The first time I had heard of Sam Green and the Midnight Heist was when I saw them setting up outside Wilkinson’s on Falmouth’s high street. They proceeded to play for an hour or two promoting their gig later that night at Jacob’s Ladder Inn and unsurprisingly they had a big crowd which ended up as a very sweaty night. Fast forward six months and they’re back in Falmouth for another gig at Jacob’s and this time we were there to have a chat with them beforehand.
Having been a session musician and studying music in London, Sam Green (vocals and guitar) returned to his home in Devon where he worked on his solo career. He had already met the other guys who now make up the rest of the band from his time at Music College in London and then a few years ago Sam and Matt Cooke (drums) played an impromptu gig together in a pub. They then linked up with James Cameron (guitar and harmonica) who came to Devon to stay for a bit.
“We ended up just jamming and playing together and we did a few gigs together as well for about a week or so. That was really when the idea of starting a band properly came to life” said Sam. From that point on the band started to form and with the addition of Joe James on double bass, the four piece was complete.
They started out spending a lot of time gigging in pubs and playing a lot of impromptu stuff. They would just come up with some dates that they could all make, and then they’d just jam. “We didn’t spend days perfecting it. We kind of just went up there and just made a few mistakes”. James said that it’s good to be playing in places in the local area because the crowd are so open for you to do what you like. “In London you’ve got shorter sets but down here you’ve got whole nights” he said.
As with all bands, their personal influences vary but collectively they all agree that people like Xavier Rudd, Ben Harper and John Butler Trio have had an impact on the music they make. At the same time they also tell me they draw a lot of influences from the likes of Jimmy Hendricks, Led Zeppelin and for Joe in particular, a lot of blues.
The band’s name is something which seems to go down well with people and we were certainly a fan. But how did they end up being called Sam Green and the Midnight Heist? “We wanted it to sound like a western film” Sam tells us. “We initially wanted to keep my name in it as well because I was doing a lot of solo gigs at the same time and we wanted it to work all as one project”. Matt said that the heist part came to them when they were journeying and talking about the Great Train Robbery. Joe had a simpler explanation that “come midnight we cause havoc” which was true judging by their gig later that night.
The band combines so many elements within their music that it can be hard to pin them down to a specific genre. So we asked them to sum up their sound in ten words and to be honest it took them some time. James had a crack in summing them up and said, “We normally see it as [if] there are two sides to the band. There’s the swampy howling, harmonica, blues, fingerpicking, stomping, and then we’ve got the other side which is [a] heartfelt, folk, hoe-down.” It may not be a specific genre so to speak, but they were all in agreement that this is who they are.
In terms of their live shows, things don’t always seem to go to plan and that can certainly be said for a gig they played in Bristol recently. “I had a pretty bad gig on Tuesday, I got too drunk in Bristol and it all went a bit wrong for me” Sam admitted. As it turned out, Sam snapped his g string which as James says “is always a bad start”. From that point on he had to use a replacement which just kept on cutting out and eventually “this guitar just comes flying across the stage in anger” said James. “It wasn’t a great night for me” Sam admitted.
But more often than not those sorts of nights tend not to happen so much. There have been some awesome gigs that have really stuck in their mind such as their shows at Glastonbury and Shambala Festival. One of their most memorable was when they were at Truck Festival where they were playing in a saloon bar with authentic working doors and wooden floors. “[We] played at 3 o’ clock in the afternoon, it was empty and no one was interested and then we started playing and suddenly saloon doors started getting kicked open and that was really cool. It was a full on sweaty hoedown.”
Since then they have spent time in the studio recording their newest EP which is due to be released in early April. They managed to get into Metropolis studios thanks to a guy they met after playing a gig in London who was keen to work with them and so they recorded the EP together over nine days spaced over several weekends. It certainly seemed to be quite a difference from the conditions they recorded the last EP in where they ended up recording it next to an old wood burner in a barn. “We sort of bodged it together really. So this one was working with a proper engineer and proper equipment.”
So what does the rest of the year hold in store for Sam Green and the Midnight Heist? Well once they’ve finished their current tour they plan to have a quiet March before getting back on the road again in April following their next EP release. After that tour, Sam is off on his own solo tour before the band really get stuck into festival season. They’ve already got seven or eight festivals booked in and after the successful summer they had last year, things can only look to get better.
Make sure to check out their music on the links below and even more importantly try and check them out live if you can. They really do put on an amazing show.
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