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"Band on the crest of a new wave"

FABLES, a five-piece band from Lipa, start 2009 in prime position as the line-up to follow former top students The Wombats to national recognition.

They’ve just snatched one of the UK’s top songwriting awards – the same prize taken by The Wombats in 2005.

But whatever the journey ahead, it will be different.

While The Wombats’ indie music/skinny jeans approach produced hits like Moving To New York, Fables – perhaps as the name suggests – plan to be more bookish, aiming at a 25-plus age group, already aligned to singers like Laura Marlin.

The result is unashamedly folksy, but with distinctive indigenous Mersey cross-rhythms and harmonies. There are also outside influences from the likes of Joni Mitchell and Nick Drake.

Founder and songwriter Michael Halls, from Huyton, explains: “Because the bottom has fallen out of much of the recording industry, the big future opportunities lie with live performances.

“Lipa makes you very business-aware. What’s happening now is almost a copy of the 50s and 60s, when side bands started taking over the main genre.

“With recession and recording piracy, a new wave of music is the hope.

“We want to create quality over quantity because selling things in bulk just isn’t viable any more.”

Eighties music icon Nik Kershaw, a member of the competition judging panel chaired by Joan Armatrading, says: “There are so many different directions that Fables’ music could go. The two songs we heard were impressive, both musically and lyrically.”

For Michael, his singer girlfriend Eleanor Redhead; bassist Gareth Bullock, keyboard player Louis Quarelle and drummer Ollie Hardaker, the showcase was their first full gig together, having previously worked in duo and trio combos.

The songs came from a set of seven Michael wrote for a Lipa project last summer.

One, entitled Twenty Years From Now, is a tribute to his dad, who worked as a builder in London from 1987 to 2007, only returning home at weekends.

“We are all very close as a family, but he had to do it. And this is me saying I can’t believe how hard it was, and you did all that for us.

“The hook is him telling me how hard things could still be 20 years from now.”

Fables will now put the £5,000 prize-money towards recording and touring.

“I’d like to be earning a living from music this time next year,” says ex-Knowsley high pupil Michael, who’s been playing guitar (and mandolin) since he was eight.

“The name of the band is based on literature, stories and tales. Even the album is going to be packaged as a book.

“Most people aim for record deals, but what we want most is to be a great performing band.”

Helping Fables do just that will be promoter Will Steadman, also education director of the Musicians’ Benevolent Fund.

All band members graduate from Lipa this summer. For Michael, it’s been the making of a dream come true that’s included masterclasses with Paul McCartney and Dionne Warwick, and regular tuition from guitar greats Steve Berry and Mike Walker.

Although gaining A-levels in physics, biology, computing and English literature at Carmel College, St Helens, Michael is in no doubt about his future: “I always planned to pursue music.

“This award is a fantastic springboard for the entire band.”

But last word to Lipa boss Mark Featherstone-Witty: “We’re delighted. Now it’s time for Fables to be embraced by all those who recognise quality.” - Liverpool Echo


Still working on that hot first release.



Fables are five young musicians whose enchanting melodies and descriptive lyrics tell stories that enthral and fascinate audiences in equal measure. The five-piece, who came together in 2008, strive to outshine their contemporaries when it comes to quality songwriting and, more importantly, amazing live performances. “What we want most,” explains guitarist and founder Michael Halls, “is to be a great performing band”.

Inspired by a diverse mix of genres from folk to jazz and drawing on an expansive range of influences from Nick Drake to Joni Mitchell, Fables borrow colours and rhythms from all aspects of their musical experiences. Hailing exclusively from the north of England, the members share a passion for gritty, honest and heartfelt music.

Vocalist Eleanor Redhead, songwriter and guitarist/mandolinist Michael Halls, bassist Gareth Bullock, drummer Oliver Hardacker and keyboard player Louis Quarelle, all agree that 2009 is a year that can only improve on 2008 when, in what is their biggest achievement to date, the group won the coveted MBF Songwriting Award on the strength of their first ever gig. Showcasing to judges including revered songwriter Joan Armatrading and 80’s pop icon Nik Kershaw, Fables impressed with their warm yet poignant song, 20 Years From Now, a tribute to Michael’s dad, who worked as a builder in London from 1987 to 2007, only returning home on weekends. “The hook is him telling me how hard things could still be 20 years from now” says Michael.

Further success this year includes winning the prestigious SongLink Prize for contemporary songwriting and an endorsement from Peavey Amplifiers, following Michael’s appearance at Glastonbury. With a debut EP in the pipeline for release, Fables are planning a string of intimate live dates for later in the year.

Praise for Fables and their work:

“Unique and captivating......a fantastic band”.
Joan Armatrading

“Huge potential....so many different directions their music could go”
Nik Kershaw.

“Beautifully produced songs”
SongLink Magazine