Interview: Jack & The Arrows

Susan Yu checks in with some home grown Oxford musical talent…

I met Joe Hasell the percussionist/vocalist/guitarist from Jack & The Arrows on a quiet Monday evening at the Three Goats Heads pub. Upon first impressions, he was very much at ease, articulate, clearly passionate about his band and music in general.

So who are these guys? Jack & The Arrows is comprised of Jack Durtnall (vocals/guitar/saxophone), Joe Hasell and Edmund Thomson Jones (vocals/bass/fiddle). All three members went to Oxford University having studied music at Queen’s college, PPE and English (choir scholar) at Worcester College respectively. The three boys first came together through the a cappella group Out of the Blue and went onto perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2009. ‘That’s when we started playing together as a trio and started writing together’. It was Jack that instigated the idea of forming a band. So they did. Undoubtedly, these three have come a long way since then.

The trio have recently played at the Oxford Folk Festival on the 21st April at the Old Fire Station as well as the Ashmolean Museum. ‘It was lovely. Beautiful acoustics’. At the Old Fire Station, their set was an intimate, charming affair in which they performed a splendid collection of their folk repertoire. They concluded their show by collaborating with Emily Spiers and the Tunesmiths with a poignant rendition of an Irish love song ‘I Wish My Love Was A Red Red Rose’. It was an enthralling blend of impressive vocal harmonies complimented with rich instrumentation across the board from the guitar, flutes to the harp. In terms of their musical influences, Bob Dylan, Laura Marling and The Beatles were mentioned by the percussionist.

Out of the three, it seems like the frontman Jack is most intent on making it big in the music industry. ‘He wants nothing else in his life apart from this.’ ‘60% of the songs are written by Jack, we’ll do a couple of covers and the rest we’ll write together’ Joe continued. With Jack, apparently ‘he’s more prepared to wear his heart on his sleeves’. Personally, ‘Bruising My Heart’ is a standout track, their vocal harmonies shine through the song, the melody is achingly bittersweet and fragile, and lyrically it is refreshingly raw. I am gleefully reminded of Damien Rice’s heart-breaking, tender and compelling soundscapes.

Interestingly, Joe plays the cajón, a box shaped percussion instrument which originates from Peru. When questioned about how they began their appreciation for folk, Joe enthusiastically told me of the ‘The Half Moon pub’ deemed as the ‘epicentre of folk’ in Oxford. It was ‘absolutely integral to me and Jack, every Sunday, there would be lots of singing and folk bands performing there’ Joe revealed.

Presently, it appears that they have yet to settle down with their music. ‘We are still finding our sound. As we write more, we’ll gradually converge on one sound’. And with regards to his favourite gig and venue so far, Joe enthuses about The Troubadour where they have played a couple of times previously, ‘an amazing place in Earls Court; Dylan and Jimi Hendrix played there’.  A semi-historic place and the trio are rightfully following the footsteps of their role models.

Currently, they are yet to be signed. ‘What would be good is to get onto a tour as a support band. Get more coverage’ Joe added. Yes, exposure is a key ingredient to stardom. When asked whether they would be willing to audition on talent shows such as the X Factor, Joe is somewhat reluctant in his reply ‘every now and again, I’d consider it’ but ‘you can’t really control how the exposure can affect the band’.

Aside from music, Joe is involved in running a co-op called Cultivate, they grow and sell vegetables with the aim of bringing fresh, local food direct from farmers to the community in Oxfordshire.  In contrast, Ed works in financial recruitment whilst unsurprisingly, ‘Jack just does music’.

What does the future hold for them? ‘More gigs’ Joe replied, consolidating their sound and hopefully getting signed. From our interview and their performance at the OFF, it’s readily apparent that Jack & The Arrows already possess an incredible array of musical tools under their belts and with their passion for music, they are set to make a name for themselves in the very near future.