The Nightingales: Forty Years on The Fringes

words Daniel Lamb & images Peter Tainsh

“You’ve just got to keep going. The thing is, I genuinely don’t give a fuck. When you start a band, you do it because you want to express something, it’s not about the money or anything like that.” Robert Lloyd, lead singer of The Nightingales, tells me this, minutes after a raucous performance at The Trades Club in Hebden Bridge. 

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Lloyd has been expressing something for more than 40 years. Formed in 1979 in Birmingham, The Nightingales have been existing on the very fringes of the music scene, never quite breaking through to the mainstream but never quite losing their momentum either. Somehow, over the course of those 40 years, whether in solo endeavours or as the frontman of The Nightingales, Robert Lloyd has found a way to push on and continue, accumulating a dedicated cult following in the process. 

Taking to the stage at The Trades Club, The Nightingales showed why they have managed to garner and maintain such an ardent following for so long. Lloyd’s stage presence is undeniable. He commands the stage and takes the time to truly bask in the moment. The band thunder forwards towards climax after climax in a set which allows for no lulls. There is a potent energy about the band, a real connection between them and those who have made the pilgrimage to see them perform live. 

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“It’s lovely to be appreciated and all that, but at the same time, I don’t care. I’m not interested in just being middle of the road.” 

Lloyd sees nothing particularly remarkable about the course his life has taken. He’d rather just get on with it and not talk about it. That makes it all the more remarkable then that he was recently the subject of the critically acclaimed film/career retrospective King Rocker, made by the comedian Stewart Lee (Fist of Fun, Stewart Lee’s Comedy Vehicle) and director Michael Cummings (Brass Eye). 

“I was initially very uncomfortable about doing it. But I spoke to my record label and they said ‘well, Stewart Lee and Michael Cummings have never made anything shit, so just trust them. So that’s what I did. I thought, ‘alright, I’ll just go along with it.’ I couldn’t have made the film without anyone other than Stewart. He’s a great guy. It started out and I thought it was supposed to be a film about The Nightingales, but it ended up being a film about me.” 

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In an effort to keep the same thing from happening here, let’s get back to The Nightingales. Aside from Lloyd, the band also consists of James Smith on guitar, who Lloyd spotted playing with Damo Suzuki. Andreas Schmid from Faust handles the bass duties. For many though, a stand out member of the band has to be Fliss Kitson, a truly innovative and original drummer who has lifted the band’s performances to new heights since joining in 2012. Lloyd agrees, but stresses that it really is a team effort: “There’s four people in the band, and no-one wants to be the one that lets the side down.” 

Given how well The Nightingales continue to storm the stage, it’s hard to argue with this mentality.  

For more information on the King Rocker film see below:

https://thenightingales.org.uk/

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