The Calico Skies are two dudes. That’s it; a drum set and a guitar. The unassuming pair (Ian Facer and James Hurley) formed just a few years ago, and already seem to be contributing to an odd trend of not-ironic dancing around north London rock venues. Will we, the seasoned veterans of London’s alternative nooks and crannies, stand for this nonsense? Damn right we will. The London Word caught up with Ian to chat about the contemporary music scene and upcoming musical fêtes.
‘We tried and tested many different people,’ Ian says, with regards to the minimalist line-up, ‘trying to ‘fill out’ the sound, but it always slowed down the pace and distorted the sound we were going for.’ If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, amirite?
The duo unwaveringly self-identify as garage rock. The term has been, perhaps unfairly, hijacked from the U.S. to describe various English indie rock bands like Arctic Monkeys and The Libertines. The Calico Skies certainly have flavours of that particular music risotto, but also elements of ska and jazz, peppered with some vaguely Irish tones and old-school rock rhythms. It’s all very upbeat, very rhythmic and, frankly, impressive for just two instruments.
So far the pair has been playing its way around north London, hallmark venues like Nambucca, The Water Rats and The Dublin Castle. ‘We would love to venture out of London when we can,’ says Ian. ‘We are currently planning a mini–tour which would take us abroad, to Berlin and Amsterdam. Perhaps a trip to New Zealand might be on the cards in the future.’
Despite their purely aesthetic appeal, The Calico Skies are sophisticated in their musical sensibilities. Their song Run is punctuated by a rhythm as that of footsteps hitting the pavement; yet the lyrics, as the title suggests, touch on themes of escaping and loneliness. ‘We like to play music that’s catchy and fun and we hope that you love it as much as we do… but we also do it for ourselves, for our own release.’ Perhaps, as the old adage suggests, music really does sound better when it comes from the heart than from the wallet.
The guys have a great on-stage presence. Playing at The Dublin Castle in February they seem relaxed and chatty, although apparently nerves can still get the better of them: ‘it depends on the crowd.’ Despite the chilled-out façade they have been working their asses off: ‘We did three back-to-back gigs [last month] with literally 24 hours’ notice’, Ian says, ‘we had the best weekend though, met so many new faces. We’d love to continue that vibe.’
The Calico Skies vibe may be, in fact, just what the dark, damp recesses of north London need to shake them out of their winter languor. Carry on, fellas.
The Calico Skies are playing on Wednesday 3 April at:
The Dublin Castle