While the UK-based Oysterband’s ’80s hits sound innocent enough to 21st century ears, at the time of their release they were seen as quite radical, even rebellious.
“ The 1980’s was a time of social upheaval in our country and we felt our music had to reflect that . If folk music is the voice of the people it had to be for now, not just the past, and we hooked up with Billy Bragg and The Pogues and many others post-punk (artists) playing a rebellious form of loud traditional and rock…It is harder to be that different and radical these days which makes a lot of folk music and music generally rather bland to my ears,” said vocalist and founding member John Jones.
The group toured extensively in the ’80s, growing and spreading their fanbase across Europe despite a few small lineup changes.
“It was fun, it was mad and there were casualties along the way but we just kept getting better, improving as we went along, selling more albums, getting major label interest and most importantly, building up a reputation as a formidable live band and gaining a huge following,” Jones recalled.
All these years later, the band remains as motivated as ever, with what Jones calls a tendency to ‘beat ourselves up’ in order to strive for improvement.
This has helped enable the band to produce its best music in recent years with a lineup that Jones believes is the strongest in their history. In addition to Jones’ vocals and work on the mandolin, Oysterband currently features fellow founding members Alan Prosser (guitars, vocal) and Ian Telfer (violin, keyboard, vocal) alongside Dil Davies (drums), Al Scott (bass guitar, mandolin, vocals) and Adrian Oxaal (cello, guitar, vocals).
“It always amuses and irritates me that most people in other jobs get better at what they do over the years but sadly you are not allowed that in the music business, especially in the UK,” Jones said. “My voice is stronger now, the writing is tighter and our raw energy has given way to a fuller sound. Sure you can get fat and flabby and become your own tribute band, but just keep looking at yourselves, keep asking the questions, start walking in mountains and keep off the whiskey and the other stuff.”
Oysterband will be performing in Spirit Square Aug. 5 in the penultimate Summer Kicks show of 2015.