Quirky fusion sets old words to new music
He goes by the name of J Willgoose Esq and looks like a buttoned-up geography master from a 1970s grammar school for boys. So, he's the perfect character to deliver a sound that marries the stiff-upper-lip commentary gleaned from old-school information films, snippets of dialogue from classic movies and momentous TV and radio news broadcasts with a modern musical melee that veers from beat-driven electronica to orchestral gypsy jazz and jangly bluegrass.
Going under the band title of Public Service Broadcasting, no-one is more surprised than J that he has hit upon something that is capturing music-lovers' imaginations and gaining rave reviews from the cognoscenti.
"The lines between the real me and the stage persona get blurred, but I'm not doing a Bowie and portraying a Ziggy Stardust. I can't act. I can play an instrument and look slightly bored on stage," admits J.
The debut album, Inform – Educate – Entertain, was released in May and now they – J bringing guitar, banjo, samplings and electronic instruments to the mix and his partner in quirkiness, Wrigglesworth, on drums, piano and electronica – are on the road playing British festivals and indoor venues, including Exeter's Phoenix on Thursday, August 29.
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J began as many boys do, playing guitar at 14 in a band with his brother and some childhood friends. He'd grown up on Nik Kershaw, Michael Jackson and Foreigner, and latterly became a big Oasis fan.
"We weren't particularly good and we didn't get anywhere," confesses J. "When that broke up, I was in my early 20s and I started to learn how to do it all myself and make music that sounded good. That took about ten years!"
He's been experimenting with samples from film and broadcasts since 2002, becoming fascinated by subjects that left him cold at school, like the Second World War.
"I was slightly lazy at school in a folkist way and dropped history at 14, so now I can approach it with a genuine and fresh interest."
PSB may be charmingly tongue-in-cheek, but it has a serious aim to entertain – although teachers have been in touch to say they have used their videos in their lessons.
Highlights from the album include W H Auden's poem Night Mail set to a rousing instrumental soundtrack, American newsman Edward R Murrow's speech from 1958 celebrating an instrument that can "teach... illuminate and yes, even inspire", and the single Everest – an ode to the Himalayas. Their latest single is Theme From PSB – a summery, banjo-infused calling card which follows up Signal 30, with a crazed road safety atmosphere.
"I never thought this would get anywhere – it's very niche," adds J.