Dead Souls keep calling me…inspired by Manchester’s dark music (the official Sweeney Astray blog)

NOW and then it feels good to revisit the sounds of Joy Division  Dead Souls – Joy Division. It’s such a relief. The darkness is a relief. It feels honest. It sounds like my capital city of Manchester and the music I grew up with. It sounds like it comes from a time when you were allowed to protest culturally.

A time when musical dissent was more fashionable than sales.

Joy Division, along with urban ska heroes, the Specials, and their socialist inspiration and driving force Jerry Dammers, were the original inspiration for me. The reason I wanted to form a band, to be in a band in the first place.  The likes of the Doors, The Everly Brothers, the Velvet Underground and the Beatles brought special magic into my life but Joy Division and the Specials were people like us. Urban. Concrete. Us. They made me feel as if we could be in a band.

There are too many musical influences for our lighter, more melodic folkie 2016 Sweeney Astray sound to mention. Among all four of us, including myself, you can hear them all if you know your music over the last few decades. The main drive for us today is to be a force for love and inspiration and change and to be heard and to be appreciated. In a sweet song, in an angry song in an intensely dark song. If we can manage it. If we can achieve it. Listen to “Sunshine & Swimming” by Sweeney Astray

It’s different on the surface though underneath I still feel the same as I do listening to Dead Souls. Haunted and desperate to escape the darkness while somehow in reverence of the city scape which feels like its part of me and is who I am. Though I feel full of hope too which is not like Joy Division at all.

So what news from Sweeney!

We’re playing at the Moor Brook pub on Saturday in Preston, possibly outside, possibly in dependent on the weather. All four of us. If you don’t know us that’s myself (Mike Kneafsey) on vocals, guitar and words; Katie Ritson (vocals/guitar); Jakob Martin (electric bass) and Anna Ashworth (drums). listen to Mike & Katie singing acoustically

The only covers we’ve got are Sonnet by the Verve and The One I Love by REM as the “earning a living” by playing covers side of our musical existence, we generally leave that at the door. Why? Because there’s no artistic challenge in solely “entertainment” the idea is to try and create something new – which can be entertaining. acoustic sweeney cover REM

The start time is 9.30pm after the lovable and uncompromising Sean Keefe does his blues, country rock, folkie original thing. The pub is unusual in that it is communal and friendly in a more natural way than the usual fake atmosphere of the suburban consumer bar. There’s a community of local musicians in Preston and hopefully we’ll be seeing quite a few of them on Saturday. Who knows. sweeney recording june16 4

The other news is I’ve bought a Vox amp and started playing the electric on a couple of tracks at last!

It has always been a struggle to exist financially in life for me. Buying a PA nearly knocked me homeless and I still want my own flat. Videos, albums, fancy equipment, promotion, all beyond my means. I’m glad to have a room and a roof above my head.

The folkie sound of Sweeney Astray is based around my lack of economic resources. I only have an acoustic and only do gigs locally unless I take a risk like the gig in Brighton last year and the video I made in Spain for a solo track with cellist Marta Canellas. You run the risk of missing your rent and getting into debt every time. click to see a video of “History” made in Catalonia

However we have been able to start recording a 4 track EP with sound engineer Elliott Dryden which includes 4 tracks. Dunedin To Skye, The Rooks of Kathmandu, Silver Rain and There’s Always Tomorrow. The bass, drums and my guitar are down and sorted. It just needs the addition of my vocals, Katie’s guitar and vocals.

Checkout Katie’s vocals on this cover of a Joni Mitchell track….Both Sides Now – Joni Mitchell cover by K Ritson

We may have started as Sweeney Astray in 2011 and myself and the drummer Anna have been playing in the north west since the late 90s. When I revisit the likes of Dead Souls and feel inspired again I feel like we have a lot more music to make and in some ways we’ve only just started. Which is weird. But I do.





Published by mikekneafseyguitar

Musician, blogger, songwriter and guitar tutor. Full time professional musician/tutor since 2005. Originally graduated in Sociology, trained and worked as a local journalist before working in FE teaching and environmental education.

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