INTERVIEW: Nerina Pallot


Words/Interview by Ed King / Photography by Katja Ogrin

Nerina Pallot closed her seven date UK tour last Sunday, playing her final show at The Glee Club in Birmingham. On the road throughout February, Pallot has been touring her latest EP; the appropriately (for some) titled ‘Lonely Valentine Club’.

With four original new tracks, plus a cover of Ce Ce Peniston’s 1991 Dance hit ‘Finally’, the ‘Lonely Valentine Club’ EP was released on Feb 12th – through her own label, Idaho.

Ed King caught up with Nerina Pallot on the big day itself, before her Valentine’s Day show at the Edinburgh Pleasance Theatre.


“I guess, like a lot of people, I’ve have had a bit of overkill from Hallmark holidays,” explains Nerina Pallot, about the title of her new EP and tour, “you know the schmaltzy, cheesy, enforced stuff. I wanted to do something that acknowledged Valentine’s Day, but in a different way.”

Considering my most exciting Valentine’s Day was spent in an airport waiting lounge, I welcome the alternative. But what about her audience – are they loved up or lonesome?

“I’d say it’s a mix actually. There are quite a few couples, very loved up – and the single people who very much relate to it. But my fans are quite a wide cross section anyway, and I see that at the gigs – it’s not one kind of person. But I hope that they go home happier rather than I ruined their relationship at the end of the gig.”

Nerina Pallot is known for her live performances, and an audience that will travel to see her; many coming to several shows on her self-promoted tours. But how has this latest on the road endeavor gone down?

“It’s been great,” laughs Pallot, “I’ve been really enjoying myself. But I’m not with my band on this tour, I’m solo, so it’s a different kind of vibe. It’s quite intense but it’s actually been really lovely.” Anywhere stood out so far? “I was in Manchester last night and I haven’t played Manchester in ages. Then I was in Bristol last weekend and I haven’t been there in about three years, so it’s been really great to reconnect with audiences I haven’t seen in a while.”

Sounds busy, do you get a chance to enjoy it? “I love playing live. I’m always doing gigs in one capacity or another, but I haven’t done a proper tour in over a year.”

Nerina Pallot has been on my ‘must catch’ list for years, but thanks to one sea or another I’ve missed every bill. The last time she performed in Birmingham was at the O2 Academy in October 2011, but this time she’s back at The Glee Club; a venue arguably better suited to a stripped back solo show, but one she’s not played at since October 2009.

“It’s special,” explains Pallot, about returning to the Arcadian venue, “I love going back to play there. It’s such a warm place… I don’t know if we have anywhere like that in London, we could do with somewhere like that in London.” As I start to ask if I can quote her for the Birmingham City Council website…

“I think it’s just the enthusiasm,” Pallot continues, “and Markus (Sargeant – The Glee Club’s long standing music promoter) is such a massive music lover; and you can tell when someone’s in charge of a venue and they’re passionate about music, it’s definitely got a vibe of its own that he’s been creating over the years. I just love it. And there’s a lovely piano there which make the solo shows so much better, the piano’s great.”

Excited about seeing Nerina Pallot behind a decent set of keys, I start to enquire further; but get cut short by the scampering shrieks of her son, Wolfie, in the background. Answering the globally recognisable call of “mmmuuuuuuummmmyyyy”, Nerina Pallot switches off interview mode and tends to her son.

“My little boy,” I regognise the pride from my sister’s voice, “we take him with us wherever we can, within reason. I miss him if I don’t see him when I’m touring, if I don’t see him for a couple of nights I get really sad. I was in Germany last year, touring, and I found that really hard to be away from him.” Children are surprisingly robust (to a man with none to look after) but how’s life as a miniature roadie?

“He’s really adaptable. He’s been backstage with me since he was seven weeks old so he’s kind of used to that. And when they’re his age they’re just really curious, everything’s new to him. I think it’s us adults. We get set in our ways and like things a certain way, we get a bit more critical of things. Children are fairly adaptable.”

I start to feel intrusive. Both Pallot and her husband/producer, Andrew Chatterley, have been remarkably approachable, but I’m careful of getting too colloquial. And children are amongst the most private of things.


