When Skinny Lister are not wing-walking on a plane and gigging in ice cold conditions on a mountain summit, they’re passing out a flagon of rum to their fans mid-gig.
Then there’s the Skinny Sisters who almost turned the band’s live sets into a hen night experience until they were unceremoniously dumped from touring.
Singer Lorna Thomas talks to Susie Daniels about life in the fast lane and how she keeps her sanity in the crazy six-piece punk-folk band…
You’ve toured in a narrow boat, gigged on restaurant table, hotel elevators and car parks. Ever taken it one step further with your gigs?
On a mountain! We videoed our first album for a couple who were having a candlelit dinner and got engaged on a mountain – it was very cold!
They named one of their kids Lister after us! We’ve also played in a castle outside Frankfurt in Germany. I’ve done a wing walk where I had a GoPro strapped to each arm trying to look sexy while the wind kept blowing my hand to my face.
Apart from that it was calm and peaceful up there.
DO you still pass out a flagon of rum to your fans at your gigs?
Of course we do! It’s a vital member of the band. We had a competition for naming the flagon. He’s called ‘Forge’. He’s got plenty of stories (laughs), he’s a right sleazybag.
What about your group of friends called the Skinny Sisters who follow you around all your gigs – are they still doing that?
They got fired! (laughs) That started about because I was spending all my summers at festivals and they were saying, ‘we never see you’ so I said, ‘okay, you can be our dancing girls’. We had to fire them because they kept drinking all the rum from the flagon before it got passed round! It ended up being more like a hen party at our gigs and I forgot I was meant to entertain people!
DJ and Bestival mastermind Rob Da Bank offered you a deal for an album on his Sunday Best label back in 2011 – was that the start of it all really happening for you?
Definitely. We were playing loads of festivals already and put together an album easily to hook up with someone in the industry.
For the second album we went with Xtra Mile Recordings as we felt that was more of a solid community that help each other. We were touring with Frank Turner.
I’ve heard anything can happen on stage – can you recall some of the crazier gigs?
It’s always mental in Glasgow. Last gig we played in Nice ’n Sleazy Neil had to wring out his shirt. In the Bahamas we did a ‘Set Sail’ party on the Saturday then the Sunday was a day trip so it was a full weekend!
There were free cocktails, buckets of beer, drinking in the sun watching amazing bands. We were playing in the evening in the inside bar. It was mental. I might have cried on that gig. Max fell off stage head first in Jacksonville in the US and nobody seemed to care! His face didn’t look great and the accordion was the worse for wear. I just had bruises.
We had a guy in Germany turn up with a drum kit. A friend in the US crowd-surfed with a drum. We get people on stage all the time!
IN 2012 Skinny Lister played more festivals than any other band in the world. Was that knackering?
It was early on and when somebody asked us to play a gig we kept saying ‘yeah’. We’d go to a festival and play shows. I think we were the hardest partying band – 32 festivals in one Summer! We needed a lot of down time after that.
How long can you go on with such a hedonistic lifestyle?
I’m pretty sensible when I’m at home. It’s sort of like when people associate coffee with work. I save drinking for the occasional big event. During a gig I’ll say, ‘I’m not drinking and everyone will say, ‘yeah, yeah Lorna’. It’s never like a hangover I have and there’s always a new town, new people and on stage we’re sweating it all out. I go for the occasional run. It’s quite good when we’re touring to go for a jog.
What do you do outside of gigging when your life’s not so wild and chaotic?
We are constantly getting ready to tour and writing new music. I live in Hastings by the sea so I go swimming in it, have barbecues and I sleep – a lot!
You used to dress up in the 1900s vintage clothes like something from a bygone era playing Americana bluegrass. How did that come about?
Me, Max, my mum and dad all played together when I started singing when I was about 20 years old.
That was just for fun at house parties. Somebody in the village named my dad ‘Party George’. Max picked up the accordion and we said, ‘come on mum, you can play the washboard’. Dad was already writing original music at that point. Traditional music always gets people dancing! After a while we hardened our edge and became less folky.
What’s happening later this year?
We’re on the road with Beans on Toast touring as a double headline in November and December. It’s going to be mental cos he’s a party animal too!
Skinny Lister play at Oran Mor in Glasgow on