You may be wondering how a young unsigned British band gets to record a series of debut songs at legendary Abbey Road studios in London, and have Hollywood movie star and former football hard-man Vinnie Jones appear in their music video.
You might also be forgiven for thinking that ‘The 27’ is a bus route, rather than an exciting new four-piece band playing, as they label their music, “harmony infused pop / rock with a retro edge.” Believe me; this band will not be stopping to pick up passengers as they travel on the road to success as one of the UK’s freshest pop/rock bands.
Formed in 2015, The 27 is: Henry Parker on guitar and vocals; Tom Michell – vocals and guitar; David Page – vocals and bass; Alex Tschaikowsky on drums.
Perfectly matched harmonies and eloquent guitar riffs combined with solid, but sympathetic percussion prove that The 27 is not just another auto-tuned, over-hyped, pop band destined for 15 minutes of fame.
It was their producers Bobby and Richie of North London’s Next Room Productions., who suggested Abbey Road to record their debut single, “Call Me A Friend.” Released in July (2016) on the band’s own label, Hissing Duck Music.
Henry sums up the magic of working at famed Abbey Road: “We decided to get it all done in a day … to a high standard. There’s a wonderful atmosphere that I think is pretty much lost in every other recording studio.
“We ended up in Studio 3 as we couldn’t get Studio 2, (where The Beatles recorded), because they were doing part of the James Bond ‘Spectre’ score in that one. So we were in Studio 3, which was the ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ studio… but we did get to use The Beatles mixing desk, so we were happy with that.
“We were all kind of buzzed for being there and the record has a jolly feel to it, bearing in mind we only had the one day. It didn’t really cost much more than doing it somewhere else over a few days. They are so well set up … If something needs fixing – it’s done! Whereas, going to another studio, it’s two hours faffing about with a microphone… It was just a pleasure to record there.”
A&R executive Matt Haynes took “Red Fox,” and “Long May You Hide,” to the record label Sony – two songs from the Abbey Road session which had previously been recorded by Henry with his former band The Velvet Loons. The label liked “Long May You Hide,” but advised the band to come back when they had built up a decent fan-base. Initially, this felt like a blow, but turned out to be “a blessing in disguise,” as it gave the band more time to hone their own unique sound.
The 27 have impressive qualifications. Henry Parker started his musical apprenticeship at a young age and although he is still only 23, shows a maturity in his playing, singing and writing that belies his age.
His name may not be one that you would link with rock guitar legends, but a leading guitar magazine actually put him up there with the likes of Page, Clapton and Dylan. Writing: “We’d hate Henry Parker if he wasn’t so awesome. His sublime licks leave us in awe, and wondering which guitar legend he’ll be compared to next”.
Henry explains how he got started on his musical journey: “My parents got me into music when I was quite young. When I was about six or seven, my mother gave me a Monkees tape for our car and I really liked it. Then I listened to Beatles records and things really stemmed from there. By the time I was nine, I was into Black Sabbath… and then I started finding stuff for myself.
“I didn’t start playing music until I was 13, when I was asked to sing a song in a school concert. I didn’t want to sing to a backing track and the piano was hideously out of tune, so I got my Dad’s guitar, learned some chords and played. I really loved doing it and they liked it.”
At the age of 13, his parents thought he was showing promise and booked him onto a music course at Stowe School. The teachers included music legend Mike Hurst; one third of 60s stars The Springfields, the legendary 60s vocal harmony group that featured a certain Ms. Dusty. Another teacher was guitarist Ray Fenwick of Spencer Davis and Ian Gillan Band, who also saw potential in Henry’s musical ability. It was Ray who introduced him to new styles of guitar playing.
“Ray got me into jazzy guitar chords… Chet Atkins stuff… I learned a lot from him and Mike. Their attitude to music was something I picked up on… I was interested in people getting together and making something work musically… the bigger picture, not just playing a solo!”
Both Mike and Ray kept tabs on young Henry and it was Mike who later encouraged Henry to get into song writing. He also gave him insight into recording techniques. Mike and Henry co-wrote, “Call Me A Friend,” together.
After leaving school, Henry managed to get gigs playing guitar and bass: “Eventually, I was gigging every night for about a year…. That’s what I did and it felt counter-productive to do anything else. I got quite successful playing in covers and function bands.”
Henry then got the opportunity to go to America: “I first went to the States when I was about 18 or 19 to record an album for a guy in Oregon … which turned out to be a miserable state of affairs!” The ill-fated album saw the young hopeful Henry living in the laundry room of a hair salon, but it ended up with a silver lining at the end of this dark cloud, when Henry met a Louisiana Hayride original, Jerry Naylor. (Louisiana Hayride, the 2nd most iconic and influential radio programme in country music history, only rivalled in stature by The Grand Ole Opry.)
Jerry took over as the lead singer of The Crickets after Buddy Holly died. Henry played on an album Jerry was recording at the time, which somehow made the otherwise disappointing trip worthwhile.
