Cheltenham's 'anarcho-anglo-folkcore' four-piece Jim Lockey And The Solemn Sun (JL&TSS) have had quite a time over the last year or so. Getting signed to respected indie label - and home to punk-folk star Frank Turner - Xtra Mile last year was a big coup, and their second album, the intense and considered Death, boosted their passionate fanbase and critical plaudits alike.
Then, just days after our interview, the band announced they were off to conquer America in the spring, with a series of US tourdates supporting Celtic-punks Dropkick Murphys. It seems fair to say that this unassuming band from the Shires, with killer melodies and an intense work ethic, are on the up.
The Guide caught up with softly-spoken frontman Jim to talk death, onstage banter, and pre-show nerves. "Death kind of did everything we needed it to do, but in a way it's been overwhelming how well it has done for us," Jim revealed. "It's been great getting the attention of so many people we respect."
So, why death? "It's something that everybody deals with," revealed Jim. "I never really made the concious decision to make a concept record, but the songs came together and it seemed that the title should be that. I hope it's more of a positive outlook on death about doing whatever you want to while you have the chance, rather than a depressing account of death. I hope it works, otherwise it will be the most depressing record ever!"
Jim started out as a singer-songwriter, releasing one album on his own before pulling together a band for 2010 record Atlases, released on his own label, Istartedthefire Records. With Death, the first album Jim had written fully in collaboration with bandmates The Solemn Sun, I was keen to find out how being a 'proper band' had changed the dynamics of the writing process.
"Certainly with this record it's very much a band thing now. Because we tour so much we are very much a band. I write the main part of the songs and I take them to the band and we craft them together," said Jim. "I started on my own and Atlases is kind of my songs with the band, and Death is definitely more of a band album. It's a lot more comfortable to have people around that I can... hide behind I guess! And share those kind of things with."
JL&TSS are gaining a reputation for energetic, focussed shows, with the band eschewing onstage banter in favour of a barrage of powerful tunes, blending rock, country, folk and punk, which regularly leaves the band - and often the crowd - drenched in sweat and on the verge of collapse.
"I think [playing live] is what we love to do," explained Jim. "We always thought that if you're not putting in everything you can, then what's the point? I do not chat to the crowd a lot but that's because I'm quite shy, rather than trying to get the job done. We do throw everything into it."
Jim Lockey And The Solemn Sun play South Street Arts Centre tomorrow (Saturday). The date is sold out, but call 0118 960 6060 for returns. See jimlockeythesolemnsun.bandcamp.com to hear their music.