Rather more indie flavoured than SonicAbuse’s normal fare, Dot to Dot is an urban festival that spreads across three cities – Manchester, Bristol and Nottingham – and does much to expose the latest in burgeoning talent from around the world. We’re in Nottingham, not for the festival as a whole, but to review the amazing No Sinner, whose soul-infused blues rock have drawn us here like moths to the proverbial, but it would be churlish indeed to ignore the charms that Dot to Dot has to offer.
Spread across numerous venues, at the heart of Dot to Dot is Rock City, Nottingham’s multi-floor venue, and the complex of venues surrounding it (Spanky Van Dykes, Rescue Rooms and more), but our first port of call (following a stroll around the closed-off Talbot street and its various stalls offering drinks and trinkets) is the crowded confines of Spanky Van Dykes to check out the excellent Love Zombies who deal in the sort of punky, sparky indie that recalls the surge of independent rock bands in the post Pixies 90s including acts such as Slingbacks, the Breeders and Belly. Fronted by Hollis J, a singer whose sunny disposition lights up not just the stage but the entire venue, the five piece are an invigoratingly different proposition to just about everything else happening in the music world today and are all the better for it. Invigorating a large and vocal crowd, the Love Zombies don’t put a foot wrong and with tracks like ‘knocking on your door’ and ‘big and strong’ the band have the tunes to justify their larger-than-life stage presence.
Next up, No sinner stroll to the stage with a swagger and unleash a maelstrom of pure blues heaven. At the heart of the band is the delightful Colleen Rennison whose light-hearted on-stage banter and wide smile belie the fact that she has a voice that could command millions. Hers is a voice that harks back to Tina Turner and Janis Joplin and the only modern singer who comes even close is the majestic Beth Hart whose recent work with Joe Bonamassa No Sinner recall. Capable of soaring highs and sultry, dusky lows, Colleen is simply a revelation and she utterly dominates the venue with a performance that makes the hair stand up on end. The band who share her name (in reverse) are no less impressive. Opening with a white hot mix of Doors-esque psychedelic intensity and furious rock ‘n’ roll excess, it is impossible to conceive that No Sinner will be playing a venue this intimate again, and despite a string exploding in protest at Eric Campbell’s ferocious treatment, the band launch straight into a back-to-earth blues number that has a satisfying crunch to it. ‘Love is a madness’, with its soulful air, sees Eric shed another string and yet, despite a plea for another guitar (which does not materialise for another song) the band continue to excel with Colleen taking on (and mastering) the classic Nina Simone track, ‘work song’. A lesser band would have caved and gone searching for another guitar. A lesser band would have struggled to an unsatisfying conclusion, but not only do No Sinner blast the hell out of ‘work song’ with Eric delivering a stinging lead, but by the time it ends and a newly strung Fender appears, they make it look like the whole thing was scripted, so entirely unfazed are they by the incident. That, people, is rock ‘n’ goddam roll.
With the band’s short set time drawing to a close, it remains for a rough and ready ‘devil on my back’ and an awe-inspiring ‘boo hoo hoo’ (from the band’s cracking debut of the same name) to round things out, and the band make full use of the time, offering up an inspired and extended outro that is heavenly fodder for the rock ‘n’ roll gods that No Sinner seem to be hell bent on appeasing. Raucous, righteous and exceptionally talented, No Sinner are a wonderful act that will leave you feeling jubilant and Colleen, standing beaming amidst the chaos her band has just unleashed, is a true star, possessed of an indomitable spirit, a truly stunning voice and genuine stage presence. Miss No Sinner at your peril, because they are the real deal and their album, like their live show, is an unqualified joy from start to finish.
What more could you ask from an afternoon out? Love Zombies were an unexpected bonus, a band whose joyful energy clearly set the assembled throng in Spanky Van Dykes (you’ve got to love that name, seriously!) alight whilst No Sinner demonstrated a rare combination of assertive stage presence, amazing music and an ability to overcome the awkward to deliver a truly amazing set. All in all a brilliant afternoon out.
