Interview and Gig Review: Rob Lynch @ The Portland Arms

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Rob Lynch is a busy man. Off the back of an exhaustive six weeks on the VANS Warped tour across the US, his gig at The Portland Arms next Tuesday kicks off a month long tour around his homeland and with it, the release of his full debut album ‘All These Nights In Bars Will Somehow Save My Soul’. Signed to UK indie label Xtra Mile – there’s comparisons to be made with label mates Chris T-T and Frank Turner, two of the more prominent names on a continuously healthy production line of English born singer-songwriters that Rob Lynch is definitely among. With his 2011 self titled EP receiving widespread and well deserved critical acclaim, his new album is likely to be one that very much personifies the lyrically laid bare and memorable choruses that Lynch has mastered.

In anticipation of Lynch’s Cambridge show, I caught up with him for a few words…

Firstly, for those that don’t know you, what can they expect at a Rob Lynch show?
An interactive evening of honest acoustic pop songs exploring themes of finding light in times of darkness.

So it’s been a busy year for you so far, right? How was the VANS Warped tour over in the States, that must have been an experience?
It has indeed been a busy year. Warped was great, it was like living in a bubble for two months. It’s an experience that’s pretty difficult to recount accurately unless you were there, but it was a real journey.

You’ve signed with Xtra Mile as well, and have a new album on the way also? Looking forward to getting that out?
Yeah, my debut album comes out on 22nd September. I can’t wait to finally get it out there for all and sundry to hear!

You’ve just spent some time in US, you’ve gigged all over the UK and you’ve got a huge following in Germany as well – how do the three compare in terms of live shows? Do the crowds differ much?
2 months in the US! I’d say that a crowd who is into the music and immersed in it is pretty similar in all of the places that I’ve been fortunate to visit. Sometimes region to region, people will be more excited or more reserved, but in general when there’s a good vibe, the atmosphere is pretty universal.

There’s been a slight resurgence in English born singer-songwriters coming through in the past few years; Frank Turner, Sean McGowan, you, Will Varley…is it good to see people enjoying some success via the old fashioned way of just incessantly gigging?
It’s the only way that I can see artists being able to sustain a career and to make real and long lasting fans. So, yeah it’s great. Also, you make so many relationships and memories from being out on the road constantly, and those are the things that I personally find rewarding.

So you’ve got this month long UK tour about to start, where do you enjoy playing the most?
I enjoy playing anywhere. I always look forward to the London shows as that’s where I live and have a lot of friends, and I always like playing in Leeds, as I went to university there, so it’s nice to see what’s changed in the city each time I go back.

And what’s the plan after the tour finishes? Aside from having a rest of course…
After the UK dates, I pretty much head straight back out to mainland Europe for a headline tour. I might have a small rest over Christmas, and then I’ll be back out again and all over the place in the new year.

And lastly…if there was one song you wish you could’ve written…?
Bruce Springsteen – Atlantic City.

Gig review / The Portland Arms / 9th September 2014

As Rob Lynch squints out through the glaring stage lights at a sparse looking Portland Arms, there’s a slight hint of disappointment in his smile. He’s here to promote his new album ‘All These Nights In Bars Will Somehow Save My Soul’, and if we’re working to that philosophy, then it seems that most of Cambridge’s souls are beyond saving, as there’s not really anyone here. Lynch laughs at the situation, pointing out that we’re not only few in numbers but we’re also a quiet, polite bunch, “comparable to the German crowds” he says, before noting that “you’re all into books and that here, aren’t you?”. It seems that he has some work to do to liven up proceedings.

The evening had been a relatively quiet one from the off however. Cambridgeshire born Heartwork kicked things off with a slightly downbeat set of songs – nostalgia and break ups being the recurrent themes here, along with a number “not about stalking girls” for good measure – before fellow local B-Sydes took to the stage and continued along the same lines. Sydes is one who quite regularly pops up on these kind of nights around Cambridge, and as ever his distinctive voice and stage persona were impressive, with the frantic chords of ‘(Still in) Saigon’ being the stand out track. The support acts were finished off by another Cambridge born act, as the ever enigmatic Jake Martin took his turn, and soon had the crowd in full voice. It’s sometimes tricky to find inventiveness and originality in solo acoustic artists these days, and whether it’s in the attitude driven ‘I Don’t Wanna Be Your Heroes’ or the self deprecating humour in the title track of his EP ‘For Fuck’s Sake, Jake’, there’s something refreshing about Martin.

And then came Rob Lynch. Bringing the scant crowd forward towards the stage he launches into a short intro and then onwards into a set as honest and personal as you’re likely to hear all year. Having just returned from a two month long stint on the VANS Warped tour over in the States, it’s probably been a while since he’s played an audience like this, but it deters him not. With his sweeping blonde mop hanging across his face, Lynch converses with the crowd throughout, leading them into singalongs where he can and he’s instantly likeable. The songs are honest, sometimes heartbreakingly so. The brilliant ‘Whiskey’ and ‘Some Nights’ both touch on the loss of his father, while ‘True Romance’ and ‘Plans’ are touching numbers that clutch at a sense of optimism which you sense might once have been hard to find.

Find it he did however, and there’s a definite upbeat feel to the remainder of his set. ‘Feeling Good’ and ‘I’m Positive I’m an Optimist’ are the obvious examples, while set opener ‘Hand Grenade’ and ‘Broken Bones’ add a more encouraging element tone to things. We get drawn out anecdotes about hypothetical murders over Christmas jumpers before ‘Stamford’ and a rousing singalong chorus in ‘Hawking, and by the time the set draws to an end with the life affirming punk driven ‘My Friends and I’ – it’s pretty evident from the broad smiles from everyone in attendance that Lynch can quite comfortably entertain a crowd. With his new album just a couple of weeks off from release and the remainder of his UK and European tour to come – the last few months of 2014 promise to a big few for the Lincolnshire born artist. I just hope that for his sake, for he’s surely deserving of it, that a few more people decide their souls do need saving, and get themselves along to a show.

 

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