Henry went on to play with other heavyweights, such as ex-Whitesnake and Black Sabbath bass player Neil Murray, Cutting Crew bassist Colin Farley and legendary pop session drummer Clem Cattini. But all the time, no matter how big the starry names he associated with and was encouraged by, Henry yearned to write, play and record his own songs:
“I wanted a more vocal and harmony-driven sound, but that whole singer-songwriter thing really didn’t do it for me. I enjoy playing with other musicians… It is something I have always done and it’s what I enjoy about music; so I started trying to put together a band, by trying to find like-minded people.”
In 2014, Henry met Tom Michell at the Bullingdon live music venue in Oxford, whose band was playing as support for Fresh Cream, a Cream tribute band featuring Malcolm Bruce, Jack Bruce’s son.
“Tom and I got together and decided we liked the idea of a band with harmonies. We learned a lot of duo songs, like ‘The Sound of Silence,’ and David Crosby’s ‘Guinnevere,’ some Everly Brothers songs and some Beatles – all two-part harmony stuff. We played them down the pub and it went down really well and felt right.”
Henry and Tom then met up with David Page, who had been in a previous band with Henry. David was working in Denmark Street, London around the same time as Henry was there doing a work placement job as a guitar Luthier.
“David has a great high harmony voice and was the perfect choice… I got on really well with him and he is a great musician. When he joined us he brought something to the table that we didn’t have vocally. After perfecting our harmony, we needed a drummer and as I knew Alex, it all fell into place.”
As well as his vocal qualities, for the past seven years, David Page has been an in-demand session bass player, having featured recently in bands with singer-songwriter Jonathan Jeremiah; Edwyn Collins; folk-rock outfit ‘The Rails’ with Kami Thompson – Richard and Linda Thompson’s daughter; The Ruen Brothers – when they played the Austin City Limits Festival – which featured the late Ian McLagen on keyboards, and with singer songwriter Sarah Cracknell’s band ‘Saint Etienne’.
Alex Tschaikowsky has been a session drummer for twelve years, classically trained, and as he puts it: “At a posh boarding school learning to play piano and clarinet… The first time I heard Led Zeppelin and John Bonham, I thought, that’s it, I’m ditching the clarinet!” He is also a lecturer in music, but his focus now is on The 27, having got to know Henry a few years ago at an open mic’ night.
Although guitarist and singer Tom Michell has performed in his own and other bands as a semi-pro musician, his day job is working for the family building business, until The 27 stand on their own eight feet financially!
Why The 27 as a name? The band wanted something short and catchy, so rather than trawl through lists of possible names, a friend suggested The 27 and it stuck!
The band started gigging during 2015 prior to going into the studio. Mike Hurst produced and co-wrote some of their first songs, which proved to be another valuable learning curve for Henry: “We were trying to get the right mix, combining the right balance. I didn’t want to make a record that sounded like an old record – it had to have a modern sound, but with a bit more soul and humanity… I worked with Mike Hurst, did some writing with him and learned a lot of the older recording techniques from him.”
Henry picked the brains of legendary guitarist Elliott Randall when he was in London. Randall played the guitar solo on Steely Dan’s classic, “Reelin’ in the Years”, as well as sessions with a host of other bands and artists, including The Doobie Brothers, Carl Wilson and Pat Benatar. With this colourful musical experience to draw on, Randall was able to explain to Henry how close harmony groups like The Mamas & the Papas, The Beach Boys and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young recorded their music, and more importantly; how they got their unique sound.
With a few more gigs under their belt, including a support slot at The Borderline in London for rising US country singer Margo Price, The 27 cut their debut single, “Call Me A Friend,” earlier this year. With catchy lyrics and tight harmonies laid over a punchy guitar melody, it has an infectious sing-along hook. The promo’ video features top model Rhian Sugden, with Henry and Tom both competing for her attention in the ‘plot.’
The 27 have six songs in the can so far, some which will feature on a forthcoming EP, slated for release sometime in the first half of 2017. Before that they will drop their second single, “Tell Me,” another tight, harmony-driven song. It will be backed up by a music video starring Vinnie Jones, who is married to Henry’s friend’s sister. Vinnie offered his services when Henry visited him in Los Angeles, to watch the football team he coaches over there. Filming scheduled for March.
A song that will feature on the debut EP is “Everything and More,” co-written with hit song writer Fred Koller, when Henry was in Nashville visiting Margo Price, who he met when The 27 supported her in London. Koller best known for his co-writing with John Hiatt – “Angel Eyes,” a top five hit for the Jeff Healey Band in 1989, Hiatt also recording the song in 1994.
The 27’s Beatles-influenced vibes blend well with a distinctive ‘60s and 70s West Coast sound; Mamas & the Papas and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young infused with a bit of Jack White’s The Raconteurs to bring it up to date and make it retro and relevant.
The 27 intersperse their original material with carefully chosen covers, such as The Beatles’ “Blackbird,” and Adele’s “Send My Love (To Your New Lover),” an acoustic trio affair with Henry, Tom and David on guitars.
2017 will see The 27 back on the road across the UK, with new material and new interpretations of older songs, the release of their second single and their debut EP, possibly then starting work on a full album. Definitely a band to seek out and our tip for big things to come…………….
You can check out the video to “Call Me A Friend” by The 27, in our Video Zone at Music Republic Magazine.
Words & Photos: Geoff Carverhill