The following interview was conducted by Kevin Cooper @regionalmag.com who has kindly allowed us to republish it here.
Colleen Rennison, singer, songwriter and lead vocalist of No Sinner chats with Kevin Cooper about their new album, Boo Hoo Hoo, performing at the South By South West Festival in Austin Texas, and their forthcoming appearance at The Dot To Dot Festival in Nottingham.
No Sinner, led by 26 year old Colleen Rennison originate from Vancouver, Canada. This raucous rock band comprises Eric Campbell (guitar), Ian Browne (drums) and rotating bassists, Bradley Ferguson and Parker Bossley. Releasing their debut album, Boo Hoo Hoo, No Sinner are embarking upon a promotional tour taking in Dublin, Leeds, London and appearances at The Dot To Dot Festivals in Manchester, Bristol and Nottingham; before going to France, Amsterdam and Germany.
Whilst on route to Dublin, Kevin Cooper managed to catch up with her, and this is what she had to say:
Hi Colleen how are you?
Hi Kevin I’m good thanks, thanks for asking.
So at this moment in time how is life treating you?
Life is treating me well. It’s a bit of a whirlwind at the moment as this is our first major tour of the UK after having been here last December. I kind of knew what I was getting myself into but everything is pretty new. But its good, it’s new and it’s exciting, so that’s good.
The industry keeps comparing you to the likes of Janis Joplin and Etta James, how does that make you feel?
If I am honest with you Kevin, I have to say that those types of comparisons make me feel very flattered. I really do appreciate it when people say so. But if people do stop saying that, I wont be too sad I think (laughter), because then maybe I will just sound like me (laughter).
Do those comparisons bring any added pressure with them?
No Kevin I don’t feel that it brings any added pressure as I never set-out to sound like them. They are definitely people who I have listened to in my life but I never wanted anyone to think that I sounded like them. I have never tried to mimic them, so I never feel under any kind of pressure to live up to it.
You have recently played the South By South West Festival in Austin, Texas, how was that?
It was a bit of a nightmare (laughter). It was really cool but we had to play seven shows in four days, and it was just insane (laughter). I don’t know if you have been Kevin, have you been?
Unfortunately I have never been but perhaps someday in the future.
It is simply insanity. It almost feels as though it is the Apocalypse with Godzilla there too (laughter). Everyone is out in the streets and you can’t get anywhere. The City is in total gridlock. There is a line-up to get food, there is a line-up to go to the bathroom, there is a line-up to get into every single place, and everywhere is swamped with people. You can’t even get a cell phone service as there are so many people there with cell phones. If you weren’t really busy and you didn’t have to be at a certain place at a certain time then it would really be fun. You could have a lot of adventures. It was pretty intense for me and I don’t think that I want to play that many shows again for a while (laughter). But the shows were great, they went really well and there were always good vibes from the audience.
I have seen your music described as Blues-Rock and Electric Southern Soul. How would you describe your music?
People have been asking us that a lot on this tour Kevin. The word Blues is such a funny word; it seems like it will really pigeon-hole you as a band. Blues is an element of what we do, but Blues is also an element in almost every type of music that has come out of North America. The Blues is the basis for so much of it all. So I think that by calling us Blues-Rock it is the easiest thing to do, it is for me as well, because there are so many things going on. But I think that we are a Soul, Country, Funk, R&B, Blues, Jazz, Rock, Rock ‘N’ Roll or something (laughter). We are a big jambalaya of all of those things (laughter).
Who do you listen to when you have some down-time?
I’m not too well versed in new music. Mostly I am just always doing my homework and trying to figure out all of the bands that came first. There is so much out there that I always get overwhelmed when I look at new music.
Colleen I have to tell you that I’m stuck in the 60’s with classic Motown.
