Three Beards and the new Eastern Anglian tradition

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Three Beards, Graeme Mac and Richard Haugh at BBC Suffolk
Image caption,
Three Beards joined Graeme and Richard on BBC Introducing in Suffolk

With eight members and a smorgasbord of instruments, Three Beards are not your typical Suffolk band.

A banjo, accordion, double bass, violin, guitar, trumpet, mandolin, drums, marching drums, a mini piano, a saw and a broom are all used in creating their distinctive sound.

Musically speaking, comparisons could be made to Zach Condon's Beirut, but that would be omitting Three Beards' desire to play music influenced by events close to home.

"We're into this whole Eastern Anglian tradition," said James Barnard, who plays banjo.

"The Darkness did a song about Black Shuck and we're trying to mine that bestial dark heart of East Anglia, using DIY products."

James is one of the three founding members of the band. And yes, they all had beards.

When they were offered their first gig as a three piece the name seemed like a good idea, and it has stuck despite their numbers swelling.

Double bass player Sue Hewlett was next to join.

"A few of us were at Norwich Arts School together - lots of us have London connections but we're grounded in Suffolk," she said.

It can be difficult to co-ordinate the schedules of eight band members but they manage to get together for a weekly practice in London.

Gigs are less regular, but the band aim to make each one memorable.

"When we do live shows we do a procession and a march and base that on East Anglian morris traditions, like the straw bear or Plough Monday and we'll pagan it up a bit," said Simon.

"We got a bit fed up with people saying we're klezmer music or gypsy music, so we invented our own tradition."

Sue added: "We had one gig over Christmas where we got our good friend Elliott to wear a bear suit.

"We strapped lots of foliage to him and he was lead along with a lead or a chain. Lots of people were burning hands full of joss sticks and there were some pyrotechnics."

Simon said: "We're hoping after a few years it will become a proper tradition and Eastern Anglian will be at Cecil Sharp House or something."

"And we don't play Suffolk enough," said James. "We want to put the 'folk' in 'Suffolk'."

Three Beards performed live for BBC Introducing in Suffolk on 31 March, 2011.

You can listen to their session and interview by downloading the podcast - available for a month after the show was broadcast.

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