What could bring people to church on a Monday night? But, this is not just any old church. The answer to my question though is music! Not just any old music either, but that of rising star British singer-songwriter Archie Faulks.
Back after a two-and-half-year hiatus; shedding the Tenterhook moniker to brave it as himself. In 2014 as Tenterhook, he was featured on Zane Lowe’s ‘Next Hype’ on Radio 1, and picked up support from the likes of BBC6 Music and Radio X.
He clocked up just shy of a million plays on Spotify too, and hit the road across Europe with Asgeri and Rhodes, before going off-grid. Returning earlier this year with the single “It Rains”, strongly supported by BBC Radio 1 and Radio X, the coverage helped to sell-out a debut headline show at London’s Servant Jazz Quarters in September.
Followed by European treks opening for Rue Royale in the Netherlands and Isaac Gracie in Germany. “Blackout” dropped as the new single at the end of October, premiered on BBC Radio 1’s “Chillest Show” with Jamz Supernova, sitting in for Phil Taggart. Follow-up to debut single “It Rains” earlier this year, which this very magazine raved about at the time.
Taggart previously dubbed Faulks “a serious talent”. That unique talent was very much in evidence when Archie returned to London tonight for a sold-out headline gig, in the wake of his first US dates , including a brace of sold out gigs at Communion’s ‘Candle Light Sessions’ in New York last week.
St Pancras Old Church seemed an appropriate choice as his return to the UK live scene; stomping ground and starting block for up-and-coming and well-established artists, such as Sinead O’Connor, Newton Faulkner, Sam Smith, Daughter and Tom Odell.
Its success rate as a venue has yet to disappoint. One of the oldest places of Christian worship in the UK, dating back to the fourth century; the time of the Norman Conquest. Still a thriving and active church, as well as a nocturnal life as a popular live music venue since 2011.
A Grade II listed building, which seems to instil reverence and character, perhaps offering up somewhat of a spiritual experience for some of us weary souls who are part of London’s daily ‘rat race’.
Intimate, sums it up perfectly – with a capacity of 162, it has a unique magical ambience and the feeling of exclusivity, when shared with such a small crowd in such a lovely environment.
Tonight, the opening act FLO, aka Floraine Hu, sets the bar for the headliner; a stripped-back performance from this young London-born, half French, half Chinese artist; a recent ICM (Institute of Contemporary Music Performance) graduate.
Sometimes joined by guitarist Brad Meecha, she’s alone tonight and that is enough. Certainly skilled on the electro-acoustic guitar; offering up some quite intricate guitar parts at times.
Although categorised as “cinematic indie”, her material is all about strong melody and poetic lyrics, that provide commentary on culture and people.
She signed to Lemon Zen Records to release her debut single “Fall into Place” in September 2016 and has just dropped the track “Set In Stone” recorded with her pal from Uni’ Riccardo Pecchi. An EP is iminent from FLO.
Tonight she opens with “Fall Into Place” and holds the room’s attention from the off. Her sound is piercingly pure, the chord progressions reminded me of Katie Tunstall and her tone perhaps nods towards Laura Marling.
FLO gives short bios on each song and shares her musical inspirations; one of those being her cover of Flyte’s “Orphans of the Storm”. She adds a haunting whistle to this tragic tale.
“Simple Story”, a self-penned number, focuses on homelessness, and she has a neat way of drawing us in to her stories. She shines the spotlight on the sad side of society, but her style injects both hope and compassion.
After the superb support artist has done, the buzz of expectation is palpable. This serene establishment now filled to capacity.
Strange to be sat in a church and hearing the snap of the ring pulls and the hiss of gas escaping from beer cans being opened, as the lights are dimmed to candle light. No Holy water, communion wine or spirits (well, for the latter, not as far as I know!) tonight – lager the chosen tipple.
The star of the show comes out dressed all in black, and introduces himself as if catching up with old friends. He drops a couple of “F-Bombs” before apologising for swearing in church, before kicking off with “Blackout”. An apt opener considering how dark it is in this place.
Archie is fully invested in his performance from the get-go. Stood at the mike stand, with a somewhat awkward stance; gently and rhythmically swaying while playing his guitar, hunched shoulders and sagging knees.
Lost in his music and looking like he is almost in a dream-like state. The ethereal nature of his voice and this material is pretty mesmerising, especially in these acoustics. The opening song focuses on falling in love with a stranger and therefore prone to day dreaming; could be someone on a train, or on Instagram.
When you ‘blackout’, it somehow fleshes out the fantasy to feel like you are actually with that person in real life. So his song says…
Archie’s fine song writing skills and in part, his voice, puts me in mind of Chris Martin. Perhaps Archie is even picking up from where the late and great Nick Drake left off. Yes, Mr Faulks IS that good.
With only two singles released under his own name so far, but two acclaimed EPs as Tenterhook, it was highly likely he would heavily feature songs from his Tenterhook persona. But only two get an airing tonight, “Chemicals” and in his deserved encore, “What I Like”.
We were treated to brand new material with “What For”, “Willing to Learn”, “Stranger”, “Whispers” and “Wonderful”; full of humility, heartfelt lyrics and and some lovely John Mayer-esque riffs. “Wonderful” was a highlight of the set for me. “What a wonderful waste we are”; such a tragic but true comment.
Archie Faulks gave us an emotionally committed, honest, raw and passionate performance, sharing the gift of his beautiful voice and his array of carefully crafted songs that fit snugly into an “indie-folk” genre.
He’s an ‘old soul’, even though he is only 24. Clearly a born story-teller; sharing his personal truths of life, weaving them neatly into his songs. He conjures up what was quite simply a stunning performance in a heady atmosphere; we were all witness to a special event, an experience, not just a gig.
It was his birthday the day before this show; falling on Remembrance Sunday, and tonight he shared his thanks for the freedom bought by many for all of us.
As nephew of Sebastian Faulks, whose First World War romantic novel “Bird Song” was a best seller (a book I actually studied for A-Level Literature), it is therefore no surprise that story-telling perhaps runs in his blood.
Archie’s debut album under his own name, slated for release sometime in 2019, should by rights, push him even further up the ladder of deserved and pre-destined much bigger success.
If that record and those songs are of the same quality as tonight’s performance. Got a good feeling it just might well be…
Words: Chloe Lauren
Photos: Alex Asprey