Welcome back to the intriguing world of Ralfe Band, whose new collection of 12 songs Son Be Wise is out on June 3rd on CD, LP and in all good digital stores. The brainchild of English songwriter Oly Ralfe, Son Be Wise marks a new chapter in the Ralfe Band story, and draws on a vivid pallet of sounds blending euphoric folk pop, whispering ballads and gothic picaresques to craft its uniquely enigmatic sound.
Infused with images of travel, the album draws inspiration from Oly’s life of living between England and Berlin and adventures in Iceland, Mexico and the USA. The album was recorded in the UK, beginning with Rob Ellis (PJ Harvey, Anna Calvi) in a remote Wales studio, continuing with Andy Ramsay of Stereolab in South London and was completed in rural Oxfordshire. On his writing process Oly muses, “I’ve been a nomad these last few years, writing my songs on the move. I find different locations make me feel alive and conjure up ideas.”
The album’s musical journey takes us from the sweeping opener ‘Ox’, to the striking anthem ‘Barricades’, through hushed vocals and echoing synths on ‘Magdalena’, expansive eastern strings on ‘Oh My Father’, delicate motifs in ‘Ladder’ and the stormy finale of ‘Cold Chicago Morning’, closing with the introspective waltz “Boy With an Old Tin Drum”. The album is underpinned throughout by Oly Ralfe’s signature piano playing.
The album’s lead single ‘Come On Go Wild’ dances its way through an infectious bossa nova rhythm, imbued with an English eccentricity that is unmistakably Ralfe Band. On penning the surreal tale, Oly says “I wanted to cheer myself up with a fun song. It came to me while jamming to an old ‘80s drum machine, and it made me laugh whenever I played it.
Son Be Wise marks a new chapter in Oly Ralfe’s songcraft, drawing on a kaleidoscope of inspiration from Eric Satie’s music to Borges’s Labyrinths and Emily Brontë’s poems. Of his lyrics Oly continues, “I like my songs to be slightly mysterious. I’m inspired by lyrics that possess puzzling intrigue, straddling places and perspectives.”
Son Be Wise also features backing vocals from Alessi Laurent-Marke aka Alessi’s Ark who appears on four songs, including album openers ‘Ox’ and ‘Barricades’, with Piney Gir lending her voice to ‘Dead Souls’. Oly says “It’s the first time I’ve used female vocals. I love the interplay of male and female voices like Serge and Jane.”
Alongside Oly’s vocals, piano, guitar and accordion, the key players are Nick Fowler (bass, guitar), Garo Nahoulakian (guitar) and Mike Monaghan (drums), who also make up the live line-up. Long-term Ralfe Band players John Greswell (strings, viola, mandolin), Andrew Mitchell (guitar) and Ben Nicholls (lap steel guitar) add to the sound, along with guests Rob Ellis (drums on Cold Chicago Morning), Blur and Radiohead brass and woodwind player Steve Hamilton, saxophone by Pete Wareham of Polar Bear and Acoustic Ladyland and Garance Louis on accordion.
Ralfe Band’s musical journey began in 2005 with debut album Swords, a madcap voyage praised by Mojo and The Independent and earning the band an early cult following. Second album Attic Thieves strengthened Ralfe Band’s reputation for blending ingenuity and intrigue in their wholly original sound. Son Be Wise follows Ralfe Band’s acclaimed soundtrack and album to 2010 feature film Bunny and the Bull (Warp Films).
As well as extensive tours of the UK and Europe, Ralfe Band have played at many festivals including SXSW, CMJ, Reading and Leeds, End Of The Road and two of the main stages at Glastonbury. Their unique songs have drawn wide-reaching radio support including multiple live sessions forMark Radcliffe, Marc Riley and Tom Robinson.
Oly Ralfe’s distinctive artwork and videos have shaped a unique image, from his animated video for single ‘Women of Japan’ – winner of Best International Music Video at SXSW – to his artwork for Ralfe Band’s singles and albums. Past creative collaborations with Noel Fielding and Julian Barratt have seen Oly contributing songs and cameos to The Mighty Boosh TV shows, and in 2010 he directed the film The Mighty Boosh On Tour – Journey of the Childmen. Oly Ralfe also won the Raindance Award at the British Independent Film Awards for BBC4-screenedThe Ballad of AJ Weberman, a documentary about the notorious Bob Dylan obsessive.
Ralfe Band’s music takes us to a place vibrant with impulse and emotion. Sons and daughters, listen and be wise.