Interview with Dan Heptinstall and Lorna Thomas | By John B. Moore | Photo by Phoebe Montague
The English folk punk band Skinny Lister are treading new territory with The Story Is…, their fourth studio album, out March 1 on Xtra Mile Recordings. While not an obvious concept record in the vein of The Who’s Tommy or Pink Floyd’s The Wall, its loose collection of stories adds to an overall shared structure across the 14 tracks.
“As Skinny Lister has evolved as a band, we’ve enjoyed capturing stories that reflect where we were at the time when writing,” vocalist Lorna Thomas says. “This has become more and more obvious to us with every album. When the song ‘The Story Is…’ came to fruition, it was quickly agreed that was the album title. Then, it was just a matter of collecting the stories.”
Among those other stories is the song “38 Minutes,” also the album’s first single. It was inspired by a false missile alert that was sent to residents of Hawaii in January 2018.
“It was initially inspired by a post on Facebook made by Michael Camino, our old bass player, in Hawaii,” Thomas says. “The incident was barely reported over here in the U.K., and so, the gravity of the situation didn’t really hit home until other friends posted their distress at hearing that they may never hear from their family over there again. The more we read about it, the more it seemed so unbelievable.”
“Although ‘38 Minutes’ is a song about a very specific event, it hopefully has the effect of inviting the listener to consider what they might do with their last minutes if put in a similar situation,” lead vocalist and guitarist Dan Heptinstall adds.
Another poignant story on the album is “Second Amendment,” which tackles the near-obsession of many gun-owning Americans. Though Skinny Lister have never been a political band, Heptinstall says they felt the need to comment on some of the situations occurring across the world.
“‘Second Amendment’ is the band vocalizing it’s bewilderment at U.S. gun laws. There are so many things we love about the U.S., but the general attitude to guns is not one of them,” he says. “The correlation between easy access to guns and such a high death rate from guns is undeniable. We also realize the complexity of the issue and how ingrained into U.S. society guns are but do feel that the government should start making inroads into tighter controls, something that feels ever more unlikely with the likes of Trump at the helm.”
“We expect a few of our American friends might tell us to mind our own business,” he adds, “but it’s just a reflection of what we feel.”
While The Story Is… certainly sounds like a Skinny Lister album, they also mixed in more musical influences.
“I think we went in with the intention of not being restricted by what the ‘Skinny Sound’ was, as we always do with every album,” Thomas says. “That keeps things fresh for us and, hopefully, for the fans too. Sometimes, Dan will write a song and we’ll all wonder if maybe it’s too this or too that to be Skinny, but when this has happened in the past, after time has passed and the songs have settled in, they can become some of the favorites with the crowd.”
With the album coming out in March, the band have already scheduled a tour of Europe and expect to make it to the U.S. for a run of shows not too long after.