Me For Queen began as a solo project for Mary Erskine (also of dance electronica group, Talk In Colour). Now joined by musical friends Will Dollard, Nick Bowling and Andy Paine on guitar, trumpet, bass and drums, Me for Queen combines years of classical training (one of us has a Classical Grammy. For real) with eclectic musical appetites to create a rich blend of folk, jazz, soul and blues.
Tom Robsinson (BBC6): "Mary Erskine could sing words from a phone directory over the cheesiest Casiotone backing in the world and still win me over in a heartbeat."
We decided to write an album about cycling because A, we love making music and B, we love cycling. Iron Horse is a celebration of cycling in the city, as well as an expression of the cyclist's experience, one which includes joy as well as vulnerability.
If you like what you hear, you can now pre-order the album via our Pledge page, where we ran a crowdfunding campaign to raise money to record the album earlier this year.. The album will be available, digitally, to pledgers from the middle of August 2014, then general release will happen in September.
Have a listen!:
• THE STORY OF IRON HORSE •
Once upon a time...
Back in the summer of 2010, I (Mary Caroline Erskine) was cycling in Richmond Park. The sun was setting, it must have been just before closing time.. it was beautifully quiet, and it felt almost as though I had the place entirely to myself. From somewhere in my head, the words 'me and my horse and the deer and the dark' starting whirring around... And pretty much from that day onwards I have wanted to write a cycling album.
I spend a lot of my time, day to day, making my way around London on a bike. I love the perspective you get from a bike, and how connected with your environment it makes you feel. Having read a number of books on the subject, I started to feel increasingly like there was a world to be explored here... from the experience of cycling itself to the various characters that make up the cycling community. Plus, from a musical perspective, I wanted to just write something collaboratively with the MFQ boys; writing round a theme in this way, where the concept is king, seemed like it would be creatively freeing. And fun! Perhaps even... Funky?
Around about June/July 2013... we realise that we could all take off the week at the end of August to write this thing. OMG. It's happening. #bicyclefunk
Band meeting. We write up a list of cycling songs we would like to try to write. About 12.
Sunday 25th August:
Nick has just finished a run of a solo comedy show at the Edinburgh fringe, conveniently, so Will travelled up in style overnight courtesy of the MegaBus, and we all had a delicious breakfast together on Broughton Street. Nick did his final show, very well and funnily, as expected, and in the afternoon we jumped on a train to settle into our new home for the next week in East Fife…
8am wake up call. Walk round garden. Breakfast.
Slow jam was a good place to start, being half written…. This, along with many others, was conceived on my bike. I liked the idea of a song being sung sort of cooingly from a cyclist to a motorist, about taking things slowly… and then just singing ‘Just be good to me.. and I’ll be good to you… Just look out for me.. ’etc over and over again. Simple.
Then…. Traffic light Crush. YES! We have a real stomping groove going but aren’t sure what to do with it, so decide come back to it later on.
Afternoon break: sea swim, shower then tea. Nick cuts himself on a tree. IT'S SO SUNNY! #fife Will is dubious, but we force him.
Evening session: The desire to do this album came from the idea for one song/lyric; Me and my horse and the deer and the dark, about whizzing round Richmond Park, basically and about the intersection between being the community element of cycling, whether it’s literally cycling in a group/team or in the sense of a wider cycling community, and the idea that cycling is very much a solitary activity; when it comes down to it, it’s just you and 2 wheels.
We talked about it and decided it would be great to try and make this track feel like cycling. We also love Stevie Wonder’s song Higher Ground, and wanted to write one in that time/style. So it all fitted in pretty nicely. Just need some words now….
Not bad for a day’s work though.
Tuesday 27th .
Up, walk, breakfast.
Will, re. deer in the dark: “we need a guitar hook”. Promptly writes one. All there but words now… but all in good time.
Next up, arrangement for another song written ahead of the week (cheating); White Bike. Took some lovely guitar sounds in 7 from Will and I wanted to write from different perspectives around a cycling accident… 1st degree: the perspective of the cycling, then 2nd, that of the family getting the call late at night. Then the public; the picture in the paper.. and how that resonates with the general public and in particular the cycling community.
Bit more work firming up Slow Jam from yesterday.
Jam out a ridiculously happy tune that sounds not unlike the Super Mario Super Mushroom Speed song. Again, will come back to this. Decide this could come in handy for a song called/about ‘every day’s a holiday’.
Afternoon sea swim. A delight.
We start work on a song called Rat Race (working title)… Come up with a really pumping, moody sounding thing. Go off in separate directions, come back and sling some words and chords together and look forward to getting some angry, rolling tom sounds from Andy tomorrow. Black clouds hanging over everyone, getting stuck in a selfish, grumpy fug is the vibe.