I ask about the new EP, ‘Lonely Valentine Club’; it carried a different feel to the pop productions of Pallot’s last studio album. Was that a deliberate shift?

“Well it’s not a premeditated approach,” explains Pallot, “it’s just… I’m actually about a third of the way through my new album, and I had these songs that just started to make sense together but that didn’t feel like a whole album, and weren’t on a subject matter that I wanted to go with for 10 or 11 songs.

Then I did this cover of a Ce Ce Peniston song,” the 1991 Dance hit ‘Finally’, “and thought, that’s how it should be, it should be just a melancholy love song. Then, as I was going on tour in February, I thought it would be fun to try and get that together for then.” Is that a bit unorthodox? “I decided to go on tour first, then I made an EP – rather than the other way round. A bit back to front…”

So, why ‘Finally’?

“I like doing covers that you would never imagine my music to be like, last year I was doing ‘Umbrella’ by Rhianna, the year before that was Beyonce’s ‘Crazy in Love’.  But I loved ‘Finally’ growing up, it was always a really cool school disco song, and it felt really good to sing. It worked when I brought it down, it just seemed to naturally fit.”  

To be honest it, surprised the hell out of me; a potential appropriation disaster that turned into a highlight. Very laid back, soft keys and snare – Pallot makes it truly her own. “It’s got very subliminal beats,” continues Pallot, “they’re not in your face. I love that kind of ambient/electro sound – and that approach to songs, where you have an element of groove but it’s not ‘banging’, it’s not a club classics kind of thing.”

Now we’ve established Dubstep or Grime as unlikely progressions, is this the sound to expect on album number five?

“I don’t know. There’s a song called ‘Once’ which feels…” an elongated “ooonnccceeee” comes from Pallot’s son in the background, “it’s one of the ones I’ve just done with my band, and we went into the studio to try and cut something a bit more developed, but… I don’t know, I’m still writing, and I’m starting to get an idea of where it’s going,” I get the feeling there’s three of us in this part of the conversation. “When I’ve got to about 17 or 18 tracks then it starts to fall into place, I start to feel my album is ready. Then it’s just a question of culling and making things fit, more, together.”

Is that a difficult process, the cull?

“It is and it isn’t,” contests Pallot. “My last album was fun because I had to cut it really fast, as I was heavily pregnant, and I really liked it for its freshness. But now I’m quite in a lucky space, this is my fifth album and I’m in no hurry – I mean, I don’t want to take five years to finish it, but I don’t see the need to finish the album just so I can go on tour.”

The joys of your own imprint. But, Idaho – Nerina Pallot’s home grown label, is sharing her new album with Geffen; will they be lurking impatiently in the wings?

“I’ve always had my own autonomy,” explains Pallot, “since my second album I’ve had my own record label that I’ve licensed to major labels, and I’ve always felt very firmly about keeping control of what I do – that’s really important to me. It’s important to me to dictate how everything is and how it should sound and how it should look. But I can’t lie, we work with major labels because they have the marketing spend that I personally don’t have. It’s finding a happy medium.”

The doorbell rings, signaling a car to tonight’s venue – the Edinburgh Pleasance Theatre, and the end to our conversation. Just enough time for an interview-by-numbers closing question, what’s next for Nerina Pallot?

“My aim is to finish the album by the end of the summer,” contemplates Pallot, “so I foresee myself in the studio more than anything else.” I sense this has been asked before, “but I’m not in a rush to finish it, I just want to make a really good album.

But I’m really excited about playing at the literary festival in Hay on Wye, they’re just starting to announce different acts. It’s run with the main programme, and I’ve always wanted to go to that. I think it’s going to be fun.”

Anywhere else new you’re playing this year? “There’ll be the usually bits and bobs, festivalwise, that come in; but one of the quirkiest places is a gig I’ve got planned in Cornwall. It’s at the Minack Theatre, an outdoor venue, in the middle of a cliff overlooking the sea…”

Sounds dangerous, I wonder what the insurance premium is. “Its weather dependent,” answers Pallot, and leaves for her Valentine’s night at the theatre.


