Well, the dream is over – 2000trees 2015 is but a memory. The shorts that were sodden with mud from doing slide tackles late Saturday night have now been washed and folded. The hip flask has been cleaned, put away and cleaned again. My legs don’t hurt quite so much…
Whilst Trees being over is sad news indeed, it does mean that over the coming week (hopefully) Birthday Cake For Breakfast will be featuring a number of pieces on this year’s festival, including reviews, highlights and interviews (and possibly even a podcast!)
Keep an eye on Birthday Cake For Breakfast for further posts on 2000trees 2015, but for now take a read of the below chapter – an interview with Tom George, a.k.a. The Lion And The Wolf.
The Lion And The Wolf
It’s Friday morning at 2000trees, and in a stupid move, our group decided that the best place to camp is by the main stage, where the children are. Woken up at 7am by chattering kids outside, the tent has turned into a makeshift sauna. It soon dawned on me that Friday is the day of interviews. An exciting prospect the week leading up to Trees, but a bit of a daunting one having melted in the night…
Having shaken off the cobwebs and devoured a bacon sarnie, I headed over to the press tent where I was greeted by Lee, the man with the enviable task of looking after a roster of artists for the day, who confided in me “He likes to chat quite a bit”
Tom George, the man behind The Lion And The Wolf, did indeed like to chat quite a bit. Ray Bans on, Pistonhead in hand, he appeared to be relishing the chance to have a natter whilst lounging in the sun. “I’m pleasantly surprised. I don’t normally do festivals, but the majority that I turn up to are just awash, just wrecked by the time I get there. So it’s nice to actually sit in the sun and have a delicious beverage”
Prior to 2000trees, it was announced on Facebook that Tom was just shy of playing his hundredth show of 2015, having taken in the length and breadth of the country, as well as Europe.
“It’s amazing. I keep forgetting how many I’ve done because it’s continuously moving, and I hope it’s moving in an upwards fashion. I hope [laughs] I don’t just wanna plateau. But yeah, I did 133 last year and this is show –” At this point, an actual fly flew into poor Tom’s mouth – A health hazard of this constant touring…”erm [laughs] in four shows time it will be 100 for the year which I’m super stoked for. By the end of the year it should be around 130 again, so I like to think I’m putting the work in…But it’s a nice feeling to be playing so much music, and just to be able to hang out with people and meet so many people, you know? Community for me is the most important part of music, so being able to come to festivals, being able to play shows in people’s front rooms, being able to do all of this stuff is awesome for me. I love it”
Continuing on that community vibe, 2000trees is always a good opportunity to catch up with friends new and old, as well as rub shoulders at the bar with people of all walks of life. With it being a reasonably small site, you’re never far away from bumping into a good buddy. The same is true of bands and artists, as Tom continues “…I get to see some old friends; Rob Lynch is a really good friend of mine, we toured a lot when we were younger in the back of a Ford Fiesta. Seeing him doing so well is amazing, it really, really is. I’m incredibly grateful to do stuff like this.”
Bumping into Tom on these shores almost comes as a bit of a shock. An apparent man of leisure, whenever I glance at the TLATW Facebook page, he’s always away in Germany or elsewhere in Europe. This year has seen him make numerous trips and tours throughout the continent, with the flag of The Lion And The Wolf flying strong. “The shows over in Europe are always amazing; to see people coming back, to hear people singing along. If I’m there two or three times in the space of three months, people will still come back – they’ll make the trip, they’ll drive. That for me is just incredibly humbling. It’s a weird sensation, because you play these shows and you don’t really just see them as people who appreciate your music, you see them as friends, you catch up. That again for me is such an important part of why I do music. I was asked a question earlier about how famous do you wanna get, and I just thought – I don’t think I do. I think that sounds kinda horrible to me, the fame thing, I think I’d love to be able to play music and play to more and more people, but the fame thing is kinda off putting. You see what it does to people. Plus, I don’t think I look like a famous type. I look like I should be sleeping in a bush or the side of a motorway [laughs]”
I’m not so sure myself – he’s quite the dashing gent! The idea of Hollywood calling might not be too much of a stretch. Speaking of Hollywood (now you see the link), the idea of huge banquets being put on backstage for musicians always seems a little too Spinal Tap for me. Some UK promoters/venues are apparently really good with their hospitality, but I’ve heard some real horror stories (though not quite bread being too small for the meat…) In Europe, it seems like they really take care of their artists, an idea that came as a bit of a shock for Tom on his first venture that way.
