Touch the Pearl bring the party to Preston's Ancient Oak
In a music scene that is often dominated by guitar bands, it is refreshing to come across a band that bucks the trend and produces a sound like no other - Touch the Pearl is one such band.
They are a nine-piece soul funk band who bring the party to life with their own brand of music. There's Gary Wright on keyboards, backing vocalists Jen Hilton, Louise Spiteri and Stacey Houldsworth. Then there's guitarist Mike Severyn, saxophonist Gabor Jonas and Matt Mcnicholas on drums, with Norm Helm on bass. Dave Williams provides the sound, lights and magic. And keeping them all under control is charismatic front man Kev Schools.
Touch the Pearl have been around now for a while, but are more in demand today than they have ever been.
Kev said: "We first formed in 1988, so 31 years ago, and we started off writing and recording all our own music at that point. We described ourselves back then as a rock 'n' soul band. We had a bit of success with that, but the interest dwindled away.
"Then we decided to concentrate on being a soul, funk, disco covers band really. Putting a bit of our own twist on things and basically we evolved into this nine-piece band, with three girl backing singers.
"They are all great musicians. All great players and singers."
And what makes them stand out from the rest of the pack is their emphasis on putting on a great show, according to Kev. He continued: "We always make sure there's a fantastic sound system and lighting. And that's complemented by the sets that we put together.
"And we work very hard on the individual arrangements so we can show off a little bit - show off the band's talents.
"We just try and create an atmosphere. We're just like a little gang on stage that everyone seems to want to be a part of. We're just having a good time, and trying to convey that to the audience. So it's all about putting on a good show."
The music they play is a big part of this "good show" and a lot of work goes into selecting those songs.
"We're generally looking for tunes that are not your obvious kind of cover tunes. We're looking for tunes that people either know or recognise, but we put our twist on them and make them our own," explains Kev.
"We're not a jukebox cover band. We're not just doing up-to-date chart stuff. We'll never do Sex on Fire - we're not that kind of cover band. But we're honing in on the retro soul stuff, funk stuff, disco stuff, some house classics from the 90s. That's generally our genre."
Preston is virgin territory for the band - having already firmly established themselves in the Fylde. So they are very excited to finally perform in the city, thanks to promoter/organiser Neil Carpenter.
"I don't think we've ever played Preston in 30 years. We might have done the odd booking for a private event out there, but we've never played a public venue. There's just never been the opportunity. So we're really looking forward to doing this.
"We're just looking forward to putting a show to a new audience and hopefully we'll make some new friends on the night. It's a great little venue, so hopefully they'll get a few people down on the night. And we'll try and give them the best that we've got."
And finally, what about that name? Sounds a bit rude...
"Some people think it's got some rude innuendo..." laughs Kev.
"All it was was me trying to be a bit clever at the time.
"I used to be a teacher and at the time I was teaching a book by John Steinbeck called The Pearl and I was quite taken with this book. And I thought I quite like that, but it's not enough, it's too short. So I put Touch in front of it and it doesn't really mean anything.
"People often ask 'Are you being rude?'
"No, not at all. But if you want it to mean that, that's up to you!"
Touch the Pearl are playing at The Ancient Oak in Cottam on Saturday, March 30. Admission is £10, and a great party atmosphere is guaranteed. Tickets are available online at www.skiddle.com or from the bar.
In the meantime though, if you want to find out a bit more about Touch the Pearl, why not visit their website at www.touchthepearl.com. There you can see videos of them in action and learn more about the fantastic songs they cover.