Lonely Valentine Club EP is available for digital download, through Nerina Pallot’s own website and the usual online retailers.

For more on Nerina Pallot, visit

INTERVIEW: Camilla Staveley-Taylor, from The Staves

Birmingham Review first saw The Staves in April this year, playing at The Glee Club, and have kept them hovering on radar ever since.

With pitch perfect harmonies, the Staveley-Taylor sisters have been singing for as long as any of us can remember’; and now have a firm footing in the UK’s folk revival.

Playing their first gig in 2005, the past seven years have seen Emily, Jessica and Camilla perform from Watford to Texas, and appear on albums with Fionn Regan and Tom Jones. Not bad for three sisters who started at an open mike might in their local.

But Nov ’12 saw The Staves release their own debut album, ‘Dead & Born & Grown’, which they‘re now out promoting with a headline tour of the UK; playing at the Hare and Hounds in Birmingham on November 28th.

Birmingham Review managed to grab Camilla for a quick Q&A from the road.


BR: Congratulations on the release of ‘Dead & Born & Grown’, released Nov 12th, are you excited?
CST: Yes, we’re very excited to have the record finally out – it feels like it’s been a long time coming.

BR: On the run up to its release, and subsequently, ‘Dead & Born & Grown’ has been getting some pretty widespread attention. Some of the words I’ve seen used to describe the album are ‘charming’, ‘comforting’, and my personal favourite, ‘a woven oneness of lustre and poise’ – how would you surmise it?
CST: Well… it’s hard to describe your own stuff. I think that the record is unpretentious in that we aren’t trying to be anyone but ourselves, and I think, hopefully, that comes across when people listen to it.

BR: And the ‘F word’ halfway through ‘Pay Us No Mind’..?
CST: If anyone is surprised by that then haven’t listened to the lyrics of that song or really understood the vibe.

BR: I read somewhere that ‘Dead & Born & Grown’ was the first song you ever wrote, hence being the name of the album. Does that seem like a long time ago, and are you in a stronger place as songwriters?
CST: I doesn’t really seem like it was that long ago. I think we have improved as songwriters, but I wouldn’t change anything about that song. Sometimes it’s the simplicity in songs you write that gives them that magic.

BR: How about in the studio? You worked with Ethan and Glyn Johns, who have some pretty heavyweight acts in their portfolio; what was it like working with such established producers?

CST: They have an amazing back catalogue of records they’ve worked on. It was great seeing their techniques in the studio – they work on tape which is really dying out in studios. We recorded almost the whole record live and that was a lot of fun and really kept us on our toes.

BR: The last time Birmingham Review covered you was in April, what’s been going on since spring?
CST: We’ve managed to support Bon Iver twice – once around the US/Canada and once around Europe – which has been incredible. We played a lot of festivals this summer and the rest of the time has been spent on the record. Plus I did all the artwork, which took a while.

BR: And you were recently invited onto ‘Later… with Jools Holland’, where you performed the purely vocal/harmony track ‘Wisely & Slow’. Was that more nerve wracking than with instruments?
CST: No, weirdly enough we feel more relaxed and confident doing the a capella stuff. I guess as singers you have more control when it’s just you up there.

BR: Your next single is ‘Tongue Behind My Teeth’, and in the video – a Western pastiche, you look very convincing with a rifle. Is there anything we should know about?
CST: I got into a cab the other day with my guitar and the driver made a joke about there being a machine gun in there. I felt like Antonio Banderas. I have never used a real gun – the ones in the video were fake, sorry to ruin the illusion.

BR: You’re all from Watford; is there a big folk scene in your home town?
CST: There is a folk scene in Watford but we’ve never been a part of it. Like most towns there’s music going on and that’s where we played our first gigs and sang with other bands and learned to do what we do. That all took place in pubs and bars for us, not folk clubs. I think Watford suffers by being in such close proximity to London where there is so much going on musically so a lot of people end up migrating there instead.

BR: So what encouraged and inspired you, musically?
CST: Just hearing good music is the most inspiring thing. It can be listening to a record old or new, going to a gig or just having a conversation with a musician and absorbing all the different ways that people approach music. In terms of encouragement our family and friends have always cheered us on at gigs since the beginning and told us not to be shy.

