This summer I was lucky enough to go to Scotland’s Wickerman Music Festival. An assignment that consisted primarily of camping, drinking more than a large bar full of wannabe Irishmen on St. Patrick’s Day, listening to loads of great music and then hanging out with the bands. It was hell, but I love Blogcritics that much, I did it without complaint. I know, my job really sucks.
On the second day of the festival I was wandering back to my tent after listening to some good bands, some truly awful bands and one really great band, Big Strides – one of the few I hadn’t gotten a chance to meet. (I told myself it was for the best, it had been a scorching day and I had more than my share to drink and would probably have fucked up the interview anyway). On the way to my tent I could hear a jam session going on not far from me. I peaked around the corner of a caravan (British term for an RV) and saw that great band jamming, having a few beers and a laugh. So I ambushed them and asked for a few minutes. Not the best decision I have ever made, because they said yes, and ambushed me right back.
They invited me into their camp and even gave me a beer. It was damn nice of them. Then they played me their new single – due out on the unfortunate date of 11/9 or, if you're American 9/11 – called “Smiling” and I was in heaven.
Big Strides are a mixture of punk, funk, indie rock, blues and jazz that is intelligent and eclectic with interesting beat poet lyrics of frontman Marcus O’Niell creating a sound so unique that no one could accuse them of imitation. This lo-fi, heterogeneous, punk/funk/blues/rock sound is absolutely groovy. With just O’Niell’s guitar and harmonica, Lewis Kirk’s minimalist drum kit (ala Victor DeLorenzo) and Chris Kelly’s double bass they have created their stripped-down, modern punk/funk sound.
Big Strides get their name from both the idea of making big strides in music and the Aussie slang for trouser (strides). All three are more than six feet tall and wear “Big Strides”. Kirk calls their sound Blues/Americana and says the aim of Big Strides is it to stay away from the fresh-from-the-factory sounds of other Brit rock bands trying to sound like Coldplay or Keane. “We just want to be something out of the ordinary. Maybe a bit funky”.
Kirk says that O’Niell, the primary song writer, brings them written songs “like packets of joy to the rehearsal studio. He springs them on us. And then we open them.” It takes O’Neill (he claims) anywhere between nine minutes and nine days to write his wonderfully anarchic, angular music.
O’Niell’s influences include “loads of blues, loads of jazz, loads of funk. The Chilli Peppers, ‘Sunny’ Paul Williamson, The Meters. My dad used to listen to a lot of Herbie Mann”.
Because of their unusual genre-less style of music, they found it very hard to find a label. So they started their own label, Tall Order – in reference to their height, one would guess. Tall Order now have other artists, that include The Furies and Christa Couture.
Now on tour in Japan supporting the re-release of their first album Small Town, Big Strides after signing a record deal with EMI Japan (they had built up a thriving export following there). They are back in the UK on the 14 September to kick off their UK tour in Leeds at the HiFi Club. They will be appearing in Nottingham, Sheffield, Bath, Wolverhampton, Cardiff, Liverpool and of course London among others (for a full list of dates visit Big Strides website).
After having the pleasure of hearing, first hand, their up coming single “Smiling” from their soon to be released album Cry It All Out (out on 25 of September in the UK) I’m going to strongly encourage you to go to their website and listen to “Smiling”.
Or you can also go to Big Strides MySpace space. Where you can also listen to tunes from their pervious album Small Town, Big Strides. And watch the videos for “Lets Get Nice” and my personal favourite “Do Not Fear Jazz”. Only then can you fully appreciate their truly unique sound and eclectic, beat-generation style.