Ex-university duo at West Dean Chilli Fiesta

Tom and Ash
Tom and Ash

Acoustic guitar duo Tom & Ash​, who play this year’s 20th anniversary Chilli Fiesta at West Dean Gardens, are a product of the University of Chichester.

Tom Janes and Ashley Nicholls graduated three years ago. Since then, they have played hundreds of times across countless venues around the UK including Goodwood House and West Dean College, as well as other venues in London, Littlehampton, Arundel, Bognor Regis and almost every venue in Chichester.

“We did three years at the University of Chichester,” Ash says, “studying pretty much the same course, and we both had pretty much the same interest in guitar. We decided to get together to do some stuff. We knew each other from the first year, but it was towards the end of the last year that we got a bit more serious and realised we could make a go of working together.”

The two decided to remain in Chichester where they are still based.

“We loved Chichester. The university was such a friendly place with great people around. We loved the course and loved the people, and so we just stayed after university. We ended up starting to do some gigs around Chichester. There is quite a nice scene. We have been playing mostly Spanish-style guitar-duo music. We have been doing quite a lot of restaurants.

“We graduated three years ago, and really it has been quite easy for us. We had both been in bands before, nothing too serious, but it is nice having just the two of us which is much simpler than having to transport a drum kit around and so on. We don’t have too much gear! And practising is really easy with just the two of us. We are good friends, and we can just get on with it all.

“We have got more than two hours of music. That’s generally our set. We do a lot of weddings and parties. The repertoire is quite an eclectic mix of things like classical music and also some lively flamenco-style music. There is also some jazz and some Latin. It is all instrumental. There are no vocals at all. Generally one of us will be doing the chords and the other will be doing more like the melody, but really it depends on the piece. We do a lot of the more romantic classical things which is nice for background music at weddings and in restaurants, but we also do a lot more lively things.

“We have both got part-time jobs, but we are trying to make something more of this. I think it works because it works in so many different places. We can do the smaller pub gigs. We can play very quietly in the background, but we have also played some heavy-metal festivals! We do quite a lot of technical guitar parts in our music, and people appreciate that at heavy-metal festivals. We play with a lot of energy. We have dabbled a bit with recording, but not too seriously so far. We are going into the studio this summer and want to get some recording done. We haven’t got a CD yet, but a CD would be important. A lot of things are online, and it would be a good way for people to see what we do.”

The 20th Chilli Fiesta is being billed as the hot summer destination as sizzling salsa and Latin bands line up to entertain over a three-day programme (August 7, 8 and 9, 10.30am to 11pm, Sunday 9pm).

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