BR: Vocally you are all clearly proficient, and I know Jessica plays the guitar and you play the Uklele. Are there any other instruments in the closet?
CST: We played piano, clarinet and flute when we were kids but were just taught boring songs so we ditched them. I try and play most stringed instruments – I have a banjo and a mandolin at home and I play a bit of piano and harmonium on the record.

BR: And finally… you are granted one wish from the genie of music, what do you ask for?
CST: Neil Young’s guitar, it’s a Martin D-28 that used to belong to Hank Williams.

The Staves debut album, ‘Dead & Born & Grown’, is out now – available in store and online. For more on The Staves, visit

The Staves play at the Hare & Hounds on November 28th, for more information visit

INTERVIEW: Ben Lewis, ‘Who Do You Love – The King Adora Story’

Interview by Ed King

Cast your mind back to the heyday of Brum’s Indie scene; The Hummingbird, Plastic Factory, Doc Martins from the Rag. And of course, The Jug of Ale.

But floating out of the flotsam and jetsam rose King Adora; you remember, pouty-face-big-hair? No? Well you should if you were old or sober enough.

Soaking up a sizable chunk of the local limelight, King Adora looked like they might get somewhere; with an album in the charts, a cache of label interest, ferociously loyal fans, and enough swagger to actually pull it off.

But like many before and after them (Cooler than Jesus, Blowfly, Honeyman…) King Adora’s rise was meteoric but short lived. Splitting up in 2005 the Birmingham four piece went their separate ways, reforming for only two ‘reunion’ gigs in 2010.

Then seven years later the Birmingham Review receives a press release, saying ‘KING ADORA ARE BACK’.


No, they’re not.

What’s actually happening are the first screenings of ‘Who Do You Love – The King Adora Story’, a self financed documentary by Ben Lewis; named after King Adora’s second/last album, and covering the band’s rise, fall and subsequent (albeit short, short lived) reunion.

So my second question also came in one word. Why?

“It started off as a pet project,” tells Lewis, “I’d spent a lot of time working at Apple and wanted to get back into making films.

I’d followed King Adora when they toured up in Scotland, where I was living at the time, and wanted to interview the guys; plus the other characters that’d played a part in their journey.”

A close friend of Martyn Nelson, King Adora’s lead guitarist, Ben Lewis had a comfortable link to the band. And with a background in film production, alongside half a decade training people for Apple’s video applications, he wanted “to start making some of this stuff I had all these ideas for.”

So, armed with a salary, over 100 hours of stock footage, and a “romanticised way of film making”, Ben Lewis put the King Adora story into production in 2010.

“What you have (with King Adora) are these four guys who have tasted success – but essentially lost it,” says Lewis, “and I wanted to show how that affected them.

But I also wanted to cover other themes that the band experienced in the music business at that itime. This was really pre social media; MySpace was only in its infancy, and the industry was in flux. Artist development was a becoming thing of the past.”

But King Adora split up in 2005, playing only a further two gigs in 2010. How do you effectively document such a retrospective topic?

“I was present throughout that process, so when the idea came about (for the two ‘reunion’ shows in 2010), I filmed the gigs and got vox pops form the fans,” explains Lewis. “Plus the band had often filmed their own concerts, so I got a hell of a lot of archive from King Adora tours of the UK and Japan.”

And how accessible were ‘the other characters’, the extras that ‘played a part in their journey?’

“The fans were easy enough to find,” says Lewis,” and Steve Lamacq, who had pushed Kind Adora in their early years, was happy to appear on camera.”

Anyone say no? “There were people I wanted, but just couldn’t get;

their sound engineer who used to tour with them, and I wanted to interview some of the music video directors but I couldn’t track them down.

Getting in touch with John Cornfield at Sawmill Studios also took a long time to arrange.”

Filmed on Red and 5D Mark II cameras, ‘Who Do You Love – The King Adora Story’ follows in the footsteps of Jason Reitman’s award winning independent ‘Juno’, and Steven Soderburgh’s last three releases: ‘Magic Mike’, ‘Haywire’ and ‘Contagion’. And at times, during the two year production process, Ben Lewis’ self financed documentary cost him around ₤1000 a day.