Will presents a beautiful guitar idea. Not sure what we’re going to use it for yet but we all know we love it.
Late night quiet time = words for deer in the dark. HURRAH.
Finish off DITD in time for Andy arriving that afternoon. Very excited to play this with drums.
Trampoline brainstorm session to flesh out a Zebra Crossing song about perspectives of pedestrian vs cyclist. Nick has a nice De la soul esque bass riff. By lunch we have a lovely little song in our hands. We can’t quite sing it yet but we will learn.
Stella the cat in session with us today as ever.
Late lunch then off to pick up Andy!
Another jam/a nice little thing we think we might turn into a song called Bike with No Name about the various different lives of one old bicycle.
Rat Race sounds Amazing with drums. Everything does really. In life generally. Even a baby crying.
Next project is Will’s beautiful guitar thing from before. We have a song on our list called “ city in my pocket” which is about the freedom and endless opportunity that a bike gives you. With a bike, a city suddenly becomes tiny and easily navigable, and all roads eventually lead to the sea. We want a small, narrow beginning which then breaks apart, splashes open… which leads to the birth of the term ‘pre-come bass drum.’
I’m too excited about this song one to go to bed so pull another night time quiet time session to find some words.
Today I made 4 of the best poached eggs I have ever seen, let alone made.
Zebra Crossing sounds ace with drums. Feel like I’m in TLC.
Most of today is spent on Bike with no name. We wanted to do a blues inspired epic tale of the 9 lives of a bike.. with a refrain. Trampoline brainstorm (just preceding Nick’s iconic crab sequence) then sketched it out and went off in pairs/alone to write a verse. There were quite a few arguments over this one, which for me is always a good sign. It’s a lovely, slightly sad song about life as a patchwork quilt and the passing of time… FINALLY we have lunch.
Another beautiful afternoon so another sea swim.
Slightly exhausted after bike with no name but we push on; got to keep to our 2 song a day goal…
We revisit Traffic Light Crush, which was turning into a Justin Timberlake-esque crooning pervy mess. Strip it back, ‘vagueification’ process takes place, and it suddenly becomes a lot more interesting. Missed opportunities and what ifs. Nonetheless, extremely difficult to avoid slipping back down into a dark, pervy pit and some pretty filthy lyric suggestions flow freely. We decide to call it a night after ‘feel me pumping up your inner tubes’.
Oh and we did a gig for my family. I start to get really excited about the order of songs on the album.
Pride comes before a fall, and today I made a big pan of watery torn up bits of egg. No photos.
Traffic light Crush gets its finishing touches.
We then revisit the crazily happy Holiday song. I demand that we rhyme away/day etc with ‘panier’. A lively debate ensues. Turns out Nick thought panier was the rack not the bag. What a twat. The song is now not just a love song to a bike, it’s also about a happy relationship and a feeling of lightness and freedom, if you want it to be. It’s quite sweet really.
But Andy’s heading off this evening, so we need to get all 10 (yes TEN) songs recorded. Final bonus song on the album is going to be an instrumental, “wheelie” featuring an obscenely gratuitous solo from each member of the band.
We go for a final, triumphant bounce on the trampoline.
I am so proud of what we’ve managed to do in this week. Having joked about this project for about 3 years, then started thinking seriously about it over the past 9 months, I can’t quite describe how good it feels to have actually knuckled down and written it. I don’t know what I thought we’d come up with, but it’s been brilliant and I’m SO excited to get out there and play it…
Heading back to London.... all we need to do now is record, produce, mix, master and promote and sell it!
Thursday 31st July: It's Official! We have BRASSROOTS on board to lend some beautiful brass GOLD onto our track, Slow Jam.... Here they are in session today.
Tuesday 29th July: Today we sat down for our final (pretty much) listen-through to the album. There are still a few tweaks, plus we're waiting on some magic from Brassroots later this week.. but tracklist is done, and it was just pretty amazing to listen through to everything in one go... which we hope is how people will listen to the album too! Feeling very pleased and proud really.. However it goes from here, I'm just happy that we have got this far!
Wednesday 16th July: Great night tonight at the London Cycling Awards! Was a great evening celebrating a load of amazing cycling products/brands/projects going on in the Big Smoke...
Friday 4th July: THE GRAND DEPART!!!
We had an amazing weekend up in Yorkshire for the Grand Depart(y). Here we are setting up for a charity gig our new friend Mike Hughes, who was part of the Power Peloton.. raising over £20,000 for Marie Curie cancer care!
Saturday 28th June: Lovely afternoon at Spoke festival at the Bussey Buildings.. Their live music permission fell through so we ended up doing an interview in the Shed for their podcast, plus we were able to play a couple of songs from the album...
