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Monday, 2 December 2013

Crisis averted: Ruth Skipper fails to leave Moulettes

Saturday was one of the final outings for the Moulettes' Bears Revenge album, at a gig in Islington town hall that also had Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker on the bill. And it was an amazing night: I took two friends who hadn't seen Moulettes before and by the end they were both slightly dazed by the sheer volume and energy of the thing, which some might say defies description. However, I am characteristically undeterred...

It's got a folky vibe while consisting only of original songs, but with more energy on one stage than you'd normally get in an entire folk festival: something that Shepley got around nicely by booking them this year. Comparisons with Bellowhead and The Destroyers are apt because at one stage there were 15 of them playing - not even  including Arthur Brown, who appeared in full make-up towards the end. But neither Bellowhead nor The Destroyers have a bassoonist in a dirndl, or the majority of their melody lines played by a cello and a fiddle. And it's all about the girls. When they really let rip they have a touch of the Indigo Girls about them, musically speaking, exploding with colour and romance: imagery piles on top of swooping, banging, melodies in such a way that you feel you're being taken on a magical journey to a place they found themselves. As it turns out, this is entirely what they had in mind.

They're also extremely playful, something that got them into hot water in Liverpool, where they have a hard-earned reputation as sexually deviant pagans. But there was a disturbing rumour going around that Ruth Skipper - of the dirndl, the bassoon and, just recently, the Bride-of-Frankenstein-style hairdo - would be leaving the band at the end of this tour, due to commitments to her medical career: she is a qualified doctor.

"But I'm not going," she said.


"We did loads of auditions, including several French people who couldn't understand our lyrics. So we were treated to their interpretations of our lyrics instead, which was, um, interesting."

But there was no bassoon-playing, dirndl-wearing Bride-of-Frankenstein-a-like among them?

"Not a one. But  I'm not wearing the dirndls any more. Haven't you noticed?"

Sorry. I guess they left a pretty big impression.

"Well, I'm not wearing the dirndls any more because I'm trying to move away from the whole folky thing."

I see.

"But I've got 15 of them. So it's hard to imagine they're gone forever," she added. "We may actually have found a replacement for me of sorts, but she doesn't play the bassoon."

So in what sense is she a replacement?

"She sings."

Excellent. I'd wondered whether the pianist - Matt Gest? - who'd appeared that evening might be up to the job because he had the whole bass range going on. Not that a piano packs quite the same punch as a bassoon at full, buzzing volume.

"No... My replacement would have to be a girl," she grinned.

So the girl in the dirndl with the doom stick and the badger-flashes in her hair is completely irreplaceable: who'd've thunk it? But how she's going to combine touring the forthcoming new album with a full surgery rotation in Brighton next year is anyone's guess

In one other nice piece of news, it turns out that Hannah's mum has something in common with John Spier's dad, in the sense that both took up their offspring's instruments after hearing and appreciating the success that was being made of them. So there are, presumably, now two fabulous cellists in the Miller family.

* Stop press: I understand there are, in fact, three cellists in Hannah's family, as her sister Esther also plays.

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