"Downtown With Brethren"
from Sounds '73 - discovered by Michael Clayton

Rod Clements has established the new line up for his band although they are yet without a name. Bill "Mitch" Mitchell, formerly with Newcastle folk group The Callies, returned home from Canada last week and confirmed that he would be joining the band. "He'll be playing guitar, banjo and mandolin, but mainly he's just a fucking good singer," Rod enthused. "The sounds are still pretty much in our heads at the moment and it's difficult to put into words but the line up of the band is now complete and I should think it'll have a fairly folky feel still," Rod went on. "I think Mitch will be the front man in terms of doing most of the singing but essentially we want a band without front men; I think this'll be easier with four people than with five."

Rod confirmed that the band had not originally split down the middle. The future of the band had been discussed at length and it was just a question of which side of the fence the various members would fall. "We've been talking about it for six months and there have been various different plans at different stages. It was definite we would split but we had second thoughts when we went to Australia because it was so good there. We went down really well there and it was possibly the best ever, but we were all determined to have a good time anyway so we decided to split would be the best thing to do. I think it would have been unfair to audiences to carry on because we were aware of the problems that had come up and the cracks were bound to show sooner or later."

Rod explained that the break up was due almost entirely to musical rather than personal reasons, "as far as you can separate the two." He added: " From the second part of last year it happened gradually, particularly in America which wasn't very good. We were a bit disappointed with Dingly Dell and with the way it was received in terms of what we had done before. You see, we were out to make the definitive Lindisfarne album, that would destroy everyone. But by this time the material was getting weaker and the album got mixed reactions, which was what it deserved. So there were really several basic reasons: there was the material because Si, Alan or me hadn't written much since the band started because of the pressures of work - there just wasn't any time to think about songs in a serious kind of way and I didn't start writing again until after the split. What happened then was that Alan was going to leave and we were just going to get someone else in. Si and I had very much the same ideas and wanted to come with us, which was good because we wanted Ray to stay in any case."

Thus the old Brethren team stayed together, but Rod foresees the temptation of trying to go backwards and emulate the old raw bluesy feel of Brethren. "In a way we do want to resuscitate a bit of the old Brethren without feeling we are going back. It was a bit bluesier than Lindisfarne and certain elements in the band were we feel strongly about too and we want to place equal emphasis on the songs and the playing - we want it to be more musical than Lindisfarne was. You see, the way we used to do the arrangements there just wasn't much scope for the playing and it was all a bit haphazard but you must have the playing matching up to the songs and that's where we fell down in the States."

Rod admitted too that the preceding British tour with Genesis had also fallen below their estimation - it was just one setback after another culminating in the final split. "We just sat around and talked about it.Well first I got talking to Si because it was obvious that something was wrong, so we decided to have a meeting to see if everyone else felt the same way. And everyone else agreed that something had gone wrong somewhere along the line. So first we decided on a complete new start with a complete new lot of material, we also wanted to alter the stage act, but when we got down to talking about it some of us wanted to do some things and some of us wanted to do others.

Now all we want to do is get into a confident, consistent performance because the thing with Lindisfarne was that we were always a bit shaky - a lot of the shows were patchy and misprogrammed with highlights and lowlights and what we want to do right now is present something everyone will like right the way through." 

Rod, Si and Ray have been playing together for years, but Mitch is no stranger either. "He was one of the many singers we had in the old Downtown Faction, and I've known him since youth club days," Rod went on. "The Callies broke up and Mitch went off to Canada but he was a pretty automatic choice for the band."

They're about to start rehearsals with a wealth of material before them, for in addition to Rod and Si, Mitch is also a good writer. "We're not averse to doing some of the old stuff and we may do some of my songs and Si's songs from Lindisfarne, not that there's any need because we have enough new songs for an album and a good stage act, but we may feel like it." The first thing the band want to do - aside from deciding on a name - is to cut a single and then undertake a few small gigs around extreme parts of the country. Already dates are being taken for the West Country and the north of Scotland.

"I think we're going back to the basic ideas we had at the beginning of Lindisfarne which is to write songs - rock songs, folk songs, anything. I think we want to sound like early Lindisfarne only better - easier with four of us. I think it'll sound like Lindisfarne doing the funky things Lindisfarne did - but with all that we still want to leave things open."

There had never been much doubt that Hully and Jacka would retain the old Lindisfarne banner. "It seemed an obvious thing to let them keep the name because they were the front men and we were really looking on this as a new start so the name didn't worry us."

What had been wrong with the old Lindisfarne stage act? "It was clumsy in a way because we had so many different guitars in different tunings that we lost a lot of pace on gigs." The band want to ease back gently and not undertake a concert tour until the time is right. In terms of public interest Rod realises that Hully's band probably has the edge over them and that's why they want to push out a single in order to see how the land lies. But if you want a more accurate pointer of what to expect from Rod's band, he's been going back to albums like Fairport Convention's Liege And Lief, lately, and he has necessarily been extending his own interest in the fiddle.

"You can get a tremendous feel going because there's room for improvisation but those traditional things have an emotional and mythological interest that the blues doesn't have. I want to get back to the kind of things we liked around the time of Liege And Lief - a sort of Beatles/Fairport synthesis as well as our songs translated through that ethos. I think that's something we fell down on playing Alan's songs all the time; he doesn't always write that kind of song and I suppose, to an extent, we were beginning to feel like sidemen as a result. So in the end it became stifled - not through any fault of Alan's at all. I suppose it just took a while for us to admit that we'd set our sights too high - the work situation was very weird because we were big in England and very small everywhere else. We should have done more in Europe because in the end we had to do small gigs abroad which was ridiculous."

original 'Sounds' writer unknown