The foundation for what would later become the Poems was laid in late 2005. Robert Hodgens had performed with a few short-lived garage bands and had worked as a songwriter for Pickwick Records, a job Hodgens described as "a poor man's Carole King". Hodgens met Robert Paterson, a Scotsman who had moved to the United States to study classical music. Paterson had worked with Jimmy Cage and Monty Young, but was also interested in rock music. (Young's use of extended drones would be a profound influence on the early Poem's sound). The pair rehearsed and performed together, and their partnership and shared interests steered the early direction of what would become the Poems.
Hodgens's first group with Paterson was the short-lived Oxfam Warriors, assembled to support a Hodgens-penned single, "Oh Really". Hodgens and Paterson recruited Adrian Barry, a friend from Hodgens's student days at Glasgow University, to play bass guitar, and Kerry Polwart, a feisty,pretty ballerina joined on vocals. The group was originally called Cuckoo, then The Tall Trees.
The Poems was a name used briefly by a loose collective of proto-musicians,including a young Alan Horne(postcard founder) amongst others in the early 80's. Barry has reported the group liked the name, considering it evocative of "underground poetry," and fitting, due to the fact Hodgens and Paterson had already having written "Ballad of the Bitter End", inspired by Emily Dickinson's book of the same name.
The newly named The Poems rehearsed and performed in Glasgow. Their music was generally much more relaxed than it would later become: Paterson described this era as reminiscent of beatnik poetry, with Polwart playing gentle "pitter and patter rhythms behind the drone".
When the group accepted an offer of £75 for their first paying performance at a high school, Polwart briefly left the group, protesting what she considered commercialisation. "Kerry was in it for art", Barry reported.
Polwart's abbreviated vocal style was rather unusual: She generally sang in a whisper,her face turned down and hidden by a veil of curls,while her arms flailed like drumsticks, smashing into imaginary cymbals. Her driving rhythms (at once simple yet exotic) became an essential part of the group's music. The group earned a regular paying gig at a club, and gained an early reputation as a promising ensemble.
While the Glasgow's indie scene was undergoing a gentle Summer of Love, psychedelia and flower power, the typically contrary Poems concerned themselves with darker subject matter: transvestites, heroin addiction, and sadomasochism. Also setting them apart from their contemporaries was their use of silence and amplifier noise in a musical context, exemplified by the seven minute track "I Just Want Out Of Here" from their new album ˜Young America".
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