Helen Hammill, singer-songwriter with Cattle & Cane, chats with Kevin Cooper about working with her siblings, playing at Teesside University, the release of their debut album Home and their forthcoming UK tour.

Collectively known as Cattle & Cane, siblings Joe, Helen, Fran and Vin Hammill, together with family friend Tom Chapman on percussion have released their debut album Home. Based in Middlesbrough, they have become local heroes in their hometown, a status emphasized by their headline gig last year at the town’s 1000 capacity Teesside University.

Having gained support from the likes of Janice Long, Dermot O’Leary and Amazing Radio, and having had their video premiere for Come Home on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch, Cattle & Cane are definitely on the road to major success.

Whilst busy preparing for their forthcoming UK tour, Helen took the time to have a chat with Kevin Cooper, and this is what she had to say.


Hi Helen how are you today?

I’m good thank you Kevin how are you?

I’m very well thank you and let me just thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

It’s no problem at all.

And just how is life treating you?

Life is great Kevin, absolutely fantastic. The album is out there and we are all so keen to get back out on the road to start touring the album once again. We will be playing at a lot of places that we haven’t played before so it really is an amazing time for us.

On the subject of Home, I have had a copy of the album for a couple of days now and I have to say that I love it, in fact I have played it to death (laughter).

That’s great Kevin, thank you. I just hope that you are not sick of it (laughter).

On the contrary, I really do love it. As you know favourite tracks change like the weather but at the moment I am really into Belle.

Not many people mention Belle when speaking about favourite tracks Kevin so I am particularly pleased that you have said that. Thank you.

As I was listening to the album I was making a few notes and the two names which sprang to mind, although you may not agree with me, were U2 and The Maccabees.

I like that Kevin, thank you. I really do like the sound that The Maccabees have and obviously U2 are incredible. I love U2 so thank you, that’s a massive compliment.

That’s the joy of music in the fact that in means something different to everyone who listens to it.

Definitely, I would definitely agree with you on that Kevin. That’s the great thing about music, it touches different people in different ways.

Whilst we are speaking about the album I understand that it was five years in the making. Was that a conscious decision?

It wasn’t, no (laughter). If I had had my own way then it would have been out a lot sooner. However I do believe that things happen for a reason Kevin. Our lead singer, who happens to be my brother Joe was at university doing his degree and I was at college so there were a lot of different circumstances really which stopped the album being released earlier. If the album had come out sooner then we wouldn’t have been able to the tours so I do think that it has actually come at the right time. It really does feel as though we have just started.

Were you all happy with just how well the album was received?

Totally Kevin as we didn’t expect it at all. We were amazed that the album actually charted as we are not signed to anyone and we had done it all by ourselves. We and our managers were all overwhelmed and taken aback by it all. It really did make all of the hard work worthwhile. It gave every one of us a really good push forward.

It must have been a real buzz for you playing to a capacity one thousand audience at Teesside University for the album launch?

It really was and it is the biggest show that we have played on our own to date. Before that we had played shows in front of five hundred people but making the leap to playing in front of a thousand people was just amazing. It was the most nerve-wracking time of my life Kevin (laughter). It really was but also it was so good.

I have to ask you, the band’s name Cattle & Cane, is it taken from the old Aussie rockers The Go-Betweens’ single of the same name?

Wow Kevin yes it is. Someone has been doing their research (laughter). Before that we were actually called Brother Bear but then we found out that was the name of a Disney film and so we would probably be sued by them if we carried on being called that (laughter). So we found ourselves in the situation where we were needing a new name. So we sat down together listening to some music and Cattle And Cane by The Go-Betweens came on and we all instantly thought that Cattle And Cane sounded good and it looks good too, we love the alliteration. So we have stuck with that ever since. We have actually got a lot of Australian fans now. I think that whenever they Google The Go-Betweens we come up now (laughter).

How would you describe your music?

That’s a really tough question Kevin (laughter). We are harmony led, which is the only way that I can describe it really. Because a lot of the songs are quite different, there are elements of Folk and Pop in there. I can understand why we get asked that but at times we really do get too pigeon-holed here in the UK. There are other elements within our music such as Blues, Americana, and all of that sort of thing. I usually just say why not come along and listen then you can decide (laughter).

Was it always going to be a career in music for you?

Yes it was. We come from a very musical family; there are a total of nine sibling’s altogether and we are all quite musical. Me and Joe have always played music together; playing gigs in pubs and clubs from a very early age. In fact I was thirteen years old and shouldn’t really have been in pubs and clubs (laughter). It just felt so natural to have our other siblings with us in a band performing with us.

You are living, writing, recording, performing and travelling with your siblings. Does that bring any added pressure?

It does in a way but then on the other hand it doesn’t. It is much easier for us to argue and to say how we feel because we are all related, far easier than it would be if we were all friends. It is a nice dynamic most of the time (laughter). Sometimes it can get quite stressful but most of the time it is great. You can’t hold grudges with siblings, you just have to move on straightaway which is great for us. Obviously there are times when we don’t get along and hate each other but you just have to get past it (laughter).

