Wolverhampton's Bluebyrd take flight again with new album - unsigned column
They've been in bands before - but this time, Bluebyrd wanted to do things differently.
Chris Rowley and Gareth Pask formed the duo to express themselves how they want to, when they want to, and through whichever way they want to.
And now guitarist and vocalist Rowley, from Wolverhampton, and keyboardist Pask from Stoke-on-Trent are gearing up for their second album to be released in May.
Aptly titled Find Your Way, it is written by Rowley and the duo then get together to thrash out the musical arrangements.
"We have both been in bands that have recorded in full studios, but this time we wanted to work differently," Pask adds. "We’ve basically done everything ourselves. We set ourselves the limits of using an iPad, but that also gave us a freedom from the narrow confines of studio recording slots.
"We also have got our new single - Not The Only Show In This Town - coming out on February 14, so we’re looking forward to playing that live."
"It seems ridiculous I know, but apps like Garageband are not to be sniffed at," adds Wulfrunian Rowley about their un-snob-like approach to recording. "They’re powerful tools and if you invest the time and have a clear direction in mind you can get great results. And, of course, it’s cheaper."
And based on the underground success their previous record Uneven Ground enjoyed, the duo are looking forward to seeing what the reaction is to the new material. Because, truthfully, they've planned it a bit better this time.
"It’s very exciting," Pask confirms. "Uneven Ground happened mostly by accident. We just kept recording tracks while we were still sussing each other out and finding our feet playing live. We never talked about an album. It just happened we had enough for an album and it seemed logical to put it out there."
And Rowley adds: "This time we worked in a much more determined way to create a body of work and that makes things exciting. There’s a real variety. The personal, intimate-sounding songs, through to bigger sounding songs and some folky stompers. I always like those albums that surprise with different styles."
They'll also be launching it with hometown shows for both members of the duo. First up is Pask's Stoke base, with an event at the Glebe Inn on May 12 as part of the Choose Days at the Glebe events run by Annie Bellyou. Then on May 16, Brett Hall will host them at Wolverhampton's Giffard Arms.
"Support bands are being lined up at the moment and we're really excited about both dates," adds Pask.
Mirroring the difference in approach to albums one and two, their origins were suitably accidental too - as with many unsigned acts.
"Originally, Bluebyrd was me and a local bass player," says Rowley. "It sort of fizzled out and we stopped before things had really got going. In fact, we supported Gareth's band Stickman Stays up in Stoke."
And Pask picks up the story, adding: "But the dynamics weren’t the same with them after a couple of line-up changes, so I decided to look for something different. Chris and I had been working together at Kings CE School in Tettenhall, Wolverhampton, for a couple of years anyway, and as we were both at a loose end, decided to have a jam after work and things took off from there."
Politics has previously taken centre stage in their music, such as on previous single Song For the Duped. But they are keen to point out it's not their usual modus operandi and there are plenty of strings to the Bluebyrd songwriting bow as will be seen on the new record.
"Song For The Duped was one of those songs that just wrote itself in a way," Rowley said. "Its origins go back well before last month's UK election. I mean, the whole political landscape since [US president Donald] Trump [came to power] has been like another realm of reality. You have to go back to the rise of UKIP and David Cameron's response and then work your way through the US elections, then the European elections, to see the direction things were going.
"But that song is atypical really. Many of the songs are, I suppose, tuned into political or social issues, but I think about four out of the two dozen songs we play are what you might call protest songs. We’ve got as many songs to do with love as we have got protest songs."
"What I would say is that subjects are often approached from an odd angle, so Chris rarely writes a straight love song, for instance," Pask adds. "Much of the new album is to do with navigating your way through personal identity and social media and the like. Hence the title."
So, the album release date is set and launch shows are planned. What then for Bluebyrd in 2020?
"The last two years have been hard work, raising our profile on the festival front and gaining more and more radio play on community and national stations," adds Pask. "We’re both looking forward to more of this. The hard work is paying off and it would be great to revisit the shows, festivals and venues that have been supportive. But we want to build on this. We’re looking at different venues and other ways of sharing our work with our audience."
And Rowley adds: "I’m looking forward to playing the songs off the new album, but I’m also thinking beyond that. I love writing, working on new songs and ideas. I’ve started already and once the mixing is done and dusted I’ll be bringing in new stuff to Gareth."
So there's plenty of flight in Bluebyrd yet.
Bluebyrd can be found on Twitter @Bluebyrdband where Pask posts updates, while they are also on Facebook @bluebyrdband where Uneven Ground can be purchased. Their previous material can be heard on their Soundcloud page, where Find Your Way will also be available once released. Keep an eye on their social media channels for the confirmed date.