Phantom Limb
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Phantom Limb


Band Country Gospel


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""Big-sounding soul-rockers Phantom Limb have had an acoustic epiphany'"

Think of the roots of soul music and it's likely you'll think of Tamla Motown, the Detroit hit factory that defined teh style through a remorseless series of jewel-perfect hits in the mid to late 60s. Motown deserves that accolade but it wasn't the only player at that time. Down South in Mephis and Nashville, labels like Stax and Atlantic had been recording artists like Sam Cooke, Joe Tex and Solomon Burke, whose fusion of country and gospel with rock 'n' roll was the crucible from which Otis Redding and Wilson Picket would emerge. If the harder, tighter Northern sound ruled the dancefloors, it owed its origins to those looser and less commercialised recordings from the South.
And as a result of a strange combination of health problems and some new guitars, it's a sound that's been rediscovered by Bristol band Phantom Limb. The band burst onto the local scene with some prestigious support slots a couple of years ago, notably starting things at a Courtney Pine gig in the Colston Hall. It takes a big sound to fill that space and the set was impressive, Yolanda 'Breakbeat' Quartey's powerful vocals backed by a rock driven quartet that included Stewart Jackson on guitar and Dan Moore on keyboards. It was only their second ever gig, but encouraged by the positive audience and critical responses, the band were keen to record.

Record business people were interested too, and they were in the middle of a string of 'showcase' gigs in London this time last year when disaster struck - Yolanda discovered she had developed nodules on her vocal chords, a real risk for vocalists and one that could finish a career if not responses to immediately. "We had to put the album on ice," Jackson recalls. "It was awful, we were all really worried for Yolanda."
It took an anxious year before she recovered but the good news, according to Stew is that she's even better. "Her singing's ridiculous now - right at the top of the game."
So it was back to the studio and the material they had worked on 12 months before, but of course things had moved on. For one thing, Jackson had bought some new guitars and a new amp and found his playing had taken a more acoustic turn. "It's that whole 'don't fight it' thing with new gear", is his explanation for bringing an acoustic approach to the band. They tried out this more restrained sound and found the songs really worked. "Bizarrely the smaller acoustic sound was rocking harder - you can really hear all the details you work so hard on in the arrangements. We tried it out live and people really responded to the changes. It was exciting - weird but good."
The whole band embraced the new sound, with Dan Brown switching from electric to acoustic double bass and Dan Moore including a 'proper' piano alongside electric keyboards. Recognising the echo of that Southern soul heritage, they played up the country and gospel ingredients in new arrangements. "We feel we're doing it as it should be done, and the reworked stuff has taken on a life of its own" Jackson says.

He's clearly still genuinely surprised by the success of the project which really started as a "bit of mucking about" in the studio, but the band are very confident its a winner. So confident, in fact, that they've booked St George's Bristol, widely recognised as one of the best acoustic venues in the country, to share their discovery to the world. The hall is famously linked with classical music and boasts a top of the range Steinway grand piano that keyboard player Dan Moore can't wait to get his hands on: "it's a really good one, and I'll be losing sleep just thinking about it! I think the whole thing will sound really amazing there."
The gig will mix the new material with re-arrangements of more electrified favourites and the mood will be nicely enhanced by sets from melancholic minimalists Lena Rez (who went down a storm at this years V Festival) and Pete Roe's soulful and bluesy songs. All three are class acts and it promises to be a pretty damn special evening.

- Venue Magazine, Sept 07

"Phantom Limb @ St. George's Bristol"

