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Payin' Dues: The Excellos

The Excellos standing in front of a wooden house and looking at the camera.
The Excellos: rise and shine.

Since their 2009 self-titled debut, The Excellos’ singer, blues harpist and guitarist Craig Shaw has been touring Spain as a soloist with his back-up band, The Backbones, and moonlighting on guitar with The Phony King Of England. But this year sees the return of a reconfigured Excellos, with Shaw now joined by Garry Tyrrell-Lynch on drums and double bass and Jake Allen on double bass and guitar for their follow-up album, Rise Up.

Rise Up is a pretty full-on album.

We wanted to make a danceable upbeat album, no slow blues and boring 11-minute guitar solos. We wanted a bigger sounding album, a vintage sound with a more contemporary mix and mastering on it.

It was recorded at Denmark Studios in Maidenhead.

The sessions were quite laid-back as opposed to the energy of our live shows. Live shows have a lot of nervous energy but we do our best to bring that into the recording studio, winding each other up in a good way to create a bit of buzz… elephants and dancing girls can also help.

Why cover Mellow Down Easy and I Just Want To Make Love To You?

They are both live favourites of ours and our audience and Jake suggested we try recording them. We always try and twist and turn the covers we do to suit our sound and way of playing, like the Bo Diddley beat to I Just Want To Make Love To You.

You’re named after the great US label of course – how did you first discover Excello and how has it influenced the sound of the band?

I was aware of the Excello label way before I even decided to play music, through my brother Kirk, friends and DJs. I love the label’s raw and honest sound.

Why the guitar and blues harp?

I was watching Rob Glazebrookes’ top rock’n’roll band The Playboys at the Town & Country club in London in the late 80s or early 90s. I thought, that’s what I want to do. There was a real buzz and electricity crackling in the air that night. The blues harp I dabbled with before the guitar but the guitar got me first. I started to play blues harp a bit more seriously just before The Excellos formed. It started to feature more as I got more confident in playing it.

Who or what are your chief influences?

The human journey called life seems to be a chief influence. I’ve always loved the Chess label, Little Walter, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and Muddy Waters, the Sun label too.

Rise Up is out now on Stag-o-lee.