The Carnival Comes to Town


Fionnuala Ryan chats to kooky folk group Erland and the Carnival about the band’s upcoming tour and why they value their musical roots

On the verge of their first European tour, Erland, lead vocalist and guitarist of Erland and the Carnival, maintains that the new folk rock band still have far to go. “It’s not a massive tour! We’ve just done a wee week this week.”

However, the trio – made up of Erland Cooper, ex-Verve and Blur guitarist Simon Tong and drummer David Nock – don’t conceal their excitement about their Irish dates in Dublin and Cork this month. Erland tells otwo enthusiastically that despite the fact the “Irish Times don’t like us… it’s going to be fantastic!”

Nevertheless these boys aren’t easily wounded. It’s clear from frontman Erland’s oblivious reaction to being told of the band’s fine appraisal by Uncut that reviews aren’t a big issue for them. Erland maintains that what is important to them is that “people seem to get it” and that this is more essential than general chart-topping success. “I think we get a kind of a strong reaction either way; you either like and get it, or you just don’t get it and don’t like it, and I prefer to provoke a reaction I think – it’s a bit more fun.”

The band’s nonchalant attitude towards their craft is fitting, considering they would not sound out of place amongst 60’s San Fran psych-rock bands such as Jefferson Airplane and The Doors. “There’s bits of that,” muses Erland, “people are up for a bit of psychedelia at times.” However, it’s made clear that the group are a folk band at their core and “have a great admiration for the full tradition.” Erland, due to his own Scottish roots, Simon being from England and David hailing from Wales, says “a lot of the songs span the country.”

Though accused once of bastardising folk songs, Erland dismisses this as individual interpretation stemming from the fact that Erland and the Carnival don’t sound like generic folk groups. “[We] started with a kind of a slightly more acoustic approach and it kind of turned into something a bit darker and bigger… one of the things we didn’t want to do was make a twee record.” When asked was his interest in the folk genre lifelong, Erland reminisces that he “would listen to what was on the radio” and that though he “was exposed to folk music, [I] didn’t adopt it or really like it much, you rebel against that kind of thing when you’re a kid.”

Though today Erland has “realised that actually [folk] music is fantastic” and that it is an “admiration of various sources; folk music is our heritage, all modern music kind of comes from that.” He upholds that “it doesn’t have to be pigeon-holed into one kind of distinct sound, I think it makes something new.”

Erland and the Carnival’s self-titled debut album is out now.