Sunday 1st June: PHEWSY, LOTS going on just now... Great show at 52 Club, Gower Street and all for a fantastic cause - the Leukaemia and Lymphoma Unit. They are holding a charity bike ride round Richmond Park - so we were happy to help out with a rousing rendition of Deer and the Dark!
Thursday 15th May: Lovely gig at Paper Dress Vintage tonight - got some lovely photos back from our friend, Mike Watts...
Monday 31st April: Four days into our 5 day studio blitz... Shaping up beautifully so far - still a ridiculous amount to record, let alone mix... We all still can't quite believe we've got this far! Now for a check up on how the artwork is coming along.....
What even is the date today... Ah yes Wednesday 16th April.
So we start recording tomorrow. O'MY'CRIKEY. Well can I just say now... I hope we do well. I hope it can sound as good as it does in our heads. We only have a handful of days, so we're just going to do the best we can. Ok?
THANK YOU to anyone that's reading this that has helped us out this far. It's quite overwhelming how much support we've had from friends, family and just lovely strangers all over the place who've chipped in... From a strange idea lurking in the back of the mind, to getting people on board to write the songs with me, to actually working out how we could record it... etc etc somehow we're here all of a sudden. Well it's not that sudden actually. But anyway, enough for now. COME ON ALBUM LET'S DO THIS.
8th April: What a week... 3 gigs, a rehearsal, confirming recording dates, travel arrangements for Bristol... my brain is one hell of a fizzy place to be right now. But we're at 81%. CAN WE DO IT?!
29th March: This weekend we were invited to play at bike culture festival, SpinLdn. We were playing on the Sunday for a short set - finally met the amazing Handlebards (who cycle around the UK stopping off to do shakespeare plays)... and many more. Generally, we loitered around trying to talk to as many people as possible and tell them about our project... Then finished the weekend with another rehearsal - easy to forget that after this campaign we do actually have an album to record....
24th March: Woaaah some amazing support from friends, family, fans, and just other wonderful humans all over the world. Shout outs to Germany, Brazil, Myanmar... Today I sat down to write some love letters. Also begging letters. Moving from our 'inner circles' outwards to just people I *think* like cycling and seem to be famous/rich/good lads? They can only say no...
13th March: OUR CAMPAIGN HAS LAUNCHED!!! WAAAAAGH.
9th March: Ridiculously long day today. Fates conspired and we ended up doing a photo shoot, rehearsal AND a gig all in one day.... ? I think? It's all a bit of a blur. Got some nice photos though, in some beautiful spring sunshine....
Thanks to the lovely Fred Bellec for snapping.
2nd March: Today we were back at Acklam Village Market Bar for a gig - love this place! Mainly because it's REALLY colourful. And there's plenty of food around.
Thanks to Andy Sheard for the photo!
27th February: Another MFQ summit... AGGH there is so much to do and think about it sort of makes my brain throb. But also it's quite exciting, and every time we rehearse and gig these songs, the idea of recording them properly is a very exciting one. We have pretty much locked down the dates we'll be recording the album, which will be mid April - we wanted to be able to get a block of days together to do it, and it's looking like this is going to be possible, so YIPPEEs all round.
17th February: YEAHH just got off the phone to an amazing bike art illustrator, David Sparshott (good old Twitter) who is going to get on board with our campaign! He'll be offering some beautiful prints of his illustration "Processions" as well as a customised option, where you can be IN THE PRINT with your bike! Eggggscellent.
6th February: Today I stepped into the (larger than I'd imagined) world of cycle-powered sound systems. Came across a website called electricpedals. Got on the phone and got chatting to Colin Tonks, the guy behind it, and talked about the possibilities of powering a gig with his sound system! Colin is one of those amazing people who, whatever idea you come out with, will not flinch and will immediately get thinking about how you can make it happen. He's a maker and a doer and I'm really excited to have come across him and also that he wants to get on board with us! I'm now thinking how cool it could be to offer a place on one of the bikes powering the gig as a pledge reward...
30th January: Went along to bike-culture-vulture blog Cycle Love 's 1st birthday bash tonight at Look Mum No Hands new Mare Street branch. Won a PRIZE at the raffle! Hopefully we will be doing a gig here in April as part of our pledgemusic campaign, so I was having a quick recky in between drinking and chatting to some friendly people...
20th January: We have some artwork! The brilliant Caspar Williamson of weareflyingmachines.com has created a beautiful Vitruvian-horse-bike concoction, and it's Superb. Thanks Caspar!
17th December: EXCITING TIMES. Yesterday, we finally got into the studio to record some demos for our Iron Horse cycling album project. In a race against time, we managed to record and mix (roughly) 3 tracks: Deer in the Dark, White Bike and Zebra. I'm so chuffed we managed to get these recorded before Christmas, so that finally we have something to play all the people we've been contacting about this project!
