The Fold Biography
1994-1995 - The time with Eamon
The Fold formed in 1994 from the ashes of a very popular Brighton folk-rock band called ‘Altogether Elsewhere’ (AE). Steve, the bass player of AE, sent a humorous letter in early 1994 to Jon (the electric guitarist of AE) laying out a proposal for forming a new band. The document contained a list of requirements the band must attain – that list will be shown in a photo on this page (once the author can find it!) and it is incredible how well the band has performed according to this list in the priority order the points are shown.
Steve & Jon drove up into the Sussex countryside to meet with singer, Steve Holland. This is because Steve, a huge AE fan, had always made it clear that if a new band was ever coming together, he was going to be the singer!
For a few months AE fiddle player, Jane Barker, played with the band and during this time auditions were held for a drummer and Tom Andrews impressed with both his drumming and his enthusiasm!
When Jane left the band advertised for a fiddle player and Eamon McLoughlin joined. Only 17 at the time and studying at Sussex University, it was clear from the off Eamon was and is a formidable talent.
The all-male five piece band (there is a photo of this line-up on the page) started gigging in September, 1994 around the south of England.
In April, 1995, Eamon’s friend from University, Vicki Smallwood joined on vocals, thus creating the classic Fold template of male-female vocals for the first time. This line-up is featured in a photo in the collection on the page.
In June, 1995, The Fold recorded their first album, Spiral, at the Wash House studio in Brighton with Nelly Niel as engineer/producer (now a YouTube celebrity as a slide guitar busker – type Nelly Slide Guitar to check him out!)
The album got great reviews with particular praise for the final track, ‘Spiral Down’ due to Vicki’s brilliant vocal performance.
Towards the end of 1995, Eamon left for the USA to pursue a career in music and the rest as they say, is history! Just type Eamon McLoughlin or Greencards (his highly successful band, which split a few years ago) in Google and you’ll see. Eamon now lives in Nashville and works as a pro musician.
Linda joined late in 1995 as a ‘dep’, but one that stayed a very long time! Other band members were aware of Linda because of her work with Mothers Carey’s Chickens and Broken Ankles.
1996-1998 Close Up
1996 saw the band upping the work rate for gigs and playing festivals off the back of the exposure Spiral gave them. The Larmer Tree main stage festival slot of 1996 was not a high point for the band, they weren’t experienced enough yet to handle it. It would be some time before The Fold were able to construct a really good festival performance but the Larmer Tree appearance made them determined to master their craft for festivals. They fared better at the Peterborough Beer Festival in August and played to their biggest audience yet, about 3000.
Vicki left in September 1996 and Joanna (Jo) Shiel joined as a replacement singer a month later.
In 1997, the band recorded their album ‘Close Up’. Most of the recording and mixing was done at Studio 811 in Cowfold. At the time, the studio was using a desk they has acquired from Olympia studios where Led Zeppelin had extensively recorded. The Fold choose Nelly again for the engineering and production. Making the album went way over budget and it was a bit of a crazy time.
The album was released later in 1997 and got good reviews. An album launch party was held at The Pavilion Theatre in Brighton on October 17th. Although the band weren’t madly happy with Close Up at the time, in retrospect, it is their collect favourite of all their recordings.
Both Spiral and Close Up have long sold out of any stock. At some point both albums will be made available for free streaming on Soundcloud.
1997 was another very busy year for gigs with gigs now spread around the UK.
1998 continued with the busy gigging schedule with festival appearances at Off the Tracks, Maidstone and Glastonwick.
Jo left in August 1998 and for a brief time (Dartington Music College beckoned), Charlie Stock joined on vocals in time for the Off the Tracks festival in Castel Donnington.
For a December gig in Brighton, a friend of the band, Hanna Burchell did a ‘dep’ for the gig…and has been a member of The Fold ever since!
Hanna played in a great 1990s signed band called Pan and also works as a solo artist. She brought mandolin, flute and low whistle into the band’s instrumentation as well as vocals.
1999-2003 Going beyond the UK
By the end of 1998, the band now had the six piece line-up that it has today. However, in January the band played a special gig in Brighton featuring Eamon and Charlie.
In June 1999, the band played their first gigs abroad, venturing to Belgium and Germany. It was a frantic mini-tour with loads of driving between venues – the band were pretty exhausted at the end of it.
The best of the gigs was in a small village in the Ardennes with a packed house and fantastic merchandise sales.
Later in 1999, the band recorded a 3 track EP, called ‘Life is Beautiful’ in a studio in Lamberhurst, Kent, the first recording that featured Hanna.
The EP was used as a promotional tool and hit the jackpot when the band landed a main stage slot playing to 8000 at The Lorient (Southern Brittany) Festival in the year 2000 – the world’s largest Celtic festival.