The name Phantom Limb has been banded around the office a lot recently, a name that conjures up thoughts of spandex, masks and large set props of monolithic and gothic stature.Armed with an open mind I climb the grand steps of St George's, Bristol. A venue that I hadn't been to before but heard plenty about its acoustics.First stop the toilet. If I am going to give anything my attention then it must have it 100%, and that's when my night began. Filtering through a small white speaker above me was an acoustic massage for the eardrums, a beautiful and rhythmic melodic guitar with an equally smooth and sincere male voice. "Not a bad CD" I thought to myself and went on my merry and relieved way.Upon entering the auditorium I begin to hear the same song envelope me and suddenly the penny drops.Dressed immaculately in a jacket and cravat, Pete Roe was weaving his charm spell over a steadily growing audience. It felt like I had walked in a very private and intimate showcase and for the next 20 minutes I was enchanted.The guitar work was precise, catchy and genuine and this sincerity was very much appreciated throughout the rest of the set that included such highlights as Hope & Glory and Let It Go.The next act, Lena Rez, left me feeling frustrated and melancholy. Let me explain. First up, she is beautiful and has a voice to match but that just wasn't enough to keep interest after 20 minutes or so of a contrived and purposefully 'alternative' blues.Each song seemed to try and out do the next with inappropriate slide guitar and tribal beats and, one after another, became those token experimental album tracks artists use to "show their deep and emotional side".Saying that, the audience seemed very warm and receptive but, to me, I just felt it could be so much more engaging and provocative.Phantom Limb, goths? Hardly. I couldn't have been more wrong. The best way to describe them is 'jazzsoulcountryblues' and I may just patent that. Sounds awful I know but when Yolanda Quarty entered the stage you knew you were in the presence of talent.Not only did the audience woop and holler like an American cinema crowd at the end of Independence Day, but Yolanda's dress was something to behold... and those breasts... Now I am not being sexist or lechy as indeed it was a young lady in the balcony that shouted "I love your boobs".We all just happened to agree.They swooped effortlessly into their first song (not the breasts), a soulful country 4 part harmony that exploded into life with Yolanda's awesome vocal power and control. Every sound, melody, rhythm and little touch was executed with such finesse and grace that it all just made perfect sense to the ear and indeed the soul.Highlights included Playing With Death and Gillian Welch's cover of Dear Someone and the entire set played out with great pace and flow.For me, Phantom Limb went beyond the famous adage that 'less is more' with the simple and often forgotten principle that great music is about playing the right things at the right time. Sounds obvious but may artists miss this in galactic proportions.Luckily for us, they had talent in galactic proportions.Phantom Limb's album 'Phantom Limb' is out in October but get yourself in front of them for something that will affect you somewhere deep inside, a place you didn't think you had. I place I now know I have.Ron Samuel -

"Southward Bound"

Bristol band Phantom Limb are looking forward to 2008. Helen Sloan caught up with them for a chat to find out what it has in store for them

Next year looks like it's going to be a pretty good one for Phantom Limb.The Bristol band will be releasing their debut album and they've also secured a highly sought-after slot at the South By Southwest industry festival in Austin, Texas.

So it was hardly surprising that they were on good form when 24seven went round to their College Green studio.

There were only four-fifths of the band present for much of the interview, as singer Yolanda Quarty, in true star style, arrived fashionably late.

As well as Stew, Phantom Limb are Dan Brown on bass, Dan Moore on piano and recent arrival Matt Jones on drums. They've all known each other for quite a while though, as Stew explains.

"I met Yola at a party when she was 15 and we just stayed mates, but didn't actually do any music until about seven years afterwards."

Stew also knew both the Dans from previous bands he'd been in (although they lost their original drummer Ian Matthews to Kasabian).

Things started for Phantom Limb a couple of years ago when they pooled their cash and treated themselves to some studio time, rattling through a few songs that became known as The Eggnog Sessions.

On listening back to the tracks, they realised they were on to something good. Their early gigs were pretty impressive, too.

"We didn't have a drummer for our first few gigs," Stew recalls. "We played with Carleen Anderson at Fiddlers first, then with Courtney Pine at the Colston Hall."

These are pretty high-profile slots for a band just starting out, and they proved to be inspirational experiences. But then this year the band were forced to take a break because Yolanda was ill with throat problems and couldn't sing for nine months.

Their first gig after that time was this September, in the beautiful surroundings of St George's Bristol.

"Because we were playing rocky stuff, and obviously you can't play like that in St George's, we decided to get the tunes more acoustic-sounding," said Stew.

As it happened, this gig, or rather the build up to it, led to a dramatic change in the music that the band was producing. Dan Brown explains.

"When Matt joined the band we were rehearsing quite loudly with electric guitar, electric piano and Hammond organ, but in a real wailing rock way. And all the gigs were really loud. The original plan was just to do this one-off acoustically. But the response to the warm-up gigs was so good that we had to look at it and see that that was the way forward."

The band already had more than an album's-worth of material ready to go, but it was back to the drawing board for Phantom Limb.

