Morcheeba are playing at just one festival this year – and it’s in Yorkshire. James Nuttall spoke to founder member Ross Godfrey.
Galtres Festival this year will see a string of big name bands headline the three day event. Levellers and Bellowhead will play on the Friday night and The Human League and Public Service Broadcasting will close the Sunday. Sandwiched in between these two days, however, is Tricky and 1990s trip-hoppers Morcheeba.
Formed in 1995 by multi-instrumentalist Ross Godfrey and his DJ and producer brother Paul, Morcheeba was completed with the induction of lead vocalist Skye Edwards, who the brothers met after hearing her sing at a party.
The band’s unique sound was thanks to the mixture of their differing influences: Paul’s hip hop roots, Ross being heavily influenced by psychedelic rock and Skye’s soul-styled vocals.
The result of their eclectic influences was their debut album, Who Can You Trust?, released in 1996.
Morcheeba’s last album, Head Up High, was released in 2013.
Speaking to Ross ahead of the band’s appearance at Galtres, he points out that this album is, in a way, coming full circle, as a lot of it was recorded at home, much like their first record.
“I don’t think musically it’s anything like the first album; I think it’s really the other side of the spectrum from the first album.
“We did record the first album in a flat in Finchley. We were very, very poor. We were all on the dole and we had very limited equipment.
“On this album, we used to have a studio in Clapham and we gave it up because we all lived in different areas and it was just easier to do stuff at home.
“These days, all you need is a computer and a microphone so we did it like that. We did get together towards the end of the process and do the vocals and guitars and stuff in Finchley together, but when we were writing we did most of it at home.”
Skye Edwards left the band in 2003, after creative and personal differences with Ross and Paul.
Morcheeba ceased to exist for a couple of years until they released The Antidote in 2005, with Noonday Underground vocalist Daisy Martey replacing Edwards as lead singer.
Edwards reunited with the brothers in 2010, after beginning a solo career and they have since released two studio albums.
Godfrey says that the reunion was a smooth transition to make for the three of them.
“We sort of fell back into the swing of things pretty quickly, really,” he explains.
“It’s not like it didn’t feel like anything had changed, it sort of had changed, but at the same time it was very easy to do music with each other because we were very used to it.
“We spent most of our adult lives working together, so it was kind of like riding a bike, once you got back on it was pretty straight forward.”
Would he say that Morcheeba’s latest album is his favourite that the band have made?
“This is definitely not my favourite album, my favourite album is Big Calm. I think Big Calm has got the nicest songs on it and I have the happiest memories from recording it.”
The band have already completed a UK tour and are booked in for several festivals this summer.
However, Galtres in Helmsley, North Yorkshire, is the only UK festival that they will be playing at.
Do Morcheeba enjoy playing festivals, or is the thought of playing a gig with no soundcheck in front of thousands of people who aren’t exclusively there to see you a nightmare?
“It can be a nightmare”, Ross laughs, “but I do really enjoy it, and it’s a lot more fun than normal gigs because we get to see other bands and hang out and, generally, just be more silly and stupid than at other gigs.
“It’s just nice to play to lots of people who aren’t really necessarily Morcheeba fans, and we can kind of have a broader experience of a gig in general.”
So, how do they decide which songs to play live at a festival to win over a strange crowd?
“I don’t think we ever really had any hit singles. We just play the songs that we know most of the fans like, and then we pick a few songs from the new record.
“We try and change it up quite a lot but at festivals you only really play for about an hour, so it can be quite difficult picking the songs. Skye and I normally sit down and sort of go through a set and most of the time we agree on what to do.”
“It depends, if it’s like an energetic sort of gig we try and play stuff up-tempo, but if it’s like a sat down, really mellow afternoon show then we play something a bit slower!”
This has been a busy year for Morcheeba, and the rest of this summer promises to be busier still. What are the plans for the group once the summer festival season is over for another year?
“We’re going to get together and start writing songs for the next album towards the end of this year, maybe early next year.
“We’re also going to do a tour of Europe with a more broken down kind of set up; a bit acoustic, a little bit more intimate.
“I think that will bring us to a place where we can write some songs again, because once you’re on the road with a big band and production crew and everything, it kind of becomes a little bit impersonal and it’s nice to take it back and make it small again and just about us jamming and having a good time.”
Galtres Festival, August 22-24, Duncombe Park, Helmsley, North Yorkshire. Tickets and information visit www.galtresfestival.org.uk