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Two men playing rock guitar onstage and pulling 'rock' faces!

Rock out on Saturday 14 May to This is Spinal Tap and The Equatorial Group

Equatorial Group host This is Spinal Tap at Electric Palace

Grab your opportunity to catch on the big screen the hilarious cult classic mockumentary about a ridiculous rock group, This is Spinal Tap, says Annie Waite. The much-adored comedy is the Formative Film choice of East Sussex’s finest blissed out folk-rock band, The Equatorial Group, who will be playing live at the Electric Palace cinema alongside the film screening on Saturday 14 May.

The Electric Palace cinema in Hastings Old Town runs occasional Formative Films, for which special guests are invited to present a film that was influential to their lives, and share the reasons for their choice.

The latest screening in the series is chosen by the popular East Sussex-based band The Equatorial Group (pictured, below). They will play a short set and promise to even throw in a cover of a song from the film, before sharing why This Is Spinal Tap has had an influence on them.

Band playing rock music

The Equatorial Group will be performing live at the Electric Palace

East Sussex roots rock

Described as “gorgeously crafted, country-influenced, harmony-rich folk rock,” the band are always a live treat, and their heartfelt songs and regular performances have helped them build up a loyal following from alt-country and rock fans alike.

Named after a collection of telescopes at nearby Herstmonceux Observatory, The Equatorial Group features Helen Weeks, Dave Davies, Twe Fox, Andy Tourle, and Neil Grimes.

With two perfectly crafted, pedal steel-laden albums under their belt, Apricity and Falling Sands, The Equatorial Group has played at familiar Hastings venues, including regular slots at the Jenny Lind and The Stag, plus Music’s Not Dead and The Albatross Club in Bexhill. They’ve also been chosen to support The Bluetones, Willy Mason, Hayley Savage, Joana Serrat, and Joan Shelley, among others.

We spoke to Dave from The Equatorial Group ahead of their upcoming performance at the Electric Palace:

What informed your choice of Formative Film?

Well in truth, it was the first thing suggested by Annie from the Electric Palace, though perhaps as a joke. The suggestion of ‘This is Spinal Tap’ instantly caught our interest as a couple of members of The Equatorial Group are big appreciators of this movie.

As well as being a funny film, it also has a degree of sadness which, combined with the stoicism, stubbornness and perhaps ignorance of the lead characters, plots an uncomfortable path through the shadows of their past successes.

It is also great to entertain all the many theories as to who the main characters are based on, from Led Zeppelin to Saxon, but in reality nobody really knows for sure. The characters are so familiar to us all – childlike at times though they also represent a boiled-down ash-pile of an era that many of us who love the film can remember and relate to.

It is also worth noting that Spinal Tap have had 24 drummers. The Equatorial Group is currently on five…

Were there other films you might have chosen for the slot?
Willy Vlautin standing outside the Electric Palace back in 2014Lean on Pete was an alternative suggestion courtesy of Twe, a film about a boy and his racehorse, written by Willy Vlautin. It is a beautifully dark and heart laden piece of Americana.

[Acclaimed US author and musician from Richmond Fontaine and The Delines, Willy Vlautin, was a former guest of the Electric Palace when he was invited back in 2014 to discuss the film adaptation of his first book The Motel Life – see photo, right.]

There were other suggestions, including The Last Waltz, and we all feigned deafness when Twe mentioned a film about ABBA …

How would you describe your band’s sound to the uninitiated?

Our sound is very uninitiated…The nearest pigeon hole we’ve managed to point at is a kind of roots-pop thing, but we get many different labels from Americana, folk, to jam band. It’s a very difficult thing to stake out.

How does the band approach the songwriting process? Is it a melting pot of ideas that you jam through, or is there a general approach that you’ve found works for you – for example, lyrics first, music later or vice versa?

We are all a little different. Andy seems to write in a torrent like he’s hurling sonic frisbees out into the world. Helen will sneak off and whisper ideas into a voice recorder until she is ready to bring something to the band, her process is generally quite secretive. Dave writes the chords and the rhythm of the melody first, the words are written separately in a different form and then transplanted where needed.

So far Helen and Dave have done the bulk of the writing but in the future we are going to include other folks’ works, the list of songs is very long.

Check out Andy Tourle’s solo work on Bandcamp.

What other local bands would you recommend people check out?

Hayley Savage is the real deal. She’s just put a new band together and they are very probably going to rule the world in no time.

Chalk Horse Music are also very lovely people and worth going to see.

Wives of Farmers are Cornwall-based, but have some Eastbourne heritage, and Helen makes a few long-distance appearances.

This is a tough question as there are a lot of great writers and players in the area, we are very lucky.

The Equatorial Group seem to have a love of the great outdoors – any tips for hidden treasures in the local area that people should explore?

There’s lots…The South Downs is a great place to get off the beaten track and see what you can find – from ship wrecks at Fairlight, a WW1 German submarine near Birling Gap and Cold War bunkers on Beachy Head. The area is awash with history.

The views of the Cuckmere from High and Over are humbling, and a trip down to Falling Sands near Beachy Head is worth making. It’s tempting to write a book here…

What shows do you have coming up later this summer?

The summer is quiet for us right now, though it’s liable to change at any moment. We really want to spend some time finishing record three. It’s not far off, though we are struggling with the amount of leaves on the line and our busy day-to-days. Time is going by too quickly.

Any other future plans with the band that we can look forward to?

Well, record three is not far off completion, it’s going to be ten songs, one of which is a much-loved old song of ours, called Falling. We also have six songs basically recorded for a fourth record, which will probably come out in 2078…

Finally, are there any other events on the Electric Palace’s upcoming programme that you would recommend?

All of them. The programmers for the Electric Palace have discerning taste and we would say it is worth taking a punt on anything they host. City of the Dead and The Funeral leapt out at first glance, and if you can sneak into the sold-out David Ford set, then lucky you.

Book now for This is Spinal Tap and The Equatorial Group at the Electric Palace, Saturday 14 May.

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Posted 08:30 Monday, May 2, 2022 In: Film,Music & Sound

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