Turin Brakes on Stendhal then and now

Turin Brakes headlined the first ever Stendhal Festival back in 2011. As the indie-folk act prepare to return to the festival this year, John Cartwright catches up with frontman Olly Knight...

Turin Brakes: Olly Knights, Eddie Myer, Rob Allum and Gale Paridjanian. Picture by J Hayes
Turin Brakes: Olly Knights, Eddie Myer, Rob Allum and Gale Paridjanian. Picture by J Hayes Turin Brakes: Olly Knights, Eddie Myer, Rob Allum and Gale Paridjanian. Picture by J Hayes

TIMES were very different in 2011. Nobody knew what 'Brexit' was, Donald Trump was filming the seventh season of The Apprentice, and the idea of a global pandemic was still confined to the silver screen in Steven Soderbergh's new movie Contagion.

Meanwhile, in Limavady, the first ever Stendhal Festival took place featuring a headline set by English indie-folk outfit Turin Brakes.

"Without Turin Brakes as the headliner that first year, we might have been a 'one and done'," says festival director Ross Parkhill.

"They brought us credibility: they had had top selling singles and albums and, most importantly, they were, and remain, a phenomenal live act.

"We really must give them a lot of credit – from their perspective, they had no idea what sort of event they were putting their name to. They took a chance on us, and off the back of that we have been running the event for 12 years now."

Turin Brakes guitarist and singer Olly Knight says he recalls their first Stendhal appearance in 2011 well, particularly the fact that the event was clearly being run on enthusiasm over everything else.

"We've done lots of shows that have been really unique throughout our career," he admits.

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Turin Brakes
Turin Brakes Turin Brakes

"But, for a few reasons, that Stendhal show has always stayed in our minds over the years.

"I remember being aware at the time that this was the first ever edition of the festival and that there was a risk factor for the organisers, and to be honest we did feel a little bit of pressure with that, because obviously we wanted it to go well and succeed.

"The one specific thing that stands out in our memory was the green room: it was the garage 'man-cave' of one of the organisers' brothers, just beside their parents' house. That was a new one for us, but in a great way.

"I remember that there was just such a great chemistry about it all. It was clear that there wasn't a huge budget, but what they lacked in money they made up for in enthusiasm, and fair play to them for getting to the level they are at today.

"Now, coming back and hearing that it has been a success and that it has lasted for 12 years and won a load of awards is really pleasing for us. It's a happy story and we are really looking forward to coming back."

Wide-Eyed Nowhere by Turin Brakes
Wide-Eyed Nowhere by Turin Brakes Wide-Eyed Nowhere by Turin Brakes

Since 2011, Turin Brakes have continued crafting beautiful folk, rock albums and touring the world. Their latest record Wide-Eyed Nowhere is an amalgamation of a glorious quarter of a century in the industry, a collection of songs which show the band's progression during that time while also holding on to some of the subdued acoustic excellence that brought them to prominence in the first place.

They brought the new album to Belfast for a show back in January, and Olly says that Northern Ireland was once again a highlight for them.

"We first started coming to Belfast way back in 2000 or 2001" he says.

"Of course, before we had been there, there was an obvious edge to things, us being from London and hearing all the stories from the years before. So there were nerves about coming to Northern Ireland at the very start.

"Now though, we adore the place – there is nowhere quite like it. Every time we came back you could see it growing and maturing as a place or destination right before your eyes. There are loads of great places for us, as essentially tourists, which have popped up just to hang out in.

"Everything just seems so much more mature and relaxed and modern, its somewhere we always want to keep coming back to."

Olly adds: "It has changed so much for the better in 25 years, but one thing that was obvious from the very start was that the people there are warm and welcoming and that our audiences there have always had an amazing energy and synergy with the band.

"That connection has always made for some mad gigs, gigs that we will absolutely never forget."

:: Turin Brakes play the Stendhal Festival on Friday July 7. For tickets and full line-up information, visit stendhalfestival.com.