The Eyes have it as they hone new pop sound

Big Eyes Family Players
Big Eyes Family Players
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The any folk-lover, Big Eyes Family Players certainly need no introduction.

The multi-instrumental Sheffield group – headed by James Green – have performed all over the UK with some of the world’s finest folk musicians.

The band’s last release was Folk Songs II, which features folk star James Yorkston, who led on two of the album’s tracks.

But while the band have carved its reputation as an instrumental outfit, they’ve now taken a very different turn.

For their latest incarnation as a five-piece the band are heading in a more poppy direction, complete with lyrics and electric guitar, as James Green explains.

“We wanted to keep it fresh and do something totally different. We haven’t played in 18 months though, so we’ve got a whole new live set.

“Each song features all five members singing so it’s a very vocal sound.” But while Green describes the band as heading in a more ‘poppy’ direction, he also admits that his own definition of ‘pop’ is somewhat at odds to everyone else’s.

“All my friends take the Mick out of me because my definition of pop is quite strange. It’s a relative term.”

Indeed, not many ‘pop’ bands feature an organ, though the instrument – among the more conventional instruments like bass and drums – features heavily in Big Eyes’ sound.

Green writes the music for the songs, while his bandmate Heather Ditch writes the lyrics.

“I’m somewhere in between a composer and a songwriter,” he says.

“Heather writes the lyrics and the songs tend to be about death, destruction but also observations about real characters like a shopkeeper during the London riots.

“It’s not political but it tells his story. There’s also a song about a woman who was dead in her home for three years before anyone found here, yet she was only in her 30s. There has even been a film made about her.”

But it’s this fusion of technically-accomplished musicianship and sharp, human-interest lyrics that makes Big Eyes’ latest ‘pop’ venture so intriguing.

“It just feels different I suppose,” says Green. “And I suppose that now I can control the mood a little bit, though Heather and I do write together.”

Green writes his music on guitar. “It can be electric or acoustic but that’s where it all starts.”

The band will be road-testing some of their new material as part of a folk festival at the Riverside on June 12.

“It’s organised by Rob Lee and he puts on really good shows.

“The folk night is part of the Sensoria festival and it’s a fusion of alternative and atmospheric folk.”

Until then the band will be honing their new ‘pop’ sound.

Big Eyes Family Players perform at the Riverside, Mowbray Street on Thursday June 12. The band also play at the Folk Forest at Tramlines on July 25-27.