MALTHOUSE: Back row (from l-r): Jon Finney (guitar), Kieran Oakes (vocals/guitar) Front row: Ryan Taylor (bass)
INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
Malthouse are a three-piece blues/soul outfit from Stoke-on-Trent.
In the near three-and-a-half years the band have been in existence, they have received much positive feedback from critics and fans alike, praising the trio for a well-crafted sound that takes in a host of genres and is also an effective showcase of their talents.
‘Extracts of the Soul’, the eagerly-anticipated follow-up to their well-received debut ‘Staveley Sessions’, will be released soon, and promises to be even better.
I chatted to them prior to their set at The Exchange in Hanley.
How did the band get together initially?
JON FINNEY (guitar): I suppose it was me and Kieran, we’ve always been playing guitar together, Ryan’s always been knocking around as well, so we introduced him into the fold, and there he was, and that’s pretty much it really.
How did the name Malthouse come about?
KIERAN OAKES (vocals/guitar): It came from Malthouse Road, a road that ran between all of our houses.
In your own words, how would you describe your sound?
KIERAN: Soul, predominantly soul, rock, pop, R ‘n’ B…
KIERAN: Yeah, a bit of blues.
JON: A bit of Sixties pop in there as well.
KIERAN: We sort of try and take all these older genres, so to speak, and make them a bit more contemporary.
JON: We wouldn’t describe it as being one single word, I don’t feel confined by genres, so there’s a lot of stuff in there.
What are the band’s musical influences?
JON: I think that’s different for all of us, but I think, Kieran, if you…
KIERAN: Mine, I’m the vocalist, so obviously, I like to listen to good vocals, soulful vocals, where the singer might have a good range, i.e. Aretha Franklin, Solomon King, lots of soul artists, but I do listen to some more contemporary people like Childish Gambino.
JON: I think amongst the three of us, there is definitely a Beatles influence, a lot of old bands.
KIERAN: We’re a band at the end of the day, so we do like The Beatles.
JON: As a guitarist myself, I like Jimi Hendrix, and I think Ryan’s the same on bass as well, anybody like that, any kind of big blues players, we do enjoy listening to.
What would you say was your approach to songwriting?
JON: Initially, I would say that Kieran writes the base of a song, and then we’ll all come together, and…
KIERAN: A few chords and the melody are done in my bedroom, then we will take it to rehearsal, practice whatever, and sort of evolve the song together.
JON: We all just add our own little bits to it, so as Kieran says, he’ll put together the base of the song, Ryan will come in with bass, I will come in with the guitar, or sometimes, Ryan will do that.
KIERAN: It’s kind of all done during practice, really.
JON: It’s sort of all improvised on the day, we see what works.
The band are all from Stoke-on-Trent. What is your opinion of the current local music scene?
JON: I think it’s very varied, there’s a lot of good artists that do tend to get overlooked on the regional scale, but in terms of the quality, I think it’s very good.
KIERAN: Yeah, I would say that as well, the quality is immense. I don’t know who it is who asked these talent scouts and music moguls out there to by-pass this area, I’m not sure, but there’s plenty of good bands around here, for example, The Red Kites, who are supporting us tonight, I went to see them recently, and they were unbelievable, I thought they were really good.
JON: You can’t really question the music scene of Stoke, it’s more the nature of how people go to gigs and listen to music, it’s not really the same as it is in the big cities, where people will go out on a Saturday night, watch a random band, and then fall in love with them. Here, you would have to purposely go out to watch a band.
KIERAN: You have to do the groundwork.
JON: Yeah, it’s the same for any band around here, the quality’s unquestionable, it’s the way you get people to fall in love with the music.
How was the reaction to your debut release ‘Staveley Sessions’?
KIERAN: Very good, yeah. The best gig we played for that was at The Old Brown Jug in Newcastle-under-Lyme.
JON: Yeah, The Old Brown Jug, that was two years ago now, and it was probably the best gig we’ve ever done. A very good turnout, very low-key in terms of the way it was run on the night, but it got us a lot of exposure, which worked really well.
KIERAN: The place was rammed. We had photographers, people reviewing the gig, family, friends, people we had never met before. There was a lot of positive feedback afterwards, and we managed to sell a lot of CDs. It was a game changer, basically.
The follow-up to that, ‘Extracts of the Soul’, is coming out soon, some of which you will be playing tonight. What can we expect from it?
JON: It will mainly be an evolution of our sound from ‘Staveley Sessions’, and it will show how we’ve progressed.
I think we looked at ‘Staveley Sessions’ a few months back, and we thought it sounded a lot thinner than what it could potentially be now. I mean, the vocals have progressed, my guitar playing has also progressed.
KIERAN: We’re still developing as artists, individually, and as a band collectively, so obviously, the music and the sound will have evolved along the way.
JON: Going back to the point that our genre is undefinable, that’s what we want it to be, therefore, we don’t feel confined as to what we need to have on the EP, so we’re not bothered about sticking to the sound of ‘Staveley Sessions’, we’ll change as necessary as in the terms of where we are in that moment in time.
Currently, we’re in a more soulful vibe than we were at the time of writing our debut release.
KIERAN: ‘Staveley Sessions’ was more Sixties pop.
JON: And I think that is where we have changed.
How is it for the band playing live?
JON: Excellent, yeah. We really do enjoy playing live, but there’s been a difficult patch within the band over the past year, because there’s been a lot of change, what with losing a drummer, and in terms of our careers outside of music, so it’s been difficult at times to balance, but now, we feel more comfortable with where we are in our lives and being able to put time aside for our music.
Apart from your forthcoming EP, what else is planned for the near future?
JON: We have a live session booked for the end of this month with Sam Bloor, who’s an excellent producer, and we plan to play more gigs in places outside of Stoke.
Where would you like to play?
JON: Anywhere, Manchester, Birmingham, London, any of the big cities, really. Any opportunities we get to play those places we’ll take now, because again, we feel more comfortable with our music and where we are to be able to balance everything.
What is the band’s long-term aim?
JON: To be honest, I don’t think there is a long-term aim, I think we’ll take each thing as it comes, we’re happy to just see how it goes, anything beyond that is a bonus.
KIERAN: I’m 23 years of age currently, and when I’m in my forties, I would like to have physical copies of what we’ve done, just so we can say: “We played at that venue” and “This is a song we recorded.”
JON: We’re not suggesting we don’t want to get signed or anything, we’re living in the real world, and you just want to have stuff in front of you, and be able to listen to it.
Anything else any of you would like to say at all?
JON: Support Stoke-on-Trent for UK City of Culture 2021!
MALTHOUSE’S SECOND EP, ‘EXTRACTS OF THE SOUL’, WILL BE RELEASED SOON.
FOR FURTHER INFO, CHECK OUT THESE SITES: