Hot Brew interview
Musically-bound lovers Oona and Crispin Wheatflake make up HOT BREW, a folk band who’ll take you back to the Garden of Eden. Or an allotment, at the very least. Or if all else fails, a hanging basket filled with herbal tea. We visited their ‘vegetable room’…
If you were being terribly mundane, you could argue that HOT BREW is actually the comedy musical brainchild of Antony Elvin and Alice Lowe (she of ‘Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace’ fame. It would make us feel genuinely a little sad if you told us you haven’t watched it. We have it on good authority (ours) that there are few comedy series funnier than Garth Marenghi). However, we prefer to take HOT BREW at face value. Therefore… HOT BREW is a folk band comprised of warring lovers Crispin and Oona Wheatflake, who plan to take over the world one earthenware bowl of camomile tea at a time. They’re Edinburgh Fringe darlings and Jackal Films made a film about them called Roots. Hey-ho! Enough of us. Crispin and Oona, what say you?
Your spiritual beliefs – do they infuse your music like a herbal tea?
Crispin: I have just started to grow a soul. Oona told me last week. She can actually see souls. Mine is like a cuttlefish shell – white and dry and brittle and a bit rough. Completely flavourless, but budgies like them.
Oona: I am light, I am atmosphere. I fill you. I am the wine in your goblet and the light in your breakfast egg. Eat me! I am an egg – Eat Me! I am salt – Eat me! I am a 7-grain toast soldier with organic butter, so dunk me in the hot yellow of your day! AND EAT ME! I am everything!
Crispin: (lovingly) You are everything to me, Oona.
Oona: Yak! In response to your question though, yes, our spirituality is somewhat tea-based. But decaffeinated, obviously.
Hot Brew has been around so very, very long. How do you remain cherished friends? Or, to rephrase that, are you still cherished friends?
Crispin: Our love goes back decades.
Oona: Millennia. Many musical millennia. In 12th century China, Crispin was my grandmother. He was rubbish at it. You really need to be wise to be a grandmother and he was just bumbling around going ‘where are my spectacles?’ It was very frustrating.
Crispin: Oona was re-incarnated as this Oona from a previously dead head. The Husk slips off and the new grain is revealed. Out of the husky awning comes a fresh dawning. She had a nervous breakdown and…
Oona: (interrupting) Epiphany. it was an epiphany!
Do you have favourite festival attire?
Crispin: I wear wooden trousers. Well I did, but found sitting on my stool rather troubling! There was a lot of chafing and a patch of dry rot.
Oona: I have a column dress which actually channels energy out of the ionosphere and into my yoni which I then direct at male audience-members at our ‘Brews’. It’s a very powerful garment. It covers me head-to-toe, as my flesh is even more powerful. I am somewhat solar. I think of it as protection for the audience, a bit like Sun Factor 40.
What do you mean by ‘brew’?
Oona: Well, I suppose you might call them ‘gigs’ – but then you have a mundane mind!
What does the spirit of folk mean to you?
Crispin: Well, if you can imagine a very small wooden button it’s an old, old wooden button. It’s on the Arran-knit cardigan of a lonely shepherd and it’s tapping in time against his hurdy-gurdy and just when the last sheep’s returned it…
Oona: (interrupting) We truly believe that we all need to get back to the garden. But we have lost our way, or the map or something. People need to stop looking at their iPhones, and instead look at their eye-phones. Everyone’s got a third eye. It’s just a question of locating it. That’s the spirit of folk for me. Going back to nature. Taking a piss in the wild. Singing a song under the moonlight whilst giving birth. That kind of activity. Or just making an organic pizza will do. Small steps.
Not to set the cat among the pigeons, but which of you is MORE folk? Oona or Crispin?
Crispin: Hot Brew would like it on record that we do not endorse the use of pigeons in probing interviews. Please don’t do an experiment with a cat in the vegetable room!
Oona: It’s interesting that you should use a cat and pigeons as an analogy. One could say perhaps that you, as the journalists, are the crafty cat. And we, the guile-less pigeons. Who are you working for?
( NOTE FROM THE EDS: We dearly love Oona and Crispin. So we didn’t have the heart to tell them we were our own cruel despots, working tirelessly to build Mookychick Mansion with thirty crying brainwashed monkeys pulling levers and building unlikely schematics in the basement. We thought it might lead to our being made to desist our foul experiments. Honestly, the hoops we have to jump through in today’s nanny state. Monkeys won’t brainwash themselves, you know…)
What musical instrument most speaks to you of ripening apples and wafting wheat fields?
Crispin: Ripening apples and wafting wheat fields are already musical instruments. Can’t you hear them play?
Oona: I like the Hang drum myself. They look like bin lids. They sound a bit like bin lids come to think of it. But they are very soothing. With the added extra that you can use them as lids for your bins.
Which lyrics / song are you most proud of?
Oona: ‘Plough Up The Road’ was the first protest song we ever wrote. It has a hypnotic stirring effect. When we played it at the Woman’s Centre in Lewes, three pensioners dug up the main road with garden hoes and were arrested by the police. We were very proud of that moment. And we never got caught, tee hee! Imagine the effect if we broadcast the song on national television! Seeds of change. That’s what it’s about for us.
Crispin: I’m most proud of the lyrics to ‘My winkie is wither’d’.
Best gig experience?
Oona: What did I say to you earlier? We don’t do ‘gigs’. We perform ‘brews’. When will you give up trying to please the carnivore misogynists with your gigs and your Beef Wellingtons?
Crispin: We did a brew at Port Eliot Festival last summer and we brought the house down. As you know it’s a stately home and the family were quite upset. They had to huddle inside the huge church in their back garden throughout the autumn while their roof was fixed. It was that column dress. Oona had washed it in Daz instead of Ecover and the magnetic pole shifted by two inches. I got scorched and three mouli were harmed. Still, we’ve been invited back this year!
Worst gig experience? Sorry, ‘Brew’ experience.
Oona: Maybe we’ve already answered that.
Do you have a touring regime?
Oona: We travel by horse and cart. So of course, on arrival, the first thing we need to do is get Artemis settled with hay and water. Then we get Crispin settled with hay and water, and some raisins for energy. We usually establish ourselves in the dressing room with a ritual. I begin my movements and Crispin joins in. I have to have a movement before I go onstage. Otherwise it’s very uncomfortable and accidents can happen.
Does your horse like oats? Do you take the manure home with you from ‘brews’? Why have you sprinkled linseed all over the floor? Will the stench of radishes disappear soon?
Oona: The stench of radish is ever present. I used to blame it on Crispin, but now I know he can’t help it.
Crispin: I drop small seeds and barley wherever I go. No one knows how or why, but like Bacchus, plants sprout at my feet…
Oona: It’s ‘cos he keeps seed packets in his trousers.
Is there anything we should have asked but were too selfish to do so?
Oona: You could have asked me how I am. And how my enlightenment process is going. I’m nearly onto stage five and… Actually, don’t bother. You wouldn’t understand anyway. Too rudimentary.
Crispin: You could perhaps ask when our next brews are?
OK, when are your next ‘brews’?
Crispin: We are playing at Port Eliot Festival in the summer, along with some other as yet unconfirmed festivals. We are playing at the Lyric Hammersmith at Alex Horne’s ‘Horne Section’ in Feb and in Bristol at The Cube in March. We have a Hot Brew facebook fan page where you can find more details.
Lastly… What are your plans for the future?
Oona: Well it’s perhaps dangerous to talk about too openly, but we happen to know that a huge shift is coming in 2012..
Crispin: And by that, we don’t mean a huge shapeless A-line dress.
Oona: We mean a big change. It’s Hot Brew’s aim to spread word of this change and its coming, to spread the seeds of change. To get everyone used to it. We’re going to do this through travel, through word, through song, at festivals, on the internet, on the radio, on television, with short films and videos, and documentary testimony, taking over the world with Brew.
You want to take over the world?
Oona: I do, yes.
Crispin: I’m not so bothered.