Purple Phatfish: The Brighton-based band performing acid jazz

Wednesday 1st February 1995

Gaining a growing reputation in club land are a band of Brighton phunksters called PURPLE PHATFISH. The group's bassist Luke Fellingham spoke to Francis Blight.

I met Purple Phatfish while they were in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne taking part in a series of events organised by two of the town's churches. Their main performance was at The Tuxedo Royale, a floating nightclub in a ship moored on the banks of the Tyne. It wasn't low tide so they were saved from performing on a sloping dance floor. The band delivered a really top-notch performance. A film crew came to check out what Christians were doing holding an event in a nightclub, so the band were actually featured on the local television news. I hasten to add that a lot of time and effort was put in by the church press officer to make sure that the media knew what was going on. A local promoter who came to the Tux was impressed and gave them a list of seven venues which would give them gigs straight off. The Tux wants them back as well.

I used to think that Christian bands didn't make it into the main music scene because of their faith. Although Phatfish haven't made it yet they have challenged this view. If the music is up to scratch people will be interested. Often with Christian bands either the talent isn't quite there, or dare I say it, they get trapped in the Christian music scene. Bands have to work hard to get anywhere, so Christian bands will have to take the same path as everyone else rather than getting a signing with a Christian label which keeps them trapped in the church ghetto.

Purple Phatfish consist of Luke Fellingham (bass), Nathan Fellingham (drums), Louise Hunt (vocals), Mike Sandeman (keyboards), Adrian Watts (percussion) and Mike Blow (guitar). The band are based in Brighton and got things together in January of last year. Luke Fellingham, the band's bassist, spoke to me. Luke's father David is the renowned worship leader and songwriter. Explains Luke: "The band started years ago as a vision of my dad's, just to see in the whole realm of the arts, bands and music breaking into the secular scene."

Luke was thinking about going to university but decided to start a band that was evangelistic instead. At the heart of Dave Fellingham's vision is his knowledge that Christian musician's have in the past spearheaded revivals by proclaiming Christ through the music of the day. Dave, who manages the band, is one of the leaders at Clarendon, the New Frontiers Church in Brighton. The band are firmly based there where they are all involved in leading worship and are regularly on the agenda at church prayer meetings. Luke sees his father's part in things as key for the band. "He's important in terms of giving it spiritual direction, keeping us in line and deciding what sort of things we are going to do."

From earlier this year the Phatfish have been performing their brand of acid jazz in various Brighton clubs. Luke says that they have always been well received (apart from an incident that we shall come to shortly), and the venues have wanted them back. They've now started a regular slot at the Concorde Club, a popular venue which is locally recognised as presenting quality bands. When they have played there the staff have commented that there is something different about the atmosphere when compared with other gigs. Interestingly, at a gig last summer a couple of people left after about 10 minutes when they realised that the band were Christians. They demanded their money back declaring that there was a 'terrible atmosphere' in the club. This response came from a situation where there wasn't any preaching going on and the Christians in the audience were definitely in the minority. When I saw them live, one of their songs brought tears to my eyes because of the spiritual truth in the lyrics, so this negative reaction from non-Christians doesn't surprise me. In fact, I'd say it shows that the Phatfish are doing the right thing.

On The subject of influences and the band's style Luke clearly knows where they fit into the jigsaw of contemporary music. The Talking Loud and Acid Jazz record labels which provide a home for bands such as Urban Species, Galliano and The Brand New Heavies have set the scene which the Phatfish will hopefully slot into quite nicely. These are definitely the groups to listen to if you want to understand where the Phatfish are coming from. A couple of the guys in the band are also into 70s progressive rock bands such as Rush and Yes, not an area of music I know much about, but if you do see if you can train spot their influence. Luke points out that the whole acid jazz scene is only just starting to break into the mainstream and that it's going to get bigger, so it's a good time for the Phatfish to be around.

Louise has a superb voice and the band are drum tight. On top of all this they have some excellent tunes. Try to catch them live and please pray that God will lift them up for his glory.
Francis Blight graduated from Newcastle University last summer and is seeking employment with a record company or radio station. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

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