My big resolution for 2019 was to sing more. That must be pretty comical to my friends and loved ones as I’m sure that from their perspective I never bloody stop. But working as the ‘Company Singer’ on the Sound and Fury Tour drove home for me that singing is the most purely enjoyable thing that I do, and also that singing ‘standards’ can be every bit as fun as creatively challenging as singing my own stuff.
Matt Lustri is the only musician that I’ve played in as many different projects with as I have with Luke. Matt is a proper virtuosic musician and has objectively the best attitude, particularly when it comes to engaging with music that’s new to him. Introducing Matt to genres he doesn’t know is just the best thing, he’s always so ready to love things and to indulge two-hour YouTube trawls. Plus he absorbs and takes command of the technical aspects of playing different genres so quickly, like disgustingly quickly.
You won’t believe that it was actually Matt’s idea for us to do an act where we play songs from musicals, even I don’t believe that it wasn’t my idea. He floated it way back when PROM was rehearsing our final gig, and I wouldn’t stop singing broadway numbers in every spare second. At the time I laughed it off, probably daunted by the idea of covering songs that were written for full orchestras and the greatest singers of the 20th century.
But now that we’re just doing it the one-guitar-and-two-voices vibe is weirdly what’s making it work (at least for me and the tiny but vocally appreciative audiences of the Smiths Varietals). Reducing these big dramatic numbers down to the lyrics, the chords and my awkwardly over-detailed explanation of their original context kind of creates the gig equivalent of the aforementioned loungeroom YouTube party. Like Matt and I are your two friends excitedly taking you through a playlist of their favourite songs from musicals, without having checked if you’re actually up for that.
As a fiend for dense lyrical conceits I’ve pushed us towards of lot of words-y numbers, but I think we’ve done a pretty good job of picking songs that sell their brilliance in stripped-down form. Musicals from the 30s to the 70s is the bit, which creates the inherent challenge of picking songs that playfully highlight the absurdity of 20th century social values but not the ones that are just gonna straight up distress the audience. So plenty of Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair but less of the Bless Your Beautiful Hide.