Ironically documenting a band surfing the break before the digital music wave, ‘Who Do You Love’ is facing similar commercial contentions.

Online broadcasters, such as YouTube and Vimeo, have established a quick, easy and free world of angry kittens, old TV shows and bedroom recordings. And film making ‘aint cheap – not if you do it well. So, as an independent production, how can you afford it?

“In my last few months at Apple I was spending my wages hiring Red cameras, Zeiss primes and other equipment. And I called in a lot of favours,” including the time of cinematographer Laura Howie (Aardman, Curse of the Were Rabbit, Fantastic Mr Fox).

“Now it’s completed, we’re hosting a series of screenings and will be looking at releasing a DVD. There will probably be an online release too, and I’m currently looking into iTunes and other distributors.”

‘Who Do You Love – The King Adora Story’ is also fundraising online, through Indiegogo


‘Who Do You Love – The King Adora Story’ will first be screened at the Hare & Hounds (Oct 24th), with subsequent screenings at Muthers Studio (Oct 27th) and the Worcestershire Film Festival (Nov 3rd).

For more information, and to buy tickets for each event, visit

‘Who Do You Love’ is released through Siwel Productions –

INTERVIEW: Toyah Wilcox @ Cherry Reds Café, Kings Heath, July 16th

Interview by Cesilia Oriana Trecaquista / Pictures by Paul

Punk pop teen terror, Toyah Willcox, exploded into the limelight as ‘Mad’ – the anarchic redhead in Derek Jaman’s 1978 “film about Punk”, ‘Jubilee’.

She went on to release over 20 studio albums, 13 Top 40 singles, appear in over 40 stage plays and 10 feature films – in a career spanning over three decades. Oh yeah, she’s written two books as well.

Now also the first luminary to be honored on Kings Heath’s ‘Walk of Fame’, Cesilia Oriana Trecaquista went to see what else (if there’s any room left) does Toyah have in her head.

BReview: “Congratulations on your star in the Kings Heath ‘Walk of Fame’.  How does it feel to be awarded this accolade?”

Toyah: “It’s wonderful.  It’s such an honour, and so good for people to remember me in this way. I lived in Birmingham for 18 years, until I left for London and got my career going. I was born and conceived here. I used to shop on the high street everyday with my mother.

It’s very kind of the business people of Kings Heath, to include me in the names of those associated with the suburb. Amazing people have played here, like Led Zeppelin and Jerry lee Lewis (at the Ritz Ballroom, now Cash Convertors, on York Rd).

I think I am the only other woman apart from Helen Shapiro; it’s an absolute honour.”

BReview: “You’ve had such a significant career, and hold a prolific music back catalogue. Is it difficult to decide what you will and won’t include, song wise, when organising a set or a tour?”

Toyah: “We are kind of lucky, because starting last year we had 3 major 30th Anniversaries. Last year was ‘Anthem’, this year is ‘The Changeling’ and next year is ‘Love is the Law”. These were all platinum albums, so we can tour them. What we do after is a different matter, but for the next year we’re kind of covered.”

BReview: “So what can we expect at tonight’s gig?”

Toyah: “Today, at the Hare and Hounds, we’re going to do a 32 year retrospective; covering 18 – 22 albums. That has been hard, as we can only fit 22 songs into the length of time we have. It’s going to be a real ‘wham, bam, thank you ma’am’ night.”

BReview: “Do you ever feel the need to put a modern twist on some of your earlier works when performing live?”

Toyah: “Interestingly, people don’t seem to want that. They want the original 1980’s take on things. But to contemporise is never a problem; with technology, the way you arrange things, when and where drum fills and guitar solos in etc.

The designs for the costumes do have quite a contemporary take on what I was wearing 30 years ago. But funnily enough, people want the songs exactly as they were back then, they want the nostalgia.”

BReview: “The 2nd part of your ‘Changeling Resurrection’ tour starts in September, with you returning to play at the Birmingham Ballroom on October 31st. Will you have any Halloween surprises for us?”

