The days of forming a rock band with your friends and jamming in a garage that reeks of rising damp with little-to-no acoustics may have been a fun, visceral experience for teenagers, but I detect the same youthful enthusiasm among The Collector, a band whose ages range from 36 to 51.
“It’s about the love of music,” says Graham Noon the keyboardist. “I mean, at this level there’s not a lot of money in it – it’s a passion really.”
The group of five musicians have all played a part in the industry over the past few decades, but have since settled into careers that do not demand relentless touring or beaming spotlights.
As they sit in a circle at Eversfield Studio in Lower Beeding they regale stories, talk over each other, poke fun and laugh uproariously – their fervour and camaraderie is infectious.
Graham points to his colleagues Simon King and Matt Andrews, “These two are the jokers really, they crack me up. They’re the mickey takers, which is good.”
Simon, vocalist and guitarist, interjects. “That’s it really, isn’t it. Sometimes when you’ve been in a band and there’s been an ego in it, it makes things a bit awkward – there’s no egos here and it’s really relaxed.”
As we turn to their own adolescence, all admitted to catching the music bug in the their formative years – some slightly later than others.
“I was quite late,” says Matt, vocalist and guitarist. “I started when I was 16/17.”
Others picked up an instrument in their early childhoods – it is from here that their illustrious roles on the big stage start to surface in the conversation.
Graham says: “I played Knebworth at 17 with U2!”
“You were in U2?” jokes Simon.
Guitarist, Gary Williams, was a member of British new wave band Ultravox in the ’90s – I confess that I own the clear plastic vinyl single ‘I Am Alive’ – in fear of coming across as an awkward fan boy, I withdraw.
“My dad was a session peddle steel guitarist,” says Gary. “I gigged with him when I was 11 at Ravenswood in Sharpthorne.”
Simon, however, did not develop a flair for music until he was in his 20s.
“I bought an acoustic guitar from my mum’s catalogue,” he recounts. “It came with a chord dictionary and I learnt the first two chords on each page... and I still only use those today, (laughs).”
Drummer and percussionist, Taz Wright, played for metal band Samson in the ’90s that had originally featured Iron Maiden frontrunner Bruce Dickinson.
“I played rock for quite a few years, then met these guys and started playing totally the opposite, which is refreshing,” says Taz.
Asking the band how they would describe themselves, Matt announces ‘suicidal folk’ – he is clearly speaking tongue-in-cheek.
Simon adds: “It means folk songs, but they’re really depressing. I can reduce somebody to tears in six songs.”
Jokes aside, Graham informs me that the folk scene is big in Horsham.
From the old Bert Jansch twang of a guitar, to the pop banjo beat of Mumford & Sons, folk has re-emerged in the last several years as a chart-topping contender in the UK amid the fodder of R&B hits and dance anthems.
“It does seem to be a platform for people to go into the mainstream now,” points out Graham.
Moving into Eversfield’s kitted out studio - drums and guitars at the ready – the band members take their positions and play their latest single ‘Smothered’.
Matt’s vocals are well controlled and somewhat hypnotising - like a magnet, it draws in the other instruments.
It is far from suicidal – if anything, it is a very chilled, simplistic folk tune with an addictive melody.
Matt tells me that the band have filmed a music video for the song in the leafy backdrop of Horsham’s Leechpool Woods.
When not performing as The Collector, the band support keyboardist, Graham, in his own set NooN, which has seen the release of its first album, 100 Years On.
Graham explains: “When we perform live, we actually do it as a NooN/The Collector gig, and it works really well.”
Currently, The Collector have a line-up of venues across Sussex and recently announced they will feature at the Horsham Garden Music Festival in July, but the band admits that a full blown national-wide tour would not be ideal.
“If things went to another level and we were selling thousands,” says Matt, “and we were going to be playing to bigger venues, we could probably coordinate it and do a couple of days on and a few days off .”
Graham adds: “A lot of youngsters create their own fan base by constantly touring – but that’s not something we’d necessarily want to do. We’ve been getting in through the backdoor with radio play.”
The band may not want to pursue a stadium tour status, travel the breadth of the world, or fight their way through a rampage of fans, but their passion, talent and admirable rapport between each other is something I have only seen among youths starting out in the industry.
They are far beyond the days of an adolescent garage band, but have not forgotten how to pick up an instrument, write a fresh tune and jam – just for the love of it.
To keep up-to-date with the band and their gigs, visit www.facebook.com/TheCollectorMusic