Not many bands could make us want to become sailors and dwell in a small England coastal town, but that is the feeling Patch & The Giant’s music throws our way. Their folksy style is nothing delicate, but if you invest yourself in any of their songs, you won’t be disappointed.
We got to hear from Angie Rance (trumpet, flugelhorn, accordion, piano, vocals) and Luke Owen (lead vocals, guitar, mandolin). Enjoy!
Emily Cardé: How did you all start writing music together?
Angie Rance: The roots of the band as we now know it lie in a previous project Luke Owen and I played in together for a short while. After one abysmal gig though we decided not to pursue it—for the good of us all! That group parted ways, but Luke and I realized how much we loved playing together and how many mutual musical inspirations we shared. We decided to stick at it and to build something new, and we set about finding new band members.
It took a few years to really cement the line-up, but along the way we’ve had the pleasure of performing and writing with a number of wonderful musicians. The band now is formed entirely of musicians we’ve met along this journey. It’s all happened extremely naturally and I think we’ve just instantly recognized a musical affinity where it’s present.
Nick Edward Harris, our newest member (though he’s now been in the band over 2 years), came on tour with us as our support act in early 2014. He was already one of the family at this point. He wanted to join us at the festivals we were playing at, and he learned a whole new instrument (bass) entirely for this reason. Now we can’t really imagine what life would be like without him.
Emily: What inspired the name “Patch & The Giant”?
Angie: We always wish we had a cooler answer here. It just sort of came, really. We’d been playing with a few different ideas and we came back a few times to the theme of patchwork, representing the contrast of different influences and instrumentations we were using. There was also a strong theme of story-telling and balladry, so we wanted something which had an air of folklore to it. We were at a gig watching Bellowhead, and we just decided there to be called “Patch & The Giant.”
Emily: How does the creative process work for you all?
Angie: Luke’s the songwriter-in-chief. He will generally bring a mostly formed idea to the group to work on, or two or three of us will work on an idea to decide on it structurally before taking it to the full group. The process really varies then. Sometimes Luke will have a really prescribed idea of the arrangements he might want and we’ll work on that basis. Other times we literally just ‘jam’ until it feels right and then we start to hone it more. It’s a gloriously collaborative process though when we write and everybody has a pretty unique stamp, be it vocally, melodically, rhythmically, or otherwise. We’ve all got ideas we throw in and most importantly we all really like writing together.
Emily: Tell us a little bit about your life on tour. What have been your most memorable experiences?
Angie: So, so many memorable experiences. One of the best things about touring is it’s just a total sensory overload. In addition to getting to experience and perform music, you also get to just see so many incredible places, meet so many incredible people, and eat such incredible food.
On our last UK tour, we stayed in a remote community center in the North Pennines for a couple of nights. It was utterly isolated and we arrived in the middle of the night after driving up and down hills through the fog for what seemed like a terrifying amount of time. It was quite otherworldly at first, but when we woke up in the morning to see the view across the valley, we realized quite how special it was. It was sublime, very “Withnail and I.” We embraced it for all it was worth, playing music and drinking whiskey all night by the roaring fire whilst mulling wine. That was pretty special.
We’ve also had a surreal experience spending the night in A&E in Milan a couple of months ago, after I’d dislocated my ankle on the first night of the tour! We’d come straight from a show and it was the first chance we’d had to actually get to a hospital after I had fallen down the stairs three nights earlier. While I was being X-rayed, I could hear the boys all playing their instruments in the waiting room. I was finally wheeled in with my leg all bandaged up. I immediately joined in with the others. Before we knew it, all the doctors and nurses were filming us with their iPhones. We don’t know who was looking after the patients at this point. That was certainly a memorable night.
There was also, of course, the time we nearly got arrested by the Italian police for miscellaneous traffic contraventions.
All sorts of great stories. I just hope we don’t forget.
Emily: Can you tell us the story behind “For Gabriel”?
Angie: Not our finest hour. A few years ago, Luke and I were essentially responsible for losing Gabriel Merryfield’s violin. We’ll avoid the details, but needless to say we were—and still are—ridden with guilt. Gabriel forgave us, being the world’s most beautiful soul, but we still held on to the guilt. We wrote ‘For Gabriel’ as a public apology to him. We gave all the proceeds from the song to him so he could buy a new violin. It’s all a little bit silly, particularly the video, but so is Gabe and it’s all an homage to him.
Gabriel’s virtue is heavenly sent
Shines a light through the dark and the haze
And Gabriel, with your head held low
Said “I haven’t seen you for days, oh lord, no, I haven’t seen you for days”
—Patch & The Giant, “For Gabriel”
Emily: The idea of the sea and the sailor’s life are big themes in “The Boatswain’s Refuge.” How did these concepts make their way into your music?
Luke Owen: I guess growing by the sea it becomes ingrained you. I’m originally from a little harbour town on the Somerset coast where the community is very much dictated by the tide. There’s lots of local folklore of sailors, shipwrecks etc so I was pretty keen to try and get aspects of that in the songs.
Emily: Is “The Heretic and The Albatross” related to Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner?
Luke: Yes. In a way. It’s not directly, linked but it’s certainly inspired by it. Coleridge was apparently inspired himself to write it after a Somerset coastal walk. Or so they tell the tourists.
Emily: “Love and War” is my favorite song of yours, and it has some interesting ideas. How did that song come about and what are you trying to convey through it?
Luke: I guess crudely you could say it’s a song about things dying, or coming to a natural end—and how that’s not always a bad thing. Often we try to hang on to things forever, but the song is saying that sometimes it’s okay to just let them go.
It’s quite funny how this song has changed over time. I recently found the original demo of it. It was intended to be a fairly upbeat tune that you could dance to, which is a strange thought [given its content].
Emily: Nick mentioned that you have new music in the works. When is that coming out, and what can we expect as far as musical style and lyrical themes?
Angie: Yes, we have just finished recording our debut album, and at the risk of sounding overly smug, we’re pretty excited about it. We’ll be announcing the release and all the details very shortly. We’re itching to get it out there.
Stylistically and lyrically it’s not miles away from our previously released material but the sound has certainly developed. It’s very much a natural progression rather than a U-turn of any kind though. The musical dynamic between us all has grown in all directions since we last recorded. It was also our first time working with producer Nick Trepka. His influence can definitely be heard on the arrangements. We recorded the vast majority of the songs live in order to capture the essence of playing together and to feed off each other in the way which we’ve grown accustomed to over the years. It was definitely the right approach and we’re exceedingly happy with what Nick’s done with it. We’ve got a few completely new songs on there that we’ve never even played live, so we’re looking forward to seeing what the reaction will be to these.