“I was washing dishes in a restaurant when singer Imelda May called asking us to support her at the Royal Albert Hall!” Bobby from Brixton-based band The Severed Limb sounds incredulous. “Even our parents asked ‘Are you sure you heard that invite right?’”
Playing such a world-famous venue was not quite what the six-strong band had in mind when they formed the band with the distinctly Hammer Horror-sounding moniker. Bobby laughs: “Ages ago, I was in another band and we rejected ‘Severed Limb’ because it was a terrible name. We chose it for this band as a joke because we thought we’d only play pubs as a bit of fun.”
“Our music is influenced by the 50s, but we write songs in all different genres”, says singer and guitarist Bobby, 33, as he channels that decade’s fashion with his short sleeved chequered shirt worn open to reveal a string vest (“Bought at Brixton Market!”) and his dark hair gathered in a tidy quiff.
The rest of the band consist of washboard player Leo, Alex on accordion, drummer Charlie, lead guitarist Sam and Simon on double-bass. Their backgrounds are equally mixed: “I’m training to be a primary school teacher, Alex illustrates children’s books and Leo works at the Ritzy”, he explains, “Everybody is very different with different tastes but it all comes together.”
Some might argue that the band already boasts an extensive line-up, but Bobby wouldn’t mind more members. “If it was up to me, The Severed Limb would consist of 12 people!” he exclaims. “Everyone plays an essential part, so it’s not possible to be fewer of us. But, it’s all about how many people we can fit in a car and I sometimes get a bit jealous of bands with just three people.” The lack of a large vehicle means they have to be inventive; the double bass travels on the car roof whilst the drum has been chopped in half to make it portable.
Despite it’s clear logistical challenges, the band has just completed a string of gigs in Germany and The Netherlands. Back in Brixton, they are now preparing the launch of their new album ‘If you ain’t living, you’re a dead man’ in the Autumn. “We are recording it with with ex-Young Disciples Marco Nelson using his old analogue equipment at Brixton Hill’s Art Space studio. It’s the most professional thing we’ve done!” Bobby continues, “I hope the new album will lead to more radio sessions, good reviews, more tours and more gigs. Plus, we need a proper manager.”
Unusually for an unknown band, The Severed Limb has managed to garner sizeable support among BBC DJs. They have played live on both Steve Lamaq’s and Clive Andersson’s radio shows, and counts DJ Andy Weatherall as a fan. “We appeal to a few DJs as we are a bit DIY. They have been really supportive. They like the skittle thing, the busking thing and the fact that we have done it ourselves.”
“The busking thing” remains very close to Bobby’s heart. “People are very honest when you busk, they will only give you their money if you are good so you have to put on a bit of a show. It’s more fun than doing a gig; it’s more free and you’re outside in the sun,“ he explains with genuine excitement. “We still busk anywhere. We work pretty hard; we busked for eight hours before our Berlin gig. As a result, we are starting to sound good,” he says, continuing; “A brilliant busking spot is outside of Brixton’s KFC restaurant. And every Friday, we’d busk in Borough Market which is great because we get free food from the stall holders!”
Bobby sees the beauty in getting up close and personal with an audience. “Music on stage is a bit unnatural – music should be played as part of the community. There is something very silly about being on a stage, sometimes it feel ridiculous – like you are showing off. Which I guess, you are.”
What about the future? Will he give up his teacher aspirations if they make it big? Bobby shakes his head. “I am not sure if I want to be a full-time musician, I enjoy doing different things. When you do music, you are free during the day. We are too energetic, too restless so it’s good to have a day job in addition.”
What about busking? He nods excitedly. “If we did get famous I think we’d still go busking because it’s something to do, you meet people and make a bit of money too. And it’s fun!” exclaims Bobby wide a wide smile.