First Time Flyers - The Grace
It is the first time #TEAMw21 have been asked to witness the birth of a "Supergroup" and as we approached London's most glitterballed venue it was hard to know quite what would await us. The four individuals being compressed into one unit have left their solo exploits behind to form the First Time Flyers. It's a suitably grand affair - Baylen Leonard is here as MC and a mixture Americana movers and shakers as well as friends and family are here to see First TIme Flyers take off.
On arrival from the bitterly cold North London streets and ascending the stairs to The Grace - we were welcomed by a screen displaying four microphone stands. Bizarrely it somewhat had the look of a hostage video - were they being held captive somewhere or maybe they were going to project their images onto some ABBA like avatars ?
The answer was soon to be revealed as being how the premiere of the video to "Happier" would play out - with the four members of FTF looking relaxed and easy in each others company.
With the video premiered it was chocs away for the debut flight of First Time Flyers - it was to be a short flight, certainly no time to break out the drinks trolley or the duty free but it was a chance to get a preview of just what tunes they might be laying on us in the upcoming months.
Taking to the stage to a rousing welcome, the first question to be answered was what formation would they take? Working from left to right as we viewed them - Vicki Manser bubbly and excited, in an outfit that could almost have been sprayed on - she was not going to be sitting down at any point in that outfit - she would chip in on both acoustic guitar and shaker as required. Next up Jake Morrell providing both acoustic and electric guitar sounds on the night, to his left was Poppy Fardell suitably chic and stylish in her leather outfit while Tim Prottey-Jones bookended the quartet on both acoustic guitar and stomp pedal or keyboards when needed. All four will sing lead, all four will harmonise - if you've heard "Happier" the debut single, the vocals there change from verse to verse - it's a formula they will follow throughout this short debut set - however it will be interesting to see if this is something that they will be able to keep up long term.
The opening song "Are We Just Friends?" opens to Jake playing a strident acoustic guitar and Vicki, Jake and Poppy taking leads alternately on each verse, with each line of the song being harmonised at the end by the rest of the band. They may have left their solo careers behind but Tim was not going to let a crowd baiting rebel rousing hook go to waste and so it has found a new home with the FTF, where Festivals up and down the land will echo out its "whoa oh whoa oh" refrain with great delight. There was even signs of a little Vicki / Poppy clapping dance routine on an engaging opener.
The second song "Gold" was mercifully not a Spandau Ballet cover - instead it was another song that made use of the bands vocal talents developing the song by harmonising after each line, this time more forthrightly. The chorus with everyone singing was certainly very effective and at times managed to inject many syllables into the word "Gold"
It was Poppy's turn to introduce the third song on the set as a personal story - though interestingly it was Jake who was to lead off the vocals on "Your Side Of The Bed". This probably had the most Lady A feeling of the night and had a slightly different sound with Tim playing a piano part. Even on first listen it sounded a strong contender.
Vicki's introduction to "Heartbreak Handshake" was humourous and set the scene nicely for what was to come. it was again something of a different sound with Jake on electric guitar, on this tale of a mutually agreed relationship. entered into with the understanding that it was destined to eventally fail - "a mutual mistake".
There was only time for five songs and naturally the debut single was left until last. it's been playing out across the airwaves for a week or two and it is testament to the power of a good song that a quick scan around the room saw plenty of folk mouthing along to the lyrics already.
It is a great introduction to the band and immediately showcases many of the assets that they are going to be utilising on a number of singles throughout the year.The chorus in the live environment really takes no prisoners - you will sing along!
Jake provided a short solo and who could not smile as Tim suddenly changes his vocal from tenderly
vulnerable against a quiet acoustic guitar before lifting up the flaps and going full throttle on the "Are you happier?" part of his section.
This final song was met with a roaring reception which presented a slight problem as we had heard all that the band had currently learnt. The solution reached was to encore with the song that had opened the evening "Are We Just Friends?" though now with the audience well and truly warmed up and with a little guidance from Vicki, that vocal riff that Tim had brough back now gave a hint as to just how it might sound belted out from Festival stages up and down the land across the summer.
Second time round it had a slightly more sultry feel to it and undoubtedly there were smiles all round at the volume generated from the crowd joining in. It all ended with a thunderous round of applause signifying that all had gone well.
The fun was not quite over yet as the evening ended with a quick Q&A session. It was not exactly a Paxman style grilling but some useful things emerged:
The initial recordings were done remotely with songs like "Happier" even dating back to Lockdown to give an idea of how long the FTF have been working together as a concept.
Jake admitted to feeling a little burnt out with his solo work - and that after spending so much time on his own really wanted a project to do with his friends.
With 4 songwriters in the band - it was no surprise that there was talk of an endless supply of songs.
News of when the wider public would get to see First Time Flyers was kept strictly hush hush - but with a number of Promoters in the room it would seem unthinkable that they will not be looking out from a Festival stage or two across the summer but as to which ones, we'll just have to wait and see.
The origin of the name First Time Flyers came from Jake Morrell.
All in all it was to prove a highly successful test flight and the First Time Flyers will be a welcome addition to the UK Americana scene It would seem that "Happier" will see them make a sharp ascent and we'll have to see how far they climb before they level off and turn off the seatbelt sign.!!!!
Watch them fly!