Carnivala! – Good sound but an even better image

Exeter’s most stylish band?

Style over Substance

Style over Substance

The phrase “style over substance” is almost invariably wielded as a criticism. You think of an entity like Jedward, and shudder at the very fact that two utterly talent-less so called “singers” can enjoy a career on the strength of dressing up, and jumping about, with a host of props, and backing dancers.

Tankus The Henge band photoYet it is also possible to have a band that are musically pretty damned excellent, and at the same time focus a tremendous amount of attention to their image. Mick Jagger, for example, was a pretty good singer but an even better showman. Almost the whole of Glam Rock is style over substance (except Bowie). Tankus The Henge are one of my favourite bands musically, yet despite their excellent songs they still dress crazily, dance about, have a smoking piano, and use pyrotechnics whenever the H&S rules allow.


It is good for bands to have a strong image.
Carnivala! certainly have that.

So, where am I going with this line of reasoning? (Remember I won’t write about a band if I don’t like them) Well, Carnivala! have got style in spades. They are dripping with the stuff, from their name, which includes the exclamation mark! to their dress sense, which is kind of “Alice In Wonderland meets Bugsy Malone” to their fabulous biog on their Facebook page. I’m just going to copy and paste the brief version of it here because it is literary genius!

Carnivala! were brought together as a backing group for singer-songwriter Maz Totterdell after she finished her debut album ‘Sweep’ and discovered that she could not perform it live on her own without strapping cymbals to her knees, dancing on bass pedals and trying to play violins and trumpets with her ears. Through a combination of begging for percussionists on the streets, shouting at pigeons, kidnapping, and contacting ancient native American spirit guides she managed to assemble a band. After a year or so it became apparent that the band were more deserving of their own name and, tired of spelling Totterdell out after every song to help people’s Google searching, Maz relented, and whilst wielding the “Sword of Omens” and riding on the back of a semi-conscious unicorn she cried “I name this group of ill-suited fools Carnivala! And I’m keeping the exclamation mark”.

Carnivala2There is a load more of this sort of thing and it is just brilliant. It reads like a Monty Python spoof of the Seven Samurai, but written under the influence of magic mushrooms.
But here’s the rub; the brilliant look, the hilarious write up, the genre description “Electro-gypsy Dixieland swing“; it all leads me to expect music that is AT LEAST as good as Tankus The Henge. As a result the music which is pretty good ends up being a bit of a disappointment.

It really shouldn’t. Maz has a vocal style that has a bit of similarity to Lilly Allen, Maggie Reilly, or perhaps to a lesser extent Joni Mitchel. Accompanied by the wonderful musicians that she has gathered around her they create a great fun soundscape; gypsy folk with English urban leanings, and a hint of ska.

The band consists of :

  • Maz Totterdell – Vocals, Guitar
  • Joe Mansfield – Violin
  • Dave Holwill – Bass
  • Kirstie Floyd-Walker – Trumpet
  • Louie Rew-Shaw – Drums

There are only three tracks available on Soundcloud and it is quite possible, even probable, that the best is yet to come. There is enough quality in these three to leave me wanting to hear more, and as far as image is concerned I would absolutely NOT suggest that the band rein that exuberance in at all. Merely that they should endeavour to match their walk to their talk as much as possible.

I think this is a band to watch for sure.

Youtube channel

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