Interview – Skinny Lister

Skinny Lister are a band that I’ve been following for a while and they’re soon to release a new album, titled A Matter Of Live And Love. I’m very excited for the album so thought it would be good to have a chat with the band – read on for more info!

By Jane Howkins

You have a new album coming out this month, titled A Matter Of Life And Love. What can you tell us about the album? Where did the title come from?

It’s great to have made it to album number five. As usual – the influences on the album are fairly eclectic – drawing on our usual folk influences, via the 80’s with a bit of ska thrown in. In the end though – it comes out sounding very much like a Skinny Lister record. The lyric ‘A Matter Of Life & Love’ just popped out when I was writing, as these things often do, and we really liked the feel of the line. It kind of sums up the sentiment of what we were trying to say in the song – which is to treasure the moments in life that sometimes feel trivial or throwaway, but can actually be the most precious moments.

You’ve also released a new single called Damn The Amsterdam. What can you tell us about the track and why did you pick that song to be a single?

The song came about after someone online suggested we sing Raise A Wreck – another of our shanty style tracks – at the raising of local Hasting shipwreck The Amsterdam (which is actually something that is being proposed!). I thought we could go one better and write a shanty dedicated to The Amsterdam, and the story of its doomed maiden voyage in 1749, which saw it ultimately grounded on Hastings beach. It was great to get back to our shanty roots on this one. It was also great to have The Longest Johns guest on the track with their suitably salty harmonies.

The track features folk group The Longest Johns. How did the collaboration come about and would you consider working with them again in the future?

We’ve had brushes with them before on the folky circuit, but it was the TikTok shanty craze that really brought them to our attention. They’ve kind of spearheaded the whole thing, taking shanties into the computer gaming world and also taking their purely vocal version of Wellerman into the Top 40 – which is quite an amazing achievement. Anyway – it was on the back of this that we invited them to be special guests on our upcoming UK tour, and from that it felt like a natural thing to invite them to join us for the song Damn The Amsterdam. Their vocals add a real depth to the song, and it was also great fun making the video with them, in which we bury ourselves up to our necks in sand!

What are your thoughts on the new sea shanty craze that has been going around as a result of Tik Tok? You were ahead of the crowd with John Kanaka!

Ha! I’ve kind of partly covered this in the above question. But yeah – it was quite amazing and very surprising to see that whole thing unfold on TikTok and then beyond. If you’d have told us at the start of the year that this would happen – we’d have thought it was a crazy suggestion. Although, having said that, we have always known the power a sea shanty and a good old singalong. It’s something that reaches the soul in some way, and I think fundamentally this is at the heart of why the whole recent shanty craze came about. Whether in the mainstream or not – they’re gonna be around for a long time to come!

This is the first record that you’ve written, produced, recorded and mixed yourselves. How was the process? Is it something you would consider doing again?

It’s been liberating to produce the whole thing ourselves and then to mix it. It has our fingerprints all over it – from start to finish. We like to think we’ve learnt a thing or two from the great producers we’ve been fortunate enough to work with over the years  – and we were able to apply those things, along with our own vision, to hopefully have produced something that is a very true version of Skinny Lister. It’s difficult to think about future albums as we’ve only recently finished this one – but the process is definitely one we would consider using again.

How has your writing and recording process changed since you first started out as a band?

The writing process has stayed very similar. I generally write the tracks, and we then hammer the arrangements out together. Little has changed in that respect over all five albums. The first album was recorded in a very organic rough and ready fashion, pretty much live, all together with no click track. With the addition of drums from the second album things got a little more produced, but we still try to keep the essence and energy of the band – which comes from a place of live performance.

You have some tour dates coming up soon. Are you excited? Is there anywhere you’re particularly looking forward to playing?

It’s been so long since we’ve toured. This UK tour was delayed a full year – so yes – very excited to get back to it. We’ve done a couple of festivals and a couple of shows with Frank Turner over the summer which were amazing, but there’s nothing like getting in front of a room of your own fans who sing pretty much every word back at you. I wouldn’t like to pick a favourite town to play, though London is always a little bit special as, even though the band are all now moved out of London, it still feels very much like the home of Skinny Lister.

You’re supporting Less Than Jake in March. Are you looking forward to the tour? Are you fans of Less Than Jake?

Yeah – very much looking forward to that. It’s an honour to have been invited along for the ride. Less Than Jake are all about having a great time at their live shows, getting the place pumping and having a party. I reckon we’ll slot just fine into this ethos and have a great time and hopefully make some new friends along the way!

Has the pandemic hindered the making of the album much?

Funnily enough – not really. The extra time actually presented us with a lot of opportunity to write – so in that respect is was pretty good. It obviously did present a challenge for the band in terms of actually getting together in the same room for a while, but we managed to find ways around that to stay creative, such as adding parts to songs remotely.

Any last words for the fans?

We’ve missed you! We hope you enjoy the new album and we can’t wait to get to see you for real and party with you again! It’s long overdue and very needed! In fact – it’s a matter of life and love!