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Interview with Joe Innes

How did your passion for music begin?

I have no idea, though I think crucially for me – I’m much more passionate about a good song than ‘music’ in a broader context, and I think that probably started in my parents’ car when I was a child. On family holidays to Normandy spent listening to Bad by Michael Jackson on a Walkman, or my dad playing Graceland through the car stereo for the millionth time. My Walkman probably had a lot to do with it (I didn’t get a CD player until much later) and recording all the best songs from the top 40 onto a mixtape was like fishing for songs. I never really cared who the band was, if I thought the song was good I’d tape it.

When I was about 12, I got a really basic starter guitar for my birthday, and that was really exciting. I loved the noise it made. I used to lie on my bed just playing the same chord over and over again, and I also remember my eldest sister walking into my room and telling me I could play really well for the relatively short amount of time I’d been playing – and that bit of positive reinforcement has stuck with me to this day.

Describe your ‘sound’?

I consider our sound to be the product of when preparation and opportunity meet, in the sense that I don’t really think about it too much. I guess it’s a mixture of folk and indie, but I would consider playing in any genre if it served the song I was writing. The only reason we’re a folky band is because I play an acoustic guitar, and that’s because I can’t be bothered to carry an amp around (don’t tell anyone).

Where do you get your inspiration from for your song writing?

Everywhere, though I consider song writing to be a bit like therapy for me. I’m not always 100% sure or aware of how I’m feeling – and it takes sitting down with a guitar and exploring my emotional state to figure things out sometimes.

If song writing is all about communicating your human experience to other people, and the best songs usually tell a universal truth about existence – first I need to figure out how I feel about stuff, then I can translate that into something other people can identify with. That’s what I think I’m doing anyway.

You’ve been described as ‘a master of words’, how did your love of words come about?

A great man once said “words are all I have to take your heart away.” I believe that man was correct. It’s too bad we’ll never know who he was.

Describe the ‘Cavalcade’ aspect of the group and how was the band formed?

The Cavalcade is a bunch of my pals, we get together and make music and have a good time. That’s basically it. It’s always really good fun to make music with a big bunch of your friends, if anyone out there hasn’t tried it – you definitely should.

In having a rotating collective of musicians to perform with, what does this fluidity bring to the music?

It’s interesting bringing old songs to new people – our set has changed quite a bit over the years when new people have joined, so that’s really cool. It’s also interesting to bring new instruments, last year we roped in Angie Rance from ‘Patch and the Giant’ – and now we have trumpet parts…!

You call yourself a post – Brexit song writer, how much did Brexit influence your music and why?

I was writing the songs for our last album while Trump was getting big, and Brexit happened – so it seemed weird to ignore it. I’m not a political commentator or academic, but as a songwriter I feel like I have a role in documenting these things. Our whole album became a bit of a document for a moment in time, for myself on both a micro and macro level.

Your last album was ‘Foreign Domestic Policy, what is the album about and tell us about the song writing process involved.

Like a number of my songs, I usually write the music first – then spend months distilling what I want to say into lyrics. As previously mentioned, a lot was happening in the world when the lyrics came together – so the political landscape became a topic that I wanted to explore, more for my own mental health than anything else.

You’ve been favourably compared to ‘The Decemberists’, ‘Bright Eyes’ and ‘The Mountain Goats’, what music has influenced you?

The good songs, the ones that don’t go away ever. Also, ‘The Mountain Goats’ and ‘Guided by Voices’. Those two bands are the best bands.

What are you currently working on and what do you have planned for the future?

We’re currently working on some new songs for an EP, which is all about the learning process – and how falling and failure is important to our development in everything. I’ve also been learning to skateboard weirdly, so that might have something to do with it.

You’re returning to the Dulwich Festival, what do you like about performing at this event in particular?

The organisers are really nice, we were really pleased to be asked back – and now we have an album under our belt, we feel like we’ve got a little more to say than last time! We’re really looking forward to it.

What can we look forward to from your performance at the Festival this year?

New songs! Great banter! And a new look (may be very similar to the old look).

The theme of this year’s Festival is ‘Celebration’, what does that mean to you?

Sounds like an excuse for a party. I’m in.

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