It’s common knowledge that musicians take on a specific character or persona to carry forward their ideas.
David Bowie, Pussy Riot...and The Lancashire Hotpots are cases in point.
In Philip James Turner and The Crow Mandala’s case, it’s more of a multiple personality thing, as they explore the stories and circumstances of ficticious characters of Philip’s own creation, bringing them to life on a new album due out next year.
The former Blackheart Afterglow frontman, from Morecambe, found he had material that didn’t quite suit the heavy rock offering of his old band.
“I’d been writing and playing songs at home and thinking ‘that’s not for Blackhearts’,” he said.
“Graham (Simpson, keyboard extraordinaire) and I got together about 20 tracks, and did a few gigs together.
“The feedback was great, and it opened up another platform for me to play the new stuff.”
The “new stuff” has an old dog country Nashville style to it, but doesn’t stop there as it drops easily, like Turner’s voice, into foot stomping northern soul.
“I was asked to curate the outdoor stage at the Vintage Festival in Morecambe,” Phil said, “which gave us a great opportunity to perform as a full band. It went down brilliantly and we could all tell it made sense.”
The line up is Philip on guitar and vocals, Anthony Gregson on bass, Adam Lucas on drums, Duane Chappell on guitar, and Graham on keys.
“The way it works with the writing is I’ll give Graham a song and he’ll go away and add the instrumentation, then I’ll chop it up and use it how I want it.
“The band’s name came about quite randomly. I like crows and I’ve got a big tattoo of a crow on my shoulder.
“Adam the drummer has a tattoo of a mandala - which is a Buddhist and Hindu symbol representing the universe.
“We were trying out different names at a practice and we put the two things together.
“The rest of the band were laughing saying we were having a ‘bromance’!
“It wasn’t intentional but everyone liked the name, and it’s just grown from there. The imagery used with the crow and the mandala has become as important for us as the band in some ways.”
“If I had to describe the music I’d say it was in a Scott Walker /Bowie style. All the songs are written from someone’s perspective in the first person. They’re stories about people and characters, the way I sing them changes to reflect a different personality, and of course I get to play a character on stage. I can’t quantify it, it’s just the way it’s happening.”
Louiza Kilcawley will also be guest singing on the album
So far the band has released Julie, and The Fire Fell Out of the Sun, two very different songs style wise.
Philip said of the album: “It’s is going to start off with a baritone country style, and by the end of the album, it will change to a northern soul stomper.
“There’s an intention to create an album to listen to from start to finish. There will be recurring melodies, little hints of other songs, which will tie it all in. I don’t want to give away any ‘themes’ because I think it’s important that you take away your own ideas from it.”
The band plan to release an EP, which will be an album sampler, in the New Year.
They play the John O’ Gaunt on Saturday night, and The Greyhound in Halton with the Lumberjack Cowboy Heartbreak Trucking Co on January 30.