One sixth of the chantey punk-folk band Skinny Lister, Lorna Thomas speaks details of album number three ahead of playing the Manchester Academy…
“Oh when I say folk, I mean folk.”
Meeting with Lorna in a empty corner of the Manchester Academy, just before her penultimate show of touring the UK with Frank Turner and Will Varley, we ponder the thought of just leaving the show to just lay across sofas instead. Before the whole show gets cancelled however, she exclaims “that would be nice…but no, we came to do a gig, so we shall!”
Despite playing ’74 shows or something’ already whilst on tour, the south London vocalist admits a feeling of excitement with a little bit of nerves. “That’s why my eyes are crossed” she says with a hint of laughter, “My face is grey, I can’t remember my name or what I’m doing”. In order to battle the initial worries of the upcoming performance, the Lister female front confesses the band “Just eat, drink beer, have a little argument about set list or something” in order to prepare themselves for the gig.
As nervous as she initially seems however, bracing the Manchester stage later in the evening a completely different character takes the stage. Through chantey sing-alongs and campfire sways, the nerves are quickly shaken off as Skinny Lister bursts into life.
Throughout the bands five year history, they have not been without one or two bumps in the road along the way. They’ve had members leave the band, “and a few come back” Lorna adds, whilst others have been replaced.
In 2012, whilst on the ‘Vans Warped Tour’ with Flogging Molly, Skinny fell a member short as they found themselves recruiting Hawaiian punk-rock bassist Michael Camino. 2013 saw guitar and mandolin player, Andy ‘Slim Black’ join the ranks and towards the end of the year, the five-piece became a six-piece through the Thom Mills introducing drums to the band. All just in time for the release of second album ’Down On Deptford Broadway’.
“Performing without drums now is weird,” says Lorna. “I’m like, where are they?! There’s something missing here, I cant quite put my finger on it…”
As the band have gone through so many changes, the very core of the chantey folk piece is the high level of work ethic, and their ability to really party. Back in 2011, Skinny claimed the award for most played festivals, beating every other band in the world. Leaving the likes of the mighty Ed Sheeran behind in second place. Let this be but a tiny insight to just how the six-piece operate regardless of who comes and goes.
With all the changes being made prior to album number two, extensive touring with fellow folk mates Frank Turner and Will Varley, Lorna reveals that they have somehow found the time to begin recording album number three.
“Whenever we can we get a bit of studio time,” she reveals. “I don’t think it will be out until next summer but we’re definitely working on it.”
When asked for a title for the album, Lorna calmly responds through a warming smile: “Oh god no! We’re nowhere near that! Just a few songs, that’s it so far.“
With the album in such early production however, Skinny did treat the Manchester crowd with a sneak-peak into the album as ‘Wanted’ was given in order to wet the appetite for the upcoming release. Describing the track and the album, Lorna says: “It’s got more of an international feel to it. The first album’s countryside, the second album was London and the cities, this one’s a bit wider than London.”
Although a special fondness of the home-grown roots of South London have a hold on the band’s hearts, it seems the great north has begun a secret love affair with the puck-folks.
“We love London because that’s were the band was born,” Lorna admits. “But we love coming up North. People just really appreciate good music up here, more than anywhere else. We always have fun at gigs up here, it goes without saying really.”
I grew up in a lot of folk clubs, so I’m used to everyone singing along and having a drink and we definitely like to build that into our performance. We sing chanteys and we expect people to join in. Michael might do a bit of acrobats with his bass…”
If there’s one thing anyone can take from a typical Skinny Lister performance, despite the hearty sing-alongs and folk driven sea-chanteys, it’s the pure energy that oozes out of the bands very existence.
“Max fell off the stage once. Head first. Into the barrier. That wasn’t very nice,” Lorna laughs through a sense of seriousness. “He just carried on, that was crazy. It really did look like trouble on Oxford Street… it was all rock ‘n’ roll.”
Struggling for words to describe a show herself however, Lorna murmurs some inaudible muttering before mustering: “Urgh…you’ll have to come to the show!”