A relatively new creative collaboration, between singer/songwriter David McAlmont and musician Guy Davies, is taking on the north in their final week of touring England. After working with various composers and musicians including David Arnold, Bernard Butler and Michael Nyman, David McAlmont finally decided it was time to collaborate with his old friend and form a new band: Fingersnap. Their rock and soul inspired music is to arrive in York this week, playing at The Duchess on Saturday 10th March.
Starting off as a singer in the 90’s band Thieves, David McAlmont has moved over quite a wide spectrum of different genres where his voice never ceases to triumph new audiences. After the first Thieves album ended up as a McAlmont album, David has been waiting to use a band name instead of his own. “Of all the things, I never wanted to be McAlmont. I don’t think McAlmont is a good name. I don’t think it’s a good name for a singer and that was why I was in a band called Thieves. Fingersnap just got rid of that McAlmont thing, actually taking my name back and being a band again.”
Working with Guy Davies again last year, after having been introduced to each other already in 1997, David says “I really loved what we were writing but I just didn’t want to call it McAlmont because I didn’t think it was true. So we wanted to come up with our own name. We went on Myspace to make sure the names weren’t taken. But they all were, until we came up with Fingersnap which wasn’t so we quickly grabbed it. The two years we’d been working together, we really had been attracting a lot of our own fans and now we’re called Fingersnap, people can like whoever they like.”
Having a string of collaborations behind David, Fingersnap poses a new sense of union between him and Guy. Earlier collabs were with big names, already with musical identities. “I think what made them different was the relation and the commitment. Armstrong, Michael Nyman, Bernard Butler all pursued musical equities with their own musical identities who were just passing, like, ‘what shall I do next? Ah, I’ll work with David McAlmont, for the record, then I’ll want to do something else.’” Having always been more or less dependent on musicians on his previous albums, this collaboration will turn out to be different: “When you collaborate with someone, they are very likely to bring a strong identity to the music and they have something very distinct about what they do.”
The case is similar when it comes to doing covers; the writing of the song is already done, so it is up to the singer to put his own stamp on it. “It’s interesting, the cover usually goes better because you already know them. By liking them you learn them.” One song that particularly fell to David’s liking was Amy Winehouse’s Tears Dry on Their Own. “I love that song, and before Amy passed I wrote an essay about it, that’s how strongly I felt about it. I argued that it was the greatest song, lyrically, of the 21st century.” It’s quite an opinionated argument to make this early on in the century, however David adds: “I didn’t expect to be agreed with but I just wanted to write an essay on it. And when she passed away I thought it was a really great opportunity to sing it in her honour and celebrate the great talent that she was.”
Another moment of inspiration in David’s career was the painting The Raft of the Medusa by French painter Géricault which he encountered as he collaborated with the acclaimed classical composer Michael Nyman. “When I started working with Michael I was reading this book about this painter and I was fascinated by that so I thought: ‘Ah, the thing to do with Michael is to use his songs as canvasses and paint 21st century images on them.’” Inspiration does seem to rather come to him than the other way around as he, in the middle of our interview, suddenly refers to the sunset he can see from his window and wants to take a picture of it. Then again, he points out the essence of inspiration by referring to Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. “When Julie Andrews sings Do-Re-Mi, she says something very important. One of the children says ‘but it doesn’t mean anything’, so she adds words for every note so when you know the notes you can sing almost anything. So I just think of a story I want to tell and I add the story to the notes that are available. It’s not always that easy but perhaps that’s what it is in a nutshell.”
“Music has always been in the air. Man has always wanted to harness it in whatever way he could. I think that if you give a man some influence and if he combines that with rhythm he’ll make some wisdom out of it. I think for years it was taken away from people and made into something quite mysterious and elusive. And it’ll probably go through the same change again.” As technology rapidly advanced in the 80’s, music was of course influenced by that rapid change. However, David thinks that “technology today, has returned music to the people. I think it first was for people to express themselves, then they discovered that they could make money with it. The only place to experience anything really fresh is live now.”
Music will continue to evolve and take on different forms as time goes on, and so will probably David McAlmont too, as he observes the many sunsets that lie ahead. When I ask him about the future though, he says he would like to study history of art and film studies. “I’m going back to university this year. So I think that will be very interesting; to be a singer/songwriter with an education.”
Fingersnap play The Duchess on Saturday 10th March. Tickets are £15 online, £17 on the door (£6 for students).