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