shelbys-elbowsContinuing on with my interviews of the talented and terrific residents of Bridport, I met with the lovely chaps that make Shelby's Elbows. Phil and Martin have made a name for themselves with their energetic and lively performances, and I caught up with them to talk all things Bridport, with a sprinkling of musical interrogation.

D: Thank-you for letting me interrupt your practise guys. Let’s start off nice and easy: why don’t you tell us a little bit about Shelby’s elbows, how you met and what you’re up to now?

P: Well, we met when I was working at No.10, and I’d just come back from travelling in 2006 and musically, I started doing open mic nights while I was working there.

M:  I hadn’t played for years, about 10 years, and Phil was offered a gig through his open mic nights, and he kept trying to get me to help him, and I kept saying no! And then one night he got me drunk enough that I said yes, and by the time I could pull out of it, it was too late! So I was forced to do it.

P: At that time we were Phil and Friends, and we did about 4 or 5 gigs playing as a threesome. And then Simon left, and that’s when we became Shelby’s Elbows.

D: Where did the name come from?

P: From our friend Shelby, who’s an author, he’s American and he has (adopting a faux-American accent) very pointy elbows. He uses them to emphasise when he speaks -

M: Shelby’s getting his elbows out...

P: It was our friend Becky who suggested it as a name, and it just wouldn’t go away and so eventually, it was inevitable.

D: It’s very memorable...

M: And its pretty easy to find on the internet - you don’t find many phrases with ‘Shelby’s Elbows’ coming up! I think there was a doctor from North Carolina with some elbow illness referring to some subject called Shelby...but I soon knocked him off the internet.

Awfull quality video, however it shows Shelby's popularity and energy.

D: So are you guys mostly playing locally or are you looking to branch out further?

P: We started very locally, we used to have a lot more gigs in Bridport - at the Electric Palace, and Beach and Barnicott when they were doing a bit more music, and then John at the Ropemakers gave us a few gigs, and obviously No.10...

M:  I think we saturated Bridport a bit though - we were everywhere.

P: Yeah, we learnt a few lessons there - to try and spread out our dates a bit! I think we were a different band back then, we had a more mellow first set really, and a much more ballady feel - but over the years we’ve picked it up a bit more.

D: You guys are definitely lively!

P: We tend to use a bit of technology... I mean, we’re quite keen on the loop pedal to enhance our sound.

M: Well I use technology; we both have different ways of hiding our lack of talent. Phil switches instruments all the time and I just use lots of pedals and electronics to try and make it sound like we know what we’re doing! But I think people have come to recognise us for our lively sets - for just two people, we make a lot of noise!

D: Are you working on your own material?

P: We have been a lot more, certainly over the last year - we’re actually working on trying to record an E.P, which is getting there... maybe two or three more months and we’ll be there.

D: Going back to what you were saying about playing a lot more around Bridport, do you think the live music scene has tailed off locally?

P: I think it’s just gotten a bit more selective actually, venues are competing with each other so they have to be a bit more selective with what they choose. I think they can exist quite well next to each other, as long as they offer different things.

M: I think Bridport’s always like that, it has ups and downs, it picks up and then quietens down a little bit.

I think Bridport offers a lot of live music for a small town really... we’re very lucky really.

P: Bridport is really open to music and they want to listen, they want to dance - you get a really good reception.

D: As you say, Bridport is receptive to music and we have a lot of local bands and acts - what do you think it is about the place that seems to encourage so much creativity?

P: I think for me its because its very receptive and welcoming to outsiders, and I’m speaking as someone who isn’t from the area; it can pull resources from all over the place.

M: I’m not sure how it started but I’ve always remembered it being ‘arty’ ever since I was a kid. We’ve always had a strong Arts Centre which may have something to do with it...

P: And St Michael’s Trading Estate, which attracts people to the town.

M: I think it has a lot to do with the work of people like Rex Trevett, he was a phenomenal teacher, he has a lot to do with it, combined with everything else...

P: And although there are certain elements tailing off, there are things like the Lyric Theatre opening up, so I think the bigger venues are surviving well.

D: Where do you stand on the possible closure and redevelopment of St Michael’s Trading Estate?

P: I can’t believe it, it’s ridiculous isn’t it? I mean, it is one of the most attractive things about our town and gives employment to a lot of people who are doing something really interesting and the thought that they want to bulldoze it and put up a load of house is a bit mad.

M: The problem is that it’s privately owned, and in theory they can do whatever they want with it; but then the council are spending a million quid on a new council building they don’t really need when they could buy something like that for use of the community.

P: Or they could just say ’no’ - its hard enough to get permission to build an extension on your house; they could just say no to the planning permission! It’d be such a great shame to lose such an interesting part of the area.

D: Do you ever feel inspired by Bridport?

P: I have a lot to thank Bridport for, I think if it hadn't of been for those open mic nights, we'd never have formed a band together, if it wasn't for people encouraging acts to play...

M: Well I'd never have done it again, I had really bad nerve problems and stage fright, I didn't play for 10 years. I'm glad I've got it back because I really enjoy it now.

D: Where would you say is your favourite place in Bridport?

P: Cor, there's a lot of pubs in Bridport... that's a difficult one...

M: We obviously love the Ropemakers and No.10, because we play there a lot and we love the people.

P: I'm going to say wherever we happen to be playing Bridport on a Friday night! But when I lived away, the thing I missed most was the sea, which is odd as I don't get down there very often - but when you know its not there, its really odd.

M:  It's very difficult to pinpoint one place - and I think it is just generally the town, there are so many things that make it what it is.

D: Martin, you obviously mentioned about your own experiences with nerves - is there any advice you would give someone who wants to give it a go and try the open mic nights?

M: Just to do it. You never believe it, but that's what it comes down to. Somewhere like Bridport is a good crowd and they'll support you, and a lot of it is a fear of failure, which is certainly what I felt. The biggest hurdle I overcame is that everyone messes up, and if you do mess up, chances are no one will notice it.

D: Is there anyone you feel is an act to look out for - one to watch?

P: There are some people coming along - I don't know if you've ever seen Daisy Wardle play, but she's doing really well.

M: There's also a young girl called Abi Rich, who sings and she's doing a lot of the Howl Open Mic Nights and she is very, very good.

D: Is there anything you feel Bridport would benefit from?

M: It could really benefit from a nightclub; we’re losing the 18-21 year olds because of that - they go to Weymouth and places like that for a big night out.

P: If you lose your nightlife, you start losing your music scene as well.

M: The town centre should be lively, so someone needs to take the plunge, ignore those who are against it and go for it.

D: Finally, as a little change around - is there anything you would like to ask me? As I’ve been bombarding you with questions, lets turn the tables....

P: What do you think of us? Why did you choose us?

D: No Comment... no really, yours was one of the first gigs I reviewed and really went to at No.10 and I have always been a big fan of older music, and I loved hearing songs like ‘Teenage Kicks’, and seeing people my age loving it, and that is a really positive thing. I think its really nice to see people enjoying music, and Bridport can seem like a town with little going on, and seeing bands and artists like you bringing something fresh and fun to the town is brilliant. And after my moment in your shoes, thank-you very much for taking the time to chat to me!

Dannie Carter

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