We played an old song of ours from the first album called ‘Photographs to Remind’ which is basically about looking back at those care free childhood days and wondering where time went.  He was in tears because he was part of that story and he had to be comforted by some people as it brought so much emotion out.  That was a special moment and being a horrible person afterwards I just thought ‘Yes! I finally made someone cry with a song’. 

HC: Which song do you most like to perform, and why?
SF: There are a few actually but off the top of my head I would say the constant closing number ‘Good Night Out’.  It’s become the Knotted anthem song as its the song that started the whole journey off back in 2009 and is a fun sing along song.  Always close with that and hearing everyone singing the chorus back is just an amazing feeling.  

HC: When you are not making music, what hobbies do you enjoy?
SF: Well I am always busy and on the go because alongside music, I am the writer and maker of a YouTube drama/soap opera called ‘Our Town’.  The show has been going five years and is listed on IMdB but it is a lot of work as I write the scripts, film, direct, edit and do the casting.  Away from music, I am also a big football fan, love history, and enjoy watching films and some TV shows and soaps! 

HC: If you could choose any singer/musician alive or dead to join the band for one gig, who would it be?
SF: That is really hard but since so many people over the years have said ‘you remind me of that bloke from the Housemartins/Beautiful South’ I reckon it would be quite a thing to perform with Paul Heaton! 

HC: What are some of the high and low points of your career so far?
SF: High points are difficult to define because I usually love every show and enjoy the whole writing and recording process.  What I will say, and sorry if it’s not a direct answer, but it took me a few years to understand something about what we do as a band.  In that moment I sat watching Glenn Tilbrook live at my first ever gig I attended in 2001, my dream was to be on stage performing my songs to an audience.  Due to people’s expectations in this day and age and how somehow success is defined by popularity and fame, it took me a long time to realise I am living my dream every time I perform.  It is not about how many followers you have on social media or about having fame, it’s about enjoying what you are doing.  Success is what you want it to be, not what someone deems as success.  Success is not about fame, it’s about setting a goal and achieving it, for me that was to simply perform.  So yeah, it’s a high being able to do what I do, and in 2013 I was also lucky enough to perform on stage with Glenn Tilbrook at the Norwich Arts Centre, we did a duet of ‘Up the Junction’, that was a special night for me personally! As for a low, our second ever gig back in early 2010 was at a place in Bedford, on the day of the gig, John went AWOL and we found he had quit the band which left just me and Kip. Problem was, Kip only knew lead guitar parts as John was rhythm guitar player.  I don’t like to cancel and we were already on route so Kip had to learn as many songs as he could on the spot.  To make matters worse, we arrived at this place and it was full of hard bikers, there was us playing our catchy pop songs and a cover of ‘Breakfast at Tiffanys’.  The venue were expecting a 2 hour slot and we played about 25 minutes and they said ‘is that it?’.  We did not know what to say and pretended that there was a second set coming up where we planned on letting everyone get drunk then just repeating the first set again.  We took the money and left quickly.  We were young and immature with little experience, that was pretty low.  Looking back though, it amuses me more than makes me feel like it was a low point.  Bad or what? 

HC: What’s different in the music industry today compared to when you first started?
SF: It is a lot harder, there are less venues and more acts than ever, so it’s almost like people are fighting over who gets the gigs.  I am also finding it’s harder to get people out to shows.  It’s not a good time for songwriters either, as talent shows have made it more about just covering other people’s songs.  Many venues only want cover acts and don’t tend to give a look in to those creating their own music.  However, thankfully there are still a number of great venues locally and across the UK which welcome original music with open arms.  The decline of hard copy music such as CD’s has not helped as artists get hardly anything from streaming platforms whereas from CD’s they would get the majority of the money.    

HC: What would you do differently if you were just entering the industry today?
SF: Easy to say in retrospect what I would do differently but it has been a fun journey and I don’t think I would actually change that!

HC: When is your next gig/release? What can we promote/highlight?
SF: We will be playing at the Garage Theatre in Norwich on the 12th March and at St Georges Theatre in great Yarmouth on April 2nd.  A CD version of our new album ‘Left In the Dark’ will be available at these shows before it hits streaming platforms in the coming months.  

HC: What are your plans for this year?
SF: We will be promoting our new album ‘Left In the Dark’ at some shows locally and some shows up north where we do also enjoy playing.  

HC: What types of music do you enjoy listening to when you are relaxing?
SF: There are all sorts in my collection – the obvious such as Squeeze and the Beautiful South, and one of the top bands of mine is Ocean Colour Scene.  I listen to them a lot as well as Manic Street Preachers, The Beach Boys, The Beatles, a bit of folk from the late great Jackie Leven, and brilliant under rated musicians such as Dean Johnson and Nick Harper. 

