From Birmingham, England Friends of the Stars are "a little bit country, a little bit folk" - as Donny and Marie almost had it.
From The (Out of) Jail Fire with its hints of an Australian country sound a la Triffids/Go-Betweens to Monday Morning's more traditional early 1970s British folk (I'm nodding to Fotheringay here), their new album is a perfect accompaniment to lost hours on wet tarmac on West Midlands motorways. Or just head on the table melancholy whiskey mornings.
In a previous guise the band have played John Peel sessions and released numerous singles. Since 2000 they have stuck together "through thin and thin". To celebrate the release of "Lighting and Electrical" on their own Commercially Inviable label we asked guitarist/vocalist Craig Hamilton to be this week's Happy Shopper.
1) What was the last electrical appliance you bought?
I kindly give 02 £30 a month and they furnish me with a mobile phone every now and again, so I'm always in the process of paying for whichever one I've got.
2) How many shoes do you own?
About 15 or 20 pairs, including stuff like football boots. Shoes are about the only thing I'll pay (what I consider to be) over the odds for....Someone once told me that you can get away with wearing any old shite as long as you've good shoes on your feet, and I took them at their word.
3) Thinking about only what you are wearing now and including your watch, jewellery and glasses if you wear them, how much would it cost me to get dressed up just like you? And where would I have to go to get the look?
Not very much! I'm sat at home barefoot wearing jeans, a t-shirt and a jumper....so probably about £30. I don't wear a watch and the only jewellry I own are three rings which I wear on one finger of my right hand. The most expensive of these would be my Granddad's wedding ring, which is old gold and probably worth a few bob. It's not for sale, though.
4) What are you going to be eating for dinner tonight?
I'm feeling a little run down so I've taken some chicken out of the freezer and will be making a huge pot of stew once it defrosts. There must and shall be dumplings. I'm going to nip out in a bit and buy some nice bread to have with it.
5) What is the most amount you have ever spent on a bottle of wine or other alcoholic beverage and when and where was it?
I was in New York in 2005 and discovered Dirty Margaritas. I think they were about $12 a pop and spent I five days looking for the place with best one.
6) What and where is your favourite shop?
Shop? There's a junk shop in Liverpool that I always go to when I'm there. I think it's on Renshaw Street, just opposite Kitchens of Distinction, and is full of great stuff, from furniture to coins. There is also a Lidl opposite our house and I love their Random Aisle....one week it's fishing gear, the next week it's arts and crafts. It's fireworks at the moment, but I'm not so into them.
7) How do you get around town?
I ride my bike but am a fair weather cyclist....so at the slightest hint of rain I'm on the bus. Add alcohol and taxis soon appear.
8) Where is your favourite place to holiday?
One of the best things about living in Birmingham (of which there are many, by the way) is having Wales on your doorstep. I try to go one or twice a year. A few months back me and my girlfriend hired a van, put a mattress in the back and spent a few days mooching through Snowdonia and the coast, sleeping by the side of the road. It's especially beautiful in winter so I'm hoping to go again soon.
More Friends of the Stars including downloads at friendsofthestars.co.uk
Kirk Lake is a writer, musician and filmmaker. His published books include Mickey The Mimic (2015) and The Last Night of the Leamington Licker (2018). His films include the feature films Piercing Brightness (2014) and The World We Knew (2020) and a number of award winning shorts.
Outsideleft exists on a precarious no budget budget. We are interested in hearing from deep and deeper pocket types willing to underwrite our cultural vulture activity. We're not so interested in plastering your product all over our stories, but something more subtle and dignified for all parties concerned. Contact us and let's talk. [HELP OUTSIDELEFT]
If Outsideleft had arms they would always be wide open and welcoming to new writers and new ideas. If you've got something to say, something a small dank corner of the world needs to know about, a poem to publish, a book review, a short story, if you love music or the arts or anything else, write something about it and send it along. Of course we don't have anything as conformist as a budget here. But we'd love to see what you can do. Write for Outsideleft, do. [SUBMISSIONS FORM HERE]