Toyah: “It’s going to be a fancy dress theme. ‘The Changeling’ was a gothic album so it will be a Goth themed night.  There will be all sorts of events happening; competitions, DJs and a club night after the gig.

BReview: “Moving on to ‘The Humans’ (a 3 piece ensemble Toyah formed in 2007) can you explain how this collaboration came about, and how it is to work with Chris Wong and Bill Reiflin?”

Toyah: “Well, Chris Wong was working as my Musical Director and also played guitar for my solo project, ‘Toyah’. In 2007 my husband was asked to play for the President of Estonia. However, he wasn’t available, so I contacted the embassy and asked if they would like myself and my band to do it instead.

At the time Bill Rieflin was drumming for R.E.M, but he had a window; so together with Chris we wrote 45 minutes of music which became the first ‘Humans’ album. We went to Estonia and played for the president and it went down incredibly well. It was fantastic. We are now on out 3rd album, which we record in September.”

BReview: “So a significant career, one that’s still evolving into new projects. What advice, if any, do you have for people pursuing a career in the industry today?”

Toyah: “It isn’t about the ‘X-Factor’. It takes genuine hard work, not instant gratification.  My advice would be to learn an instrument, learn how to write, learn about the law and get clued up about what publishing is about and what a record company is about.

Try and launch yourself on the Internet; on things such as Facebook, Twitter etc, as today that is where it is at.”

BReview: “And as a strong female in the music industry, how do you feel the role of women in the industry has changed?”

Toyah: “When I started out, there were people like Kim Wilde, Kate Bush and Patti Smith leading the way for females; but doing so in a strong way and in control, even back then.

Today there are some really great female songwriters who not only look great but are headlining stadiums; which back when I started didn’t happen.

I began at a time when your career would be mainly playing the pub circuits, so now it’s clear there is a lot of control by women in the industry.”

BReview: “So who would you consider strong and influential female figures in the industry today?”

Toyah: “Songwriters and acts such as P.J Harvey, Florence & the Machine, Marina & the Diamonds and Pink – who has reinvented herself over a diverse career. It hasn’t all been about Madonna.”

Toyah Willcox brings ‘The Changeling Resurrection Tour’ to the Birmingham Ballroom on October 31st.

For more info about this, and other gigs at the venue, visit

For more on Toyah Willcox, visit

INTERVIEW: Alex Milas (Editor, Metal Hammer)

(left to right) Alex Milas, Metal Hammer & Rob Halford, Judas Priest - courtesy of Metal Hammer

By K. Ann Sulaiman

More than 40 years have passed since Birmingham’s Black Sabbath entered the world of music with their eponymous first album, but the legacy of Heavy Metal they helped pioneer is still strong today. Birmingham’s Home of Metal project has been celebrating the city’s history with the genre for years. Birmingham Review caught up with Alexander Milas, editor of Metal Hammer – the UK’s biggest Metal magazine, at the campaign’s recent Heavy Metal & Place conference.

“Birmingham probably has one of the deepest music histories throughout the UK, and for metal it’s absolutely essential,” commented Milas, “It all has a deep sense of heritage about itself, which is surprising that Home of Metal has taken this long to come into existence despite such deep history”. But why has the cited ‘birthplace of Metal’ been so slow to document its heritage?

“I think that this has a lot to do with the fact that Heavy Metal is still stigmatised; it’s not really viewed as worthy of preservation, though it can be argued that it’s one of the biggest exports out of the UK,” continued Milas, whose came from America to head the UK based publication, “the music now exists in every timezone and every country, not to mention that it influences millions of people.”

Though Birmingham’s Metal scene is more fragmented than in cities like London, where Metal Hammer’s UK office is based, Milas believes it’s spirit is just as strong.

“There are a lot of factors that influence this, but there’s no doubt that there is a Metal Scene here… the band Manowar played their first show in the UK after 17 years, and it was in Birmingham, where tickets were all sold out at the O2 Academy.”

And as for the future of Heavy Metal in the city that spawned Black Sabbath, Led Zepplin and Judas Priest? “[Birmingham] is really the spiritual homeland of the music that we hold dear,” concluded Milas, “and it’s always inspiring to come back to see where Metal has come from.”