Why Cattle and Cane are Dancing for Joy on Cleveland Hills

There was some good news in a grim week for Teesside when leading local band Cattle and Cane’s second album, Mirrors, broke into the midweek charts. The band celebrated with a “secret gig” at Hit The Bar in Middlesbrough.

Mirrors made no. 53 in the national charts, no mean feat for an unsigned band. Sales at venues on the band’s current UK tour do not count towards chart positions, so it has all been achieved through genuine sales.

The follow up to the band’s popular long playing debut Home was launched at an In Store event at world renowned Stockton vinyl store, Sound It Out Records. Siblings Joe, Helen and Fran Hammill performed  acoustically between the record racks for a shop full of fans.

I caught them last week on the north eastern leg of the UK tour at the wonderful Sage music venue in Gateshead. As it happens I was in good company as it appeared a very high percentage of the audience were Teessiders on an away day. There were more than a few familiar faces, like retiring Boro FC Academy Director, Dave Parnaby as well as former band members James and Vin Hammill.

The band were on top form and revelled in both the superb acoustics offered by the venue and the very welcome respectful silence from the audience. This allowed the Thornaby band the luxury of being able to play more sensitive songs in the encore. It has to be one of the very best shows I’ve ever seen the band stand and deliver.

We need a big push now to keep Mirrors in the charts announced at the weekend. So, with that object in mind here is a quick interview with singer Joe Hammill, which he completed in his gig dressing room mid tour in Manchester.

Q: The second album is notoriously difficult but you seemed to have been playing songs from Mirrors before you had even released Home.

Joe: The second album wasn’t quite as difficult as it could’ve been. We had a lot of the songs already written for a while and had road tested quite a few of them.

Q: You have come a long way in recent years. There have been line up changes. And does Fran prefer sitting down in his more mature years?

Joe: Yeah the line up has changed but the core of me, Tom Helen and Fran is still there. I think with the band we are okay to have a fluid approach to interchanging/having guest members.

With each album we write and produce the sounds will change and working with other musicians is a very positive thing. Fran is thrilled to be sat down these days! What a doddle! He’s the elder statesman of the band and it’s only right he has a chair.

Mirrors sees Cattle and Cane’s sound pushing out in different directions. There is a lot of innovative production including unusual vocal harmonies and rhythms.

Q: You have been exploring a lot of different aspects of music. There are a lot of different directions and influences on Mirrors. You have also spread song writing duties and working with others too – do enjoy this process?

Joe: We’ve definitely experimented with different sounds on this album. That’s a lot to do with Luuk the producer, whose background is electronic/dance. We totally embraced that. I love co-writing – so I’ve been writing with lots of people recently. Lucy Spraggan, Alice on the Roof, Norma Jean Martine, Sivu.

Q: There is a lot of interesting, exciting production also with unusual vocal harmonies and rhythms etc do you enjoy exploring new roads. Would you describe your sound as having gravitated more from folk to pop?

Joe: I guess our sound on this record is more pop than folk I guess the songs for this album lend themselves to a more pop sound.

You are obviously still influenced by folk and your roots. People may not be aware that Joe you won a Graeme Miles Bursary a couple of years ago, awarded as part of the legacy of the great, late Teesside song writer. The wonderful Tonight We Dance on Cleveland Hills seems to spring from this tradition. Your Teesside roots are obviously still important to your music.

Q: You achieve so much as an unsigned band but does this give you an advantage of being closer to your audience with fan pledges of money for albums etc?

Joe: In terms of being unsigned we’re quite content doing everything ourselves. We have a fan base that sustain us by coming to gigs and buying our music.

Q: How delighted are you to have charted with the album? Maybe you will all have to follow Helen now that your music is being played on Made in Essex and Chelsea.

Joe: I’m delighted that we’ve made the charts. It’s all down to the people who have pledged and supported months before the album was released! I was so chuffed when we found out yesterday!

Q: What is next? A Boro promotion song?

