Bonfire Radicalsthe dynamic and (un)traditional six-piece folk band are touring the UK with their highly anticipated second album, The space between.
Expect the unexpected, with global grooves, instrumental fireworks, rich vocal harmonies and delicate a cappella emerging from a melting pot of original and traditional melodies from the British Isles to the Balkans.
Emotional vocals, textural washes, intricate woodwinds and ferocious violin are woven together against a pulsating backdrop of guitar, bass and drums. Bonfire Radicals’ music challenges their audience not to dance.
The band have built up a strong fan base after their intense and energetic live performances across the UK including the Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Beardy Folk Festival, Moseley Folk & Arts Festival, Purbeck Valley Folk Festival and the broadcast on BBC Radio 3.
The band’s contemporary originals and inventive arrangements bring empathy to folk traditions around the world, while being rooted in their adopted hometown of Birmingham, which itself is the inspiration for some of their music.
Their live set is a can’t-miss frenzy of energy, showcasing the band’s imagination and variety of influences. The inspiration comes from both traditional folk and unorthodox folk and features an all-female frontline of recorders, violin, clarinet and vocals, alongside a hard-hitting rhythm section of electric guitar, bass and drums.
“Musically, everything is allowed, with twists that sometimes even surprise us. We are a lively and somewhat particular group,” says recorder player and lead vocalist Michelle, “but our arrangements can also have some pretty dark moments. It’s not just dance tunes, we’re taking you on a journey.”
The delicate English folk song is underlined by Heavy Metal, the traditional movements of Klezmer cross moments of Doom and Art Rock, the French melodies decorate the grooves of South Africa, the South American percussions accompany the slamming Strathspeys… the list is long…
So who are the musical misfits that bring it all together?
Drummer Ilias Lintzos brings world percussion to the drums to give us heavy beats, intricate grooves and a touch of rock, ska and jazz. His imaginative and intricate playing underpins the band, leading the music through intricate time changes and dance grooves that challenge you not to dance.
Bassist, accordionist and vocalist Pete Churchill’s interest in baroque harmony and counterpoint shines through in his compositions and harmonic arrangements. Expect fruity chords far beyond D&G and plenty of ’70s pop-inspired basslines to get you dancing.
Emma Reading brings more than a touch of color to her guitar, influenced by Blues, Funk, Afro Beat and Rio Samba. Being one with her pedal board and never afraid to racket with one foot on the monitor, she earned the nickname “Emma Shredding”. Emma can also be seen carrying a Caixa or a Rep (Brazilian drums) and bringing a carnival touch to the band.
Michelle Holloway demonstrates her love of complex melody with clear influences from Swedish folk tunes, medieval and baroque recorder repertoire. As a lead singer, she also enjoys finding traditional songs about real people with contemporary resonances. She is known for her virtuoso and skilful playing at the speed of light!
No band can claim to play klezmer music without a stellar clarinetist, and Katie Stevens’ virtuoso playing is the star of these tracks. Her charismatic and flamboyant playing of Klezmer, Balkan and Irish music is well known, and she demonstrates it on several instruments, including Irish Whistle and Kaval.
Five-string fiddler Sarah Farmer’s sound is influenced by the grit, fire and passion of traditional Scottish, klezmer and experimental music, with a bit of noise and free improvisation thrown in for good measure. Pushing our expectations and challenging the limits of violin playing is at the heart of his playing.
Catch them for dates in October/November and sign up to their mailing list for info on more tours in late spring 2023. Bonfire Radicals’ new album “The Space Between” drops September 30th in the UK, available on CD and on all digital platforms.
Images: Grant Harper Productions