The band had a great trip in France and a brilliant festival performance (see video link on the summary page).
After a further trip to France for another festival, the Fold rounded off the year with another Brighton gig at The Pavilion Theatre.
January 2001 saw the band back in France at the Abbeville Film & Music Festival. There were numerous other Brighton musicians at the festival and all the bands stayed in the same accommodation which was a lot of fun!
The band returned to France to play two gigs in Mers-Les-Bains in Picardie in March.
This was followed with an appearance at The Gosport Festival and numerous other gigs during the year.
2002 saw the band back at the Off the Tracks Festival as well as the Leamington Spa Peace Festival and the Rye Festival. The Fold were still making regular excursions in the UK to the north and west to play gigs well away from their native south coast.
In 2003 Steve & Jon started running the Lewes Folk Rock Festival which The Fold played for the first any only time (they didn’t want to be accused of nepotism!)
The festival was a great success, sold out every year and ran until 2007(?) They eventually gave it up as it was a lot of work to organise each year.
2003 also saw the band’s first appearance at The Black Horse Festival, The Hove Park Fair and the Southsea Roots Festival.
2004 – 2008 Brilliant festivals and the Botswana experience
The band were back in France playing Le Touquet-Paris-Plage in June 2004. The gig wasn’t special but the band had a great day before the gig playing on the sand dunes. There is a photo from this session on this page.
The band also did some recording in 2004, the result of which would later be used as the soundtrack to a video made in 2005.
In 2005, the band played The Bluebell Railway Folk Festival and met with Mike Matson, a video maker and an associate of a wildlife reserve in Botswana. He said “I’d like to take the band to Botswana!” – And in April 2006 he did just that!
Later in 2005, Mike shot some videos of the band, including in the recording studio. See the summary description for links.
2006 was a mixed year for the band. Unfortunately Steve (bass) couldn’t make the Africa trip due to a back problem - this somewhat tainted the whole experience for the rest of the band. The organisers in Botswana drafted in a session player but it wasn’t the same. However, it was still an amazing experience. The Fold song ‘Still be good without you’ was written around this time and sums up the bitter-sweet nature of that time.
However 2006 then turned into something special! The band warmed up at the Wimborne Festival on the June 10th and then played a fantastic set supporting The Levellers at The Middlewich folk and boat festival in Cheshire a week later. Jon and Tom from the band rate this gig as the best ever.
2007 saw the band headline The Black Horse festival on the Saturday evening, another brilliant gig. This was a great illustration of hard work paying off. The band had been gigging in Hastings for some time when they were asked to play the festival in 2003. After that slot and another minor appearance in the intervening years, both that went down well, they we asked to headline in 2007!
In 2008, the band first played the Con Club in Lewes, a great venue they still play to this day. They also appeared at The Adur festival that year.
2009 - 2010 A change has got to come
Towards the end of 2008, the band had recording sessions at Church Road Studios in Hove for what would become their fourth release, an album entitled ‘A change has got to come’. By that time, Linda had announced she would be leaving the band to go professional with the band Zoox and she played her last official gig on December 13th at The Six Bells Inn in Chiddingly. There is a photo from that gig on this page.
The CD album was released at a launch gig at The Con Club on the 8th May, 2009. The Fold’s new fiddle player, Alex Percy played half the set and Linda the other half.
In August that year the band played The Stokes Bay festival with Alex now a permanent member.
The band went back in the studio in July that year to record ‘Rhode Island Beauty’, an instrumental featuring some great banjo picking by Alex.
In 2010 Alex left the band as he wished to relocate to the West Country and the distance made it impossible for him to stay in the band.
2012 -2013 Kirsten
In May 2012, Kirsten Hammond joined the band on fiddle. Kirsten stayed with The Fold throughout 2012 and most of 2013. The highlight of this time was playing the great Beautiful days Festival in August 2013.
Kirsten as never truly happy with being thrust into limelight, as The Fold’s fiddle players always have been, so was happy to let Linda re-join the band in late 2013.
2014 – 2019
Back to the classic line-up and very happy to be so, the band starting working on new material, especially in late 2015 and 2016. The band was augmented with the keyboard player, Graham Burgess, which brought a new colour to the sound.
The band plus Graham worked on a five piece suite of music called ‘Ruse on the Ouse’. This led to an elaborate show with video projections by band friend Terry Clark and narration by Charlotte Dearing.
The band wrapped up at the end of 2019 with three great full house shows. Even at the end they were producing new music, such as the appropriately named ‘ Exit through the gift ship’ – a 10 minute epic.
As the band have always been very good friends, the ends was mutually agreed and all were happy to call it a day.