A North East punk band who were enjoying an unexpected second wind are among the many who have had to put their plans on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Fauves were formed in 1977 in South Shields when Colin Hodgson (Hodge), Leon Slawinski (Ski), Brian Smith (Bri) and John Halliday (Hal) left the fledgling Angelic Upstarts after an infamous gig at Jarrow Town Hall.
The original line-up featured Hodge on vocals, Ski on drums, Bri on bass and Hal on guitar. Like many bands at the time, The Fauves’ progress was marred by constant line-up changes, and after releasing just one single, they broke up in 1980.
A full history of the original band and all who passed through it is on their website here.
Most of the members went on to play in other bands over the years, but The Fauves always felt like a piece of unfinished business.
Fast forward 36 years to 2016, and after Hodge, Bri and drummer Bob Rowland reconnected to discuss the good old days, they decided to reform the band with the intention of recording some old songs, as no studio recordings existed.
They were joined by guitarist Chris Wilkinson, who Bob had played with in a previous band, The Revolving Doors. Rehearsals went well, so a studio in South Shields, The Garage, was booked to record some old songs, but during the sessions Hodge decided it wasn’t for him.
After recruiting Marc Lawton as vocalist, the band resumed the sessions. They selected the best songs from the past, reworking and rearranging them, and two new songs were also written.
After releasing the CD Routine Kills they played more local gigs and supported the Angelic Upstarts at a sell-out gig at The Trimmers Arms in South Shields.
Just when things appeared to be on the up, Marc decided to leave, so they advertised for a new singer, and found Mick Smith (ex-No Fun, Trauma, Stottin’ Headaches and Hierarchy of Clowns), who fitted the bill perfectly with his powerful, aggressive voice.
The band released a six-track EP with Mick on vocals, and it was so well-received that they returned to the studio to expand it into an 11-track album, Back Into The World, which features revamped old songs and three new ones.
But the old curse of The Fauves struck again and guitarist Chris decided to call it a day. After numerous auditions they welcomed Allen Hughes, who brought a new dimension to the band with his powerful sound.
February this year saw The Fauves back in the studio recording a new four-track demo, featuring three new songs – Anti-Social, Why and Underground – and a revamped version of oldie City Life.
They sent it to local radio stations, enjoying regular airplay on Radio Northumberland and Alternative Aycliffe, and had a busy gigging schedule lined up from May onwards.
They were working towards recording another album, but the lockdown brought about by the Covid-19 virus means The Fauves have yet again lost the momentum they’d worked so hard to build up since they reformed.
Bassist Bri said: “I think we are cursed! Things were just starting to get going, we had a good bit of publicity and nine gigs lined up.
“We had recorded four tracks for a demo and were working on another six new ones, then this nightmare turned up…
“We were hoping to get back in the studio and record the rest of our new songs and release a new album, but this has knocked us right back.
“Out of the nine gigs we had lined up, four have now been cancelled, and I can’t see the July and August ones going ahead.
“We’ve got a gig in Wigan in October and Riverside Rebellion in Middlesbrough in December, and that’s our only hope for this year.
“There’s a few compilation albums coming out soon that were going to be on, so we’re itching to get back out, but it’s out of our hands.”
I hope The Fauves can recapture that momentum, because for all their ups and downs, the latest demo shows they are clearly still a band who have something to say, and that music deserves to be heard.