Fairport Convention interview: ‘We’re an old boy band’

26 Feb 2016 @ 9.07 pm
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After 49 years on stage and on the road, Fairport Convention are still going strong – and they’ll soon be visiting York.

We talked to bassist Dave Pegg about the folk-rock band’s long and varied career ahead of their gig at the Grand Opera House.

So what can the York audience expect? Lots of material from Fairport’s most recent album Myths and Heroes but the diehard fans will enjoy plenty of old favourites, Dave said.

We’re in our forty-ninth year now, so we’ve got a huge repertoire of things that we could play, but we always include some songs that people expect to hear – things like Matty Groves, and Meet on the Ledge, and Crazy Man Michael – then we’ve got some songs that we’ve rediscovered as well, from previous albums.

All shows on this tour will feature singer-songwriter and Yorkshireman Roger Davies, who, Dave says, “sings really wonderful self-composed songs” including one about Huddersfield!

‘We love coming to York’

Fairport are excited to return to York. Last year they played at Poppleton Festival, which he describes as “great fun”.

“And we’re just so sad about the floods,” he goes on to say, referring especially to the Hairy Fig Deli on Fossgate, a favourite of his which is still closed.

The only downside to being on the move is that the band doesn’t usually have time to explore the places where they perform.

Dave has not yet been able to immerse himself fully in York, although he’s visited the National Railway Museum on a previous visit and says, “One of the joys of touring is when you get the chance to see places.”

We like mooching around, and we get out if we can, but a lot of the time it’s just, you know, finish the gig and back to the hotel and then up the next morning off to the next one.

But we do love coming to York, and we’re looking forward to being back there.

‘We still really enjoy it’

Even when there’s not long to stop off, Fairport genuinely enjoy touring, and it doesn’t look like they’ll be losing interest anytime soon.

“You can’t really get bored playing music, because it’s something that’s different every night,” Dave said.

“We may be playing the same set, but there’s a lot of variety in the stuff that we play, and some of it is quite challenging musically.”

This is Fairport’s 32nd annual Winter Tour, which started on 27th January, with York as one of the last shows.

This year they’ll be visiting every corner of the country, having already played in a wide variety of places including Cardiff, Inverness, Durham, Canterbury, and Stoke-on-Trent.

Dave said: “It’s quite an exciting tour, it’s normally than we normally do, but we love to play live.

“We’ve never been big album sellers, ever, so we’ve always resorted to treading the boards to pay the rent, as it were.”

The music has taken them around the world.

We’ve been to most places. We’ve toured America many times, so we haven’t been there for five or six years.

We’re an old boy-band if you like, and don’t really like flying around anymore, so we try and keep our tours to a couple of periods in the year.

Fairport’s nearly 50

“It’s quite an exciting tour, it’s normally than we normally do, but we love to play live."
“It’s quite an exciting tour, it’s normally than we normally do, but we love to play live.”

Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of Fairport Convention, and they’re “already planning big stuff for 2017″.

Dave explains the secret behind their long-lived success: “We’ve never really stopped”.

It’s not like we re-formed at any point. We did have a period of about five years when the only thing we did was the Cropredy festival, from about 1979 to 1985.

But we never said “well that’s it, we’re never gonna play together again”.

Since ’85 we’ve been out touring every year. Some people have been along to Cropredy every year since it started, and similarly the tours.

Another reason is that with multi-instrumentalist Chris Leslie joining in 1996 came “a wealth of new songs and material into the band.”

They’re also working to attract a younger audience:

At Cropredy we get a lot of youngsters coming, because of the variety of the music…

We hope our music’s not just for people of our own generation. We get young people coming along and really enjoying it as well.

We’re just very happy that we’ve still got an audience and that we’re able physically. It’s quite demanding what we do: we work six nights a week.

There are a lot of young bands that couldn’t keep up the pace of what we force ourselves to do. But we enjoy it; once you’re on stage everything’s fine.