English band Sandtimer released their new single “Loner” on June 28th.
Formed by Robert Sword (guitar & vocals), Simon Thomas (guitar & vocals), Rachel Thomas (bass & vocals) and Alex Jackson (percussion), the indie folk-rock band unveiled their first project in 2015 with the release of their debut EP entitled “Different Seas”.
Inspired by the likes of Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Nick Drake, Bob Dylan, Arcade Radiohead and Unknown Mortal Orchestra, the southeast English band is now introducing their new sound with the brand new single “Loner”.
“Loner” is a song about someone I knew a long time ago who often seemed solitary, even when in relationships and when surrounded by people. It’s an exploration of that idea of finding it hard to connect with people, I guess,” explains Sword.
The new single is now available on all major streaming platforms.
Introduce the band. Where are you from?
Simon: We are Sandtimer, a 4-piece from southeast England, and we play this hybrid of folk, rock and indie. Our lineup consists of:
Robert Sword (guitar & vocals) - The founder of Sandtimer, and the principal songwriter of most of our early work, and to be honest most of our recent work too.
Simon Thomas (guitar & vocals) - The first recruit, and nowadays a songwriter too (though it didn’t happen overnight!)
Rachel Thomas (bass & vocals) - A true harmony mastermind, Rachel fits very easily into the band setting, for reasons that will shortly become very obvious.
Alex Jackson (percussion) - Our knot, our rock, and the glue that holds us together, both musically and emotionally.
What’s the band’s story? How did you guys meet?
Rob: Simon is the younger brother of my girlfriend Rachel, who now plays bass and sings with us a lot. Simon was a really good bassist and guitarist so I roped him into a few projects I was involved with. After a few jamming sessions and open mics, we decided to start playing some proper gigs and writing some more songs.
Simon: The story of how we became a 4-piece band is a bit like a snowball rolling down a really gentle hill, slowly picking up band members along the way, band members who didn’t actually realise they’d joined a band when it happened, but weren’t too upset about it either. The fact is, we started as a duo, but it was around 2 years before we performed as a 4-piece for the first time.
You released your first project in 2015. How did you sound evolve since then?
Rob: I think our arrangements and production have become a bit bolder as we’ve become more experienced at recording- we’re now less risk-averse and less puristic, I think.
Simon: We spent the first 18 months playing as just a duo and trying to cover everything (percussion, bass) ourselves. Expanding the band to include bass and percussion has given our live performances more of a punch.
How would you define Sandtimer?
Rob: That’s a good question! As songwriters, I guess we aim to explore the range of experiences and emotions that people encounter in their lives, and find some beauty in the good and the bad things.
Simon: The band name represented this idea of time, reflecting upon it, constantly battling with it’s passing, and eventually embracing the way time can create beauty.
Describe us your songwriting process. How do you usually write your records?
Rob: It varies quite a lot between songs but it’s generally one idea- maybe a lyric or melody fragment or chord pattern- that sparks a chain reaction of other things. Even in the early stages of its creation, I generally have a good feeling for whether the song ‘has legs’ or not. Sometimes the lightbulb moment is when two different song ideas combine, Transformers-style.
Simon: My songwriting process is rather slow, which can often be frustrating when considering that some of the best songs were written in a matter of hours or even minutes. I think the reason is because there’s always that mental ‘click’ in the songwriting process, where you know that you’re onto something, and it can’t be forced, so I try to embrace the fact that I’m still in the process of writing a song I started a few months ago.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Rob: For me, it’s mostly just listening to a lot of other music, and other styles of production. I once dreamt up a song, but I soon realised it was just a mashup of ‘Strong’ by Robbie Williams and ‘Hey Jude’. Specific inspirations include Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Nick Drake, and many more.
Simon: I tend to get inspiration in moments of mental overload, often after positive experiences, as I don’t usually possess much creativity when in a negative mindframe. Some of my main musical inspirations are Bob Dylan, Arcade Fire, Radiohead and Unknown Mortal Orchestra.
You are from the UK. What can you tell us about the music industry out there?
Rob: We’re lucky in the UK to have people like the BBC Introducing’s Tom Robinson who are passionate about promoting new music. There are also some fantastic blogs and promoters who work hard to get the music they love out there.
Simon: Aside from that, with so many venues closing down due to high rental costs, the whole industry is like that new Fortnite game where the map keeps on shrinking.
What do you think of today’s music industry? If you had to change one thing, what would it be?
Simon: Today’s music industry is wonderfully enormous and confusing, I think aided by the huge variety of platforms we are now able to hear and discover music. If I could change one thing, I would put more emphasis into discovering new music through the live music scene.
Rob: We’ve not really broken into the inner circle of the industry, so I don’t really know what it’s like on the inside, but it can be scary to see from the outside how well-established musicians’ careers can suddenly slow down- all the indie bands that were being played on the radio when I was 18/19 come to mind here. I’d personally love to see radio stations, streaming services and labels relying less on statistics and algorithms, which don’t take into account the unpredictability of musical tastes.
Who’s helping you build your career?
Rob: Bloggers and playlist creators such as Alex Rainbird and The Indie Folx have really helped us get our music out there.
Simon: There are a few live promoters and venues who’ve taken a chance on us and gone on to have us back for loads of gigs.
What do you like the most about performing?
Rob: For me it’s those moments of really feeling like what you’re saying and playing somehow resonates with someone.
Simon: My favourite part of a performance is taking the listener by surprise; a couple of our songs suddenly break loose and it’s always interesting to see how it affects the listener, as it can go either way!
Any favorite song to perform?
Rob: It tends to be the latest song we’ve learnt. The adrenaline of playing something new is great.
Simon: My favourite song to perform is one of our unreleased songs. It’s named after a model of car that never got made, the Peugeot 209. It’s an opportunity to relax on the guitar playing and focus on belting out a ballad.
What makes a good show?
Rob: As an audience member, I love seeing bands genuinely enjoying what they’re doing.
Simon: For us, a good show is a show where we can go home feeling like we know our audience better, and vice versa. It really helps us when we can connect with the audience during our shows too, as we always strive to introduce our music and tell an anecdote or two. This can often go horribly wrong, but even then we feel like the audience can understand more about us, and it helps us to convey our music in a more relatable way.
What do you want to accomplish as a band?
Rob: To collaborate with Nelly, Nelly Furtado, Beck, Jeff Beck, Iggy Azalea and Azealia Banks all in one big supergroup.
Simon: I really want to produce some really corny merchandise- I think there’s something appealing about putting out some really obnoxious product, maybe like a Sandtimer-themed soft toy or something.
What’s the best thing about being in a band?
Rob: The opportunity to travel, and to write and perform music.
Simon: The opportunity to perform travel-write music.
Any advice to those who’d like to form a band?
Rob: Try and be different- genuinely different.
Simon: Keep at it, and practice more than we do.
What makes a good band?
Rob: Fearless creative spirits and a good sense of humour.
Simon: Good bands are undefinable, there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to what makes a band work. I think it must involve the band members playing to their individual strengths musically and as people, and not trying too hard to replicate what made other bands good.
Any upcoming project?
Rob: Our next big project is the upcoming album which ‘Loner’ is off. We’re also doing a self-arranged tour of Canada in August which should be fun.
What’s your purpose?
Rob: I’d love to make music that inspires someone, musically or otherwise, somewhere down the line.
Simon: Our purpose is to have a positive effect on others with our music, even if we never find out about it. Apart from that, I think we pretty much just want to continue enjoying what we do, as much as we currently do.
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