This month Paul Dunton talks to siblings Joe and Alice, AKA The Ackerleys about the release of their stunning new EP ‘Boat We Made’
One of the most unique acts on the local music scene are The Ackerleys. Comprised of siblings Joe and Alice Ackerley, they have been performing together for around eight years. They offer a bewitching sound, rich in Americana and pop sensibilities with earnest, heartfelt lyrics and beautifully-crafted melodies. In terms of comparing their sound, if I mentioned acts such as Civil Wars and Angus & Julia Stone, well that wouldn’t be a million miles away. Having said all that it’s fair to say The Ackerleys definitely have their own distinct brand of songwriting.
Joe has been a stalwart of the local scene for many years. His band Cyrano are a popular draw and can often be seen at The Forum, Local & Live and other venues around Tunbridge Wells. But whereas Cyrano’s melodic rock sound is inspired by the likes of Pearl Jam, Elbow and Radiohead, The Ackerleys project offers something completely different, delving deep into the Americana genre with hints of country, folk and pop all very present within their style.
Alice’s vocal is nothing short of mesmerising. Over the past 17 years I have heard many amazing singers on the local scene, but Alice’s tone is quite simply breathtaking. When listening to her in full flight, there are perhaps hints of Dolly Parton, but there is something else within the tone: shades of Lisa Hannigan and Julia Stone come to mind, but she has her own unique style, ethereal yet heart-warming. You just have to experience it first-hand.
Joe is regarded as one of the leading musicians and songwriters on the local scene, he is undoubtedly a natural. He is a dextrous and highly-skilled guitar player and vocally he reminds me of Guy Garvey and Thom Yorke at times. Why? Because he’s able to effortlessly express emotional vulnerability through his voice, often switching to a haunting falsetto when the moment arises.
When the siblings’ voices combine the harmonies are truly spellbinding. Songwriting duties are often shared between the siblings. They like working together from scratch, creating fresh ideas to completion but at other times enjoy writing a complete song on their own to then embellish it furthermore together, ready for live shows. I caught up with Joe and Alice recently to talk about the release of their forthcoming EP.
So where did the idea come from to start performing together as The Ackerleys?
Years ago I used to play songs to Alice at home and she would sing along and I knew one day we would start performing together. I have been playing in bands locally for a long time so was happy to start anytime, but it was more a case of when Alice felt ready to perform live. I remember our debut Grey Lady show, it must have been about eight or nine years ago now. I know she felt a little nervous but she absolutely smashed it and so The Ackerleys project was officially born.
“When the siblings’ voices combine the harmonies are truly spellbinding”
What are some of your favourite gigs to play on the local scene?
We both love playing at The Forum and The Grey Lady. Both venues mean a lot to us and offer something a bit different for our live shows. Being an all-seated, intimate style gig, The Grey Lady really suits our acoustic duo or trio sets (when we are joined by our good friend Steve McCormack on guitar). There is a wonderful energy and vibe there, with the audience intently listening, you really feel immersed in the performance. The Forum really suits our full band line-up, which gives the songs a more dramatic style. Sonically it can also get a bit rocky at times which is great, because it allows us to show more of the light and shade in the songwriting, the dynamics come to the fore in a different way. We love getting the full band together which is comprised of some of our closest friends, all of whom are amazing musicians. The band is comprised of Matt Wilson (drums), Mike Wilton (bass), Jez Harley (keys) and Steve McCormack (guitar).
Tell us more about the new EP.
The new EP is entitled ‘Boat We Made’ and was recorded at the stunning Granary Studios in Lamberhurst which is owned by our good friend, Guy Denning. The EP was produced by our bassist and renowned local musician Mike Wilton. The EP features five original songs which we love to perform live and very much hope people will enjoy listening to. The songs are ‘From The Night You Came’ ‘The Story’s Getting Old’, Proximity’, ‘Amelie’ and title track ‘Boat We Made’.
Can you recall one of your favourite gig moments to date?
For us it has to be performing at the Local & Live Festival in Calverley Grounds. Performing to thousands of people in your hometown on a festival stage with great sound and a full band is one of our most enjoyable experiences. Being surrounded by your band mates and knowing many of our close friends and family are in the audience supporting us is another big part of why that gig means so much to us.
What can people expect at your EP launch night and where is it being held?
We are launching the EP on November 18th at the Grey Lady Music Lounge. We will be performing as a full band line-up and we are delighted that local singer-songwriter Anna Howie will be opening for us. The EP will be available to purchase on the night and we will be performing tracks from it in addition to some golden oldie Ackerleys numbers!
Tickets to the launch night are available on the night and also viawww.thegreylady.co.uk
FOR MORE INFO VISIT:
@theackerleys on FB and instagram