"I was mixing the album the old way," Stew says wryly, "then everyone decided to bin it."

You can get a sneak preview of some of their album tracks if you visit the band's MySpace page, and it's all spellbinding stuff.

One song, Withering Bones, is notable for the layers of male harmonies adding to Yolanda's vocal. It turns out that the band are all singers, and have all been contributing more vocals since they went down the acoustic road.

"I'd never sang anything before," Matt confesses. So was he forced into it by the rest of the band?

"No, I'm well up for it," he says enthusiastically, and it seems he's revelling in his additional role.

"You got quite annoyed at one gig because you didn't get a mic," Stew reminds him jokingly.

But with Yola having such an incredible voice, wasn't it a bit intimidating?

"No, because I'm the best singer in the band," is Dan Brown's response, prompting raucous laughter from the rest of the guys.

The South By Southwest showcase next March is a pretty big deal, as each year bands from all over the world descend upon the Texas capital. All it took to get Phantom Limb on board was a sample of their music.

"We sent them a couple of tracks and they got back to us and said, 'yeah, come along'," Stew explains. "So that was a real buzz. It's going to be amazing."

They'll be playing a couple of shows at the festival, followed by a brief tour of the south of America, hopefully ending up in Los Angeles. Out of all the band members it's only Dan Moore who has much experience of life on the road, and he's looking forward to this trip.

"It's a different experience every time, depending on who you go with and the characters involved. This will be amazing. It's a bit of a dream band to be in really - playing music that you really want to play, in places that you really want to play."

The band haven't played live since their St George's gig, but they'll be getting back into the swing of things at The Louisiana next Wednesday. And Dan Brown reckons that there's a pretty supportive live scene in Bristol these days that crosses genre boundaries.

"In the past there have been scenes that developed around certain types of music like drum'n'bass, a - Bristol Evening Post

"Classy acts bring Bristol Acoustic Festival to a close"

Phantom Limb, one of Bristol's most exciting bands, completely changed the mood, not only upping the tempo but also the volume level.

Singer Yolanda Quarty has a commanding presence on stage and a phenomenal voice, their music takes in gospel, country, soul, blues and pop, and the band was as tight and inventive as you'd expect from a stellar line-up that included Robot Club's Stew Jackson and Dan Brown.

Good Fortune was lovely, Last Chance Saloon was awesome and The Hard Way was really rather special.
- Bristol Evening Post


Upcoming album: Phantom Limb



2 years ago myself, Dan Brown (bass) and Ian Matthews (drums) decided to go to a studio for a laugh. No rehearsals, no agenda, just a goodbye present to Ian who was about to tour with Kasabian. Dan Moore (keys) and Yolanda Quartey (vocals) were invited to make it happen. The results were ace, but Ian obviously could never be part of the project in the long term. We tried out a bunch of amazing drummers but as the band had not figured itself out yet, none of them stuck. Then we found Matt Jones, a very musical player who listens as much as he plays. So we dicked around as a rock/soul band for ages and did quite well until Yolanda got nodules on her vocal chords after an intense tour with Bugz in the Attic.
During this time, no one could deny the country tendencies that surrounded the band so after about a year, when Yola was feeling a bit better we booked a ridiculous show at St Georges Concert Hall in Bristol, which had to be an acoustic gig, because of the acoustics. The gig went really well, selling out through word of mouth. Rehearsals began and we all decided that the acoustic version of the band sounded better than the rock version. So after months of mixing the album it was shelved and work began on the new sound with some new material. No flirting with the music industry this time. No thought to anything other than the songs. As a result they are simple, focused and cinematic. Audiences responded more to this sound too so we decided to retain the ambition to reach as many as poss. The band has developed as a family, therefore there are no egos allowed and the emphasis is solely on the music.
We have worked really hard on this album, although in some ways itÂ’s not perfect, it has an honesty rarely found in music today, backed only by faithful management and an unmoving determination to make a record that will sit in any collection and hold its own in years to come, we carry on loving every gig, rehearsal, mix and argument. We are all professional musicians and work within the music industry as writers, producers and session players for many international acts, this is the only way we can let go of any cynicism we have picked up along the way. We pour everything into it and the only thing we want back is for it to carry on as long as possible.

Stew Jackson, Phantom Limb