‘Get Older’ By Tom Williams & The Boat.
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As band names go ‘Tom Williams and The Boat’ may not initially strike you as the most exciting. You may well imagine this musical collective consists entirely of epically bearded, rosy faced gentlemen adorned in cable knit sweaters, who have an alarming propensity to break into sea shanties at the drop of the hat. Then again maybe you picture Tom as a plucky fresh faced young character from an Enid Blyton novel, single handily taking on a fleet of German U-Boat in his rickety little wooden craft, whilst on holiday at Uncle Marmaduke’s coastal retreat…You would of course, be considerably wider of the mark than a Chris Waddle World Cup penalty and would do well to remember the maxim- ‘never judge a book by its cover,’ erm, or a band by it’s name.
Tom Williams and The Boat’s self released debut album ‘Too Slow’ is something of a gem, a skilfully crafted collection of songs that combine intelligent lyrics with tunes that are catchier than a cold at a “battery farm” call centre. It’s an album of light and shade, full of wit and charm but with an undercurrent of snarling aggression that bursts to the surface on occasion. It’s also impossible to pigeonhole in terms of genre, it may have originally gestated in the belly of nu- folk but Tom and has band have chosen to walk a different path and the album probably owes more to Jamie T, Billy Bragg and Andy White than to Johnny Flynn or Mumford and his male heirs. It’s far edgier than much of what passes for nu-folk these days, containing a spiky, post punk pop vibe which is fuelled by skewed electric guitars, distorted violin and of course whip smart lyrics
Album opener ’24,’ all chiming guitars and wry observational lyrics, in many ways encapsulates all that is great about Tom Williams and The Boat. It’s reflective, infectious and highlights Tom’s waspish sense of humour, juxtaposed with the feeling that something slightly darker lurks beneath the surface. It may to some degree, be a song about fitting in, ‘Judge me by my shoes, judge me by my shoes/I’m wearing Nike trainers from 2002’ ,but also goes on to address concerns over the increasingly violent nature of everyday life. Previous single ‘Concentrate’ details the inner thoughts of a suicide bomber, whilst ‘90mph’ highlights Tom’s predilection for dark imagery as he asks ‘Have you ever seen a dead man, unzipped out of it’s bag/Lying in an inch of chemical reserve mouth froze open wide’.
And the tunes just keep on coming, ‘Train Station Car Park’ sounds like a young Billy Bragg at his most jaunty whilst the twisted ‘See My Evil’’(- ‘I once knew a girl who got pregnant at nine…or nineteen but anyway/. . . and her son committed suicide when he was just fifteen’) has a hint of a less pun-centric version of Carter USM fused with the dark mind of a young Nick Cave. Just when you think you have the album pegged, along comes ‘Strong Wheels’ which serves to highlight the eclectic nature of the album and sounds like an early Cure song !
‘Too Slow’ is an extremely promising debut from a hugely talented band and songwriter and one cannot help but feel that it’s only a matter of time before Tom and his band’s musical ‘boat comes in.’
We quizzed Tom about putting the album together, free music and boating knots( well not really)
VP: Hello there! So who is Tom Williams, who is in his boat and how did you all get together to make music?
TOM: Hello! I am Tom Williams, and the Boat is my killer band…we all met in an acoustic venue in Tunbridge Wells called The Grey Lady…all playing in other bands or there with friends.
VP: Your debut album, ‘Too Slow’ is has just been released did you enjoy recording it? Were their times you thought ‘we’ll never finish this’ and is it a relief to actually ‘get it out there’?
TOM: One of the biggest downsides of not being signed is not having any money…so although we recorded the album over 2 years (seriously) we were only actually in the studio for about 8 days…in 2, 4, and 2 day chunks…there was lots of mixing and mastering and re mixing and re mastering over that time, but it spans a long period of time and also features 2 drummers, our initial drummer Dave and our current drummer, confusingly, David!
VP: You started off playing acoustic show but your sound has evolved and there seems to be a lot more in the mix, more aggression, more electric guitar and distorted violin. Was this a deliberate move, to avoid getting pigeon holed with the new folk army or was it a kind of natural progression reflecting how your influences had changed over time?
TOM : I think it was yes, we formed in 2007 when we were all into things like Johnny Flynn and Noah and The Whale, as well as Bob Dylan & The Band and Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band, but as we started to get more and more pigeon holed, I think I started to write songs that would make people listen in a small club or pub situation so the new stuff certainly became more abrasive. I think it’s good to have a wriggle and a writhe and force yourself into a new space.
VP: Would you say the album kind of provides a snapshot the way your sound has evolved from the slower numbers to the punchier more aggressive sound? Was it difficult to pick which tracks would go on and then work out the track listing?
TOM: Yes totally impossible…we needed to honour where we’d been (4 independently released EPs from 2007-2008) as well as where we were (the See My Evil EP) but also where we wanted to go…it was very difficult…it’s a relief to have people listening to it now that’ve been into it since the beginning and still digging it…success!
VP: What have been your personal highlights since you started making music, gigging etc
TOM: Glastonbury was incredible and big land mark for us last summer, recording a Maida Vale session for Huw Stephens on Radio 1 and doing live radio sessions for 6 music are always highlights…a lot of fun times.
VP: And what’s been the weirdest gig you’ve ever played?
TOM: Too many to mention…honestly…
VP: Who would you say have been your biggest musical inspirations?
TOM: I’d say for me it’s Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young, but as a band, and band that inspire us it’s everything from Pavement, Nick Cave & Tom Waits to Teenage Fan Club, Ride and Radiohead…
VP: Ok, so we’ve mentioned that some of your songs have an angry edge. What sort of things has made you angry in the last year?
TOM: It’s difficult for me to talk to in depth about this…I often make up stories as a starting point releasing a truth closer to home but I can’t think about it too much or I’ll ruin it! I heard Tom Petty talking about the same thing recently in a BBC doc and he summed it up very astutely saying, ‘you don’t want to look it in the eye’.
VP: In the past you’ve given your music away, but does there come a point when you can no longer do that? What’s your view on the current state of affairs of the industry?
TOM: It’s difficult, but for us it’s easy, we want people to hear the music first and foremost. We’ve given singles away for free and still are but so often if the materials strong enough they’ll come to gigs and buy Cds/ vinyl so it’s worked for us.
VP: The five words to describe your album would be ???
TOM: Demented, Noisy, Intimate, Revealing and Schizophrenic!
‘Too Slow’ is released on 21st February 2011
Website ( for album pre-order)
‘See My Evil’ – By Tom Williams And The Boat
4 thoughts on “When The Boat Comes In – Tom Williams (and the Boat) interview”
Really great review. Tom’s a great lad and I’m sure his album will be a joy
remember how to make that paper boat?
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