Folk rock fundraising duo The Rag Tag Misfits discuss living ‘on the road’ ahead of Wisbech concert

The Rag Tag Misfits

The Rag Tag Misfits - Credit: Archant

Folk-rock duo The Rag Tag Misfits – who last year raised over £1,400 for foodbank charity the Trussell Trust by performing at every country in the UK whilst living in a van - come to Wisbech’s Octavia Café on Friday, July 1. Ben Jolley speaks to them about musical influences, life living on the road and their upcoming wedding.

Folk-rock duo The Rag Tag Misfits – who last year raised over £1,400 for foodbank charity the Trussell Trust by performing at every country in the UK whilst living in a van - come to Wisbech’s Octavia Café on Friday, July 1. Ben Jolley speaks to them about musical influences, life living on the road and their upcoming wedding.

Who are your musical influences?

Helly: “Hardworking musicians influence and inspire me the most. I grew up listening to my dad’s music, mainly from the 60s. My attention was grabbed by Eva Cassidy, Stevie Nicks, Patti Smith and Carly Simon. I love the musical styles of Nile Rogers and Bruce Springsteen. But then on the song writing side of things; I’m influenced by Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison, Neil Young and Mark Chadwick as their lyrics are quite ambiguous and make you think. Also, The Levellers are a band I could listen to all day long. Musically, I love roots music with meaning behind it, its difficult to pin it down to one sound and I think this is evident with our album Colours, as we have folk, pop and reggae songs on there.”

Andy: “The artists I am most influenced by are: Dire Straits, Mark Knopfler and Bob Dylan. I like to listen to everything from roots music to present.”

How did you get into music?

Helly: “My big brother and my dad got me into music originally. I would always sing along and try to find harmonies with popular songs. My grandparents had a Hammond organ and then my parents bought me a keyboard and a microphone and I would sit on it for hours experimenting with songs. I wrote my first song when I was 10 , it was very cheesy but a good effort.”

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Andy: “I became interested in piano at an early age and my parents bought an old piano, it was called Joanna and I had piano lessons in my local village. During my teens, I had picked up guitar and then started to attend open mic nights with Helly.”

How did the band form?

Helly: “I have known Andy for many years and I have played in several bands. Being in previous bands has taught me a lot about listening to the different instruments, but as a two-piece we can practice and perform much more regularly and can read each other very well when performing. Musically, Andy and myself just hit it off. There has to be a certain amount of chemistry; maybe that’s why Andy proposed to me last year, our setup just seems to work.”

Andy: “We’ve been together a while now, both playing in different bands. This current setup has worked the best for us as we both know where we are at.”

How would you describe your sound?

Helly: “This is a tough one since our influences are so varied. I would describe our sound as foot-stomping music with meaningful lyrics. Since we have a mixture of Cajon, Acoustic Guitar, Harmonica and Vocal Harmonies, I suppose the sound is acoustic, yet we try to achieve the sound of a full band using the instruments we have.”

Andy: “Hopefully good! We try to achieve a balanced sound with a clear guitar tone and vocal delivery. I suppose its acoustic, stompy frock music.”

What made you get into charity work?

Helly: “In my opinion, if you are blessed with a talent you should try to use it wherever possible to help others, regardless of what your talent is. When I was younger, my mum would take me along to a club she volunteered at for children and adults with learning disabilities. Her aim was to help enrich lives and provide respite care. We rely solely on our takings from music to support ourselves so I wouldn’t say we were rich. But we are rich in life and I count my blessings every day. The true heroes in my eyes are the volunteers throughout the world who work tirelessly to help others and make a difference. As Mother Theresa said, ‘if you cant feed 100 people, then feed just one’.

Andy: “Seeing the good work The Trussell Trust were doing, we set about organising a fundraiser – the ‘Sing for Your Supper’ tour - to busk in every county in England whilst living in a van. We raised £1500 for the charity.”

How is life living on the road?

Helly: “The best, I love travelling and making new friends along the way. Organisation is key, a lost spoon or fork can cause chaos. It can be quite tough and at times and also very challenging. Showering, cooking your tea and finding water are all little essentials that are taken for granted every day. Our van is a small semi-converted old T4, we have all our basic requirements so we can’t complain.”

Andy: “Fun! It’s exciting and challenging at the same time. When you have finite space living in the back of a van, staying at service stations you have to be organised and manage your time and space well. When everything is in order and things run well, it becomes easier. We are lucky to have MOTO services sponsoring us. Travelling up and down the country and seeing the beautiful countryside is a true blessing.”

What are your plans for the rest of the year?

Helly: “Work wise, we are going to keep performing and busking where we can, following up any opportunities that may come our way; we have gigs and little festivals booked in so that helps. We are awaiting the release of our first music video, filmed by a talented group of students from Sheffield University which should be released in late July. We are also in the process of writing a book and making a DVD about our adventures last year; so many crazy things happened. We are also writing another album. We have a particular song about homelessness called Life in a Bag and we would love to make a music video for it to raise awareness for homelessness. For now we will work hard, follow opportunities, keep writing, play music and help others along the way. You never know what tomorrow may bring or what opportunity may knock on your door.”

Andy: “Planning forward in this line of work can be challenging, we go from gig to gig, or town to town were ever we can get work. It’s hard to plan when your life is in constant motion. There’s also our wedding to plan and time goes nowhere.”

The Rag Tag Misfit play Octavia’s Café on Friday, July 1. Doors open at 7pm. For more information about the band visit