HC: Do you have a party trick?
SF: A party trick? Does being the person who disappears as soon as a part starts count? 

HC: What was the last book you read?
SF: I don’t often read books but the last one I read I think was a book about Charles Hawtrey from the Carry on Films.  Quite a tragic life which inspired a song on the new album called ‘In to the Wilderness’.  Hawtrey ended up quite a bitter person living alone in Deal on the coast in Kent.  The locals disliked him a lot and he was barred from many pubs in the area as he was so horrible to people.  It just fascinated me how someone who brought a smile to so many people on the big screen could end up like that.

HC: What’s your most treasured possession?
SF: If my beautiful dog Bandit is regarded as a possession then that’s the answer, if not, maybe my cd collection.

HC: When was the last time swore at the TV?
SF: I only tend to do that if for whatever reason I end up watching the News. 

HC: Name your five favourite top bands.
SF: Ocean Colour Scene, The Beautiful South, Squeeze, Manic Street Preachers, The Beach Boys.

HC: How do you fit an elephant in a suitcase?
SF: Well you can’t really change the size of the elephant so I think it’s all about the suit case and should be a question of how do you fit a suitcase around an elephant.  The answer to that would be a lot of material! 

HC: If you could only eat one thing for a whole week, what would you choose?
SF: I love food its no secret, but if I could only eat one thing all week then I would go for Pizza!

HC: Who was your most memorable teacher? Why?
SF: An English teacher called Mr Steve Troup who worked at Kenton School in Newcastle upon Tyne and taught me in my GSCSE years.  He had a knack of making lessons really interesting and engaging every single time.  He was quite an inspiration to me and the reason why I started to enjoy writing.  I remember him introducing us to poets like Simon Armitage and it was poetry that I enjoyed because it was relatable and thought provoking, and seemed real.  When I say it seemed real, I mean for a lad who was living on a council estate in Newcastle, the stories were about characters I knew of and stuff in oppose to stories about fairies or something like that.  Mr Troup helped me a lot and I will be forever thankful to him for that.  We are still in touch now and I really hope this answer is published so that he gets the recognition he deserves.  I should add though that I got on with all my teachers and they were brilliant people who I am grateful to, just Mr Troup stands out and the stuff he taught me stuck with me and helped.   

HC: What’s the least cool thing you’ve done recently?
SF: Pretty much my day to day routine is pretty uncool, when people describe me, I very much doubt the word ‘Cool’ is ever used.  Friday nights with a takeaway, on the sofa watching soap operas is not very cool is it? 

HC: What’s your favourite word?
SF: Melancholy. 

HC: What’s your go-to karaoke song?
SF: None of them. Karaoke I believe is something that the Devil invented.  

HC: What cartoon character do you most identify with?
SF: Road Runner – when not on that sofa, I am always busy doing something.  I don’t quite move as fast as him though.  

HC: What’s your biggest pet peeve?
SF: My biggest pet peeve is always people who are rude and look down at others.  I hate it when people are rude to waiters for example, as if they are looking down at them.  My other pet peeves are sushi and yellow sweets.  Sushi makes me feel angry and I want to attack it, I dont know where that compulsion comes from, and yellow sweets are just pointless.  Open a bag of sweets and people hardly ever take the yellow ones, which are usually lemon – why would you want a lemon sweet? 

HC: What album has got you through some hard times?
SF: There are a few – Meow by the Beautiful South and face value by Phil Collins spring to mind. 

HC: Name your favourite uplifting songs that always cheers you up.
SF: ‘Day We Caught the Train’ by Ocean Colour Scene, takes me back to 1996, one of the greatest summers ever and a summer that I have judged every other summer to.  It is just so uplifting! 

HC: What was your worst subject at school?
SF: Maths. Maths by far, I hated it so much and still do not get why we had to learn algebra. 

HC: What do you like on your pizza?
SF: You see, this changes a lot depending on my mood.  At the minute I’m loving the cheeseburger pizza, but sometimes I go ham and mushroom or pepperoni.  Actually, my favourite is Bolognaise pizza but that is not a thing here in Norfolk, so I always ensure I get that when up north.  We did a gig in Scarborough back in September and had takeaway afterwards, bolognaise pizza was on there and it lived up to the hype.  Even the other guys enjoyed it as its not something they had tried before.  

HC: What is the weirdest food combination you enjoy?
SF: I don’t really think I have any to be honest, although some people may disagree.  Weird food combos to me is stuff like a cheese and jam sandwich, which is something Lennon in the band advocates, now that is weird.  Cheese and apple yes, but cheese and jam? 

HC: What is the stupidest thing you ever did on a dare?
SF: Ah now that would be telling wouldn’t it? 

Knotted Website
The Garage


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