Woodland Gathering is a small, independent festival held at Fell Foot Wood in Cumbria. Its identity formed from the tastes of its promoters, Birmingham’s Radio Black Forest and Manchester’s Endtyme Records, it wanders along the fringes bringing a mix of industrial, experimentalism, occult and outsider musics. IMPATV were on hand to record some of the goings-on this year and we have a few of those sets to share with you here on Echoes.
Today, it’s London based psych-punk team Casual Nun, or is it? Trading in a pummelling blend of distorto-psych-noise rock they’ve released a couple of albums on those bastions of grimy volume, Box Records and Hominid Sounds, and a fine split with post-hardcore beasts Bruxa Maria. A fierce live proposition this particular set sees them looking markedly less beardy than usual and unexpectedly featuring a cello. I had a quick chat with head Nun Matt Ridout to find out more about this unique performance…
(((O))) So Matt, the first thing I thought when I saw this was, ‘hang on, that’s not Casual Nun, that’s Gordon and Tom from Luminous Bodies’, was this a one off sort of thing for Woodland Gathering?
Matt – It is indeed Casual Nun! But is also indeed me, Gordon, Tom, and Conny Prantera from the Seer and World Zero on cello. Basically the crux of it is thus – the normal makeup of the band were called away variously, for various reasons that are various. Some family related, others work related and ‘cos Casual Nun is always intended to be quite fluid, and has at many points adopted different guises, we went ahead with the two gigs at Woodland Gathering and Smash It Out with an altered line-up for those shows. So, yes it’s very much Casual Nun, but also something that is very unique.
(((O))) Cool, It seemed similar but different, how much is prepared and how much of this is improvised?
M – All of it, 100% improv
(((O))) Nice work. How’d you feel about doing a little singing?
M – I like singing, Just don’t get to normally
(((O))) I’ve never seen you do it before, no. How did you feel these two shows went, especially this one as we’re putting it up for people to gawp at?
M – Hahaha, this sounds super loaded like ‘Er, you sure you want us to post this?’ Ha. But no, in general I really enjoyed the gigs. It’s definitely something a little different but it was always meant to be. Without the traditional ‘band’ it had to be something freeform as it would be weird to do the songs in a cover style.
(((O))) I didn’t mean it like that but I see what you’re saying, will it be back to the more usual line up for Brave Exhibitions? ‘cos I see the Luminous guys’ll be there too…
M – 100% it’s me, Vasilis, Phil and Iraklis playing the new record at Brave Exhibitions. And a few old songs here and there. But mostly the new record. I don’t think it was a second string Nun at those two gigs either. It was just something that was always intended to be different, to be something a bit special, and one off.
(((O))) Good to hear there’s a new record on the horizon, it seemed quite a productive band early on, but it’s been a little while now, anything you want to say about it?
M – Yeh, new album on Box in early 2020. We took a bit longer with this one. It’s definitely a lot more developed, a lot more concise. It follows on nicely from what people heard on the split with Bruxa Maria
(((O))) To me the songs on the Bruxa split seemed tighter and harder than the earlier stuff. Is this one going further in that vein?
M – Sort of, but it’s weirder as well. A lot of it is in that heavy vein but then there’s a lot of random songs, there’s one with a drum machine that is completely odd.
(((O))) Weirder is always good right? I loved the double drummers in Casual Nun, but speaking of fluid line ups it appears you’re now mostly a four piece, is that right?
M – Two drummers is awesome and she’s still on the new record, but yeh. Thing is the line-up is fluid so that from time to time we will add extra drums live too. As life happens, people can’t make stuff but there’s always going to be an interesting and unique aspect about it. It’s amazing when we can call on really talented friends to collaborate with.
(((O))) Of which this Woodland Gathering set would be a fine example, there’s clearly a strong link between you and those guys, musically.
M – I guess reflecting on that Woodland gig what should be made clear is it’s not just a throwaway thing like “oh the band couldn’t make it so they just did it anyway” ‘Cos that’s not the case at all. It was a very methodically planned out thing: as a band Casual Nun is always looking for things where it incorporates other people. It’s just in this case the entire band was other people, hah! But it’s still Casual Nun, If ya get me
(((O))) I’m looking forward to your set at Brave Exhibitions. When’s the new album due?
M – We’re on at 4:30 on the Saturday. The new record should be out late Feb, We’re targeting a leap year Feb 29th release day, just to make history difficult.