Soley Mourning's Andy Guest on the Mystical Black Country and Other Things...

“I wouldn’t say he was on par with his brother!"

If you like a bit of old school rock and roll infused with a juicy slice of blues then you should get quite excited about UK rockers Soley Mourning and their unique take on the genre. Imagine a modern day Free with extra chunky riffage and you’ll start to get an idea what they’re about. I caught up with guitarist Andy Guest via the temperamental communications platform that is Skype and here’s the result of that trans-Atlantic chat.

I’ll start by asking for a potted history of the band – you formed in 2006, yes? “Yeah - we used to be two separate bands and we used to rehearse in the same studio.” After a bit of mutual appreciation and the dissolution of one of the bands, Andy says “We had a few practices together and then the rest is, as they say, history…” So you’ve had a relatively stable line-up since you all got together? “We’ve always had the same four members of the band but we’ve always had a problem with drummers – we’re with our current drummer now; Lloyd (Daker) he’s our third one – and everything seems to be stable. We’ve had him in the band for a good two or three years so everything seems to be going in the right direction.” We touch on the Spinal Tap nature of replacing drummers before moving on to the band’s sound; as I said it’s a heady blend of alternative and traditional rock and roll with a healthy blues edge. I mention the Free comparison, which pleases Andy no end. “Matt (Partridge), our singer, he’ll love that! Free are one of his favourite bands, and you’ve just hit the blues side of things; Matt and Dee, our bass player, they’re heavily influenced by the blues and soul music, whereas me and Tone (Chambers) we’re more rock and metal and I think with all of our influences put together it creates that sound. We don’t go in for anything in particular; if something sounds good then we’ll work on it.”

I mention that, in preparation for the interview, I was trying to get a map of the band’s hometown, Dudley (which lurks in the ominous sounding Black Country, West Midlands) – for some strange reason Google keeps bringing up The Black Country Living Museum. Is this an integral part of Dudley? Andy points out that “It used to be all factories around here, during the industrial era, and all the smoke from the factories filled the sky; that’s why it was called the Black Country…” Whollop! Another Metal As Fuck historical fact, right there. Andy goes on to confirm that “All Dudley really has is a castle, a zoo and the Black Country Museum – that’s pretty much it!”

So is there a big enough scene in the Midlands to support many bands? “With Birmingham it’s a bigger scene but it’s a bit clique-y – you have to be from around that area to get a gig. We find we get on better in Wolverhampton…” Ah, the pain of the scene; it's a familiar tale the world over.

And I guess that you all work day jobs? “You’re right – unless you’re a covers band, which we’re not, so we all work and that funds us to be able to go out and do what we do. If you don’t have a job then you can’t buy your guitars, rent your rehearsal space or pay to record your album. We fund everything ourselves and any money we make from gigs goes straight back in to recording or touring or getting albums pressed.”

And getting onto your fourth album The Rocket Pool (2014); have you got to tour off that much? “Yeah, we did quite a few dates. We went over to Belgium and played across the country and Holland as well. It’s mad! We’ve got quite a following over in Belgium so whenever we get to go away for a week or two, we like to go over there. We are looking to get another tour in towards the end of the year – but it’s a bit tricky at the moment because two of us have just had kids.” We digress slightly with a brief chat about day jobs and the impact of partners on the rock and roll lifestyle, with Andy observing that the partners of band members quite possibly enjoy the peace of having the band on the road. “I think they enjoy the peace and quiet when we’re away! They pretend they don’t like it but I think they do!”

Sadly there’s not much chance of the band getting to Australia any time soon – although Andy is definitely keen. “We’d love to! You never know, fingers crossed - we might get out there one day…”

And speaking of tours, you did a tour with the sultry Toyah Wilcox in 2012? “It was mad! She was massive in the 80’s and it turns out she’s a really nice woman and through that we got introduced to Robert Fripp, who’s her husband. So we’re doing this tour and through that we get invited to a private gig that Toyah and Robert do for friends and family before the actual tour starts. All of that was down to Toyah - she’s a really nice person and down to earth. Robert is the same; a really nice bloke,” Andy laughs as he adds “A bit eccentric at times but a really nice bloke.” And Soley Mourning did a gig with the illustrious Leon Hendrix (Yes, that’s Jimi’s brother). Again, Andy is laughing as he points out that “I wouldn’t say he was on par with his brother! He was a really nice bloke but I think he had trouble tuning his guitar. I think all the talent went to his brother when it comes to the musical side of things.” Oof! Moving swiftly on…

The Rocket Pool was produced by Mark V Stuart (Magnum, Robert Plant) so how did that work out for you guys? “We like to keep it local to the Black Country and he’s a producer in Wolverhampton; we’ve worked with him since our first album. The studio is called Mad Hat Studios; they know how to work us and it’s a really relaxed atmosphere there. They put in some really good ideas too; things that we might not think of – but they don’t try and push it on you.”

So you’ll keep on touring with The Rocket Pool for the near future? “Yeah, we’ll keep touring on that – we’ve released a few singles (Last Of These Nine Lives, Accidental Enemies) and we’ve got a new one coming out next month; The Unmaking Of An Irrational Mind, and we’re also writing stuff for our next studio album which we want to release next year for our tenth anniversary so we’re quite busy at the moment!”
There you have it; a juicy rock and roll band from the UK – check out Soley Mourning’s awesome musical catalogue via the interwebs. Who knows? They might even make it down here for a tour at some point.