Off the Beat and Path: Stokes, William review

By Rob O’Donnell

I hope some readers out there are interested in Mumford & Sons, Johnny Flynn or the “West London Folk scene” in general. Or maybe you just like British accents. Either way, you’re going to be excited. But I’m going to save the exciting news for the end so you’ll actually read the rest of the article.

Stokes, William is a folk band hailing from West London, where the leading man, Will Joseph first performed in Ben Lovett’s “club.” The band has had a huge rotation of artists come through and play, and the different influences and sounds are evident already in such a short career. They’ve collaborated with artists like Marcus Mumford for incredible results.

I’ll break here to share the news. I’m way too excited to write the rest without saying it. And maybe I fooled some readers who jumped to the end; either way, I’m happy. I co-host a radio show with Eric Nuber ’13 called Those Damn Jackalopes, and we just recorded an interview with Will Joseph to be premiered Thursday night, April 19, from midnight to 2 a.m. We’ll be mixing in songs from their EP and some off-record stuff as well, so it should be really interesting. The interview itself was hilariously fun. In it, he talks about their music and even what it was like to work with Mumford & Sons (apparently they have been friends for quite some time).

It’s a shameless plug, yes, but for music fans I thought it was worth sharing. It’s firsthand insight into the folk scene, from a major contributor and friend to those involved. But anyway, back to the music.

Their self-titled EP is their only release that you can get off iTunes so far. It was quite a challenge to write a review about four songs, so I’m going to include all of their off-record stuff too. Fans of Noah & the Whale, Laura Marling and Mumford & Sons will absolutely love this EP. It’s a younger, more raw version of these artists, as they are only two years older than me. Actually, one is even younger. So it has a much more rebellious voice and sound than those artists, which makes it a different twist on a familiar sound.

The music itself is what I would call anthemic folk. Most of the songs, like “Words, Wide Night” start with a simple melody and gradually add on instruments and choruses until they are absolutely rocking out. By the middle of the song you can’t help but join in singing and jumping around. For folk music to be able to do that, it has to be pretty special.

The intellectual lyrics, influenced by T.S. Eliot, Seamus Heaney and other poets are brilliant. As I said before, they have a rebellious attitude towards our superficial society. They shift the focus from trivial concerns that most music deals with towards the true struggles we face, like finding and staying in love in a cold-hearted world.

I really hope you’ll buy the album, or at least tune into the show for the interview. Did I mention he also talks about how he is a huge Red Sox fan?

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