Seven albums have now been released and with the most recent two: Black Tulip Wings (2006) and Gatekeeper (2008), Scarlet’s Well has evolved into a band in its own right, with live gigs, collaborative song writing, luscious merchandise, tantrums and uncorroborated suggestions of bizarre fantasies. A sense of band empathy and the benefits of varied influences are evident in both these albums but there is still a thematic consistency.
Although there is a conceptual thread that runs through the albums, the songs still function as pop in the sweetest sense, i.e. they are catchy, you can sing along (if you must) and most are dance friendly. What makes them special is their unpredictability and the dizzying range of musical genres combined with an essence that is simply ‘Scarlet’s Well’. It’s Whirling Dervish meets gypsy troubadour with the crack of a whip on the rump of a unicorn…then it gets fey and funky.
Lyrics leap from cryptic literary allusions to pert whimsy and although there is a certain obscure quality there is also an air of familiarity: a morphic memory thing bringing on a parallel universe that reveals itself to those who are open to getting lost with new acquaintances down strange cobbled streets, wooded glades, uncharted waters or the dark tunnels of the underworld.
Bid describes it better in November Night from Gatekeeper:
Strange songs playing, so darkly chanted
With words that I feel but don’t understand
While Peter Momtchiloff emphasises the benefits of collaboration with New Friends:
We are your new friends, if the night ever ends
It will feel as if we’ve always been here
This is a big band – eight members in all – but the sound, although rich and multi-layered, is surprisingly light and charming. Each new album leaves you with the desire for just a little bit more. It’s a light lunch thing – although there have been songs about “sausages standing to attention”, “Belladonna cooking in her frilly bloomers” and “liver like it used to be”, you are never left bloated.
The Monochrome Set were a more manly outfit – all black and white with staccato beats and a cowboy swagger. With Scarlet’s Well, Bid has gone technicolour and connected with his feminine side aptly complemented by the virgin/vixen vocals of Alice Healey. The rest of the impressive line-up consists of Deb van der Geugten: bass, Sian Chaffer: keyboards, Jennifer Dennito: drums, Helena Johansson: violin & mandolin, Peter Momtchiloff: lead guitar and Martin White: accordion.
Scarlet’s Well is a band of eccentrics for eccentrics, dandies, grannies, choir boys, mariners, twee poppers and indefatigable travellers. The music should ideally be experienced under a flickering light with a glass of fine mead in the company of fey maidens and prattling moles...alternatively, go and see them live…you will come out with naughty little fairies nibbling at the musical bits of your brain!