Band hits the streets to spread word by busking

ahab is an alt-country band based in London, England.''Photo caption info = left to right: Callum Adamson, Luke Price, Dave Burn, Steven LLewellyn''
ahab is an alt-country band based in London, England.''Photo caption info = left to right: Callum Adamson, Luke Price, Dave Burn, Steven LLewellyn''

LOOK on any band’s website and they’ll have a Twitter page, a Facebook page and a Myspace page.

Today, in the music world, if you’re not online, you’re never in.

At least that’s the theory.

So London-based Americana band ahab’s decision to promote themselves by busking was somewhat unconventional.

But it worked.

The alt country band, which formed in 2005 but regrouped just two years ago, decided to hit the streets of London and test their material on the unsuspecting public. Their delicate harmonies quickly made up the soundtrack of Brick Lane, with thousands of onlookers and several people posting You Tube videos of the rootsy outfit. And this was the turning point - the group were scouted out and asked to play at Fairport Convention’s Cropredy festival and have recently finished a tour supporting the critically-acclaimed Bellowhead.

Guitarist, vocalist and co-songwriter David Burn says: “We weren’t known in England but we’d just played a festival in Nashville and thought we’d better make a name for ourselves here. It seemed pointless playing venues when no-one had heard of us we played at Brick Lane.”

Their melodic music struck a chord with the crowds. “It really worked. Most of what we do is harmony-based and harmonies have the ability to stop people in their tracks.”

They don’t need to busk anymore.

“We’ve been signed now but to be honest we weren’t really in it just to get signed. I’ve been signed before, when I was 16, and it’s not that bigger deal. It doesn’t mean anything. At the end of the day record companies want something that they know will sell and it helps them to know you can sell stuff.”

But the band’s still very much earthed in reality. “We’re all freelance workers, which gives us a chance to do this and we will do it as long as we’re not losing any money. If we can get as much money doing this part time as we would working then we’ll carry on.”

Ahab may be signed, but Burn’s under no illusion about rock and roll’s deceptive glamorous façade. “Some bands fool themselves that this is glamorous but to be honest, our day jobs are easier – it’s hard driving five guys round in a Transit van every day for a month. We are really close but sitting in the back of a horrible van with these guys every day is not glamorous. I spend more time sleeping next to men in Transit vans and Travelodges than I do my own girlfriend.”

The gritty lifestyle is echoed in ahab’s music, which is evocative of dusty highways, American pioneers, lost love, lost souls and hobo lifestyles. Lyrics are written as a collective. “We don’t have a leader in our band. And our lyrics sometimes have more meaning to those listening to them than they do to us, which is what I think lyrics should do.

“One of our song’s called Joanna but it’s not really about Joanna – a girl we know – it’s just a name we liked the sound of, but it’s been covered by a girls’ teen band and we think that’s great because it means something to them.”

“People make the mistake when they’re writing that the lyrics are only important to them but they are for other people too.”

The collective approach to ahab’s songwriting is reflected in the title of the band’s first EP, No King. “We were having a press shot taken in front of a ‘no parking’ sign but the ‘par’ was covered up by us so it read as ‘NO KING’ – we really liked that because there is no king in our group.”

lahab play at the Greystones, Greystones Road, next Wednesday.