Exeter based singer-songwriting duo Sound of the Sirens (Comprising of Hannah Wood & Abbe Martin) are about to release their sophomore album ‘This Time’ and embark on a 20-date nationwide UK Tour. Our Editor in chief Richard Bolwell caught up with the girls to talk about the new album, the tour, their iconic Exeter Phoenix gigs, living out of hopefully more than one suitcase, and service station toasties.
Sound if the Sirens Interview January 2019
Hi girls, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to talk to me, I really appreciate your time. Happy new year to you both, I trust you had a great Christmas and new year break?
It was fabulous thank you. We are well rested, socialised and our bodies are appreciating the detox! We definitely needed the down time and have stocked up nicely on beer and chocolate in preparation for the London marathon that is looming… eek.
I know Christmas is your favourite time of the year Abbe but this time of year also brings about something else special for you to because as soon as the old year ends and the new year dawns, you have another celebration on your hands, your Birthday! I hope you got showered with gifts aplenty?
I did thanks… I was spoilt rotten. It keeps the Christmas cheer going just that little bit longer.
So then, new year, new album, exciting times ahead! I trust you are both equally as excited as everyone else for the release of this new album and start of the new tour?
We have never been so excited about sharing our new music with our friends and followers. … The process of recording and the build up of the release always seems to take ages… it’s like waiting for Christmas as a kid!
Your first album ‘For all our sins’ seemed to take an eternity to be released and to the contrary, your sophomore album ‘This Time’ seems to have sprung out of nowhere really. Fans were still revelling in the debut album and suddenly you tell us a new album is on the cards. From that announcement to where were we are today, it’s seems that everything has come together rather quickly for this release. Has anything been done differently this time around?
For us it seems to have taken ages… but I suppose that is because we thought we had finished this album a year ago… (but couldn’t help add two fresh songs) Maybe we just didn’t shout about this one as much so long before. We are glad that it seems that way. It’s always hard to imagine the gaps from a listener’s perspective because it is a different time line. We are on a roll and there are songs that no one has heard on there… which was difficult to hold back.
Your image on this album and associated branding and promotion is different to the ‘Sins’ album; less colourful and more sedate what was the reason behind this change?
We went for subtlety this time. More mature maybe? (one can only hope) I think this one would appeal to a wider eye. Less garish but with still some personality. We are chuffed with the balance. We have been so lucky on this journey to meet some truly wonderful and talented people. We met an amazing lady called Yvonne in Germany at a Nahko Medicine for the people gig and she has been working so hard to turn our song lyrics into hand drawn pictures. We have used them for the inside cover and it works really well. We are lucky girls!
I think your change of image is definitely more ‘you’ and more as we all see you guys in real life, I think it suits your music more.
Yeayyyy!!! We are super chuffed you think so. Its all a journey and we are definitely learning so much along the way.
On the subject of change, you have a different producer for this album any particular reason?
Although we (as many are) are reluctant when it comes to change, we also have learned that it is very important to avoid becoming stagnant in what we do. A quote which is usually on the chalk board – ‘the only thing constant in life is change’
Having heard the album, I must say it is really, really well made and produced with less ‘bells and whistles’ than ‘sins’ and focuses more on you and the music. What this a conscious decision or something that just came about?
Our experience with Mark Tucker was absolutely brilliant and we believe he did a great job for us at that stage of our musical path. He went for different styles for each song and brought the songs to life with a heavier production, whereas this time we wanted a more raw, live and less produced sound. Last time the team were more focused on a main stream radio friendly sound, and this time we have gone raw, a sound that we can recreate!
We picked a studio that we had worked in before for ‘A Long Way To Fall’ (State Of The Ark) and they recommended Cameron Craig. Gotta have some familiarity to contradict the change quote! !
What can people expect from this album? More of the same ‘Siren’ sound or has your sound changed in any way?
The only way it has really changed is that it has more piano. Its still got our sound and song style. We have experimented with different guitars… but its more ‘us’ if that makes sense!
15 Songs, what a treat for the fans! I’m not complaining but why so many? Couldn’t you choose? I guess enough is never enough! Ha see what I did there? Erm, yeah… sorry about that.
Ha Ha! Enough is NEVER enough, you are right! We wanted Next year on there too…. But you cant have it all. Actually you can according to this new album. (Quote track 9.) We will have to add it to a Christmas special … or the next album!
You write about life experiences and the world around you with a message in each song. On your previous recordings you have written about homelessness, mental health, breakups and basically about being excellent to each other, is there a theme running through this album? Have do the songs represent the albums title ‘This Time’?
There is definitely a Time them running through out it. Mainly to remind us not to be late for everything! No, I think as we all get older we appreciate the amount of time we have on this earth, and I think this album represents the emotions that come with that. Not running out of time with loved ones, time being wasted in unhealthy relationships, time to live your dream whilst sacrificing things that time is running out for, trying to live in the moment and not the past/future, …. The list goes on! Plus, clocks are pretty!
I know you tucked yourselves away for a good few days “somewhere near Wales” (according to Hannah) to concentrate on writing but was the process any different for this record compared to your previous releases?
I think these songs were all written back to back (Bar ‘Count our Luck’ which was an old revamped one. Maybe this is reflected in the sound. We won’t know until we get more reviews! So maybe it has more of a flow in emotions. For all our sins was a little more disjointed in terms of the writing flow.
