Bonfire Radicals, the dynamic (un)traditional six-piece folk band are touring the UK with their much 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 tunes from the British Isles to the Balkans.
Emotive vocals, textural washes, intricate woodwind and fierce fiddle are woven together over a pulsating backdrop of guitar, bass and drums. Bonfire Radicals’ music dares their audiences not to dance.
The band have built up a strong fan base following their intense high-energy live performances across the UK including Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Beardy Folk Festival, Moseley Folk & Arts Festival, Purbeck Valley Folk Festival, and airplay on BBC Radio 3.
The band’s contemporary originals and inventive arrangements bring empathy for folk traditions from around the globe, whilst rooted in their adopted home of Birmingham, which itself is the inspiration for some of their music.
Their live set is a frenzy of energy not to be missed, demonstrating the band’s imagination and variety of influences. Inspiration comes from both traditional folk and the unorthodox and features an all-female front line of recorders, fiddle, clarinet, and vocals, set alongside a punchy rhythm section of electric guitar, bass and drums.
“Musically, anything goes, with twists and turns that sometimes even take us by surprise. We’re a lively, slightly peculiar bunch”, says recorder player and lead vocalist Michelle, “but our arrangements can also have quite dark moments. It’s not all dance tunes, we take you on a journey”.
Delicate English folk song is underscored by Heavy Metal, traditional Klezmer moves through moments of Doom and Art Rock, French melodies decorate grooves from South Africa, South American drumming accompanies snapping Strathspeys…the list goes on…
So who are the musical misfits that bring all this together?
Drummer Ilias Lintzos brings world percussion to the drum kit to give us heavy beats, complex grooves and a touch of rock, ska and jazz. His imaginative and intricate playing underpins the band, leading the music through complex time changes and dance grooves that dare you not to dance.
Bassist, accordionist and vocalist Pete Churchill’s interests in baroque harmony and counterpoint shines through in his compositions and harmonic arrangements. Expect some fruity chords far beyond D & G and plenty of 70’s pop-inspired bass lines to get you dancing.
Emma Reading brings more than a touch of colour on her guitar, influenced by Blues, Funk, Afro Beat and Rio Samba. At one with her pedal board and never afraid to make a racket with a foot on the monitor, she’s earned the nickname ‘Emma Shredding’. Emma can also be spotted donning a Caixa or Rep (Brazilian drums) and bringing a touch of carnival to the band.
Michelle Holloway demonstrates her love of intricate melody with clear influences from Swedish folk tunes, Medieval and Baroque recorder repertoire. As lead vocalist, she also enjoys finding traditional songs about real people with contemporary resonances. She is known for her virtuosic, skilful light-speed playing!
No band can claim to play Klezmer music without a stellar clarinettist, and Katie Stevens’ virtuosic playing is the star of these tunes. Her charismatic and flamboyant playing of Klezmer, Balkan and Irish music is well known, and she demonstrates this on multiple instruments including Irish Whistle and Kaval.
Five stringed fiddler Sarah Farmer’s sound is influenced by the grit, fire, and passion of traditional Scottish, Klezmer and Experimental music, with some Noise and Free Improv thrown in for good measure. Pushing our expectations and challenging boundaries of fiddle playing is at the heart of her playing.
Catch them for dates in October/November and sign up to their mailing list for info about further touring in late spring 2023. Bonfire Radicals new album ‘The Space Between’ releases on September 30th in the UK, available on CD and all digital platforms.
Images: Grant Harper Productions