Keeping it chilled
As they set out to tour their forthcoming album, Syd
Arthur explain why it has taken them so long to go from the
underground scene to making a record. Chris Price
Ask cult Kent band Syd Arthur a question and the response is
invariably a chilled out “it just happened”.
The name for their forthcoming debut album, On An On, “kind of
happened” and they talk about how creatively “you cannot force it”
when making a record.
The eclectic band’s name is a pun on Hermann Hesse’s novel
Siddhartha, a book they all happened to read one summer. Even the
way the foursome came together was “organic”. Brothers Liam and
Joel Magill met Fred Rother while pupils at St Edmund’s School in
Canterbury, before Raven Bush – nephew of singer Kate Bush – joined
the school in sixth form and then the trio’s jamming sessions.
“We do work hard on the compositions and the sound but in terms
of the creative element we have just found over the years that you
cannot force it,” said bassist Joel, 26.
“You just have to relax, be in a good place and let it happen.
We have had a very laidback approach.”
Certainly at first the running of these local legends appears as
chilled as the folky, funk-fuelled, psychedelic rock they produce.
Yet look a little closer and there is much more thinking behind
every decision than perhaps even the band realise.
They keep as much of the day-to-day running of the group in
house. They will release On An On on their own label, Dawn Chorus
Recording Company and recorded all their material in their own
studio in south east London. Only in March last year did they
release their first material, the Moving World EP, despite being a
group since 2006. They describe their forthcoming record as a
“culmination of everything”.
Indeed those luscious locks and Jethro Tull-like outfits suit
the “things have to happen naturally” media line but a little
probing unmasks the plan behind the long wait for their first
“We just felt we didn’t ever reach a point when we made a
comprehensive statement about what we wanted to say,” said Joel.
“We continued to play live and build our skills as songwriters. We
built a fanbase and set up our recording studio and through that
process we reached a point where we can do this on our own
“In the past, an album came out and if it wasn’t that successful
it wasn’t re-pressed and it disappeared. Now once you release it,
that’s it and it is out there for good. We thought let’s make sure
we don’t put out a load of stuff which in future years we could
“Essentially we just figured out how to do it ourselves which is
why it has taken longer than it does for other acts who haven’t
done it like us.”
Making music connections
Syd Arthur’s music is often compared to the output of the
avant-garde psychedelic rock scene in Canterbury of the 1960s and
1970s, a period they admit to having a “funny” relationship
Bass player Joel Magill said: “We became aware of it growing up,
aged about 17 to 19 and we did feel a connection with it. We are
fans of that kind of music. We love it and it definitely influenced
“But although we listened to a lot of that stuff we don’t sound
too much like it. You can hear hints but we never consciously
wanted to sound like that.
“We are eclectic in every aspect and that is what we have most
in common with the Canterbury sound.”
Of course, the fact the Canterbury scene couldn’t be nailed down
was as much its greatest strength as why it never commercially took
off. “The constant pigeonholing of music is frustrating because it
is so broad anyway,” said Joel. “We like listening to rock and funk
and that has filtered through to our songs in a natural, organic
way so it is frustrating being asked what genre we belong to.”
Syd Arthur bring their On An On tour to the Farmhouse,
Canterbury, on Friday, April 27. Tickets £5. Call 01227
They perform at Earls for the Maidstone Fringe Festival on
Thursday, May 3. Admission free. Call 01622 751286.
They play at the Barge, Gillingham, on Wednesday, May 9.
Admission free. Call 01634 850485.
They finish the tour at the St Mary’s Arts Centre, Sandwich,
on Saturday, May 19. Ticket details on www.stmarysartscentre.org.uk.
They have also been announced for Lounge On The Farm at
Merton Farm, Canterbury.
On An On is due out in early July.
- Click here for more news from across the county...