Joe: If Boro come straight back up we’ll write a song!

Photos top by Tracy Hyman – Sound It Out Records, Stockton.

Bottom from Louise Wilkin at Hit The Bar, Middlesbrough

How to buy Mirrors

PledgeMusic: http://po.st/PledgeMirrors
iTunes: http://po.st/iTunesMirrors
hmv: http://po.st/HMVMirrors
Google Play: http://po.st/GoogleMirrors
Amazon: http://po.st/AmazonMirrorsCD

Or in store at Sound It Out Records in Stockton or nationwide at your local hmv.





Middlesbrough Launches Alcohol Free Bar Zero

Teesside’s only dry bar was launched last week with a feast of entertainment, and food, all washed down with refreshments in the bar that were completely alcohol free. Thornaby’s own Cattle and Cane, TV magician Pete Firman and comedian Fran Garrity put on entertainment fit for the launch of a truly landmark building.

bar-zeroBar Zero is the upstairs of what was once Romer Parrish toy store, at one time the second biggest toy shop in the whole country. Now people gather for refreshments, food and entertainment in comfortable, attractive and modern surroundings. On the walls there is artwork depicting movie and music legends, with the dates they turned their back on the booze and the achievements that have followed what was to them a major, positive life changing step.

This is all about helping and encouraging those taking the brave step away from alcohol and providing an environment that is vibrant, stimulating and not shut away in a dusty church hall but right bang in the middle of town. Looking out of the picture windows and we are above Linthorpe Road and bang opposite buzz street of the moment, Baker Street. Bar Zero could not be in a more happening position in Teesside.

bar-zero-windowsBar Zero is part of a charity-run, not-for-profit social enterprise that has already seen the successful launch of The Fork in the Road restaurant, downstairs. The bar serves food, soft drinks, tea and coffee but no alcohol.

It is part of a wider programme to help people in the town with drink problems by giving them a place to meet and support each other, as well as welcoming anyone who just fancies a night away from the booze.

Bar Zero will also create volunteering, training and job opportunities for those in recovery who want to get into the catering industry.

Band Cattle and Cane readily agreed to perform at Bar Zero’s opening night, for which tickets are free, with singer Helen Hammill saying: “We feel privileged to be part of this initiative. There’s nothing like it in the area.

“Teesside is full of places selling alcohol so it’s amazing that there’ll now be a place people can go without that temptation.”

bar-zero-cn-cCattle and Cane played a short acoustic set featuring songs from the eagerly awaited second album that will be released this year. Songs included the bouncy pop single 7 Hours.

Great to see Pete Firman in action, lots of clever card tricks, sleight of hand and witty ripostes from the comedian/magician who starred on Saturday night prime time tv The Magicians.

Local comic Fran Garrity was appearing in a show at Westgarth Social Club the very next night. So, he like Pete Firman and Cattle and Cane could well be hot property this year and in the future.

The great thing about being above Fork in the Road is the bar can share the restaurant kitchen. And the food winging its way up the dumb waiter was gorgeous. The restaurant is designed to help fund Bar Zero, which will be open at weekends initially.

Bar Zero is being funded by Middlesbrough-based national charity CEO Sleepout, working in partnership with local charity Recovery Connections and Public Health England.

The three organisations also joined forces to launch The Fork in the Road, which is providing restaurant jobs to ex-offenders, recovering addicts and the long-term unemployed.

bar-zero-launch-1Businessman and charity leader Andy Preston, who chairs CEO Sleepout, is confident Bar Zero will play an important role in Teesside’s recovery scene.

He said: “Bar Zero will offer those who do not want to drink alcohol a safe and welcoming environment to meet people and mix with friends.

“We led the Public Health England capital bid and CEO Sleepout has heavily invested in The Fork in the Road, with a view to the profits from the restaurant supporting the ongoing future of Bar Zero.

“What we hope is that this can help change lives by bringing people together, which can be motivational, inspirational and develop a sense of identity.”

