Where Are the Living? (Big Stir Digital Single No. 19)
Charms Against the Evil Eye
The 19th BIG STIR DIGITAL SINGLE is a deep roots affair. It's from the Oxford, England-based trio CHARMS AGAINST THE EVIL EYE and it should have immediate and deep appeal to fans of melodic electric British psych-folk in the Syd Barrett-Robyn Hitchcock-Julian Cope mould (in other words, people like us). The lovely and macabre A-side "Where Are the Living?" (which was given an early airing last October on the Big Stir Halloween Radio Special) and the trippy, stuttering B-side "Oscar" (about a bilocating cat, naturally) see release on Friday, March 8 and are available for preorder now!
CHARMS AGAINST THE EVIL EYE (as SEWELL explains) were discovered in one of the drawers of Oxford's Pitt Rivers museum. Once dusted down they began to make the kind of English psychedelia for which they are now renowned. Turns out they're all old hands - mitochondrial DNA analysis shows that the members ("Swiss" RICK NASH - The Drums, JULIAN MOSS - on the bass, harmonies and even some guitar, MATT SEWELL - singing and guitar) go back to the 80s, possibly even further. The songs are about the inevitable forces of the Universe, ancient stone monuments, Autumn, love and cats. "Charming stuff" said Oxford music mag Nightshift, puntastically, but this is clearly what the band are aiming for.
The association between main Charmer SEWELL and REX BROOME (of Big Stir and THE ARMOIRES) goes well back to the relative dawn of the internet and the '90s, when Broome took it upon himself to compile a collection of original music from the participants in the Robyn Hitchcock mailing list "Fegmania". The resulting disc, Tinfoil Thoths: Songs from the Globe of Fegs, would contain early versions of what would become The Armoires' signature tune ("Fort Ashby") as well as the song featured as the B-side here: "Oscar" as performed by SEWELL's then-band THE NEW MOON.
All of which would likely have been forgotten in the wake of MySpace, Facebook and Twitter if not for The Armoires attempting a miniature tour of the UK in 2015 and needing a support band. Fegmania bonds being what they were, a connection was reforged – Rex and Christina (who had to formal found the BSR label) were duly impressed that Sewell had been plugging away with his new band for some years, supporting the likes of The Jazz Butcher, The Corner Laughers and Miracle Legion. CHARMS were duly swept up in the developing Big Stir wake, repeating the tour appearances the subsequent year and beginning to pop up on the nascent label's compilations – the Big Stir Traveling International Roadshow CD marked the band's first appearance on record and in some senses completed the circle begun on Tinfoil Thoths and opening up a new chapter for Oxford's finest.
CHARMS also frequently serves as ANTON BARBEAU's backing band on the noted psych-pop troubadour's UK jaunts, under the alias "THRUST". Big Stir Records will be issuing a BARBEAU album featuring the lads in that capacity later this year, and The Armoires themselves have gone and name-dropped the band (and the song "Oscar") on the lead track for their forthcoming album... but more on that later. Now it's time to cycle past the graveyards of Oxford as this single gets the thumbs up from a ghoul... and us as well!