On to the tour now. It only seems like yesterday that you completed your autumn/winter tour (which I was fortunate to attend a few dates of) and now you are shortly embarking on a new 20 or so date tour. Is touring what you live for? Is that your end game, writing songs to share them with the world on the live stage?
Yes! Definitely! The thought of getting back on the road is so exciting. Every part of this job/fun is great but the touring part is the dream. Its also great to be communicating in real life with the people you communicate with on line. We are also so looking forward to playing all the new material!
You are both very supportive of other musicians and in particular young emerging talent and I have discovered some amazing artist through your tours. For this forthcoming tour you have invited acts to get in contact with a view to supporting you on certain dates. Is there anything in particular you look for when selecting support acts?
We are massively inspired by other musicians and its always great to get to make new friends! We have been so blessed with help from our peers and bands that we have followed and loved, and so we believe it is only right to pay that forward. Mad Dog Mcrea gave us such a platform by letting us support their tour and so we know how helpful it can be for musician’s to have an audience to play to. We played to a pillar and a pint glass for years! We are so excited about all of them!!!
You are currently about to embark on a 20-date tour with venues in the South West and Scotland and everywhere in-between. What your favourite part about touring?
The best part is the laughs. The warm-ups, the running, the eating, the playing, the chatting the EVERYTHING!
How do you cope with life on the road, living out of suitcases (or just a ‘suitcase’ singular on the last tour) and eating services station food as your staple diet?
Ha ha! Yes, Hannah is going to remember her suitcase every time on the next tour! We love it. It is quicker than being at home as there is less to choose from. We are also massive fans of the service stations. When there is no choice but to eat a cheese toastie or 5, it’s not our fault. Some are better than others. We like to analyse them all and give them scores. We also seem to become extra childish on the late night visits.
You are vising some old haunts on this tour as well as some new venues, have you got any favourite venues or areas of the country you prefer playing in the most?
We love them all, but especially St Pancras church. We always love the Phoenix in our home town too.
Nice, I’ll be seeing you at St Pancras Old Church as well as other dates and a Sound of the Sirens tour wouldn’t be complete without a date at the Phoenix Music & Arts Centre, in your home town of Exeter, the second date on the tour. Exeter is your home town, but the Phoenix is your spiritual home and the gigs there always go off big style. They are always so magical, so special and so emotional for the fans but no one can really put their finger on exactly why. Why do you think your Exeter Phoenix gigs are so magical?
We think because this is our home town there are people who have been coming to see us from the very early stages of playing in pubs and local clubs. That support has grown and when playing in such a brilliant venue like the Phoenix it is amazing to think that those same people, and more are still there supporting and liking what we do. Its like a family and we love them all.
What’s it like for you girls on stage at the Phoenix seeing all those adoring fans singing, dancing, chanting, hanging on your every word and basically being putty in your hands?
Its incredible and we are forever grateful!
A new fan club has been set up in your honour, how do you fell about that?
This is mindboggling!! We can’t believe that is actually real… we love it obviously! Ha hah!
I know you aren’t members of the club yourself, but the members basically worship you in that group. How do you feel about all the love and attention you get, and do you truly know and understand just how loved you are? Not just as Sound of the Sirens but as Hannah Wood and Abbe Martin individually as human beings?
Its amazing that our music is reaching people and we are liked. We believe that everybody likes to feel part of something positive and if we can be a reason that people get together and form friendships, then we are happy with that.
You enjoy your running, which is a relatively new hobby for you both I believe. How did this new ‘obsession’ come about, if that’s not too strong a word?
I (Hannah) started running after Abbe (who has always run) and basically we eat so many cheese toasties that we have to burn them off somehow! Sitting in a van won’t cut it!! But on a serious note, we LOVE it. It’s great for the mind (hence why we chose Mind to run for). It keeps us driven with clear heads and it also keeps the bad voices away.
You have run a half marathon previously and will be taking part in the London marathon this year in aid of the mental health charity Mind, which is a fantastic feat. I am so proud of you for taking this on. How did this come about?
This came about from feeling confident after a long run. Its always good to do things that scare you and this is certainly one of them. We want to test our endurance and there’s no better way than a Marathon! I think since we have started running, it’s something that we both want to do one day, and there is no time like now. The support we have been given has been phenomenal and we are soooo grateful to everyone who has given us money towards Mind. It really does save lives.
Mind is a great cause and I applaud you for supporting such a worthy and deserving charity and indeed all the other causes you have supported over the years. How can people show their support for your good selves and Mind?
Here is the link! – Support Hannah & Abbe in the London Marathon
One last question before I let you go, whose job is it this time to ensure Hannah packs her suitcase in the van? Will you be taking extra clothes just in case Abbe?
She is now a pro packer… we will keep you posted! Ha!
Do you want to say anything to the readers before you go, anything you’d like to add?
A big thank you to everyone who is on this journey with us… your encouragement is what keeps this alive…. Oh what a journey we’ve known!
Sound of the Sirens release This Time on Friday 25th January and you can purchase signed copies on CD and/or Vinyl from their official online store. I was lucky enough to be able to have an early listen to this album and you can read my thoughts and feelings about This Time in my review of the record here.
The album as well as lots of other Sirens goodies will also be available from their gigs which begin on Friday 25th January at The Palace Theatre in Paignton.