Thom was one of three chosen to play from Coventry and Warwickshire
BBC Introducing at the Wychwood Festival
By Stephen Morris
It's the Wychwood Festival on Cheltenham Racecourse. Leamington Spa's Thom Kirkpatrick is on stage and has surrounded himself with an array of instruments. The artist otherwise known as This Beautiful Noise is one of 28 bands and artists that have been selected by a panel of judges to appear on the BBC Introducing stage this year.
It's surprising that Kirkpatrick can move with all the instruments assembled around him. There's a bass drum with a synthesiser perched on top of it. To the side there's a ride cymbal. Across his lap lies a guitar, while to his right, there's a set of electro pads (an electronic drum kit). Added to that, he is sitting on a cajón (a wooden box drum, hit with the hands).
One Man Band
Hidden from view are a set of pedals which work all the magic. The instruments feed through a loop machine which allows Thom to play and sing to his own harmonies. KT Tunstall did a similar thing with her song The Cherry Tree.
Similar, but not quite as mind blowing as what we are about to witness. Synth hooks will be placed over each other followed by guitar chords, percussion and vocal harmonies along with whatever else springs to his mind. No wonder they call him the 21st Century One Man Band.
Kirkpatrick has an infectious smile. He can't help grinning as he sings his songs. Later, after his set, he tells me that he was determined to enjoy the session. Last night's gig in Warwick had been difficult because of sound problems. "So, today I thought, let's go for it!", he tells me.
Thom also got them dancing with a cover of No Diggity
The session is filled with different sounds from heavily synth-based songs to those driven more by the voice - piling layer and layer of his own vocal harmonies on top of each other. The songs could best be described as eletro-acoustic with the juxtaposition of synthesisers and acoustic guitar, but that doesn't exclude other styles.
"I've got some hip-hop for your asses!" Kirkpatrick announces unexpectedly before launching into a song in that style. It's not a spoof as one might expect coming from a singer-songwriter who claims Ben Folds as a musical hero. It's just a genuine hip-hop track (A cover of No Diggity by Blackstreet featuring Dr. Dre and Queen Pen). An unusual sound at a festival primarily given over to folk, indie and the singer/songwriter genre, but it seems to go down well.
Working to Rule
I ask him how he is able to create songs within a set of very strict, self imposed rules. After all, the loop machine will dictate that he will always need to spend parts of the song recording and introducing new layers to the mix.
"I guess I just try to keep it simple on the song writing front," Kirkpatrick explains. However he does it, the results are mesmerising. What is it that inspires his song writing? I ask.
"It's generally stuff that's related to me. I find writing songs very cathartic - a way of soothing your own problems. Sometimes it only becomes apparent why I have written a song a long way down the line," he says.
"Elements of the song will be there from the beginning. Like with the song The Fear, I just had that phrase stuck in my head and I wondered about what that meant. The song just grew from there."
Prior to this solo project, Thom Kirkpatrick played bass and sang backing vocals in a band called Switches which toured the US a lot. I ask him what sparked the change to working on his own.
"We knew that there wasn't any money in the industry and I was sat on the tour bus one day thinking about what I could do instead. And this seemed like a good challenge," he explains.
"Challenge" isn't quite the word for it. After his set, he guides me through how he performs: "My right foot is for the bass drum, the left foot does the loop pedals. Then my right hand does synth and cymbal and my left hand does the electro-pads. Then there's the guitar, of course. If you look on YouTube under 21st Century One Man Band, you'll see a video of me with cameras pointed at my feet and everything."
It's hugely impressive stuff. After his set has finished (and throughout our interview), people keep approaching Thom to compliment him: "Best thing I've heard at the festival so far!" is a commonly heard phrase. It looks like this extraordinarily talented musician has just won himself a lot of new fans - fans who will doubtless be thirsty for the four track EP that will be on its way soon.
And then the inevitable happens. You can't have a music festival without a bit of rain and this is when it chooses to strike. At first, we hide beneath a large parasol, trying to keep the interview going as we talk more about artists like Ben Folds and Ed Harcourt ("Yeah, I know Ed").
But eventually, the parasol gives in and we are soaked. We race for back to the BBC Introducing stage for cover. A dramatic end to a fascinating conversation.