Ipswich: We like making a noise says Corn Exchange bound folk rockers the Oysterband

Oysterband come to Ipswich this week

Oysterband come to Ipswich this week - Credit: Archant

Acoustic at heart, but not always quiet; English folk rockers/punks Oysterband finally return to Ipswich this week.

“We learnt fiddles, accordion, mandolin, stuff like that but when we went out in the 1980s we rapidly learnt if we were going to compete and be out there on big stages we had to make a noise. We’re acoustic at heart but we like making a noise, yeah,” laughs singer and melodeon player John Jones.

Christened the homecoming tour because it takes in iconic venues from their past, it stops off at the Corn Exchange on Friday, December 6.

“We haven’t played Ipswich for some time. We were looking at different connections we’d had and wanted to, in a sense, celebrate the past as well as the future. We’ve been away doing Ragged Kingdom with June Tabor (but) we’ve got new album Diamonds on the Water out in the new year... we’re the Oysterband again, getting back to being ourselves and we wanted to go back to some of the venues that have meant something to us in the past.”

This time around, that doesn’t include jails.

“It was one of the things about the band, it’s always had a roving commission,” he laughs. “We’re always, hopefully, prepared to go to the places other people wouldn’t go and there’s no-where more challenging than playing prisons... it’s an eye opener, if you can win there you can win just about anywhere.”

The band have always liked the idea of taking music to people who wouldn’t normally hear it, which has taken them to all the big festivals in North America, Canada and Europe.

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“Within that we’ve tried to make it as interesting and varied as possible,” laughs John. “We played twice in prisons in Belgium and they just said ‘please, as long as you don’t play I Fought The Law’ which were doing a version of at that time; we were banned from doing that. We played in Broadmoor (too).”

New album Diamonds on the Water, out in February, is their first batch of new songs for seven years; there time recently being taken up with an acoustic retrospective and Ragged Kingdom, a collaboration with good friend and diva folk singer June Tabor that earned them several BBC Folk Awards.

“It’s immensely gratifying in the sense when we started, there were no folk awards. You didn’t go looking for accolades, you still don’t; if they come it’s the icing on the cake,” says John.

“To be in the second half of your career (and) be recognized by your peers for still being relevant... one of the things about Oysterband is we’ve always been at the edge of the folk world - one foot in, one foot outside. Hats off to the people at the BBC... I like the way they’ve been prepared to embrace what we do as well as other people in the tradition, it’s a wide umbrella and one we’re very happy to be under.”

So many years on from their last original album, it was the right time to be the Oysterband again, he says.

“You’re enjoying collaborations, (after) you’ve made so many albums the idea of doing something different, exploring the tradition again, doing covers, collaborating and encouraging younger emerging artists... you have all these branches coming off the tree. But the tree itself is the Oysterband and at the heart of that is our songwriting, our own creativity, our own selves. That’s what gets harder.

“You’ve done all the collaborations, you’ve got through things, had success, you’ve got to look at yourselves again and say ‘it’s back to what we do’ and I think that’s just part of an evolution in time; you’ve got to be ready to do it and we became ready to do it. We’d had success with these collaborations and now, without taking the analogy too far, (it was time) to go back to the roots of the tree and make what we do.”

With old favourites and hopefully some future ones, John says the Corn Exchange audience can expect a celebration.

“We like to think we can make people dance and occasionally think as well as cry. It’s the end of the year, it’s great to be back in Ipswich, come along, we’ll sing our hearts out. It’s going to be a big set.”

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