The bar can also be hired for private functions and community events, while Andy plans to launch cinema nights where guests can enjoy blockbuster classics on a 15 foot screen from the comfort of a reclining armchair.

The final part of the project will be the launch in the near future of a community café to provide a stepping stone for workers in recovery from alcohol and other addictions but who are not ready to work in an environment where alcohol is served.

CEO Sleepout inspires business leaders to raise funds by being sponsored to sleep in the open for a night, with at least 15% of all funds returning to fund projects such as The Fork in the Road on Teesside.

bar-zero-cnc1Under Andy’s guidance as its founder-chairman, CEO Sleepout has now raised more than £1 million for funds supporting those affected by homelessness and addiction.

More than 1,000 businesspeople, politicians and clergy have given up their beds to sleep out in landmark locations such as Wembley, Lord’s and The Oval in London, Newcastle’s St James’ Park, Manchester’s Old Trafford cricket ground and both the Riverside Stadium and Preston Park Museum here on Teesside.

There were plenty of TV cameras circling the launch. I believe the back of my head made it onto Look North. So fame at last. But hopefully Bar Zero will be a famous success in helping change lives and lifetstyles in Middlesbrough and Teesside.

with thanks to Dave Allan


7 Hours With Cattle and Cane

I didn’t quite spend 7 hours in the company of Cattle and Cane singer and songwriter, Joe Hammill but after listening to the latest single I messaged him with a few questions for the band. With a big Christmas concert in the offing and the single taster for a new album next year I wondered how the band looked back on the last twelve months and how they were looking forward to big times ahead. Oh and you know me I couldn’t resist dropping a Boro question in there as well.

Led by siblings Joe and Helen Hammill, Cattle & Cane’s new single 7 Hours is the first taste of what’s to come from the band’s brand new album, which is all set for release in early Spring 2017. You can place a pre-order here via PledgeMusic:


The second album has been produced and mixed by Luuk Cox at ICP Studios in Brussels and mastered by Frank Arkwright at Abbey Road Studios in London.

7 Hours showcases Helen and Joe’s finely crafted indie-pop and provides the perfect platform for the kind of soaring harmonies which are truly synonymous with family.

In between studio sessions, Cattle & Cane have spent the past few months performing at acclaimed tastemaker events such as Reeperbahn Festival, Live At Leeds and Evolution Emerging, as well as at some of the UK’s finest boutique festivals including Cornbury, Deer Shed and Lindisfarne. 2016 has also seen the band tour abroad for the first time, with shows in Germany, Malta and Belgium.

The band’s final gig of the year is also their biggest headline show to date – at the 1200 capacity Middlesbrough Empire on Thursday 22nd December. Support comes from Cape Cub and tickets are on-sale now from See Tickets:


cattle-and-cane-16Q: It is a great strident pop sound to the new single 7 Hours – you have moved a long way from the early folk roots – but you have kept the energy and invention – are we seeing a glimpse of a new direction here?

Joe: Cheers Rob. We made the decision to make a different sounding album. It came about by a lot of co-writing with people over the last year or so, which has changed how I approach and write songs. Sometimes I get sent backing tracks from DJ’s or artists that need a top-line writing for it. That really helps open up the whole process for me as writer. So I’ve been learning many different approaches to writing songs rather than just sitting down with an acoustic guitar (which still works by the way).

Q: I love the harmony/fusion between your voices on this single – is this something you arrived at in the studio?

Joe: It’s definitely a mixture. Helen has a great knack of being able to follow my melody lines (even if it’s the first time she’s heard the song) – some weird sibling telepathy thing! But in the studio, working with Luuk, we will come up with harmonies too.

Q: You record in Belgium now and mix in Malta I think – it must have been amazing expanding your musical outlook like that?

Joe: Yeah, we signed a publishing deal in Belgium which has put us in touch with a lot of great writers and producers out here. It’s nice to base yourself in a different country for a while. It definitely helps the creative process!