5th November: Fresh off the boat (plane), Will and I headed up to Scotland for 2 lovely gigs supporting James Yorkston, at Cambo Garage and then at the Queen's Hall in Edinburgh. A lovely man called David Heavenor saw us play in Edinburgh earlier in the year and invited us back to play at QH! A real treat - it's such a beautiful venue and we were just honoured to be there.
3rd November: Me for Queen International Tour. Yeah. Performed at Cafe Retro in Freetown, Sierra Leone! Thanks to Gywn Allen and Tom Cairns for helping out on guitar/perc/vox... An absolutely brilliant trip and I can't wait to come back!
October 5th: Tonight we did our First Ever Cycling Songs gig! Played a half hour set at the lovely Slaughtered Lamb. Went down a treat and was just great to get these songs out in the open. People seemed to really respond to the fact it's a themed album, cyclists and non-cyclists alike...
31st August: Back from Scotland! Cycling album written! See "Iron Horse Cycle Album" section...
We did a gig in a church, which was a treat - check out recording on our soundcloud... (www.soundcloud.com/meforqueen).
Most excitingly, heading off up to Scotland to write a CYCLING ALBUM at the end of this month. I'll explain more in time.
Monday 27th May:
It's odd that I only ever seem to update this on Mondays. This isn't deliberate.
But tonight I have some exciting news: I am currently sitting with Will, surrounded by candles, holding hands, waiting for "Wobbly" to come on Vic Galloway's BBC Radio Scotland show! I'm strangely nervous. You can listen here.
Monday 6th May:
Well, consider our EP LAUNCHED.
We had a brilliant time at the Gallery Cafe - thanks to everyone that came down! Photos/video/general documentation to follow...
plus we've got some Great gigs coming up - head over to the gigs page to find out ....
Monday 22nd April:
This is me getting my excitement on re. forthcoming EP launch. Will and I have just filmed a little video to further display this tidal wave of excitement. It's taken such a long time to get this thing together, so it just is very exciting.
THIS is how excited we are:
If you haven't already, go and buy a ticket for next Wednesday here.
Monday 8th April:
Back in London and a'RARING to go! Great weekend at Gnomegames in Anstruther (laid on by the brilliant Fence Records). I wasn't playing - just watching. But it was brilliant. Currently listening, quietly mesmerised, to Seamus Fogarty's album.
I just love how much space there is. Go and listen to him.
Meanwhile, back to business. EP launch is all set for Wednesday 1st May; tickets are NOW ON SALE HERE.
Monday 1st April:
hello I'm back
Well the Highlands are great. I knew this already, but they looked really very beautiful in all that sunshine... This was the first 'proper tour' I've done and it was a delight. We were looked after amazingly well, and it'll be a shock coming back to London where I don't get driven around and fed fresh scallops before every gig. RUBBISH.
Here is a picture of Loch Ness, with some ducks sunbathing.
And this is the view somewhere along the road from Inverness to Ullapool.
Tuesday 12th February:
Support date on Al Lewis Scottish tour
... Will and I are heading up to Edinburgh to support Al Lewis at his gig at Sneaky Pete's on March 25th. I (MARY) will be continuing onwards with Al on cello all round the Highlands! Ya beauty.
Wednesday 4th December:
Me for Queen announce live EP for release in January 2013.
... Brought to you by the power of CEILIDH! Yes, you heard right - we are organising a fancy dress KPop ceilidh, which will take place in Bethnal Green this week, to raise money towards making our EP, 'Live at Red Gables'.
It's all VERY exciting!
Below is the press shot, shot by the quite brilliant Ashley Langley... along with some blurb about the night itself...
"Billed as the world's first 'Korean-Pop ceilidh', tickets for the event in East London sold out in days. Inspired by the phenomenal success of Psy's global smash hit, whose video showed the theatrical, plastic brilliance of K-Pop at its best, Bethnal Green Library will become the scene of a weird and wonderful K-Pop themed Scotch disco wonderland.
Both experienced reelers and novices - dressed in the vibrant colours of their favourite Kpop-stars - will take part in traditional dances to one of London's finest contemporary "disco-ceilidh" bands, Licence to Ceilidh, before boogying the night away to the best tunes the Asian region has to offer.
Brainchild of Fife-born musician Mary Erskine, 120 tickets were sold in the space of a week – selling out and leaving many disappointed. Before now, Erskine's events have raised money for local charities, but this time the proceeds will help fund the first EP of her band Me for Queen.
Erskine says "Bands are increasingly turning to 'crowd funding' websites to raise money for a record or a tour - this is a similar idea but with a twist, where everyone goes home happy, or at least sweaty. We are really proud of the EP and grateful to everyone that has helped us this far. We also can't wait to see a room full of our friends and supporters dressed up as K-pop stars dancing madly to Scottish ceilidh music.”
The event is to take place on Friday 7th of December – it is now sold out. "