Unplugged Kazans to headline jam-packed Retune featuring DIDI, Anna Wells and Ben Sommers
Retune returns this Sunday (Nov 4) at The Horn at the Half Moon with an unplugged, acoustic set from Bishop's Stortford favourites The Kazans.
They will be joined on the bill by Hertfordshire alt indie songwriter Lauren Deakin-Davies, aka DIDI, and piano-led Bishop’s Stortford Acoustic Club regular Anna Wells.
There will also be an exclusive two-song set from mesmeric former Mozzy Green frontman Ben Sommers.
These days, an originals gig from The Kazans is rare. The four-piece – former Bishop’s Stortford High School students Tom Ryder (vocals and guitar), Joe Hazell (lead guitar and vocals), Tom ‘Cass’ Casson (bass and vocals) and George Sydes (drums) – played their last full-band set of original material in September 2015 at Woodfest in Hatfield Forest, headlining the Friday night in the marquee.
Almost a year prior, they were one of the last bands independently to promote and headline a show at The Square in Harlow, coinciding with the release of 2014 EP Them Girls, which was recorded at Woodbury Studios in Hatfield Heath.
The Kazans were regulars on the London circuit and appeared numerous times at Stortford Music Festival, firstly in 2004 as Tom and Joe’s acoustic duo. Joe has since found success as musical director and guitarist for acclaimed southern rock outfit Curse of Lono, who regularly tour the UK, Europe and North America.
The Retune gig will be a great opportunity for fans of The Kazans to see their songs stripped right back and played acoustically. There will also be a teaser for the free Oasis tribute night that the band are putting on at The Marne Inn on Thorley Park on Saturday November 17. ‘Koasis’ will feature Ian Tobin as an additional guitarist, and each Kazans member will adopt the look and sound of the Britpop icons.
“We’re looking forward to the Retune show, not least because it’s a great chance to get together and have some fun revisiting the old songs,” said Tom. “I think we forgot how many there were!
“There’s a lot of great memories attached to them too. It’s mad to think that The Kazans formed 15 years ago (first as The Follow and then as Beaten Track), and our musical careers have all been greatly influenced and shaped by each other.
“We may have taken a few different paths over the years, but to know that we can come back together as fellow musicians, and ultimately best mates, is a very fortunate position to be in. Playing acoustically is how we started out, so this will be great fun.”
DIDI’s music has been described as ‘high-octane, in-your-face pop punk’ and compared to Arctic Monkeys, Paramore and Blondie. Her songs have been played on BBC6 Music and she appeared at Collide Festival at the Royal Albert Hall earlier this year.
Although she is a solo artist, her customised pedal board and playing ensure that she makes plenty of noise. “I love surprising people with a really full sound,” she says.
“I’m releasing my debut EP on November 1 and have just recently shared my fifth single, Fickle Friends, which has been getting a really good reaction.”
Real name Lauren Deakin-Davies, she has made her name as a producer as well as a performer. Lauren first took an interest in production while studying music tech at GCSE, and her talent has blossomed from there.
“I was recording and found myself drawn to ‘What does that button do?’ type questions. I was asked to record someone as an experiment, so I pulled together a ‘studio’ of begged, borrowed or stolen gear (not stolen really!) and I’m not sure who was most surprised at the recordings, but my ‘career’ as a producer started right there.
“Part of helping artists with production has been helping with promotion, graphics and mentoring as you spend a lot of time together and establish trust. So by the time I went solo as a performer last year I’d started to miss the performing element, other than the odd gig as a session musician, and was excited to get on the stage, even if I was daunted at being the only person on the stage!
“It also meant that I was able to explore all the ideas I’d come up with and try them out, as no one was going to ‘suffer’ if they were a disaster, other than me. So you could say that I was able to see things from both sides and it’s been fun to have a free rein with ideas for production as well as promotion and seeing where it takes me.”
Retune is a non-profit community organisation that promotes positive mental health by connecting creativity with well-being. It is supported by the Herts Mind Network, Mind in West Essex and the Time To Change movement. This will be its eighth monthly show, and each one has proved valuable for performers and audiences alike.
DIDI says that music is her life. “Ever since I was given a guitar at 10 years old and decided to start a band, I’ve thought of little else,” she explains.
“I’m incredibly dyslexic with reading and writing, but then I found that I could understand the recording software, which literally changed my life. I’d stumbled on a potential career that wouldn’t be relying on the written word.
“You’re immersed in something when you’re writing, recording or performing and it’s really helped me to have this creative outlet. I don’t know what I would have done if I’d had to work in an office in a regular job.”
Anna Wells has been a regular visitor to Bishop’s Stortford Acoustic Club and Royston Folk Club, and debuted at Woodfest and Bish Bash this year.
Her delicate piano playing and captivating vocals, often compared to Carole King, Karen Carpenter and Bruno Mars, are sure to impress the Retune audience.
“I usually try to provide a varied set when performing in intimate venues such as this,” she said. “So the audience can expect a bit of original material, along with some more familiar tunes and covers that will hopefully get their foot tapping and/or voices exercised.”
An original recording is in the pipeline. “It’s likely to be just voice, piano and minimal guitars at the moment. I’m thinking about an EP further down the line, but currently want to get original material recorded to boost my SoundCloud.
“I’m also thinking about music industry jobs for after I graduate, potentially in radio or for a distribution company.
“My go-to cover is something like Carole King’s (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman. I find the song liberating, and I love the story behind it, written by her husband, Gerry Goffin, for Aretha Franklin. I’m so fascinated by her career that its actually the grounding of my undergraduate dissertation this year.
“That said, nothing really compares to playing original material in front of an audience. Although it’s a nerve-wracking, anxious experience, there’s something quite satisfying about launching something very personal to an audience of (nearly all) total strangers.”
Retune is also an important cause to Anna.
“I thought the other day about what my life would be like if I’d never sat down at a keyboard or picked up a guitar or stood behind a microphone. For as long as I can remember I was keenly engaged with it: singing Annie in the bath, karaoke in the living room to Tammy Wynette, or pretending to be Sandy out of Grease in front of the TV screen.
“Music is something different for everyone. For me, it’s become the language that I can relate to everything. Wherever I am, whoever I’m with, there’s a link, an association, a memory attached to music.
“Whether I’m sad or uplifted, I want to document it and exert this emotion through music. And what’s great about music is that it can be enjoyed on either an individual or shared level.
“There really is something that can talk to and touch everyone. If I’ve written something and it feels good in the moment, then that’s the best indication that music is having a beneficial effect on my overall well-being.”
* Retune featuring The Kazans (unplugged), DIDI, Anna Wells and Ben Sommers takes place on Sunday November 4 at The Horn at the Half Moon in North Street. Doors open at 6.15pm, music starts at 6.45pm and the gig concludes at 9pm. For tickets (£6 + 60p booking fee in advance, £10 on the door), head to WeGotTickets.com. Visit www.retune.org.uk or follow @RetuneUK for more information.
More by this authorPaul Winspear