You are playing at The Bodega here in Nottingham on Monday 22nd February what can we expect from the show?

That’s right and it will be our first time playing there. We are really excited and can’t wait. Obviously we are still touring with the first album Home so naturally we will be playing a lot of the tracks off there. However, there will definitely be some new material as well just so that people can get a taste really of what’s to come in album two; just to keep it fresh and exciting for both us and the audience.

Dare I ask you about a second album?

(Laughter) to be honest Kevin we have actually started thinking about our second album and have begun writing new songs for it. And I will promise you that the second album will not take anywhere near as long to get out as the first album did, which is good (laughter).

Do you have an idea as to when you would like to see it in the shops?

We don’t have a release date as such but we would like to start recording in March. That does seem quite soon but we have had some songs for album two for some time now and we are ready to record them and get cracking with the album. What I will say Kevin is that it won’t take five years, it will be out there by the end of this year or at the very latest the start of 2017. For us that would be ideal.

Are you as a unit always writing with a view to a next album?

Yes we are Kevin and let me tell you that Joe never goes a day without writing a song. Some time ago Joe read a quote from Bob Dylan which said write a song everyday, which is what Bob Dylan did and now Joe does it too (laughter). As a unit we are always writing and playing together. We are never short of songs which is great. On Home there are twelve songs on it but we had so many more available to us. We simply couldn’t narrow it down any more which is a great position to be in. We are already thinking of making album two a ten track album whilst keeping some of the others back for B-Sides and that sort of thing.

And will there be any copies of Home available on vinyl?

Yes there will Kevin, we all love vinyl. We will definitely be doing a short run of vinyl for the first album. We haven’t got them yet but we will definitely be doing that. The reason that we didn’t do it from the outset was because the album was too long, which meant that it would have to have been a double album, which for us didn’t work at all because we didn’t want to cut any songs off the album. So looking ahead we will certainly be doing a short run of vinyl for both album one and album two.

You were asked to perform at both T In The Park and Radio 2 Live in Hyde Park before you have even released a single. Just how did that feel?

That was amazing. We got T In The Park just as we were first starting out and it was the first festival that we had played outside of our home town. It was a totally amazing experience. Hyde Park was nerve-wracking as there were only two stages at that festival but it was such a good experience. It was so great for me to be able to go through that experience.

Just how did you manage to get involved with the soundtrack of a Brazilian soap opera?

(Hysterical laughter) that was all down to our publishers Kevin. We received an email telling us that this Brazilian soap opera wanted to use Belle in their programme which is the equivalent of EastEnders over here. Having said that I have absolutely no idea what the connection was (laughter). It could have been The Go-Betweens; I have no idea. It was amazing and because of that we now have so many Brazilian fans (laughter).

You will just have to get a song played on Neighbours.

I know, I know. That will have to be the next one (laughter).

Who has been your musical inspiration?

For all of us we grew up listening to The Beatles and Jeff Lynne. There was always lots of Irish music playing in the house; it was such a musical home and we took inspiration from everything that we listened to. Joe began writing when he was listening to Bob Dylan, Nick Drake and a lot of the singer songwriters. We all have such different musical tastes so we all bring something new to the table and something fresh every time. It’s really good that we all don’t listen to the same music; we all have quite different tastes.

This is the embarrassing part now. What was the first record that you ever bought?

(Laughter) this is really embarrassing actually Kevin. I don’t like admitting it but it was actually The Feeling (laughter). I can remember that I had been given some pocket money and I went down to Asda and bought The Feeling album and played it non-stop for a few weeks (laughter). And yes that is quite embarrassing actually (laughter).

Who did you first see playing live in concert?

That’s a tough one. That would have to be my older brother who isn’t in the band. He was at the time a singer songwriter, but not anymore. He played at a festival together with David Gray so I guess that I would have to say that it was my brother and David Gray (laughter). It was amazing and it was the event which made me want to have a career in music despite me only being eight years old at the time.

Do any of the new artists excite you?

Yes they do and at the moment I am listening to Hozier. I just think that the way that he writes songs is great. His music is something really different at the minute. I really do find him exciting and I can’t wait for his next record.

Where would you like to see yourselves in five years’ time?

Headlining Glastonbury perhaps (laughter). This is what we want to do and we want to do it as a living for as long as possible. We want to be able to travel to as many places as we can, having as many people as possible listen to the music and enjoy it. More importantly, we want to keep on enjoying it which I am sure that we will. That’s the goal, to be able to continue to do this full-time and for us to be as successful as we can be.

On that note Helen let me thank you for taking the time to speak to me.

No worries Kevin, it’s been great and thanks for taking the time to speak to me.

And let me wish you good luck with everything that you do.

Thank you Kevin, it’s been great speaking to you. Bye for now.+