The winter calls for comfort measures, and nothing could be more homely than the soulful melodies of Hot Feet’s new EP Wood House. Recorded in a remote studio in Scotland with Pete Roe on production, the record has already received praise from DrunkenWerewolf writer Shanti Das, who claims it “boasts a beautifully spun narrative that tells tales of old friends, hopeless romances and summers passed”.
Dictaphone at the ready and questions in abundance, Tiffany Daniels now takes to the stage to talk to front woman Marianne Parrish about life on the road with her favourite collaborators, playing in St Pancreas Church and what it’s like to break free from the Stroud music scene.
How are you?
I’m very well, thank you!
How’s the band going? You’ve just released an EP.
Yeah, it’s going well thank you. We’re getting ready to tour with Pete Roe, Emily and the Woods and Sam Brookes in December. We have a few other gigs coming up at the end of this month as well.
How did Hot Feet form? You’ve been around for a little while.
We formed initially in Sixth Form in school. I started playing with Jack, our guitarist, when we were around about 13 or 14 – he was my next door neighbour - but we all started playing together, the four of us, in Sixth Form. Lachlan and Rob, our bassist and drummer went off travelling for a while and me and Jack played with other people along the way. A couple of years ago we reformed again.
How has it been reforming with the original line up? Have you all changed styles and personalities over time?
I think we’ve definitely matured a lot more in terms of our sound together, and we’ve all got a lot closer as well. We’ve all picked up different musical influences along the way too; Rob travelled in Africa, and Lachlan was by himself in Australia. Me and Jack, our influences grew together, and then when the four of us reformed [...] we kind of all had different influences to bring together again. We had to sort of piece those styles together and alter our sound.
What were your inspirations to begin with?
My parents were very much into Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Sandy Denny, Leonard Cohen... I picked up a lot of my influences from them. The song me and Jack always played together was Sandy Denny’s “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?” whereas I think Jack’s influences were more rock-y, such as Jimi Hendrix for example. Rob comes from a sort of jazz influence, and Lachlan’s more into dance, so we brought all of those things together and kind of settled on the Dela Blues, that sort of thing.
I saw you perform at the Alternative Escape in the Fishbowl, Brighton, and your music worked really well in an intimate setting. Do you prefer smaller venues?
I think because it was just me and Jack playing then, it suited the environment. When it’s the four of us it’s definitely much livelier, but we definitely do enjoy larger venues. I guess we’ve only really played smaller venues so far! We do enjoy it, being that close to the audience, definitely.
What’s your favourite venue to perform in?
So far, I think it was probably St Pancreas Church in London that we played with Sam, Pete and Emily last December. That was a wonderful place to play.
You tour quite a lot with a wide circle of musicians. Do you find that you take inspiration from all of the people that you tour with?
Yeah definitely, I think we’ve all got some similar background influences but the more time we spend together I think the more we inspire each other. We’ve started to play on each other’s music as well. It’s kind of clicked and I think whether we’re aware of it or not, we’re definitely picking things up from each other. We all get on so well, as well. It will be interesting to see if it still works [on this upcoming tour] so we’re just going to see what happens I think.
Pete Roe also produced your new EP Wood House. How did that come to happen?
We met Pete at Glastonbury a few years ago when we were both playing the Green Peace tent and then we ended up being on the same bill as him quite a few times over the next few years, so we kept bumping into him, and then we did this unplugged tour with him last December and got to know him pretty well then. Earlier in the year we just met up at another gig again that we were both playing and decided to try and do an EP together. He found this great studio in Scotland where he also recorded his album. So we all bustled into a little van and off we went to Scotland and recorded an EP. It was really good fun.
What was it like working with him as a producer, then, rather than a peer of sorts?
Exactly – he played on the record as well, but it was the first time he’d produced anything so I think [recording] was exciting for him in that way, and it was for us to work with him on our debut EP. I think the fact that we’d played with him quite a bit already helped as well, because there was a really relaxed atmosphere.
Did you find that he already had a solid idea of what direction to take the EP in or were you already on the same wavelength?
We definitely had some ideas. We spent a few days with Pete before we went up to the studio, and really had a look at the tracks with him and decided what was going on the EP, and then everything naturally transformed when we were in the studio. Things took shape there.
Because you’ve been around for such a long time you must have a huge back catalogue. Are these songs all relatively new, or have you managed to pick and choose your favourites over time?
We had over 20 tracks, or demos, that we thought could be a possibility. We wanted Pete to see what he felt most drawn to as well, so eventually we narrowed it down to five together. Of the five there’s quite a mixture, some are fairly old songs that we’ve re-worked and there are a couple that are new. We’ve definitely built up quite a few notebooks of songs over the last few years!
Which of all of them embodies your present state of mind in terms of song writing?
Our sound is gradually changing all the time – we’ve been writing quite a lot recently, I get into a writing hibernation state in the autumn and winter. Probably the first three tracks [embody us the most] because they have a full band sound. We’re heading into a lot fuller and hopefully richer sound.
You’re based in Stroud now – are you from there originally?
We were born and raised here. I was born here. I don’t think Rob and Lachlan were...
Have you found that it’s influenced you’ve taken a lot? Your music seems to fit perfectly into the Stroud and Bristol scene as well.
I think yes Stroud has definitely shaped us a lot. It’s quite a quirky place and I think the people have influenced us. I don’t know if it’s made us a bit more laid back about things or slower generally [laughs]!
What’s it like playing on the local scene? Have you found it hard to break out of Stroud?
I think initially there was a warm welcome. It’s definitely a very cosy place to play, and we’re really good friends with the landlady and landlord of our favourite pub to play The Prince Albert and the Art Space as well. We put on our own night there as well sometimes at Stroud Valley Art Space. Once we started to gig in places like London, Bristol and Brighton we’ve started making friends there as well. London’s only an hour and a half away by car and the train as well, so it’s certainly within reach. Stroud definitely has its benefits.
Putting aside the audience numbers and the effect that can have on it, do you prefer playing out of town or in smaller towns to playing in larger cities?
I think we really love gigs in both. I definitely love the sense of community in smaller towns, you kind of get a feeling of the town. We did a really lovely gig in Woodbridge the other day which was really nice, sort of everyone in the audience knew each other so there was a real sense of audience togetherness. We were heckling at each other and stuff, having a knees up which was nice, but we’ve had some really fun shows in London and Bristol as well where it can be really nice as well just playing to an audience of complete strangers. It’s nice to do both.
Where are you looking forward to playing the most on the upcoming tour?
I’m really looking forward to going up to Leeds actually because we’ve never played up North before. We’ll be playing the Trinity Church there so I’m really looking forward to that, and I’m looking forward to playing the London date as well. We’ve been putting on a monthly night at the Wilmington Arms with Pete and Emily. It’s been really good fun – we had our EP launch at the night last Wednesday, so we’re going to do a gig there in December so we’re really looking forward to that as well.
What about 2013 are you looking forward to?
Gigging lots more hopefully, hopefully a support tour and hopefully getting into a studio again.