Mad about the House - Thomas House and Sweet Williams
It’s a beautiful autumn day, the sun is low and everything is cast in a gold hew. Tom meets me at the The George public house, HQ to unlabel, it's a step up from the old D'Ambrosio Milk Bar, but neither of us are sure we’ll have enough money for a beer and a bite to eat.
Tom has been making pilgrimage to Tunbridge Wells since his teenage years. Originally from his native Hastings now from the people's republic of Brighton. This Christmas he’s back playing The Unlabel Unfestive with his band ‘Three Quarter Williams’, a trio arrangement of the standard four ‘Sweet Williams’.
“ Back when I was young, getting into playing music, I heard Prolapse on Steve Lamacq's evening session, it was a Love Train single, I didn’t just buy the one single, you could buy the whole collection, so I did.” In that collection was a certain band called Joeyfat. “I couldn’t believe there was this really cool band local to me, I went up to the Forum and asked the guy on the door if he new this Joeyfat band, he said yeah, I’m the drummer!”
What was then a burgeoning unlabel scene played a key role in Tom’s musical development, “I’d talk to Jason (Joeyfat bassist and Forum venue owner) about how to write songs, I’d hang out with John Richard (unhome/joeyfat) and he’d show me stuff on the guitar.”
Unsurprisingly Tom would serve a five year term as a Joeyfat guitarist, but it is with his band ‘Charlottefield’ that he made a name on the underground post hardcore/rock scene. Vocals a near holler, guitars angular stabs against the rhythm sections of off centre rolling groove. The band toured across the UK and on the continent.
Of Sweet Williams, Tom’s latest project “ Yeah, it’s quite different, but there’s still plenty of piss’n’vinegar!” Their music travels from the bludgeoning to the tender without ever being self-conscious, at its best, it hypnotises you in a place where it seems no music has been before.
The track ‘Come Swimming’ from their last LP ‘Please let me Sleep on Your Tonight’ is a master class in understated tension. “ We only had one review for that album”, Tom laments, “from an obscure online French fanzine.” Someone is missing a trick here.
Discussing the ever problematic issue of making music and making ends meet, we both agree there are times when it just doesn’t seem worth while. Hearing him enthuse about the “next two” Sweet Williams albums he already has written, however, or the excitement he find in new underground acts playing in Brighton, you know he is in it for the long haul.
Come fame and fortune or not, Tom will be overloading his four track recorder, mapping out music of magic and marvel.
Here is a selection of tracks from Sweet Williams and Charlottefield to have a listen
Words and Pictures Phil Avey