They’re from Vancouver, yet sound like they’re from Memphis. They fuse blues rock and soul for a guitar-stoked edgy sound that gives blazing chanteuse Coleen Rennison a springboard to leap into your soul…which she does. The day after their incendiary UK debut show in Camden, we catch up with two of the touring band at their hotel…..
Coleen Rennison & bassist Parker Bossley join Pete for a chat
JLTT : So we’re talking about last night’ show firstly was it your debut appearance in London?
CR: Yeah ! and we enjoyed it…..
Before we talk more about that, I want one of you guys to admit that you’re really from Muscle Shoals, Alabama and not Vancouver…
CR: (Laughs) Maybe…. in a past life!
I suspect so because in what I’m hearing is no trace of Joni Mitchell, very little of Amanda Marshall, almost nothing of Neil Young and a lot of Ann Peeble..that sort of area. I’m wondering how your psyches been take over by Southern Soul?
CR:That’s a really good question. It’s always been something I’ve been drawn too. When I was a kid, I was always obsessed with blues, Motown and soul music. That was the only thing I listened to for a really long time. It wasn’t until my early twenties that I started listening to even rock and roll. I always listened to the music that the rock and roll people never probably listened to
I did the first interview ever over here with Robert Randolph ,the black slide-steel guitar player and he hadn’t heard a Bob Dylan record till he was twenty one. He grew up in a church playing electric steel
CR :I’m always a little bit wary to hop on board of anything. I felt like I had to do my homework before I started listening to anything from the last thirty years
Ok. Let’s have your impressions please on your show last night. This was at the BlackHeart in Camden, which is a favourite part of London for musicians and writers. How did you feel about the show?
CR : I don’t know if you could ask for a better welcome. It was great. People stayed right to the end, it was packed, and it was really fun. There was lot of industry there but I think everybody was a music fan first. That was who we were playing to
PB: I felt a really good connection with the audience. I felt like they were actually listening and enjoying it with us. As opposed, to… judging ?
We’re not really beard-strokers. As many of us play ourselves, we don’t have that judgmental attitude , we just want to soak it up and convey what happened. I won’t do ‘star ratings’
CR: Well that’s good.. yeah.
I won’t do it because I don’t think I’m qualified to give you or anybody stars. I think what you’ve tapped into musically here guys… I don’t think you realise it, is a bit of a crusade
PB : (Laughs) Oh yeah?
It’s anti-Simon Cowell, it’s pro people who work their way up which I know is corny, but I’d rather see an act which plays a few bars and talks to the audience than someone who jumps onto a TV screen and is famous within a week
CR ; ( Enthusing ) It’s awesome! . We were having this discussion earlier with somebody. It’s a real shame that some people think that to be a musician you have to stand in line for two hours and just sing on national television ! Hey, I grew up sneaking into bars and singing the wrong words to Beatles songs on open mic nights in Vancouver for a really long time. It was hard but I wouldn’t trade that beginning for anything in the world. You need to know what it’s like. People say things like ‘overnight success’. We’ve been paying our dues since day one! Parker started playing in a professional touring band when he was fourteen
PB : Pretty young …yeah.
What style of music, Parker?
PB: We started out, we were doing Prog. I was playing with this guitar virtuoso and I had to ‘unlearn’ a lot of stuff
I’m thinking Prism?
Prism…perhaps. It was more of a Satriani thing. It wasn’t as cool
With Satriani, I swear if he was playing ‘Silent Night’ he’d dive-bomb ! Obviously, you’ve got this honed dynamic between you and none of you play over the singing. You all frame the vocal, which is noticeable to a player. None of you are trying to compete with her
PB : No….we want Coleen to be happy and she is for the most part. She has beautiful taste and we all trust each other. That’s the thing – we all trust and love each other. I think that that’s extremely important as players. We care about the songs and we want the songs to sound good. It’s not about the profits
CR: It’s not about who, what or what it looks like. We don’t compete and I think that really shows a lot of confidence in the band. It took me a long time to find a band because I think a lot of people were or are threatened by a strong vocal. Especially a strong female vocal
The reason I like that as a gig is if you’ve got a good looking charismatic lady singer, no one is looking at you and you can do what you like
CR: I think we’re all something to look at and I like that about our band. If you do stop looking at me and look at someone else, everyone has their own thing going on. They are such handsome lads! (Laughs)
Your guitar player… his name is?
CR: Eric Campbell
He sounds uncannily like a Southern guitarist called Eddie Hinton
CR :It’s funny, some people have brought up this Southern thing but Eric doesn’t listen to Southern
PB : But he reads a lot of American Gothic Southern novels and stuff
It all seems to come from somewhere. I interview a lot of people and Joe Bonamassa says the same thing. You’re not even aware of it. People think you’re original if you steal from a lot of different sources. When I was starting to play I thought ‘People are going to realise that I’m trying to blend Roger McGuinn with Harvey Mandel.’ Nobody did.
CR : ( Animated ) If you steal something from somebody, that’s what rock and roll is! I mean Elvis… You are never the first one. If you are copying something,..bet that person was copying too
Quick aside, what was your first encore? I thought that was fantastic.
CR: ‘If Anything.’
PB: That’s the first song Coleen and I ever wrote.
CR: The day after we met, we wrote that song.
It has a Curtis Mayfield feel to it…Chicago
CR: Yeah it’s definitely a soul song for sure. All those lyrics just fell out of my mouth. I came with the idea of ‘If Anything’ and said this is how I want it to go. He just started playing and all those lyrics that you heard were the first ones that came out of my mouth
Having broken the ice last night, I could see you being able to get a good following in London if you are that way inclined
CR: (Brightly) Oh sure!
I’ve written so many things about Provogue artists, no surprise you’re with them.
PB : There is a great thing going on over here
We are maybe more attuned to roots music as are the European labels at present and the plus for you is that in Holland, Germany, France and UK, the crowds are very loyal. If they like you they will come to your next tour
PB :They keep coming back ? that’s cool
I was wondering last night listening to you as an ensemble if the Black Crowes were an influence on you guys?
PB: No! No, but I’ve gotten that before. I actually sang a song that Chris Robinson wrote, with a band called 5440 it’s a Canadian band. Like I was saying, I think a lot of their influences are the same as ours.
Coleen, there is a song I’d love to hear you sing by Ann Peebles, called ‘I Didn’t Take Your Man, You Gave Him to Me.’
CR : (Writing a note) Oh cool ! I’m logging this
Playing live is obviously a strong suit for No Sinner and at some point, probably two or three albums in you’ll probably get asked to make a live album, I reckon
CR: I’d love that !.
PB: Me too !
What would your thoughts be on that?
PB : It needs to be the right venue
CR: Yep – it needs to be the right venue. I mean, that’s how we usually record. I like to record live off the floor and I like to do three takes. Then call it, basically
What you need is two nights in the same set of clothes and then you pick the best of each night and you get a DVD out of it. That’s how to do it. What’s your opinion on mixing and overdubs? The overdubbing vibe?
CR : Absolutely no way will I ever do that
Listen to Thin Lizzy ‘Live & Dangerous’, two thirds of that is overdubbed
PB: Oh that’s awful. Yeah it’s also depressing when they f*** up the sound and they just have to overdub it. There’s a live Queen record that they basically redid in the studio
CR: That’s a shame.
Yeah it’s rubbish. The best live album without a doubt -, and I was talking to Jonny Lang about this – is ‘Donny Hathaway Live’
CR: ( Gasping and nodding) Oh wow. Donny Hathaway!!.
The guy gets depressed and throws himself out of an apartment block.. at thirty-something
CR: His version of ‘Jealous Guy’ is so amazing. It’s so unreal
It is as good as you could ever get of doing someone else’s song. In my humble opinion
CR: Oh for sure.
When you record, do you record live? Do you actually get everything down with the vocal at the same time?
CR: like to be in the room with the guys. I can’t record without being able to see them
So you don’t put the vocal on afterwards?
CR: It depends. A lot of the ‘Work Song’ we did it in the room with the guys. There was drum bleed and I tried to re-record the vocal and we ended up going with the live one. Whenever we can we always do it and we always will
How do you know ‘Work Song’?
CR: I’m just a huge Nina Simone fan. That’s my favourite song to play live. I love that song.
Oh but its Cannonball Adderley..I know it from Paul Butterfield’s early albums
One of the first things I played on harmonica when I was learning was ‘Work Song’, Eryka Badhu will often open with Miles Davis ‘So What’ from ‘Kind of Blue’. She has a live album where she opens with that
CR: I love Eryka Badu too. That I must check out !
Most of the artists I speak to, say their aim is to make a record that you can play in five or ten years’ time and it’s not gonna sound gimmicky. How do you feel?
CR: I think we’re certainly not out to make music that’s hip or cool. We like classic music and that’s the kind of music we wanna make. We hope that our songs we stand the test of time and not feel dated when you listen to them. In a song like ‘Work Song’ we hardly changed that. We changed it from the swing Nina Simone version to something a little more straightforward but you should be able to play every song you write on acoustic
Every song I write, I write with a twelve-string acoustic with vocal and if it doesn’t work like that I throw it away
CR:I think that that’s important.
You can bet that Bill Withers thinks that way. I’d rather hear three minutes of Bill Withers than four hours of Yes. You’re aiming quite high, because with the time thing… that’s what distinguishes people like Keith Jarret, Tom Waits, and Captain Beefheart.
PB: I’ve been listening to a lot of Captain Beefheart lately
The Magic Band are playing here, next month
When did he pass away?
Four or five years ago, but they are playing here in London on the 8th December. We went to see them and they sound brilliant. Are you already writing material for a next album?
Yeah we’re skating on quite a bit of material
We have two songs pretty much finished…
We just need the time to finish these other songs because we have lots of things going on
The album that I have ‘Boo Hoo Hoo’, that’s the one that Provogue putting out for you?
Yes. We released an EP and most of what was on that EP is on this new album that they are releasing soon in Europe
Thank you very much for the chat, good luck in Holland and Germany
Oh you’re welcome – thank you, Pete
With a gift of a rock’n’roll scarf for Coleen and a large pack of Haribo Football Mix , No Sinner get ready to travel to Holland
Thanks Peter, Steve, Glenn
No Sinner’s debut mini album “Boo Hoo Hoo” is out on Provogue Records
Further info: www.nosinner.com