UP CLOSE WITH: Richmond family band singing the Riverboat Ska

  Posted: 19.02.21 at 16:42 by Karin Sieger

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Richmond-based band Lemon Sharks of London is a true family affair with mum Pat on drums and vocals, dad Ramez on lead guitar and vocals, sons Callum aged 18 on bass/rhythm guitar and vocals, and Aidan aged 16 guesting on keyboards and vocals. Normally Ramez's brother Rufus plays bass, but during lockdown Callum stepped in.

The West London band describes their musical orientation as an eclectic mix of blues, rock, funk, ska, reggae and punk.

The family lives on their Dutch barge "Leonarda" on Thistleworth Marine, nestled between Richmond Lock and Isleworth Ait.

During the lockdowns they have contributed many a song at socially-distanced marina events to raise the spirits of residents, passers-by on the river towpaths or floating audiences in canoes and other small vessels!

The home-recorded demo and video of their song [Riverboat Ska includes clips of the Lemon Sharks of London performing on top of a boat, with enthusiastic neighbours boogying along on the decks of their own respective boats.

I caught up with the band for an online Richmond Riverside chinwag about their music, life on the Thames and taking care of ourselves during covid.

The band at a gig

Pat - When did the band start and why did you call it "Lemon Sharks"?

Our band originates from a Thistleworth marina band in which anyone could play or sing. That group disbanded but we didn’t want to stop making music, so we carried on under the guise of the “Fireboat Blues Band”. (So named because when the fireboat races past, everything goes topsy-turvey and gives you the blues.) However, no-one could ever remember this name so we wanted something really catchy. We like the phrase `Lemon Sharks’ because it puts together something tasty and dangerous, like shark-infested custard! Lemon sharks are real. Ramez and I are keen divers who have dived with sharks in the past and are interested in marine conservation.

Ramez - The song Riverboat Ska has become a bit of an anthem of Thistleworth Marine lockdown sing-alongs. The lyrics and video suggest it is a song very close to the band's heart. Tell us a bit about it.

The boat we live on is not just a houseboat but has an engine and can go up the Thames and beyond. This song celebrates the pleasure of getting away from it all, on a slow-motion adventure exploring calm waterways. As the voyage progresses, you move further and further away from your old life, which soon seems a distant memory. Many years ago we brought our home Leonarda up the Rhone and through the canals of France, Holland and across the Channel so we could live on her at Thistleworth Marine, a truly life-changing experience!

Aidan - You are a Year 11 pupil at local Orleans Park School in Twickenham. What do your school mates make of you helping out in the band with a few songs?

Orleans Park School on Richmond Road

My friends at school think it’s funny and make fun of me and I joke about it as well.

Callum - You are also taking the lead in some performances with the Lemon Sharks of London backing you. Who inspires you musically and what advice can you give to other young musicians, who might be nervous about performing in front of an audience?

I’m inspired by any good music I’ve been listening to recently. I would say just do it, don’t overthink it. When I am actually performing, I don’t feel nervous.

Pat - What is it like bringing up a family on a boat? And what advice do you have for other budding family bands?

It was lovely when the kids were small as you were always bundled-in cosily together and could always see what they were up to! Their friends were always very keen to come round too! Now that they are adult size, space is a little bit more of an issue. But everyone has their own room to retreat to and we haven’t had a mutiny yet! The pluses are that we have lovely neighbours, a river for paddleboarding and swimming, a deck to relax on and lots of wildlife to look at 24/7.

Life on the water

My advice for budding family bands: Some technical and musical know-how is needed. We rely on Ramez to set up all the equipment every time and plug the instruments in! However the rest of it came quite naturally. We started off learning some cover versions and came gradually round to writing our own material.

Ramez - We hear a lot about the devastating impact of covid on the music industry. What has it been like for the "Lemon Sharks of London"? What have been the 'lows' and what about any 'highs'?

We’re not strictly professional, although we do have some paying gigs in pubs (when they’re open). Serious musicians have been relying on teaching, which has carried on online. Live music support industries and venues have been very badly affected. For example, we are no longer able to rehearse at our favourite studios because they have closed down. The next challenge is going to be the restrictions upon touring musicians because of Brexit. On a positive note, like many others, we now have a new set of skills around home live streaming and home recording that we didn’t have before.

Aidan - People may wonder what it is like playing in a band on top of a boat? What is it like for you?

I’ve always lived on a boat so it doesn’t seem all that unusual to me.

Ramez on guitar

Callum: You have recently started your degree in Astrophysics at Leicester University. How easy or difficult is it to keep up with your music practice away from home?

It’s been quite difficult; but I now have a gadget that will enable me to jam with other people over the internet which should help.

Ramez: You being a teacher, and this being a covid pandemic, I have to ask: What are your top 3 mental health tips for parents and children to cope well during these difficult times?

1. It’s important to maintain some sort of routine with your children.
2. Make sure the whole family gets outdoors regularly and
3. that everyone is achieving something, whether it’s school work or projects they wouldn’t normally have time for. As a teacher, I’m quite shocked at how people have only suddenly realised the true value of teaching, especially those with very small children or teenagers.

Pat - Looking ahead, what is your plan and hope for the band?

A performance at the Red Lion pub in Isleworth

We hope to do a proper recording and video of Riverboat Ska and some of our other songs. We are really looking forward to live performances again in person with the “Lemon Sharks of London” and other bands that we are involved with such as “Funky Nature”!

We will be involved with the music side of the Isleworth Market when it reopens, and would love to support local pubs by playing and singing to celebrate them opening their doors again. We have often enjoyed organising charity musical nights and maybe the pubs could do with some support of that type in 2021.

In the meantime you can get involved in live online events by following The West Londoners’ Hootenanny page.

You can follow the antics of the Lemon Sharks of London on their Facebook page or view videos on their Youtube channel or email the band on [email protected]

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