Q: 7 Hours is really catchy but has a tension in the sound and lyrics – instant then but also leaves an after taste, so to speak. Are you pleased by just how well it has been received critically and by the listeners?

Joe: Yeah we’re really pleased with the reception for the track. I suppose it’s a very different sounding song than our previous stuff. Dermot O’Leary and Janice Long at Radio 2 are supporting it, which is always good! And there’s been a lot of good blog coverage for it too which is nice.

Q: UK tour, Festivals and European tours and recording – 2016 has been a big year for Cattle and Cane hasn’t it?

Joe: I’ve loved 2016 (apart from the referendums/elections and the passing of loads of legends). We’ve played some great festivals, some shows in Belgium and Germany, and a UK tour. I suppose that’s helped gain new fans. Personally, I’ve enjoyed the writing and recording most of all – that’s what I enjoy most. The new album sees Helen singing 4 or 5 lead songs, and 2 of them are going to be singles. Writing songs knowing other people are going to sing them is a much more relaxing process I find!

cattle-and-cane-7-hoursQ: Crowd funding your music releases must really allow you to get closer to your fans as well as so importantly providing the money upfront?

Joe: Yeah absolutely. Lots of bands are doing it – and I think it’s kind of necessary in the music industry today for a lot of bands and artists. I think survival is so heavily centred on a good fan-base. It’s the crux of it all really – if you can you get people out the house and come to a gig then you’re winning.

Pledge has helped us so much with our second album. Bloody legends.

Q: When are you looking at for the 2nd album release?

Joe: TBC but sometime in the spring I’d imagine!

Q: Are you looking forward to the Christmas show at the Empire – should be a great atmosphere – you enjoy those special shows don’t you?

Joe: Can’t wait for the Christmas show. I think the Empire is the best venue in Teesside. When I was going out on Saturday nights a few years ago I never really appreciated that it’s actually a really beautiful place. The sound in there is great and I love that it’s tiered. I’m sure we’ll have some Christmas themes up our sleeves!

Q: How about Boro? – it was dodgy for a while but some great results at Arsenal and Bournemouth – are you enjoying the season so far?

Joe: I think it’s mad how many ups and downs there have been already. After the Watford game people are talking about relegation then all of a sudden we’ve gained 2 points from arguably the two hardest games you’ll face all season.

Personally, I’m absolutely loving this Boro era. I was too young to appreciate the Juninho years properly so grew up with Boro as an established Prem team. You take it for granted then all of a sudden you’re in the Championship and it’s such a slog to get out of. You realise there are loads of clubs who can argue they ‘should’ be in the Prem that currently aren’t. So I think we’ve done great to be here, we’re not in the relegation zone and we’ve played some really hard games. So I’m a happy and optimistic Boro fan. I think we’ll be okay.

Q: What new music are you in to and would recommend at present?

Joe: I’m listening to a Norwegian artist called Paal Flaata at the moment. His voice is like a cross between Richard Hawley and Roy Orbison and his song-writing is brilliant. Michael Kiwanaku’s latest album is also brilliant.

Listen to the new single 7 Hours through their Soundcloud


Many thanks to Joe Hammill and best of luck to Cattle and Cane. Everyone go out buy the single, pledge for the album and whatever your plans this festive season make sure you do not miss the big Cattle and Cane Christmas show at the Empire, Middlesbrough on Thursday 22nd December.



Cattle and Cane – At Home In Middlesbrough

Proud Teessiders Cattle and Cane enjoyed a fantastic year in 2015 and look forward to hitting even greater heights this year. In fact, just like the football team they support. I asked singer and songwriter Joe Hammill a few questions about the band and for his thoughts on the Boro. These answers were actually received at the start of December, straight after Boro’s win at Ipswich. Things have moved on somewhat since then of course. But here is in the interview in full, an abridged version was printed in Boro fanzine Fmttm Issue 561 v Birmingham City.

