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Two of The Yarns
The Yarns are a Leicester three-piece who have performed on straw, share mixed views on Gallowtree Gate and aspire to feature in a particular television advert. Read on for an eccentric insight into the band by frontman John...
Who is The Yarn?
He's about 5 foot 10, talks in an Irish accent and looks remarkably like Roy Orbison. When I am alone and quiet in bed, he whispers song lyrics into my ear.
When did you begin performing?
Johnny began playing violin in public at the age of 4. The official band line is that he was desperate to progress, but if pushed he admits he was forced by his Romanian Granddad in order raise money for goulash.
Richard has been hitting things since he can remember. I found a guitar in a skip at school when I was 13. Together we have been making noise for about five years, but as The Yarns for less than one.
Who or what are your greatest influences?
Ex-girlfriends. They have to be an 'ex' – if you have a girlfriend you find better things to do than spend eight hours hunched over a guitar trying to write a song.
Gallowtree Gate. It's just so disgustingly mundane – is there one shop along it that isn't replicated in Coventry or Nottingham or anywhere else? With a name like "Gallowtree" you can tell amazingly interesting stuff went on down there: they used to hang people! Now all we get is deodorant from Boots. Anyways, it has ended up in a song or two.
Elizabeth Bishop. She's actually a poet not a singer but please don't turn away in disgust – it isn't of the "icicles of Trojan, bestill my soul" malarkey. It's good stuff which I frequently rip off.
What do you sound like?
We think we sound like three young people trying to have some fun.
The Yarns performing
Syd Barrett minus the breakdown and wandering around town in pyjamas (excluding Richard)? Bob Dylan being ripped off by Leicesterians? Meatloaf minus the power ballads, voice and weight?
How do Leicester venues rate against other cities?
I think for its size Leicester does well – it's dead easy to say "compared to Manchester it's crap", but when you think Leicester is, what, a third of the size? I don't think it's too bad.
Plus there are some really helpful people out there willing to give you a gig. We have always found the guys at The Shed immensely supportive.
Who are your favourite local artists at the moment and why?
Grace Petrie – really imaginative songwriter, and a good friend. You can normally find her in the Firefly/bug, sitting by the fire telling mystical stories, with a gaggle of bright-eyed youngsters sat at her feet.
We also like Pacific Ocean Fire – think Mercury Rev but without the whiny voice. Or Iron and Wine multiplied by four. Tuneful melodic Americana stuff.
What do you do when you aren't playing music?
Johnny learns how to twiddle knobs, nonchalantly lean back in big comfy black chairs and say "that's great, but can you do that again?" (otherwise known as a Music Production degree)
Richard hits things (supposedly under the guise of a Music Performance degree)
I enter any competitions I can get my hands on and read "The Week" section of the Leicester Mercury from cover to cover. Three times.
Best gig so far?
Atop of a hay-rick in the village of Houghton-on-the-Hill. The violin pieces went down really well. I still keep finding straw in my guitar's sound hole.
To a room full of German pensioners in the Black Forest south of Freiburg. Richard forgot his drumsticks so we had to improvise with overturned bins and various beer glasses. They weren't impressed.
How did you decide on your name?
The Yarn (see above) made us.
Where did you go to school and what was the best thing about it?
We all went to the fine educational establishment of St Paul's Comprehensive, Evington.
Johnny says the best thing was the doughnuts, Richard says the hot babes. I say the best thing was how they let us stay behind every Thursday until 6pm, drag all the drums into a classroom, and proceed to generate two hour long Mogwai/Pink Floyd-esque noise things.
What's been your most embarrassing music-themed moment?
Johnny accidentally became Louisianan during a gig a few weeks back. That was pretty mortifying. Thankfully it hasn't reoccurred.
Favourite line you've written?
"I shouldn't have done that"
It's not deep or clever or profound, but it summarizes about 80% of my thoughts; and other people's too, judging by the decent response it gets.
Where and when was the first gig you ever saw?
Muse at the De Montfort Hall, November 2001.
Richard says Blondie at CBGB's in New York, 1978. We don't believe him.
What do you hope to achieve in the future?
We want our music to feature in a GAP advert. That's really the only reason we are all in this gig.
What was you first memory?
Running around a cotton field in Arkansas in britches, helping my father pick the day's crop.
That could be Johnny Cash though…
Do you have any crazy fans?
We don't seem to inspire craziness. Apart from the guy who came from Rome to see a gig, but that was because he thought Michael Palin was going to be there. That's what happens if you confuse "Ripping Yarns" with "The Yarns".
Hide and seek anyone?
Favourite place in Leicestershire?
Gallowtree Gate (see above).
The Welford Road. What other thoroughfare takes you past Prisons, top quality sports stadia, graveyards, Grimsby Fisheries, my house and lush parkland? None, I tell you.
Richard says McDonalds on Market Street. Johnny says The Gables Hotel junction on London Road. In both cases I have no idea why…
The last text message you received?
"Just had a class on Cicero and my lecturer imitated the godfather! Ah small joys."
Speaks for itself really. Who says education can't engage the kids?
Listen to The Yarns...
last updated: 03/07/07