The Lancashire Hotpots are such funny folk
PUBLISHED: 00:26 23 December 2009 | UPDATED: 15:31 20 February 2013
The Lancashire Hotpots have dragged folk music into the 21st century, and they're playing it strictly for laughs
Folk music in Lancashire used to be about working in the mill, cobbled streets and clogs. Nowadays, the topics are eBay, malfunctioning satnavs and the problems of nouvelle cuisine.
The Lancashire Hotpots, three college lecturers and a forklift driver from St Helens, combine Lancashire dialect, up-to-date observations on life, and a gentle, earthy humour not a million miles from Peter Kay and Mike Harding.
Dressed like four young Fred Dibnahs, they commandeer well-known folk tunes, and add their own lyrics, as with 'He had a plasma telly and a Dolby 5.1,' to the tune of 'Matchstick Men and Matchstick Cats and Dogs'. Or 'I kissed my girl by PC World,' set to Ewan McColl's 'Dirty Old Town'.
Other titles include 'Chippy Tea' and 'eBay 'eck'. 'The Lancashire Hotpots are just trying to do what folk bands have been doing forever,' says lead singer Bernard Thresher, known to his mother as Graeme James. 'They play music in the folk style and tell stories of the time they live in. And for us, in the 21st century, that's things like satnav and eBay.
'People are getting it because we are using these popular tunes with a twist, and singing about things that everyone experiences.'
While some folk musicians come from dynasties of singers and players, three of the four Lancashire Hotpots were techno and house DJs playing at all-night raves until early last year, when they borrowed some Houghton Weavers and Oldham Tinkers CDs from St Helens library.
'Three of us were all into quite hard dance music,' says Bernard. 'We went under the name of Emmet, we did quite well for a spell, but it gets a bit tiresome when people aren't listening to what you are doing.
'Dance music DJ-ing and being in a comedy folk band are polar opposites, but we didn't see any better way of having fun than playing this music. Now we go out and play and have a laugh, people listen to the words, it's fantastic.'
The friends (the others' stage names are Willie Eckerslike, Bob Wriggles and Dickie Ticker) began by recording 'a couple of tunes' and putting them on the MySpace website, where they soon attracted attention with their witty lyrics and jolly music.
'Then we said ''we've got to do a gig'', so we got the clothes, and arranged a gig at the Rendezvous in St Helens, thinking our mums and dads might turn up. But they were turning people away.'
Since then they have released two CDs and a live DVD, and played sold-out shows around the North West and further afield. 'We've played in Cambridge, London, even Yorkshire, I don't think we've hit a bad 'un yet. In Yorkshire when we came on, there was a big shout of ''Yorkshire'', but by the end of it we got them shouting ''Lancashire''.
'In the South, there's a slower take-up. In Lancashire you're on home ground, people are up for it and get it straight away, it just takes a little bit longer elsewhere. But wherever they live, they don't want to cook on a Friday night, they just want to go to the chippy.'
But are they merely pandering to the stereotype of Lancastrians in flat caps and mufflers, singing about whippets and chip shops? 'I think the togs we wear, it's like a photograph going back in time, but the amount of comedy we put into it, you can't get confused with real life. Anyway, I'm wearing a flat cap now.'
They play live most weekends, have featured on national radio and TV, and are nearing the end of a four-month stint as support for ex-Phoenix Nights comedian Paddy McGuinness on the North West leg of his national tour. Their new CD, Pot Sounds, is now out, with tracks such as Keys Wallet Phone, Chav and I Fear Ikea, while its artwork bears a passing resemblance to the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds.
'We would all like to be able to give up work for a little bit, and live the van lifestyle, sleeping in the back of the van,' says Bernard. 'We didn't think we would get this far, but until the joke wears thin we are going to carry on doing it.'
Bernard has recently left his beloved St Helens ('which is in Lancashire, despite what some people think') for double time in a Coventry car factory. But can he find a decent chippy tea there?
'You can do your best, but they won't put it in a tray, and if you want something wet they put it in a pot. The honest answer is No, you can't.'
Hotpot words of wisdom
I don't want lobster thermidor
Or your rasberry coulis
I'm a working man from Lancashire
and I wants a chippy tea
When they knocked down th'Argos
I stood and cried
But then they built a TK Maxx
So that's alreet
(This Lancashire Town)