Q: It has been a massive year for Cattle and Cane – you must have been delighted to finally get the debut album, Home, out? It is a fantastic album too were you knocked out by the reaction of fans and critics alike? 

Joe: Thanks Rob, I think by the time we released it there was more a sense of relief than anything else. It felt like now we can properly crack on and getting moving with it all. The previous few years before the release were quite sporadic and frustrating (finishing uni degrees etc!

Q: Can I ask you about the album launch gig at the Uni. It was an amazing atmopshere on the night. Did it feel to you like a really special event? 

Joe: Looking back on that night I can say it was really fantastic and something we’re all proud of. To have people there and singing along, really getting into the whole experience was really great to be part of. It is sometimes hard to fully appreciate nights like that when they’re happening but we tried to soak it all up as much as we could. It was the most nervous we’d been for one of our own shows – it’s a big adjustment going from playing rooms of 300, 400, and 500 people to 1000. It’s a much different environment for the band in terms of engaging with the audience. The intimate banter of smaller rooms doesn’t really work so well in a bigger venue with a lot of people. It was a big learning curve for us and we’re excited about playing more shows like this. Cattle and Cane

Q: What other highlights stood out for you – Deershed was special I thought with everyone joining in your songs?

Joe: Yeah Deershed was a brilliant day. It’s reputation as a really credible festival is increasing every year and we were delighted to be part of it. The best outcomes in life generally are the ones when you don’t have expectations aren’t they. That’s what it felt like that day. It was like a turning point for us as a band too because we played some new material for the first time and as you might’ve noticed, Rob, the new musical direction was on show! So for the first time really we had a crowd dancing and singing to these new songs and that felt great. Of course, we got plenty of Boro chants from the crowd!

Q: This is for the Boro fanzine – it was originally – so I simply must slip some Boro questions in – did you enjoy taking part in the build up to the play off final? Your George Friend song really struck a chord didn’t it? How many hits did it get and did you get any feedback from the Boro? 

Joe: Ha! The George Friend song was just a bit of fun really. It was after the Brentford home leg and everyone was on a massive high afterwards. We went home and had a few gins and all we were talking about was the game, the season as a whole, and how we were feeling confident about the final having played Norwich a few weeks before (urgh). I’d learned fingerstyle guitar for Isn’t She Lovely that week actually and thought about turning it into a Boro themed song. Choosing the player was easy because George has so much love from both men and women (Helen is a big fan, George.) I think the song and video got around 100k views or something (we actually got a request to play it when we played a show in Exeter recently) – “if we get promoted” is normally my go to answer.

Q: The final was a let down but the pre match build up epic. Did you enjoy the party the night before and being a big part of it?
Do you think that has brought us together in a way and given us something to build on this season?

Joe: The whole day before the final was a buzz at the Middlesbrough Supporters South party. As a child of the 90’s I didn’t know too much about the Boro in the 80’s. I knew that the gates had closed and Gibbo had rescued us. It was pretty spine tingling hearing the Q & A’s with Bruce Rioch and Bernie though about that time; how committed the players were to the club – unreal really when you consider how football is today. Looking around the room you could feel the emotion and pride the fans felt about that era and how the club survived.

Q: Do you think that the sad closure of SSI and all the other challenges here has made Infant Hercules all the more poignant? I had a lump in my throat when Joe sung it solo at Tees Uni and then again when you played it at the Transporter Bridge. 

Joe: Yeah, I mean when I wrote that song I wasn’t thinking specifically about the steel industry. I was trying to write about Teesside as a whole (it’s culture and history both past and present). I am really proud of the song and I’m glad it means something to people. To be really cheesy and quote one of the lyrics ‘The warm orange glow of our industry at night’ was a theme I’d always liked (When you’d been away from home for a week on your holidays or whatever and you come back and see the industrial works – it’s that sense of belonging somewhere I think is what I’m saying). I’m not sure there are many other places that produce such a strong connection for people.

Q: Next year is shaping up to be a big one for you – are you looking forward to the tour? Are the signs there that you are going to make a really big impact away from home? 

