Saturday, January 16, 2010

Heather Leaves Mostly Autumn

Heather Findlay

Sometimes a bombshell comes completely out of the blue.

As everyone on The Spill knows, I'm a huge fan of York progressive rock band Mostly Autumn. I've even managed to persuade CaroleBristol to see them on their last tour.

Late on Thursday night came the news that Heather Findlay is leaving the band to concentrate of a solo career. I'm still trying to come to terms with it. I'm completely devastated in a way people for whom music is background wallpaper or a once-a-year trip to an enormodome will never be able to understand, but I'm sure plenty of 'Spill regulars who have been hardcore fans of any band will have been there.

I first saw Mostly Autumn live at Jillys in Manchester back in 2004, and have seem them 40-odd times since, 30 of those in the past three years. Their music has changed my life over the past few years in ways I could never have anticipated, and helped me through some difficult times in my life.

There's just something uniquely magical about Mostly Autumn's live shows; no other band is quite like it for me. Seeing another great band live is like visiting an exotic location on holiday, seeing Mostly Autumn feels like coming home. I've made so many great friends through Mostly Autumn fandom it feels like an extended family.

Although I've only met Heather a handful of times, she has always treated me like a personal friend.

Mostly Autumn are to continue, with their backing vocalist Olivia Sparnenn taking over on lead vocals. The knock on effect of that is that Olivia will be leaving her own band, Breathing Space, another great band I've seen almost as many times as Mostly Autumn, and who now face an uncertain future.

The absolutely electrifying live shows in 2009 meant Heather's time with Mostly Autumn ended on a high. She will be playing one last farewell show with the band, at The Assembly in Leamington Spa on Good Friday, April 2nd. I've already got my ticket.


Blimpy said...

it's always the most difficult when the "voice" of a group leaves -the only band I can think of that weathered that one well was AC/DC

CaroleBristol said...

Interesting. I think that Olivia Sparnenn is a good singer, powerful certainly.

The tricky bit will be seeing where Heather Findlay's solo work goes. If she looks for a commercial sound, the risk is that it will be bland.

Still, good luck to all concerned.

Tim (Kalyr) said...

I'm pretty confident Olivia will be do the job - I've heard her sing some Mostly Autumn songs with Breathing Space, and I've been impressed with here ability to take a song like "The Gap Is Too Wide" and make it hers. She probably needs to work on her stagecraft, but that will come with experience. This is a singer who auditioned for Nightwish, and made the final shortlist.

I hope Heather doesn't attempt to make a cookie-cutter indie-pop album. Not only would it would be a terrible waste of a great talent, but it's a crowded market where success depends more on the amount of money spent on promotion than the quality of the music. But I know Heather well enough to believe she's smart enough not to go down that road.

BTW Carole, have you heard any Odin Dragonfly? That was the acoustic duo consisting of Heather and Mostly Autumn's then keyboardist and flautist Angela Gordon. Provides one pointer for the direction Heather's solo work might go.

CaroleBristol said...

I've seen them on YouTube, Tim.

A bit fey for my liking.

Tim (Kalyr) said...

I actually really liked "Offerings", but the album reminds me of a couple of wonderfully intimate gigs in York the year it came out. I find it a good mellow chill-out album. Some of the songs would work well full electric band arrangements - "Magnolia Half-Moon" being an obvious example.

"Unoriginal Sin" from Glass Shadows sounds to me like an electrified Odin Dragonfly song, albeit much angrier. (And I know the back-story behind that one).

ToffeeBoy said...

@ blimpy

"the only band I can think of that weathered that one well was AC/DC"

Why is no one mentioning Peter Gabriel/Phil Collins???

Oh ... right ... yeah ... I see ...

Tim (Kalyr) said...



The most successful cases seem to be when the new singer sounds nothing like the old one, and they use it as an opportunity to radically reinvent the band - Such as David Coverdale in Deep Purple, Ronnie Dio in Black Sabbath, or Steve Hogarth in Marillion.

Coverdale in Purple was slighly before my time, but in the other two cases a lot of fans refused to accept the new singer.

CaroleBristol said...

I was never a huge Purple fan, but David Coverdale was a definite lurch to the worse.

He is a bit of a knob IMO and it is a shame that he ever got to work with Jimmy Page.

Abahachi said...

Anyone remember all the fuss with Gillan joining Sabbath?

I have a lot of time both for Coverdale-era Purple and, heaven help me, for Whitesnake, despite his undeniable knobness. As far as successions of vocalists go, Rainbow managed to weather the departure of little Ronnie Dio quite successfully, but I suppose the focus was always on Blackmore.

Tim (Kalyr) said...

Yes. I was at the 1983 Reading Festival, with the fibreglass Stonehenge later parodied by Spinal Tap, when Marillion completely blew them off stage.

Going back to the original subject, I've exchanged several emails with Heather today, which reinforce my impression that she's not only the person who's created some of my favourite music, but a genuinely lovely person who's concerned about her fans. Never meet your heroes? Bollocks!

barbryn said...

re. changing vocalists - one of the more unlikely gigs I've been to was a reformed MC5 with vocals shared by Mark Arm from Mudhoney and the woman who sings vocals with Basement Jaxx (can't remember her name, but she was surprisingly effective).

Mnemonic said...

That was Lisa Kekaula from The Bellrays. Spectactularly raunchy with Marc Arm if that was the Forum gig. Very good with her own group too.

barbryn said...

Ah! I'm listening to the Bellrays on Spotify now, and it all makes a bit more sense. (The gig I went to was at Concordes in Brighton - originally supposed to be Evan Dando singing)

lambretinha said...

Another successful example of a band changing vocalists was Bruce Dickinson substituting Paul Di'Anno for Maiden, I guess.

Strange how most of the examples I can think of are from Prog / Hard-Rock / Heavy Metal bands, and such... Maybe it's because, in many of these cases, the main songwriter was somebody else (Lord, Blackmore for Purple, Harris for Maiden, etc... or songwriting duties were shared among the band members -Marillion-) I'd say that's the main factor in which Gabriel's departure hurt Genesis... Collins was a good enough choice as a singer in that context, but not so much as a creative force.

What's Mostly Autumn's case, Kalyr? Is/Was Heather Findlay the main songwriter?

Shoey said...

The Buzzcocks did fine after Howard, but that's the only instance I can think of.

Tim (Kalyr) said...


Heather isn't the principle songwriter, although she typically wrote or co-wrote 3 or 4 songs per album. A disproportionate number of her songs tended to make it into the live set, though.

Tim (Kalyr) said...

On the same day Heather left Mostly Autumn, another prog band, Also Eden, lost their singer.

Today, they've announced their replacement, Rich Harding, a.k.a AfraidOfSunlight, onetime RR contributor.

Don't know if he reads The 'Spill, but congratulations anyway. Got the news from a mailing list post; will see if I can find their website and put up a link!