Stick in the Wheel: ‘We’re a cultural thing, not a vanity project’


One of the freshest new voices on the folk scene, Stick in the Wheel came to everyone’s attention through their distinctive EPs and raw, visceral delivery. Debut album, From Here, was on many people’s best of the year lists last year. When Shire Folk caught up with singer Nicola Kearey, the band were working hard on new material.


SF: For many of us the first we heard of you were your EPs and last year’s superb album, From Here (my personal favourite of 2015). Can you tell us about your background and how you came together?

StickintheWheel1Ian and I (Nicola) have worked together since college, on different projects, and we met Fran (harmony singer) at a folk club the day our original singer left to move to Wales. Fran married Si (percussion), so we got him as a freebie and Ellie (fiddle) is an old school friend of mine. Ian has always made and produced records, I’ve had loads of different jobs to support my need to make music. Together Ian and I started SITW as a way of going back to basics, stripping songs back to their barest elements. We couldn’t find the sort of music that we wanted to hear, so we ended up making it ourselves. That really is how it happened.

SF: From Here features well-known songs like ‘Seven Gypsies’ and ‘Bedlam’ as well as original material. How did you decide on what to include?

SITW: We just put in what felt right, we’d gigged most of it so the arrangements were already refined. Because the EPs were fairly small releases we put the best tracks from them on the album as well. Whatever the origin of the song, it has to mean something to us you know? Then it’s like a jigsaw, you piece it together and see how it fits.

SF: ‘Me n Becky’ is a particular favourite of mine. Is that based on a particular person or story or is it more emblematic?

SITW: It came from a couple of documentaries that were shown a couple of years ago. They followed individuals from different sides of the riots: residents, shopkeepers, police, rioters. We wanted to avoid being judgemental, I mean it’s conceivable to imagine getting caught up in it all if you were in the right place at the right time. Writing about contemporary life in England is something that’s important to us, and drawing parallels with life now and say, 200 years ago through traditional material, has always been part of our intent. This girl and her mate find themselves in the thick of the riots and egg each other on, suddenly it gets pretty real and they’re looking at prison sentences.

SF: You take a lot of care in the way your material is packaged – vinyl bundles, hand-produced sleeves, EPs as newspapers, etc. How important is the way you present yourselves?

SITW: We really care about what we are putting out; the aesthetic extends beyond the music, and in a way serves to represent it. People seem to like having a thing they can hold, that’s tangible, I like making them, I don’t like other people doing it for us. We had a guy who did our first T-shirts but he made a royal mess of them. The newspaper, well, why the hell not? We made that to be as cheap as possible, so it’s accessible, throw it away afterwards if you want, or use it for your cat’s litter tray, I don’t care. Some of the limited edition stuff we do people go mental for, but I think that’s because they appreciate the effort we put in to make them special, like the numbered clay pipes, and the medieval tokens. They are like little bits of history.

SF: Your music is highly politicised and in that way may be said to be part of a continuum that goes back to the nineteenth century, through punk and onto socio-political acts like the Sleaford Mods. Do you see yourselves as part of that tradition?

SITW: It has an intent, for sure. But it’s totally implicit. I mean we don’t have ‘smash the system’ type lyrics. It’s just that the delivery is more raw and direct. We’re all about pushing forward, not copying other people, or trying to guess what will sell, we’re just doing our thing. We work hard. We’re anti-commercial, which might sound strange, but SITW is a cultural thing, not a vanity project. We’re not in it for awards and fame. Absolutely not into that. I think it’s always important to be questioning perceived narratives in popular culture. Look at folk music – it’s supposed to belong to everyone but there’s this whole dogma about what you can and can’t do, this reverence for academia, cultural appropriation, f**k all that. Artists are worried about this notion of authenticity. Does it move you? That’s the only question you wanna be asking yourself. I totally respect other people might view it differently, I’m not being prescriptive, that’s just what makes sense to us. Connect with your past, it informs who you are.

SF: At Swanage Festival you performed at the Conservative Club. Did you feel like you were infiltrating the enemy?

SITW: Often our out-of-town gigs end up in Toryland, I don’t know why, but we seem to go down well nevertheless … I guess the most satisfying one like that so far was playing in the House of Commons to a bunch of MPs, one of whom we made cry after she heard ‘Four Loom Weaver’. We had 20 minutes, so we just played our most political songs as fiercely as possible. I mean, what else can we do?

SF: How’s the follow-up to From Here coming along?

SITW: We’ve been sorting out our label, From Here Records, doing the odd bit of film music, and Ian makes electronic music so what with the touring and that it’s been pretty busy since that came out last year. We don’t feel any pressure to make another album, I mean we’re constantly writing and recording, that’s how we work. So it’ll be ready whenever. We decided to do a totally different release in-between, which has just been such a phenomenal project to bring to life. It’s been very hard work but ultimately rewarding and it’s something we feel strongly about. We have been recording different English musicians on location, in a very stripped back, live kind of way, some of whom are very well known, others less so but still equally important to us. Stick in the Wheel Present From Here: English Folk Field Recordings will be released in March and is available to pre-order at website

Stick in the Wheel’s debut album From Here is out now

Jonathan Roscoe

FEATUTRE HEADING: blah blah balh


Feature Intro:After having won the Musician of the Year award at this year’s Folk Awards and playing with almost everyone from Jon Boden and Eliza Carthy to Hannah Ja


Feature Interviewer SF: Question

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