Jess Arrowsmith: fiddle & viola
Jo Veal: clarinet
Gavin Davenport: cittern & guitars
Rich Arrowsmith: melodeons
Nigel Holmes: bass
By Hek!,............... taken from - Kit Bailey fRoots Aug 2003
Salsa? Samba? All so 20th century! With England becoming the hot new world music source, grab your shoes and hit the floor with English roots dance band Hekety. Kit Bailey digs them out in deepest Sheffield.
Its ironic that the city famous for the birth of the electropop movement in the 80s has become the catalyst for one of the more exciting young dance bands of this millenniums first decade. Having moved to Sheffield to study at a university with one of the healthiest Folk Societies in its student body, guitarist Gavin Davenport, clarinettist Jo Veal, bassist Nigel Holmes and guitarist Paul Baker, along with melodeon player Richard Arrowsmith and fiddler Jess Arrowsmith, formed Hekety in 1997.
Both Gavin and Nigel had histories of playing in what they call crap pop bands before settling on the more traditional sound of English ceilidh, whilst Jo initially tried to join the University orchestra until stumbling across the Folk Society. Now inbetween her fulltime job as an occupational therapist and her parttime life as a trapeze artist, she adds an unusual melody instrument to the band. Gavin has folky parents but he did the rebellion bit and played in more mainstream bands before finding his own niche with Hekety. Richard however was one of those folk children who started going to Sidmouth when he was two.
They all bring different musical influences to the bandfrom moody Goth bands through to Flowers & Frolics and the Victory Band. Richard sites John Kirkpatrick as the best dance musician ever, whilst Gav tells of listening to his dads old Victory Band singles with traditional tunes on the B sides and traditional musicians drafted in to help play them. Rumour has it that these traditional B sides were chosen due to the lack of royalties that had to be paid ... but I digress.
Heketys various musical backgrounds give them a unique take on the music they play and they are fast becoming one of the dance scenes favourites. Whilst they feel that they have their own particular sound and style to bring to festivals and ceilidhs, they are keen to distance themselves from the gimmicky bands that have emerged over the last few years who combine rock, folk and samples to try to make something different, but end up sounding all the same. Whilst theyre happy to acknowledge the 70s folk rock groups as genre defining acts, reinventing the wheel is not something they want to do. As Gav says: I quite like Scan Tester and play a Bb/ F anglo, and also quite like industrial rock and play very loud distorted guitar. Ive always thought that trad English dance musicians took all their contemporary influences on board and threw them in the mixmusic hall, church music, pop records, big band and classical. Dance music is just a functional use of all the stuff that you hear, and I get a bit frustrated that theres a preconceived notion of how ceilidh/ English dance music should sound, what band lineups should be etc.
The most important thing they want to stress is that theyre all dancers themselves, so they know what its like from the other side of the PA, even when they go off at musical tangents. Jo says that their most exciting nights are when one of them plays something theyve never done before, and they feel that this freedom comes in part from not having a drummer in the lineup. Nigel is keen to point out that were quite wellendowed with rhythmic musicians which causes hoots of delighted laughter all round, but hes right himself, Gav and Richard are very rhythmical players with lots of syncopation. The pulse comes from all of them rather than one person. Jess says that people always comment on their lack of hardware and someone to hit it, either by being very impressed that its not there or by saying it would be so much better with a drummer. But even their most persistent critic came up to them at Chippenham Folk Festival this year and said I take it all back. You dont need a drummer.
This sixpiece is causing more than just a ripple of interest on the scene. Theres no disguising their excitement when they describe the feeling of a great atmosphere like a club night in a warehouse somewhere, or the improvisation that sometimes takes over but that never leaves the dancers floundering. Ill leave the last word with Gavin as I ask him to sum up how they feel about the music they play. Were not really doing something new, were hopefully doing something traditional, and that cant help but sound contemporary because its the sum part of lots of contemporary influences. To me thats what a lot of traditional bands were doing dance music is a functional thing, and its still the same function as village and town bands were fulfilling 50 or 100 years ago. Its nice when people say were young and were moving things forward, but all were trying to do is play good music for people to dance to, and as long as the dancers are happy, then thats fine by us.