by DJ Lidl of DJ Lidls No Frills Disco
The People’s String Foundation may not stay Cornwall’s best kept secret for much longer, if the performance of the jolly consortium of top-end musicians who played to wild applause in Penryn this Saturday is anything to go by.
Ben Sutcliffe and Zaid Al-Rakabi’s classical/prog rock baby (or whatever you care to call music that, in the best music-journo tradition of trying to explain a new band with an unlikely fusing of two old ones, we’ll say for the time being sounds like the Penguin Cafe Orchestra popping in for tea with 65 Days of Static) is already a major festival standfast and someone who’s someone is going to have to notice them soon.
31 year old Ben met Zaid, who’s 27, two years ago as they both played out solo at jam session nights in Falmouth and Perranporth.
Professionally trained, they sought out other musicians who shared their goals and could keep up with playing seven gigs a pop in one festival weekend and came up with violinist Clare Tomlinson, who studied at Truro College, jazz trained Chris Jones , an alumnus of the Birmingham conservatoire who teaches bass in Falmouth, and Truro-trained drummer Harry Harding, 23, from Bristol.
The result is a lush, multi-layered explosion of hooks in what I dimly understand to be counterpoint, (could be the wrong word, but you’ll know roughly what I mean if you check it out), over a faultless rhythm section.
Which is nice – as indeed are the band members, who can’t, and have no wish to, contain the obvious thrill they get out of playing together.
They’ve been enjoying success across the country as they build up a following but bassist Chris Jones says Cornwall will always be “The home of ‘The strings’”.
The 27 year old from Falmouth told us: “We’ve been a band for about two years.
“Ben and Zaid met in Cornwall, they were playing solo, at jam sessions in Perranporth and Falmouth.
“They started writing and initially the People’s String Foundation was just those two: it was a very organic thing – gravity pulled us together.
“Ben and Zaid have a very firm grasp of what they’re doing and what the next two albums are going to be and I’m happy to go with it.
“They’re all concept albums. We played a whole album out at the Falmouth Poly
“They decided to put on a massive show and we wanted to play there to raise money for them because Falmouth needs Iranian cinema -we’re totally into that.
“We’ve played Glastonbury this year, and ended up doing about six gigs, one on the Chai Wallah stage and a load of others.”
“And when we go to a festival now we try and play two or three stages, make everyone jump around a lot, and head off and play again.
“Festivals are great for spreading your sound around. We’re hoping to do small theatres next – like Peapods but with a bigger capacity.”
“We’re likely to head to Bristol next to look for gigs but Cornwall is where our heart is: this is where we had our first gigs.
“Clare lived in a boat in Ponsharden, Ben’s from Perranporth.
“Everyone always remarks on how smiley Ben is on stage and I think that’s something about Cornwall and about the positive attitude we have.
“We played the Eden Cafe last night and there was a lot of people who had seen us for the first time, so hopefully it’s onward and upward.”
“But we’ll always be staying in the South West – that’s the home of the ‘Strings’.”