13 Feb 2016

Falmouth: Cornwall's Thriving Music Scene and the Compilation Documenting It

Cornwall; quite literally the last place on the British Isles you'd expect an exciting, fresh music scene to spring up – and maybe it is quite literally the last place a music scene has sprung up. Obviously, the north of the country has given us everything from Madchester to acid house to Liverpool's neo-psychedelia of the eighties, while London has been a cultural epicentre for as long as cultural epicentres as go back. As well as that, Southampton and Portsmouth's DIY scene is going strong and Bristol and Brighton have produced as many great bands as any other city in the country. So although it did at first surprise me that the seaside town of Falmouth, Cornwall its own bustling, self-contained music scene, maybe it's about time that Cornish youth had a sound of their own.

A bunch of bands, all having a scuzzy, adrenaline-fuelled surf rock vibe to them make up the 'Falmouth Sound' – itself a term coined by local record label Easy Action on a compilation they released a year or two – a kind of guitar music that is symptomatic of the odd juxtaposition of small town frustration and also constantly being able to go to the beach. With the likes of The Black Tambourines (who are touring the whole of the UK this February), The Red Cords and Tinnedfruit bursting out the town, there's something seriously exciting happening in Cornwall. So we spoke to Dan Wilkinson of another fledgling Falmouth-based record label Field Day Records about the scene, the town and above all, the label's exciting debut release Day Trippers vol. 1

Not a resident of Falmouth himself, Wilkinson was in fact pulled towards the scene by its exciting sound. "I've been listening to bands with that surfy lo-fi sound for some years now," he says citing, like I probably would too, The Black Tambourines as the band that flagged the town up as an area of special musical interest. "It's certainly a contender for the best music scene in the UK; the UK's waiting for the next explosion in music and Falmouth could be next."

Wilkinson started Field Day Records in a bid to help bring the scratchy surf-rock of these bands to the masses. To bring the noise of the only English county not to have its own motorway via the medium of a free Bandcamp download.

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"All the bands on the compilation have an essence of the sound in them," he says. "I've included tracks from a few bands outside of Falmouth to give people in other places an idea of what the town has to offer." As he doesn't live in the 'Mouth at the moment, Wilkinson's own Leeds-based band Party Hardly have a spot on the tape and have a similar sound to the said Falmouth bands with their own self-proclaimed 'bedroom wooziness' added to the mix. They've released material with DIY music bastion Art Is Hard records and have been favourably picked up on by such alternative media outlets as DIY and Wax Music.

"I think there's something going on in Leeds too," Wilkinson says on the matter. The Yorkshire city that is home to the Field Day records founder is also home to one of the strongest alternative music scenes in the world, boasting the likes of Hookworms, Eagulls, Black Moth and Pulled Apart By Horses to name a few. However, what distinguishes Falmouth from Leeds isn't so much it's sound or the music coming from there – it's the kind of community that is forged around the music, which is different to many other music scenes in the western world. As it's a town really difficult to reach from anywhere else in the country, it's an incredibly self-contained self-sufficient music scene. "Everyone is friends and they all help each other out," he says of the quite frankly tight artistic movement going on in the Cornish town. "This has definitely helped create the unique sound."

The scene has a really strong DIY ethic, and lots of fascinated music fans first heard the bands involved through the  21st century democratic sphere which is the internet. The Field Day compilation is not only symptomatic of this, but is a real product of an age where anyone can put out records any way, anywhere and anyhow they want. "Field Day records couldn't exist without the internet," he says, although quizzical as to whether the internet as a whole has helped or hindered underground music, as well as the music industry as a whole.

you can get the compilation HERE or on spotify

The Falmouth scene is one which is thriving, with a real sense of community, so to get an idea of what galvanises the bands and fans of the music scene I had a few quick words with Olive Parker, a teenage resident of the town. "I'm just a fan," she says. "But everyone in the scene basically knows each other and I'm that kid who's just always there in the background." Falmouth is a scene which is incredibly supportive to the involved bands, centring around the venue Mono. "We don't really get gigs," she goes on, "so everyone really gets together to watch the Fal bands as there's literally nothing else on."

Like many other people she pins down a 'Falmouth Sound' which the bands have in common, but says that this is probably because "everyone is in two or three different bands so there's a lot of overlapping". It's more than audible too, on the Day Trippers pt 1 compilation, as all the Falmouth bands have a definite sonic overlap - everything sounds very much like the music you'd expect from a fairly remote seaside town where there's really nothing to do other than go to the beach and form a band. Yawners' scratchy garage rock sounds like a more angsty version of Parquet Courts, the boozey chanting of Tinnedfruit is everything you hoped that the last Palma Violets album would be, and the shoegazing of Flashes and Glider are already certainties for Summer soundtracks.

As far as local music scenes go, Falmouth's is nothing short of fascinating. There is such a dense occurrence of fantastic bands, and maybe - with the help of people like Field Day records' Dan Wilkinson and everyone else involved in the scene, the 'Falmouth Sound' could be what soundtracks our future frustrated British summers.

(written by calum cashin)