File under: Folktronica?
Back to something more serene now. Phelan Sheppard are a duo that create electronica-tinged folk music (with some ambience thrown in for good measure). They have 2 albums to their name, the most recent of which, Harps Old Master, I just had to purchase based solely on the strength of the divine "Weaving Song", one of the most beautiful pieces of music I've ever heard.
The rest of the album is very strong as well - an album of choice for taking to bed and falling asleep to. I've not yet heard their debut album, O Little Stars, but I certainly will do, as will I look forwards to more dancing cellos and violins on their upcoming third album.
Who are you, where are you from and what is your role in Phelan Sheppard?
David: "I am David Sheppard. I play a few different instruments, guitars, bass and drums, mostly. I also make the tea."
Kieron: "I'm Keiron, from London. Well, Dave plays drums, which I don't, and I play woodwind, which Dave doesn't. Other than that we play all the same instruments so, in a way, our roles are indentical. Except that I nag a lot."
Instruments are at the forefront of your music, and vocals used sparingly - though when they are used, they are to great effect; "Weaving Song", for example. Was the minimal use of vocals a concious decision or was it just natural?
David: "Neither Keiron nor I are distinctive vocalists (although we can both sing, after a fashion, contrary to rumour!) so we've tended to use specific 'guest' voices when that seemed appropriate, or just a fun idea. Sometimes a voice is 'just' an instrument, it has the specific tone or timbre that works with the existing music. Doing the Smile Down Upon Us project last year (with Japanese singer Mooomloo) was a further extension of that. We're working on some new material now which features various voices, including our own."
Kieron: "When we first started it seemed that purely (or mostly) instrumental music was where is was 'at', or should be 'at'. Now it's a far more crowded field, so looking to have a vocal presence becomes desirable. That's certainly why I kicked off Smile Down Upon Us with Moomlooo. I really wanted to work with a singer and think of the voice in a primary role (after ten years of not thinking that way)."
You are both part of various other musical projects. How do you think that having several different outlets as opposed to just one has shaped you as a musician, and can it be difficult to juggle several ventures at once?
David: "I think it's the other way round. Being versatile has shaped the nature and range of the musical projects we're involved in. Personally, I'm interested in lots of different areas of music and I like exploring... what usually happens is that you start two different projects at wildly different times and, by hook or crook they end up being released on the same day!"
Kieron: "Hm, difficult. It is musically rewarding to be involved in many different projects, but the downside is that some of these projects never quite get promoted to the extent they deserve, because one ends up hopping onto the next project. So, there's a lot of pressure on each album to just stand up for itself without any furthur assistance. It's a bit like sending your kid out for a long walk without any shoes on... actually, on the whole I'd advise people not to do it. Rather; do one big project, stick with it and then do your side projects later. Still, we are what we are. :)"
How do you feel the 2000s in music has compared to other decades?
David: "I'm not so keen on dividing music up into convenient, decade-long blocks like this. Somewhere music is always evolving, always in flux (even if the conservative mainstream says otherwise) and pays no heed to calendars. There have been some spectacular records in the 2000s, as there were in the 1990s, the 1980s etc... latterly it could be argued that there is simply too much music being made, that there's a glut of mediocrity obscuring the gems. More significant, perhaps, is the way recordings are being disseminated, marketed and consumed in the 2000s - that's the real historical sea-change."
Kieron: "The best music is always 'now', whatever the decade or year is!"
What is the future for Phelan Sheppard?
David: "We're making a new record right now. Hope to finish it this Summer and have it out ASAP."
Kieron: "We are recording a new album. But, as is usual for us, the parameters keep changing, so God knows when it will see the light of day. Hopefully this year. Oh, and there will be singing!"
Thanks guys. Keep an eye out for their next release!