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24 September 2014

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Somerset Sounds - Artists

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Five multi-instrumentalists whose music draws on a rich musical palette, blending rock with touches of folk, jazz, blues, electronica and even classical music. Meet Mantlepiece from Taunton.

Who are Mantlepiece?

Ali Warren on vocals and guitar; Ant Webb on guitar and piano; Nathan Reed on percussion and vocals; Simon Rawlins on bass; and Miriam Wakeling on cello and piano

Where in Somerset are you from?


When did you form?

In 2006

How did you get together?


How would you describe your music?

Five multi-instrumentalists whose core sound of guitars, drums, bass and vocals is given subtlety and texture through their use of cello, piano and both electronic and ethnic percussion to create a unique sound.

The music draws on a rich musical palette, blending rock with touches of folk, jazz, blues, electronica and even classical music.

How did the band gets its name?

That's classified

Who are your musical influences?

The Sound of Music, Grease, the collected works of Andrew Lloyd Webber... sorry, but really we'd be here all day.

What is your most memorable gig so far?

Ah, well let's allow our friend Dan to take up that story:

"Like most 30-something failed musicians, I had become deeply cynical about music. I was turning into a miserable old man waving my metaphorical stick at all these upstart kids constantly recycling riffs and throwing tired old poses.

"I knew Mil from working together in the restaurant and I knew she was in a band. I took the p*** of course, particularly out of the name. Mantlepiece! Why don't you just call yourselves Sideboard or Coffee Table and have done with it? Well, I thought it was funny.

"But she persuaded me to go down to their first gig. I'll admit I was intrigued. I was intrigued by the fact that they had a cello player as part of the lineup, and Mil had used words like experimental and psychedelic to describe the band, all of which sounded promising.

"Still, I wasn't expecting much. How many people do you know in bands, and how many of them are even halfway decent? Exactly.

"When I got to the venue the place was rammed, which I hadn't been expecting. Clearly this was a band with a lot of mates.

"I fought my way to the bar and met up with Sam and we drank our way through a couple of perfectly decent, perfectly average support acts while Sam, who had been there for the soundcheck, told me how good Mantlepiece had sounded.

"I smiled, knowing that Sam was always far more generous than myself when it came to judging bands.  

"But then, finally, Mantlepiece took to the stage. From the first few chords, it was blindingly apparent that this was no ordinary bunch of wannabe kids.

"For a start, they looked like a band, and cool at that, their boho-smart attire giving them an air of seedy glamour. And they could play - I mean, really play.

"The rhythm section sounded as if they should have been backing Charlie Parker at Birdland, the lead guitar wailed like Santana at Woodstock and the skinny little singer possessed the voice of some 80-year-old blues man still paying his dues.

"And the sound they were creating was rich and dense, bearing no resemblance at all to those countless skinny-jeaned Arctic-Kaiser-Kook copyists that plague provincial stages throughout the land.

"There were barely comprehensible time signatures and unexpected chord changes but none of it sounded forced or obtuse, the music sounding utterly effortless and natural.

"Piano and cello added warmth and texture to the sound and, as the set progressed, I found myself grinning like a lunatic at the subtlety and scope of this music.

"Looking round the audience, it was clear I was not alone in my judgement. The following day I fired off a review to the local press, which is something I had never done before.

"Reading it back now, what I wrote seems hyperbolic but it was exactly how I felt at the time. I have seen Mantlepiece many times since and I stand by every word I wrote.

"I have witnessed them win over distinctly uninterested crowds in working men's clubs and lost count of the times they have stolen the thunder of more established, headlining acts.

"Quite simply, Mantlepiece are a band to cherish, a band to restore one's faith in music. I have even got used to the name."

Where would you most like to play?

Directly into people's dreams!?

Finally, tell us some interesting facts about yourself

Our early rehearsals took place in a room overlooking Vivary Park in Taunton and would draw crowds of onlookers, often becoming impromptu open-air performances, long before we had done anything as mundane as perform a gig.

last updated: 16/04/07
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