by Jess Holliland
This week I met with the six piece eclectic ensemble that is Tugboat Captain when they performed in the B-Bar in Plymouth Barbican.
A critic might describe them as inde-folk but the band describes itself more as “eccentric folk pop” – Sloppy Giuseppe adds that it is definitely influenced by Greensleeves, the life of Henry VIII and his tennis habits, but I think that’s a different story for another time. Eccentric is a fitting word for the ‘crew’ of Tugboat Captain, each with their own very distinct style they radiate individuality and you can feel the fun creative chaos they project in to the world. I have no idea what Sloppy Giuseppe’s real name is and in fact there seems to a volley of strange names being bandied about between band members as they talk. Tugboat Captain doesn’t conform to the stereotypical ‘band persona’ in any way and I don’t think they want to. The band has no leads, everyone sings vocals, everyone has a hand in writing, the group constantly evolves and changes to welcome new instruments and skills; there are no egos, it’s all about the music and making the process fun for everyone.
Alexander (who is referred to as The Captain) got in touch when the band was due to return to the South West as part of their national tour. The band is currently based in London but two of the members met while studying at Falmouth and their bass player ‘Papi’ is a Plymouth boy so there’s a definite homecoming aspect for them with this tour. The band has only actually been together for nine months but this tour is to celebrate the release of their second album. They promise they’re coming back this way soon though as they have a lot of affection for the area, talks of buying a leaky tugboat and touring the south coast descend in to less extreme ideas such as basing their tour locations on pubs that do carverys (inspired by a positive lunch that day in Plympton)…the gist is that they’re definitely coming back though.
Tugboat-Captain Album Cover
Trying to get a straight answer from any of them about their style or influences is like trying to herd cats or catch chickens. When I ask them about it they tell me their favourite season is definitely the spring equinox (which they celebrated this year by visiting the scarcely known Pagan sites of inner London), and their songs – although often interpreted as love songs – are actually about the sprites and ghouls of Pagan culture and mythology. Sloppy pipes in to counter this with illumination about his Pictish bloodlines and Botswain Joe informs me that he is in fact of Turkish goat herder heritage but isn’t sure how that fits in, so we guide the conversation gently away from that tangent and back towards the music.
And the music…blending haunting melodies seamlessly with upbeat bass lines and innovative lyrics, Tugboat Captain have pulled together two albums of songs that are timeless and engaging and frankly, a little addictive. Their style is hard to define, laid back and folky with a slightly urban edge coming through the lyrics their music lulls you. And lets not forget they are one of the only bands in the UK to boast an electric bassoon…My suggestion is that you listen to it and watch for their next tour dates.
Tugboat captain – credit JamPondPhotography