Van Life – William the Conqueror

West country trio William The Conqueror have been making steady inroads on the Americana scene for a few years now with their latest album ‘Bleeding On The Soundtrack’ just released on Loose Music. Headed by singer-songwriter Ruarri Joseph, who released a number of albums ten years ago under his own name and was quite a favourite on the folk scene, William The Conqueror are altogether a different beast.  Blues-driven riffs, building beautifully to full-on glorious crescendos, this is a band that utilises all three musicians to their full potential. Their sound is simple yet completely mesmeric. There is a certain bond between these guys that has clearly been built on the road. Americana UK asks Joseph how things shape up as the miles pass. 

So, nice wheels! I’m guessing you’ve gone up a few notches in the transport stakes? 
Van life is something relatively new to us. We spent years on the bottom rung of tour life by travelling everywhere in an estate car crammed to capacity, drawing straws for who would be in the back, their knees round their ears holding the wall of equipment in place every time we took a corner. Not only can we now actually take merch on the road and travel without the threat of a tom-tom knocking someone out, we can also have a cool box filled with carrot sticks and hummus within our hungry, sleep-deprived reach! Yes, the heady heights!

Travelling thousands of miles can be a real ball ache but our philosophy is that the travel is the job, the music we play for free. When we were first starting we got into the habit of recording our gigs on a Dictaphone and then listening back as we made our way to the next town. There’s no tougher critic than yourself so it became a really useful thing to do and definitely made us play better.

What’s in that glovebox? And how important does the choice of music play in any trip? 
The road-works out there at the moment means adding an extra hour to the predicted travel time is standard. Podcasts and music are an essential part of killing time and staying sane.

Cordovas – ‘Standin’ On A Porch’
We stumbled upon these guys in Nashville last year and fair to say we haven’t stopped spinning it. Great songwriting, super cool vibes, musical wizardry and so many memories tied up in it.

Fraser Ross – ‘Sweet Kisses/Silver Flowers’
Not enough people know about this guy from New Zealand. There’s a real dry wit underpinning his work, borderline comedy folk, but then he has the ability to absolutely floor you with something like this. Exceptional in every way.

David Bowie – ‘Blackstar’
We’re gonna cheat and put the whole album in here. Impossible to listen to just one song from it.

Bob Dylan – ‘Highlands’
At sixteen minutes you can listen to this and know you’ve cut a chunk out of your journey! It’s such a strange, dreamy story of everything disguised as nothing and it unfolds so patiently that once you start, it’d be rude to turn it off.

Andrew Gold – ‘Never Let Her Slip Away’
Could be defined as a guilty pleasure except there’s no need to feel guilty about it! Look past the era when it was recorded and marvel at the melodic sophistication. The sax solo is a little like a mozzie buzzing round your head while you’re trying to enjoy a sunset but apart from that it’s surely up there with ‘God Only Knows’ as song writing perfection.

Neil Young – ‘Unknown Legend’
Tricky to pick one Neil Young song but something about the airy melancholy of this tune makes it perfect road listening. Singing along to the ‘Desert Highway’ chorus can make you forget you’re in 50 mile an hour road works with the industrial district of Birmingham either side of you.

Mason Jennings – ‘Some Say I’m Not’
A regular road spinner, deceptively simple as it builds creatively and joyously throughout, using only a three piece band. Nice religious overtones at the end too.

War On Drugs – ‘Best Night’
Another record that gets the full outing on a regular basis. Late night drives ideally.

Bill Withers – ‘Kissing My Love’
Air drums, air wah, air bass. It’s impossible to sit still to this song. It’s like a musical version of that game where you have to eat a donut without licking your lips.

Frazey Ford – ‘September Fields’
All the country-soul writing of Frazey, all the groove of Al Green’s band. What a combo!

‘Bleeding On The Soundtrack’ is out now on Loose Music

UK/Eire Dates 2019

Sat 13 Apr – Ramblin’ Roots Revue
Wed 17 Apr – BRISTOL Thekla
Thu 18 Apr – MANCHESTER Deaf Institute
Tue 23 Apr – SOUTHAMPTON Heartbreakers
Thu 25 Apr – BRIGHTON Prince Albert
Fri 26 Apr – WITNEY Fat Lil’s
Sat 27 Apr – NEWCASTLE Cluny2
Wed 1 May – GLASGOW Hug & Pint
Thu 2 May – BELFAST The Duke of York (Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival)
Fri 3 May – Kilkenny Roots Festival
Sat 4 May – Kilkenny Roots Festival
Sun 5 May – Kilkenny Roots Festival
Wed 8 May – LEEDS Lending Room
Thu 9 May – NEWPORT Le Pub
Fri 10 May – ST DAVIDS RAFA Club
Wed 15 May – LEICESTER The Musician
Sat 18 May – TRURO The Old Bakery
Tue 21 May – LONDON The Lexington
Thu 23 May – BIRMINGHAM Hare & Hounds
Fri 24 May – NOTTINGHAM Bodega
Thu 30 May – Red Rooster Festival
Fri 31 May – FOLKESTONE The Chambers

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Author: Mark Whitfield

Mark Whitfield has been the Editor of Americana UK for the last 17 years and still feels like this is his pretend job, mainly because it is.

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