Based in Oxford, A Reluctant Arrow are one of the recent signings by new label All Will Be Well. The band released their second EP, which is titled 'Halloween' in late October and which has had tracks recently featured on Radio Oxford.

Their mix of pulsating percussion and a tilt towards blues/rock is finding favour with a loyal fan base. Their next gig is on December 3rd on an All Will Be Well Records showcase at the Bullingdon Arms in Oxford. In the meantime I spoke to vocalist and guitarist Claire LeMaster.

PB: For those readers who may not be aware of A Reluctant Arrow, can you tell us about your music and line up?

CL: We're kind of figuring it out as we go along. We started out just as a louder version of Claire's music, but we've found own style and sound recently that's really starting to jam. There are elements of punk, blues, funk and new wave all thrown in there because we all come from such vastly different backgrounds as musicians, and as we're all solo artists individually as well. The band is made up of: Oli Whitworth (drums and recording engineer), myself (vocals, songwriting, acoustic guitar), Shan Sriharan (bass guitar, backing vocals) and Wilber Sears (electric guitar).

Oli runs his own recording studio and not only plays the drums in the band but is a talented guitarist as well, and Shan, who was part of a post-punk band a while ago, writes his own geek-core music as 'Moogieman'. Wilber and I both have music degrees, but despite classical training both gravitate more towards heavy blues. When you put us all together, it's another thing entirely. We end up being a lot heavier than people might expect. Together we are A Reluctant Arrow.

PB: You released your debut EP 'Vagabond' in August. What type of feedback have you had on the four tracks which make up the EP?

CL: We've had such amazing responses. People who have only heard our solo stuff all of a sudden are raving about the new sound. We got a review in 'Nightshift' that almost bordered on complimentary, we've been on the radio, and since the EP came out the All Will Be Well has really pushed to try and get us heard and appreciated. We're still starting out, but every time we play we get some new fans.

PB: A Reluctant Arrow are noted as being an Oxford band. Do you all originate from the area?

CL: Not really. We just all live here now. I am a dual national who was raised in Nepal, then moved to America until I graduated from University. I have only been only been in the UK four years. Shan's been in Oxford longer than most of us, but originally grew up in Singapore. Only Oli and Wilber come from the area. (But it's a little known fact that Wilber is actually secretly an LA session musician. He flies over to the US on weekends to do backing tracks for Sting. Or so he claims.)

PB: Which bands/artists provide inspiration for your music?

CL: We all come from different places as a band, so it creates a really interesting combination. We're starting to create a rocky, more bass driven sound, which is leaning towards the 70s/80s new wave/power pop of the Cars, the Pretenders and Big Star.

PB: I read somewhere that you are the band's lyricist. Have you always had a need to get thoughts down from head to paper?

CL: Words have always come easy to me. It's finding the right words that's the trick. It's not necessarily about writing one good song, but just about writing as much as possible and then editing to find what you want to say. I get ideas pretty much every week, at work, cycling home, then the few ideas that won't let go manifest almost supernaturally, fully formed.

We try and get a good balance of groove, message and humor, which is probably best reflected in our latest EP, 'Halloween'. We just piled in a room and recorded the whole thing live, in one afternoon, on a vintage tape recorder, and it's possibly our best CD yet.

On to the next one. Now we've just got to write some more songs.

PB: A Reluctant Arrow recently signed with All That Will Be Well Records. What's the story?

CL: Ian posted up on a group I started called the Oxford Musicians Network, which is a forum for local musicians to share ideas and opportunities. He was just starting the label, so we were really lucky to have gotten in on the ground floor. It's like being part of this big family who all want the best for you, and Ian is a major part of that. He really listens and cares about the artists and it's nice that our input can help to shape what the label will eventually become.

PB: You will be part of the showcase gig in December, launching All Will Be Well artists. Are you excited to be part of the line-up?

CL: Absolutely. A lot of the label gigs so far have been really low key, kind of folky numbers, which works fine for solo stuff, but we have quite an explosive, dance-y sound comparatively and it will be great to have a chance to jam out with some of the other louder bands on the label.

PB) What are your plans going forward in terms of gigs, tours, festivals, more releases?

CL: Festivals would be a really good thing to get into. That's a goal for next year. We're writing all the time, gigging about once a month, mostly to pretty packed rooms these days. We've started running our own gigs without promoters and it's been really rewarding to see how we can get people all excited to come see us. We just did a themed Halloween gig (complete with crazy costumes and epic decorations). It was a ton of work, but super fun and so rewarding to be in the driver's seat for once.

PB: Thank you.

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