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20 | August 1, 2013 | | Cambridge News


Fred’s House T

he day I meet the front woman of Cambridge band Fred’s House, it’s too hot to even think. Melting over old fashioned lemonade and jazz music on Gwydir Street, Vikki Gavin walks in looking chic, calm and cool. Oh the envy. Super petite and surrounded by a mass of wavy blonde hair, the 28-year-old is a school secretary by day and a folk singer-songwriter by night, performing alongside bandmates Griff Jamieson, 31, (co-lead and acoustic guitar), his brother Gafyn, 35, on bass, percussion and backing vocals, with Lachlan Golder, 24, on lead guitar and banjo. They “straddle the line somewhere between acoustic folk and rock,” with lilting harmonies and catchy tunes. “Alt-folk is a new term I’m hearing recently,” Vikki explains, citing Fleetwood Mac, Crosby, Stills and Nash and Bob Dylan as huge inspirations. “All that kind of West Coast 60s and 70s folk-rock. Those sorts of artists are definitely what all four of us have been brought up on.” To be honest, if you’re interested in the Cambridge Music scene at all, you’ve probably already stumbled upon them; Fred’s House are serious grafters when it comes to gigging. “People

have come and seen us again and again and again,” Vikki laughs bemusedly. “Not really sure why! They must be bored of us!” Apparently not. They won best act at the Cambridge Buskers and Street Performer’s Festival in June (it was a public vote), and have a slew of festival slots lined up, including Cambridge Rock Festival this weekend. Vikki, who is originally from Hemel Hempstead had classical training (“I did musicals, I’m not sure it’s cool to say that,”), and met Griff while performing in a show together. Swiftly becoming a couple, they started singing and song-writing and thought: “Let’s move to Cambridge. We’d had enough of London anyway, it’s too hard! We’re too poor!” Vikki laughs. “We basically moved up to Cambridge to be in the band with the boys.” Scrapping their acting plans and temp jobs, she admits, was “quite a change”. “Although I’d always loved the sort of music that we’re doing, I never thought I’d be singing in a band,” she muses. “Griff and his brother, they’d always been in bands when they were in South Wales, as teenagers, growing up, so [for them] it was going back to something they knew.” Tentatively forming as a band in 2010, they drafted in New Zealand-born Lachlan, and

started playing together live in January 2011; and the name? That came about pretty simply: they first recorded with a guy called Fred at his house. “We have been told it’s quite a bad name!” Vikki laughs. “At least it means something to us. It was a really good weekend, we were bouncing off each other and something kind of clicked immediately. We just thought, yeah, we have to do this.” So far, it’s gone rather well. They’ve had sets at Cambridge Folk Festival, Secret Garden Party and Bestival, while this year they are gearing up for quirky Hertfordshire festival Standon Calling, thanks to support from the Folkstock Arts Foundation which is hosting a “Folkstock presents” stage. “Our following has built and it feels like people are starting to take a bit more notice,” Vikki acknowledges modestly. “The word’s getting out there.” Darlings of the Cambridge folk scene, this summer they’ve already showcased what they can do at Ely Folk Festival. “It was amaaazing!” Vikki grins. “It was just such a nice atmosphere. We were the first band on, on the Friday night, we were thinking there might not be too many people but as soon as we started playing everyone came over.

Cambridge News | | August 1, 2013 | 21


From The Willows and Boo Hewerdine to last weekend’s Cambridge Folk Festival, the Cambridge roots scene is looking pretty darn healthy. ELLA WALKER talks to front woman Vikki Gavin, of up-and-coming local band Fred’s House, to see what it’s like climbing the city’s folk ladder

Vikki’s top tips for local bands Play live. Gigging experience is really, really important. It’s all very well going into the studio and taking hours and hours recording and getting it right, but if people come and see you and you can’t actually do it live. . . you’ve got to get that experience of being able to be in front of an audience. Anything can go wrong on stage. You can break a string, one of you can come in in the wrong key, you can have awful sound men – you have to build up that experience of just doing it and doing it and doing it. You’re there to put the audience at ease, no one likes to stand watching an awful situation happen and seeing the person getting upset on stage because they’re not really experienced to deal with it. Be professional, be proactive, be a nice person to work with, don’t be a diva.

“It’s a lovely little festival. And they had a brilliant line-up – they had Karine Polwart and Seth Lakeman and Treacherous Orchestra.” Perhaps most impressive is the fact they all fit their band commitments in around day jobs. Gafyn is a lawyer (“He’s the only one who earns any money, for gigs we all get in his company car.”), Griff is a teaching assistant and Lachlan has just graduated from university. It must be tough: “We do get tired but it’s different energy,” says Vikki. “You love doing this and even though you might get in at midnight from a gig and have to be in work the next day, you kinda don’t care because you just wanna do it anyway.” The dream, of course, is to switch it so the band is the full-time job: “We’d love to have a chance to go on tour, because it is frustrating when you want to give all your time and energy to do this but at the end of the day, we’re not kids anymore, we’ve got to pay our bills.” Her pragmatism comes in handy, especially as: “The standard of artists and bands in Cambridgeshire is really, really high so it can be hard to stand out.” Frankly, Vikki states: “It is hard, but that’s not going to make us give up,” – even if they have to deal with the odd shambolic gig. “We just played one of the worst recently,” she laughs, not wanting to name and shame. “It was supposed to be a festival but it was more like a private party. A big marquee, it should have been really nice, hot day – no-one there! They were all getting over their hangovers from the night before. The soundmen were drunk. It was pretty awful.” But then again, they’ve had some incredible ones to make up for it, supporting Eddi Reader (“That was an amazing gig”), and playing with their new drummer Paul Richards for the first

time at Fringe in the Fen (“I was buzzing for days after that one”). Launching their single Fine Life is still Vikki’s highlight this year though and, after winning studio time through a public vote on Band App, they are set to record their next shortly – when they get a break from putting together their debut album at Milton’s Half Tonne Studios that is. “We’re taking our time on that, making it the best it can be,” says Vikki, hinting at a release date early next year. “We don’t want to rush it.” Until then, you’ll find them out and about: “We’re old school. We just want to perform live. That is where we really do get the kick,” Vikki bubbles. “I love being in the studio and the recording is great, but you don’t get that feeling when you give somebody your CD and you’re not there when they first listen to it, whereas onstage you hear the reaction after you play a song, and hear how the audience is enjoying it, that’s what makes it for us.” We’re expecting big things from these guys.

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“We’re old school. We just want to perform live. That is where we really do get the kick.”

Standon Calling highlights The music: Aside from Fred’s House of course, Standon Calling has a pretty eclectic line-up. Digitalism, Band of Skulls and De La Soul are headlining, while the likes of Bastille, AlunaGeorge, Lucy Rose and The Joy Formidable are set to haul in the crowds. Cambridge folk acts The Willows and Boo Hewerdine are also on the bill. The activities: The Forest of Freaks is home to a blur of theatre, film and illusion, with puppets, crazy circus feats, treasure hunts, psychics and cabaret. There will also be ‘rockaoke’, spoken word, graffiti workshops, trapeze acts, kids classes and a whole lot of fancy dress. Don’t miss: The pool. It has an actual swimming pool – what’s not to love? n

Fred's house  

Cambridge band Fred's House to perform at Standon Calling