Simon Friend’s Seismic Survey
Simon Friend’s Seismic Survey was conceived as a collaboration with long-time musical sparring partner Mick Doyle (mandolin player with Neverland, No Right Turn and Bloodsimple).
No Right Turn (NRT) bass player Andy Cooper was recruited, along with Paul Miro, best known for MTV-friendly 1990s rock band Apes, Pigs & Spacemen, but now also a familiar face as a solo artist, often performing with Mick in their duo Bloodsimple.
Simon explains: “I spent a lot of time in Derbyshire during the summer of 2011 with Mick and we just got playing together again.”
After almost 25 years with The Levellers, Simon’s found it refreshing to be planning his own show. “It’s healthy to do something outside the band and have some fun, plus if it goes well enough and we’re happy musically it would be nice to do more of it.”
The setlist is a fluid creation, with some material drawn from Simon’s songs made famous by The Levellers, such as ‘Is this Art’ and ‘The Boatman’, but in each case dismantled and reworked from the ground up. Additional tunes are drawn from the Miro and Doyle songbooks.
He says: “You’ve got to keep the substance of the song but I didn’t want everyone to think that they have to perform it like a version of The Levellers.”
Paul Miro adds: “Simon wanted us to ignore existing versions of the songs, and completely revisit them, adding our own stamp. The combination of new ideas and reinterpretation of Simon's work is going to make for a unique experience for the audience. It's been amazing how easily the writing styles have gelled together.”
Simon says: “When I play solo gigs and someone gets up to play with me, I love that – that’s what music’s about. Also, working with Mick, I know he’ll keep me hard at it, which is good because I’m intrinsically lazy!”
The pair have an easy, affable understanding on and off stage which comes only from years of playing together. Mick recalls: “We met at Stansted Airport, standing four floors off the ground on a steel girder working as steel deckers in the construction industry.
“We had a couple of mandolins and got gigs playing in pubs for beer after work. The tables would be awash with Guinness. We’d have to sneak back onto the site and sleep in the van, then at 8 o’clock the next morning we’d be back up on the steel 60 feet off the ground feeling pretty rough!”
Seismic Survey’s first show was at The Assembly Rooms, Derby, with the capacity audience also able to buy a limited edition CD of rehearsal recordings. Their May performance at Off The Tracks Festival received extremely positive reviews, echoing the enthusiastic response from the crowd.
With the band booked for Wychwood festival, plus a short winter tour in the pipeline, it’s clear that what was conceived as a one-off has all the hallmarks of developing into a real force.
Simon affirms: “I think it’s an exciting prospect and I’ve got real confidence that we’re doing something good.”