Liam Vincent and the Odd Foxes

2020 was a weird year for music. I joined Liam Vincent and the Odd Foxes in January, but by March the world had begun its new ‘global pandemic’ project. Like everyone else, we had to keep rethinking our plans, and band rehearsals were obviously limited. We worked on loads of new songs anyway, did a lot of home recording, played live a (very) few times, and started work on an EP. Join the mailing list to keep up with what we’re doing.

About the band

Led by songwriter and guitarist Liam Vincent, the band has a mix of folk, indie and rock influences. The full line up – when we can get together – is Liam on guitar + vocal, David Walls on mandolin, Jack Nejzer on electric guitar, Matt Berry on bass, Paul Disley on drums, and me on violin. Jack, Matt and I add backing vocals.

It’s a great, creative musical collaboration, relying on songs which are the kind of music-with-meaning that people can join together around. Vanity Project was Liam’s first solo single and we now play our own Odd Fox arrangement. Its lyrics are:

Do you know the cost? is it worth it to save an hour?
Uprooting families and devastating wildlife?
You keep pushing on and on, vanity project gone wrong
Go north to close a factory, be home in time for tea
Sixty billion, let that sink in a while.
300,000 sleeping on the street tonight
You keep pushing on and on, vanity project gone wrong
Go north to close a factory, be home in time for tea,
Crush the spirit of the people, cut funding and close them down
Outdated and out of control, Adonis's playground
Cut electric in the north, keep it dirty to fund your plans
Another fresh scar on this once green and pleasant land

Heritage and folk at Creswell Crags festival

A lot of things didn’t happen in 2020, but a highlight was playing for the Creswell Crags Midwinter Folklore Festival, an online fundraiser at the winter solstice for these fascinating ice-age caves. As well as an original set still available on the festival vimeo site, we gathered by the fire to sing our own arrangement of a local folksong ‘The Miller of Mansfield’.

The caves at Creswell, on the Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire border, are famous for their lucky witch marks that people carved into the stone for protection. We discovered folklore author Ross Parish’s account of the true tale of the Miller of Mansfield, a poacher who has a lucky escape after stealing the King’s deer in Sherwood Forest. It’s a great story, so we arranged it to the tune of Hard Times Come Again No More, an 1854 American song by Stephen Foster. Finally, via researcher Mark Truesdale, we learned that the story was considered subversive propaganda in the 18th century, and inspired satirical plays that on one occasion caused a riot. Perfect!

Scary Monsters and the Winophone

We’ve played around with recordings of covers when we’re not working on our own songs. Scary Monsters by David Bowie led to some sounds on the violin I’ve never made before, and we all added in so much stuff that Liam made a video breaking down everything going on in the different tracks.

We’ve reinterpreted songs from Sign of the Times by Harry Styles to Space by Biffy Clyro, with various bits of piano and cello in as well. For Young Dumb Thrills by McFly, it sounded as if there was a steel pan sound somewhere in the backing tracks. Just for a joke I tried reproducing this using wine glasses tuned to various notes and this became a full Winophone as in the photo. I knew those years having lessons at the Royal College of Music would be useful somewhere along the line.

Midlands folk music

This area has a fantastic folk lineage. Near Banbury is Cropredy, well-known to lovers of Fairport Convention and Sandy Denny, who lived in the village of Byfield (and it turns out, went to Kingston College of Art in the same year as my mum).

Before joining the Odd Foxes, I was in a couple of duos and also played at fantastic Open Mic nights run in Banbury, Shipston, Stratford and elsewhere by the Rockbottoms (AKA Merrymaker) – Adam Barry and Dan Sealey, formerly of Ocean Colour Scene. Their song Evergreen was one that encouraged me to get my violin out and see what might happen. During lockdown, the Woodford Halse Music Club organised by David Odd Fox has been a livestream lifeline with participants including Bryter Than (Mat and Helen White), Giles Winterton, and Tony Soll who beams in from New York. Back in August we managed an outdoor gig at the Fleur in Woodford, playing alongside many of the regulars.