“The first tour I did with Rob Lynch was really an eye opener. He was playing really good rooms and to lots and lots of people. I’d never been on a tour where you’d turn up and you’d get coffee and sandwiches waiting for you, and somebody would help you load in, you’d be greeted by people with lots of handshakes and then, you know – sound check and then oh, your dinners ready and here’s lots of free alcohol. ‘Sorry – where has this all come from?’ So for me that was the initial starting point for me, that’s a highlight.”
The beauty of these festival shows is the diversity you can sometimes find. One minute you might be watching a hardcore band tear up a tent, the next minute you’re watching a band sing about Jurassic Park with an inflatable dinosaur on stage (having caused quite the commotion after handing out official Jurassic Park trading cards…) On the subject of festivals, The Lion And The Wolf recently made an appearance after an interesting choice, as Tom continued “…I got to play a festival recently – I had to play after Defeater. Which was…interesting, to say the least. There was supposed to be an acoustic stage and a full band stage, and they collapsed – not literally, but they closed down. So they put my friend Andrew at the start and me right at the end, so I had to follow Defeater and you know what, I embraced that. I kinda like the challenge, I think it’s quite fun, you make a joke out of it. But yeah, going over there and playing that kind of thing – I played an acoustic festival there in January. I just love playing in Germany particularly. I love playing anywhere, but it’s really like a second home to me now, ‘cus I’m just there so much.”
After years of plying his trade on the road, last November saw Tom put out his first proper album as The Lion And The Wolf. ‘Symptoms’ is a wonderfully delicate record, touching on themes of quitting ones job, the fear of the unknown, life on the road, heartbreak and other assorted bodily ailments. Recorded between Auckland House and Red Squirrel studios on the Isle of Wight, Tom has described the album as a reflection of the past four years of work. With The Lion And The Wolf following the DIY route at every turn, it comes as no surprise that the release was put out independently “We released it ourselves… There was no label involved or anything, so we did it off our own backs. That for me is even more exciting, because it just goes to show in this day and age you don’t necessarily need a label. I think it can help, but I would say for anybody who is starting music/writing music and wants to put themselves out there, just ask yourself the question – what can a label do for you that you can’t do for yourself? I’ve kind of had that mentality for the past year. I’m not saying I would never take label help, but as a starting point, you can put a record out on your own – no trouble. You can put a demo up onto Bandcamp in the space of an hour. It’s there and it’s there to be utilised. I think people should embrace that more; it’s not all about labels now. Having said that, I have friends who work with labels, run labels who I hugely respect, ‘cus they love music and they really put the effort in. It’s kind of contrasted really”
Symptoms was released on frosted clear vinyl – One can only imagine the treat it must’ve been to see that for the first time. Tom, like a bearded child on Christmas morning eager to open his presents, was waiting expectantly to open the large square parcel.
“I can actually remember when it turned up. I was waiting for about three or four days in London, pretty much in my pants, just like – it’s not going to arrive, it’s not going to arrive. Then it arrived and…did you used to skateboard at all? Do you remember the first time (how) you felt when you landed a kick-flip? That is how I felt when my record turned up. I was holding it in my hands, I was like – this is it. I’ve spent the last four years working toward something; put it on, it sounded wonderful. It was a real kind of…I felt great about it. It was like a conclusion to the start of the new stuff really, like – this is out, I’ve done it; put something on wax, tick a box. Happy with that. Now we’re doing another record; we’re putting out a single in October exclusively on “7, just gonna press up 250 and see how it does.”
When I ask about the response Symptoms received, Tom genuinely seems humble about the whole experience. No billy big-bollocks bravado on show here, just a genuine gratefulness for how people reacted. “I put it out on the 24th of November or the 26th, and the pre-orders alone blew my mind. I thought I might get twelve-fifteen maybe. Ended up being like ten times more than that. That was just an indicator that people are really digging this. All this hard work that we’ve been putting in is paying off. The reception was amazing out in Germany particularly; over here great as well. Had some lovely reviews, made lots of end of year lists and things like that. I think it set us up really nicely, and what’s even nicer is there’s no pressure with the second record ‘cus we’re doing it ourselves. There’s no one going ‘oh we think you should write this kind of song or a radio hit’ It’s not like that at all. With the first record I went in with a guitar and we built everything around it. This time, me and the guys in the studio who are playing in the band have all come together“
A smiling Lee appears from within the tent, the “grin reaper”, indicating with raised eyebrows that Tom might have been chatting too long again, which he laughs off. Though brief, the ten minutes with Tom showed him as a humble, thoroughly nice bloke (who loves a good natter.) From here, The Lion And The Wolf will play past show 100, and will probably be back in Germany before a fly can buzz into your mouth.