Lilliput may already be well known to those of you that hail from the musically-fertile ground of the North East, but, like Newkie Brown, a parmo or Newcastle FC’s transfer policy, the band is now starting to pick up admirers from further afield.
The New Bands Panel sees the alt folk five piece judged and picked over, in the nicest way possible, by three of our writers. And we want to know what you think too- have a listen and thoughts on Twitter to @forfolkssake please!
Matt Langham: Sunderland’s Lilliput have a sleek, rustic sound that’s already seen them support Poor Moon, a band that feature two members of Fleet Foxes. The pair may well have raised their eyebrows during soundcheck, with these Wearsiders operating so openly and unashamedly in the wake of Seattle’s folk giants.
‘Until’, a comforting arm around the shoulder of a song, even goes as far as to have the apt lyric “Begged and borrowed, lessons that I learnt.” It’s typical of the sub-genre, a sprightly acoustic guitar motif breaking into a bright-skied trot, one propelled by yearning, close harmonies, a strong lead vocal and cymbal rolls.
It remains an immutably arresting brew either side of the Atlantic. Plus, there’s no doubting the band’s sincerity and they’re conscious enough to also ensure that the reflective nature of the material never becomes pedestrian.
Lilliput also don’t have a totally one dimensional take on Americana – there’s a tendency to extend from and wander into new territory, saving them from pastiche. Both ‘One Day, Know’ and ‘Little Wanderer’ start with a forest-clearing melancholy – the latter with particularly beautiful gossamer guitar and ambient wash – but branch off into new sections with some zip and zest.
Their derivative nature may be inescapable, yet with their craft and delivery so assiduously honed already there are signs that it may not necessarily hold them back – it hasn’t done Leisure Society and Dry The River any harm. More pressing though is the problem that using such established ideas, as very pleasant as they are, means that songs feel a touch long. More scrupulous writing, mercilessly honing the material until it’s razor sharp, will see Lilliput take giant steps in the future.
Rosy Ross: From the first listen, you can see exactly why Fleet Foxes chose Lilliput to support them with a recent side project – their music is similarly rousing and hymnal all at once, and as a five-piece band they can also achieve the kind of full sound that would be wonderful in a dimly-lit church or a sunny field. I’d like to hear them in both, and I hope they’ll be heading out of Sunderland to tour soon.
Lilliput sing heart-swelling harmonies – my favourite thing – that are lifted and supported by classic contemporary folk arrangements; electric acoustic instruments, but also bass, drums, sometimes a bit of electric guitar and the like, to keep things upbeat. The jaunty guitar riff over the voices in ‘Little Wanderer’ made me want to dance, though it starts off as a gentle longing lullaby; there’s also an impressive video of them recording it in a studio that’s well worth a look. ‘Until’ is steady and insistent, driven by the vocals, while ‘One Day, Know’ is another confident arrangement that kept my attention from the rainy scene outside my window.
A quick look at their jolly good website has alerted me to the fact that they played a few interesting small UK festivals this summer/autumn that I’ve never heard of, in areas I’d like to get to know better. It looks like the band is involved in a good music scene; with their roots in traditional folk music, and an ear for an attractive tune, they’re a pleasure to listen to.
Kathy Saunders: Lilliput have been practicing in each other’s bedrooms, rat-infested buildings and various other hideaways for quite a while now and it shows. They’re obviously very talented on a technical level and they also know how throw a decent song together.
‘Until’ starts of with a crisp, tingly guitar intro and then keeps growing, with more guitars and drums keeping a consistently irregular heartbeat. The crowning glory on this, and in fact all of Lilliput’s releases so far, is the harmonising that goes on from time to time.
They also seem to have mastered the haunting intros, as any folk outfit worth their salt nowadays should, especially on ‘One Day, Know’. It echoes with a darker guitar sound and a more hollow drum beat that then gives way to a great bassline in the middle, before floating away, again on those lovely harmonies.
‘Little Wanderer’ is a real treat, ultimately morphing into a foot-tapping, potentially anthemic song. It’s infectious and I defy anyone to listen to the whole thing without conjuring a smile or two by the end. It’s also a hint of what Mumford and Sons should have been doing with that tricky second album…
So there we have it- thumbs up all round from the panel. Catch them live at The Customs House in South Shields on the 26th October.