Rob Parry

An Interview With Cattle and Cane

Following last year’s release of their debut album Home, Teesside band Cattle and Cane have been expanding upon their strong local following with a spring of touring. After a couple of false starts, vocalist and keyboardist Helen Hammill and I find somewhere with good enough reception to talk about personalised songs, touring in new places and finishing an album five years in the making.

So you were saying the album’s been out since September?

It has, it’s been out a few months now. We’re on tour at the moment promoting it, and that’s going really well. It’s all exciting at the minute.

How far into the tour are you?

This is our third date tonight, so we’re on tour for I think it’s three weeks? We’re going all round the UK and then to Belgium for our last date. There’s a lot of driving involved.

Have you played abroad before?

No, this’ll be our first time. Joe’s been out there quite a lot because he does a lot of songwriting over in Belgium and Holland, but this is our first time doing a gig abroad. We’re supporting Alice on the Roof, who’s really big over there, which is exciting.

Elvis on the Roof?

Alice on the Roof. Joe’s co-written with her on a few songs, so it’s good that we’re going to be supporting her.

And who have you got supporting you on this tour?

We’ve got a few supports – Natalie McCool supported us last night and she’ll be supporting us in a few other places, and she’s great, she was absolutely amazing last night. We’ve got Tom Joshua as well, he’s from where we are and he’s brilliant as well. He’ll be supporting us tonight.

Where have you played so far?

We’ve played Lincoln, Newcastle last night, and then we’re going to York tonight.

Have you played there before?

We’ve played York before, at Fibbers, on a previous tour, but on this tour we’re playing quite a lot of new places, which is great. We want to get to as many new places as possible and play to new people.

I see you’re going to Leyburn on one of the dates [the 14th].

Yeah, well we’ve never been to Leyburn before. We’ve heard that it’s a really nice village, so we’re going to go down early and just see the sights.

If you get time you should go walk up The Shawl.

Alright, that sounds nice. We’ll probably do that because we have so much free time on the road, so we like to find some, er, hidden gems while we’re out there. We went to Lincoln Cathedral when we were down there, which was lovely. It’s very similar to York, so really nice.

Back to the album, are you pleased with how it’s turned out?

Definitely, yeah, I mean it took us a while. Joe [vocals, guitar] was at university and I was at college when we started writing the songs for this first album, and a lot of things just kept getting us away, but we’re so happy that we waited. I think in the end it took us nine months to record it, and we were thrilled with how it turned out. It charted as well, which is amazing because we’re not signed or anything, we did it all on our own. We had a little bit of a party when we found that out, it was great.

Did it change a lot between starting it in 2010 and finishing in 2015?

I think so, yeah. I mean we’ve developed a sound when we’ve been touring over that time, just trying to get it right. We’ve always worked around doing harmonies, and I think it’ll always be that sound, but it’s probably changed a bit.

About the sound, I hear quite a lot of Bombay Bicycle Club in Home, would you say that was reasonable?

Oh, I would do! I’ve never had that before, but I like Bombay Bicycle Club so I’ll take that as a compliment.

And are there any influences I’ve missed?

Well… In the band we all have our different favourites, Fran [vocals, guitar] loves The Beatles, Joe loves ELO, I love Fleetwood Mac, we’re quite, we’re quite old school I suppose, in that respect. But yeah, it’s great that we all love like different types of music because we can all have our input, and it keeps it all fresh and exciting.

Can we talk about Infant Hercules?

Yeah! When did we do that… I think it was a year or two ago. It’s all about where we come from, really, and when Middlesbrough was building all the steelworks and bridges, and it was like a powerhouse. William Gladstone was Prime Minister at the time, and he said that “Middlesbrough is an infant Hercules”, I think, so Joe wrote a song around that. Everyone in Teesside seems to know it now, which is really nice because whenever we play it at home everyone sings along. We love that song. It’s a lot more folky than the stuff that we usually do, but it’s nice to hear it once in a while.

So do you think that kind of sense of place is important to what you do?

Yeah, definitely, I mean, so many songs are about places, and we do really love home, it’s always a special place, whenever we’re away we always miss it, so it’s lovely to have that song and to sing it. I think people can relate to it as well – I meet people who live away and they say that they listen to that song when we’re missing home, which is really nice, so I think it’s important to a lot of people.

I see you offer personalised songs on your website, something like £195 each.

[laughs] Yeah we do, yeah.

Have there been many takers?

There have, yeah – Joe did a few for a pledge campaign and they turned out to be really popular, especially for stuff like people’s birthdays and wedding anniversaries. I think people saw it and thought it would be a different idea for a present, so we’ve done quite a few since then.

What kind of subjects do people want, is it mainly just special occasions?

It’s mainly love, so… if someone’s getting married they’ll say like “Can you write this song about this person?”, they’ll tell us some stories about them and then we’ll try and get that in the song. It’s very different to what we usually do, but it’s fun to do.

So £195 seems like a pretty precise figure, was there like a process by which you calculated it?

Erm, I don’t know. I think it’s gone up since the last time, but that price just seems to work.

I do kind of like the idea that somebody could just commission an album for like £2000.

[laughs] Yeah, there’s no big production on the songs, but that’s not all that bad, is it?

Do you think the next album will be easier to record now you’re a full-time band?

I think so, yeah. We’ve all agreed that it won’t take as long as last time. We’re already writing the second album and doing the demos, hopefully we’re going over to Belgium to record it in like April time. Everyone’s a lot more free, and no-one’s really got any ties – apart from one of the brothers, he’s got two kids and a wife so I don’t know how she’ll feel about him going away for that length of time, but we all try and make it work. But yeah, it won’t take five years, thank God.


Find out more about Cattle and Cane at their website.

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