Now in its fifth year, Supernormal has built a strong reputation as one of the country’s most credible, left-field music festivals. Although Supernormal takes place in Oxfordshire it carries a strong Brighton connection: the live music is booked by Tatty Seaside Town promoter Colin Wakefield, with plenty of the acts with connections to the city (including Esben And The Witch, Flamingods and Joanna Gruesome) on the bill.
Earlier this month, SOURCE and Supernormal met in the West Hill pub for a round-table chat with four of this year’s Brighton-based performers: roboticist and sound historian Sarah Angliss, folk singer Mary Hampton, Slum Of Legs frontwoman Tamsin Chapman and Owen Thomas from pop experimentalists Speak Galactic. While you can read the bulk of that interview on Supernormal’s website, we’ve a bit more for you here.
What do like about Supernormal?
Mary: It’s something to do with the atmosphere that’s created there. It’s so not interested in the conventions of what you’re likely to see at a music festival.
Tamsin: The first time we went I laid down in a field and watched shooting stars. It’s that time of year when they (the Perseids) arrive. And if you like birds, you see red kites swooping about. I only know they’re red kites because someone told us they were.
Colin: It’s the only festival on this scale that I’d want to be involved with. There are other small, niche ones like Sin Eater, for example, which is amazing, but I don’t think there’s anything quite like Supernormal. Not that I know of anyway.
Tamsin: The other thing that’s really nice is that ‘cos Colin is choosing the music it’s like having your dad there. He’s like the dad to us all. And last year (veteran singer-songwriter) Michael Chapman played. My dad’s name actually is Michael Chapman so for me it was like having two dads.
Have you played many other festivals?
Owen: With Speak Galactic the only one we did was Playgroup, a couple of years ago. We played on the Beatabet stage in a tent and that was nice, but apart from that, no.
Sarah: I’ve done many festivals as a speaker but I haven’t really done many outdoor festivals as a performer, basically because of the complexity of my set-up. Because I’ve got a robot people get the wrong idea of what I am, so I get put on in the wrong slot, like in the science ghetto, and that always really annoys me. But Supernormal feels like a natural home and I’m interested in all the other stuff there.
Why do you think Brighton doesn’t have an equivalent outdoor festival?
Sarah: Hats off to Playgroup for trying but I think that was the sort of place where people go to a festival and have the expectation that it’s…
Mary: Party time!
Sarah: Brighton has been really good at sustaining experimental music – it’s a real champion of it – but putting it outside is a different matter. Perhaps the people who are into that music aren’t the people who go out in all weathers.
Colin: I think it’s maybe been tried but it’s actually quite an undertaking to do something like this on this scale.
Sarah: I mean, I was performing at Nova, a little festival just outside Brighton, the year or two before and that was unfortunate because it was killed by the weather.
Tamsin: Maybe, because we’ve got the beach and the Downs, we don’t need to have that kind of outdoor thing. We actually make our fun indoors.
Which of you have new music coming out in time for Supernormal?
Tamsin: Slum Of Legs’ single will be out.
Sarah: My album’s almost done, it should be out in September.
Mary: I’m being very slow writing original songs at the moment so I think I’m gonna do another few EPs of traditional songs while I’m accruing some new stuff.
Owen: We’ve got an EP coming up with the Love Thy Neighbour label. It’s recorded and we’re mixing it in a couple of weeks.
Who else are you looking forward to at Supernormal?
Tamsin: Part Chimp, obviously. Sly And The Family Drone. Lutine are really good. Who else is playing? Bass Clef were brilliant last year so that’ll be a good one. And Joanna Gruesome! J-Gru will be brilliant.
Owen: Oh, Thought Forms.
Sarah: I’m looking forward to hearing Hacker Farm, I think we share a sensibility, and Kemper Norton does lovely stuff. I’ve not heard Teeth Of The Sea, so I’m very curious about them. Do you think they’re having a meeting somewhere else, where they’re saying, “I’ve never heard of Sarah Angliss!”
Tamsin: Actually, yeah, we need them to become really famous so we can have a tribute band. False Teeth Of The Sea.
Supernormal festival, Braziers Park, Oxfordshire, 8th – 10th August 2016
See supernormalfestival.co.uk for more info