After living in London for many years, I’ve become accustomed to finding somewhere to carry on with the party once my favourite haunts have called last orders and kicked me to the kerb. Whether you want breakfast at 3am or cocktails at dawn, London has it all.
But on this verdant little Isle our options are much slimmer. That’s why I’m willing to bet a kidney that, at some point, you’ve found yourself at Whispers Late Night Bar at the Best Western Palace Hotel (or the Star Wars Bar to some!)
It’s the premier late night destination, an oasis for the raging alcoholic inside you who insists on ‘just one more drink’. And if you’ve visited Whispers then I’m prepared to bet the other kidney that you’ve already seen one-half of The Free Radicles in action.
Nigel Williams is a prominent force behind Whispers’ success and indeed on the island’s live-music circuit. And it’s not just his piano covers that soundtrack your night.
His dry sense of humour and acerbic wit are sure to give you a laugh or two, that is if you’re sober enough to take in what’s happening around you.
But with Nigel currently spending his time in a remote area of Scotland (this isn’t a lie), Gef caught up with The Free Radicles’ lead guitarist, Solomon Williams, to chat about their band aesthetic and heart attacks at weddings (their music really is that powerful).
GEF: Hi, Solomon. I’ve seen Nigel play before as a solo act, but how did The Free Radicles come about?
SOLOMON: Nigel’s been gigging for at least forty years. As his son, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to play live with him when I was 15 (almost seven years ago) at a local music bar where I got up and played Sultans of Swing.
He saw potential in me and encouraged me to start gigging more often, and so we started playing every week at a small place called The Tynwald Inn.
After a year or so of that (bear in mind I was still in school) I was confident enough to start doing functions and weddings with him, and the rest is history.
GEF: Where does the name The Free Radicles come from?
SOLOMON: We’ve had several names in the past – The Free Radicles is probably two or three years old now. I think it was entirely Nigel’s idea. My mother was doing her PhD in Physics and mentioned the term – it’s something to do with particles – and he liked the sound of it because of the double meaning. We would have spelled it ‘Radicals’ but I think they’re already an American soul band so we decided not to infringe on that!
GEF: How would you describe the band’s sound?
SOLOMON: We centre mostly around rock and roll, but I’d say we have quite a dancey sound. For TT we tend to be a little heavier (at least in our song selection) to appeal to the bikers. If you’re lucky you might get to hear us do Free Bird or Stairway to Heaven.
GEF: Who would you say are your biggest influences?
SOLOMON: Nigel is most influenced by The Beatles and Elvis, as well as a lot of Motown and rock and roll. Being his son I’ve drawn on the same inspiration, perhaps with the addition of more guitar-heavy bands such as Dire Straits, Led Zeppelin, and even Metallica and Toto.
GEF: But it’s not just a cover band is it? Can you talk us through your song writing process?
SOLOMON: Most of our original stuff comes from Nigel, but I’ve recently started writing more myself and we play a couple of them in our set. A lot of his songs are really good – most of them are from the 80s and 90s – but he was too stubborn to secure himself a record deal without annoying the wrong people.
GEF: What would you say that you’re most looking forward to about playing the Bushy’s stage during TT?
SOLOMON: Definitely the t-shirts! Also the crowds are much bigger and broader and they come from all over the place, which results in more exposure.
GEF: Apart from playing across the island, what’s been a big moment for the band?
SOLOMON: We played Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2016, which was great, although the atmosphere was nothing like the Bushy’s tent. We did play at a wedding off-island in Scotland, too. The groom’s grandmother had a heart attack on the dance-floor and, unfortunately, died in hospital later that night. That was a bizarre one.
GEF: Wow, the power of music, hey?! And what’s the biggest band you’ve ever supported?
SOLOMON: Huey Lewis and the News.
GEF: How would you describe The Free Radicles fans?
SOLOMON: Scarce! Haha, no for real they’re raucous, often as loud as us. It’s nice to see how our music can fire up a crowd.
GEF: And lastly, what are your plans immediately after your Bushy’s gig?
SOLOMON: We’ll probably hop in the car and have a bite to eat before the next gig!
Catch The Free Radicles (also known as Nigel Williams Band) on Saturday 2nd June (7.30pm) and Thursday 7th June (7.30pm) at the Bushy’s TT Village, Carole Nash Stage.