Phil Matthews has been involved in music for almost five decades, writing for and performing with many bands during that time, but is only in the last few years that he has come to terms with the idea of a solo career.
Even since before leaving school at the age of 19 Phil has always been in bands. His first, a hybrid of English contemporary folk rock and pop music, bore the name Erik Von Sterik and his Ethnic Shuffle Orchestra.
Over the years Phil has played many different styles of music, from progressive rock with Applause to out-and-out rock and roll with Clip Ballinger and the 78s.
Some of the bands were intended as cover performers only, but even they found space for songs that he had written or co-written.
In 1984 Phil began a long-running recording project named Lost and Found, before the name was shortened to the initial letters LaF as was the style at the time. All of the LaF the songs were written either by Phil alone or in conjunction with other creative types.
LaF, only ever intended as a studio outfit, have released half a dozen albums to date and a single with the great Gavin Monaghan, who has a CV more impressive than most. He includes the likes of Robert Plant, Grace Jones and Courtney Love among his clients.
LaF eventually became a performing band, taking a mix of originals and covers around the local circuit while also preparing a seventh album for release.
By this time Phil had built up a backlog of songs too many and too varied for the band. The obvious solution was to record these songs for a separate project which he called ‘the Village’, after the TV show The Prisoner.
With all his LaF bandmates busy, Phil decided to not only write the songs on his own but also play all of the instruments.
After several months of writing and recording he released the album Welcome to the Village in January 2014. The tracks have been played on over 250 radio stations, and have been downloaded and streamed thousands of times.
So pleasing was the reaction to the album that Phil was encouraged enough to start work on a follow up almost immediately.
Running a band, along with putting on an increasing number of live solo shows, meant that album number two took a lot longer than intended.
The decision was made very early on to improve the techniques and add more in the way of different instrumentation with each song having its own individual sound and identity, while at the same time being part of a unified whole.
And so we find ourselves with the release of album number two, Voodoo Skull.
Like Welcome to the Village, which featured characters such as Little Tom Peep and imaginary friend Mr Pootles, the new album was peppered with the likes of Lionel Strange who took the ultimate trip in a song which live is always described as a homage to the late Syd Barrett, and Bob Cat who is – yes – Phil’s very naughty tabby cat.
Ironically the track ‘Voodoo Skull’ was not completed in time for the album release, making it that rarest of beasts – a title track that did not get included on the album it was intended for.
Although the album Voodoo Skull was 18 months in the making, Phil refused to rest on his laurels and quickly amassed a batch of new songs while filling up his gig diary for the next few months at the same time.
Album number three takes a slightly different path. Carnival of Fools again has the pop sensibilities of the first two but with a slightly more organic feel. All percussion is played live – with cajons, tambourines and shakers featuring prominently and not a sign of a drum machine. Everything was recorded in real time.
English folk instruments such as mandolins and melodicas are also to the fore, but electric basses, keyboards and Phil’s favoured sunburst Fender Stratocastor are also strong components of the sound. More Anglicana than Americana.
Songs featured include those written in the few months before the album’s release, along with some written over 35 years ago which Phil found at the back of a drawer. These had never been heard in public before.
Several of the songs were been performed live in the weeks leading up to release, to much acclaim.
Musically the songs may have a common feel to them but the lyrics shoot off at many tangents, from memories of childhood to fears for the future, and referencing literary greats such as H.P. Lovecraft, Thomas Hardy and William Shakespeare, while also casting a nod in the direction of the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and the late Syd Barrett.
Six tracks from Carnival of Fools were featured on compilation collections in 2017 while one of the album’s leading songs, ‘Always On Her Mind’, reached number one in the British Folk Rock section of NumberOneMusic.com in November and December 2017.
‘The Secret Garden’, another of the tracks from Carnival of Fools, then reached number one in the same chart having taken over from ‘Always On Her Mind’, so at one point Phil had the top two songs in the list, with ‘The Secret Garden’ remaining at the summit as the Christmas 2017 number one.
A live video performance of Nothing Happens Here was featured on the East Texas Rocks TV show, to the following acclamation: “If Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney could have a child together, this is what it would sound like.”
The time has now come to share these thoughts and ideas with you, and the hope is that you will enjoy the efforts that have gone into the creation of this work.
The Village – Always On Her Mind
The Village – Nothing Happens Here
Phil Matthews a.k.a. The Village links:
Artist location – Derby England
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