Joe: Next year is exciting for us absolutely. We have a three week UK tour in February which will be a good chance to road test new material as well as the first album. There are festival dates already confirmed and a plan shaping up to go over to Europe to play shows out there.
Q: You have been playing a few songs lately from the next album. It sounds like it could be a shift in direction in some ways is that true?

Joe: There is definitely a shift in direction for the next album. Over the last few months I’ve been writing for other artists in Europe. A lot of the artists have been dance producers and it has really opened my eyes in terms of songwriting and production. I’m learning a lot about production and sounds and how important they are to get a great sounding record. It’s also helped me become much more productive and efficient (working to deadlines is something I hadn’t really done before). So I’d say I’m understanding and developing a lot more in terms of the song writing and hopefully that will show through in our next record.

Q: There is a long way to go but how do you see the season going for Boro?  

Joe: I am quietly confident. I staked a bit of money on winning the league when the Downing rumours came out (we were 10/1 then!) The other week though when we lost to Hull I was pretty worried – one of my mates is a Hull fan so you can imagine my sheer delight when texting him a screenshot of the updated table after this week. The main positive for me is that apart from the second half against Ipswich the team haven’t been playing that well but we’ve been winning games and are right up there. I think that’s such a good sign. When you look around the side defensively we’re unbelievable (I think we’ve conceded two goals all season at home!). Clayton is looking superb; then you have Stewy who I think is really coming into form. Stuani oozes class too. And then everyone keeps talking about the return of the prodigal son, Bamford – personally I’d love to see him in a Boro shirt again!

cattle and cane




Samantha Crain Takes Middlesbrough To Her Heart


At the start of last week Oklahoma singer songwriter Samantha Crain was appearing at the Royal Albert Hall, on Thursday she was on stage at the Westgarth Social Club, Middlesbrough. How lucky are we?

But first before Samantha stepped up to wow us with her country folk we were entertained by two performers from slightly closer to home. Chris Finn is probably better known as Liam Finn, the flying fiddle player with Cattle and Cane. The name change was due to a.n.other Liam Finn who got there first on the musical stage. For one night only Liam was turning the clock back by playing songs on his acoustic guitar written before his University days. One of the highlights was a track called Infant Hercules, not to be mixed up with the song of the same title recently performed by Joe Hammill and Cattle and Cane. He has no luck with names does Liam.

McCormick, is the stage name of proud Teessider Steve McCormick. There is a bounce to the music and a spring in the step of the singing optician as he showers us with clever word play and catchy chorus lines. He is shifting through the gears in “Joyride,” before finishing the set on a real pop high with his single and 2012 album title track, “Goosebumps.”

The diminutive figure of Samantha Crain steps into the spotlight and captures everyone’s hearts with a stunning set of warm and very current country folk. The songs drawn from her three albums are interspersed with funny anecdotes and stories. Samantha’s voice is powerful and emotional, tugging at the heart strings. She seems to be worldly wise and very witty with it despite being still several years short of her 30th birthday.

We are privileged to hear a brand new song, in fact it isn’t quite finished yet, the life story as told to Samantha by a woman from the wonderfully named Elk City. “Churchill” features on Samantha’s latest album “Kid Face” and she explained it is based around a fortune cookie served up at a Chinese restaurant with the perplexing message, “A tea spoon in the morning and a table spoon at night.”

Samantha tells us that she always goes down a storm in Winnipeg, Canada. She actually put the city’s name in a song yet the citizens gave the name check the cold shoulder live. For one night we pretend Middlesbrough is Winnipeg and we cheer heartily as if she is singing Middlesbrough.

Samantha Crain is almost overwhelmed by the reception she receives and returns for an encore. She is delighted to be making waves across the ocean in the same venue of her fellow Oklahomans, Other Lives. Maybe Middlesbrough will replace Winnipeg in Samantha Crain’s heart.

Photos – Tracy Hyman