Me too, that’s what I grew up listening to, and that has always been my favourite. If I am cleaning the house, or making breakfast, or hanging out with someone I love drinking a glass of wine by candlelight, then Motown is probably what I will be listening to. It makes me feel so good.
Looking at the new album, Boo Hoo Hoo I see that you have co-written 6 of the songs on it. Do you enjoy writing?
I find writing to be therapeutic and satisfying Kevin but I don’t know if enjoying it is what I would call it. Usually when I write it is generally pretty painful, because there has been some sort of a conflict, or some kind of life altering experience that I feel the need to reflect on. In a way I enjoy writing but its not really that much fun. Writing is very exciting but sometimes you have to go to some pretty dark places in order to get the best material.
You have covered Nina Simone’s Work Song on the album. Why that particular track?
I have been a Nina Simone fan for a very long time now, ever since I was a little girl in fact. Nina recorded a wide variety of songs but I was listening to that one in particular quite a lot at the same time that Parker, Eric, Ian and I were starting the band. I was listening to that song whilst I was writing music and I was thinking that we could do with that what Led Zeppelin had done with Killing Floor, the old Howlin’ Wolf song, in Lemon Song. I was thinking that if we could take something really old and really simple which had a great, dark personality to it, and flesh it out and turn it into this almost psychedelic rock and roll inferno, it would be fantastic (laughter).
I feel that you have kept the ethos of Simone’s original but have managed to turn it into your own track.
We added a few bits and repeated a line, but other than that we didn’t really mess with it that much. We just made it our own.
What have you gained from recently supporting Beth Hart?
She was so kind to us, and me especially. We had some good times and I really appreciated her company. She has been through so much and she is such an amazing musician with such a long career. It was interesting speaking with her after the shows and hearing her insights on some things. I wouldn’t want to reveal too much to you as I feel that she has told me some things in confidence. But one interesting thing that she said which I really appreciated was “do not listen to what other people say. You are never as good as they say you are and you are never as bad” and I thought that was some pretty sound advice.
Are you looking forward to playing the Dot To Dot Festival in Nottingham at the weekend?
Yes I am really looking forward to it Kevin. It is going to be neat as we are going to have the opportunity hopefully to skip around and see some venues. I understand that its rather like South By South West in that its not in a field or anything but its in different venues all over the city, so that will be neat. It will be great because we will be playing Spanky Van Dykes. I am personally looking forward to seeing some English acts, and I really want to see Macaulay Culkin’s band The Pizza Underground (laughter). He has got a cover band who are covering Velvet Underground songs except that they are re-writing the lyrics and they are all about pizza (laughter). It sounds pretty ridiculous but they are doing a pretty good job; it’s actually pretty spot on. I really do want to see them live, because it will be hilarious (laughter).
What can we expect from your show on Sunday?
You can expect to see a band that has been tightened up by at least a month out on the road. We are so excited to play, and you should expect a really good Rock ‘N’ Roll show with sweat and tears, screams and gyrations, and all of the things that you would ever want. Expect to see all of those things.
Have you ever been to Nottingham?
No I haven’t, whenever I have been to the UK it has always been to London. So it will be really neat to see Nottingham. We have driven today from London to Carnarvon and its beautiful here. We are taking the ferry to Dublin where we will play tomorrow. It is just such an amazing part of the world, and all of us have ancestry here; I’m English/Irish so it’s really nice to be here. There is something that just feels right about it.
When are we likely to see a full-blown No Sinner tour here in the UK?
Well Kevin this is certainly as full-blown as we have gotten. We would like to come back sooner rather than later. We would love to be able to play a few shows in Ireland, a few shows in Scotland, and also do more in England. There is such a great pub culture here that I think our music and our lifestyle really fits into (laughter).
On a personal note, have you managed to stop smoking?
Well not really (laughter). The boys are quite good about it. I tend to have a cigarette or two after the shows. I don’t really smoke during the day. If I’m not out and about having a few pints, then I won’t be smoking. I’ve been alright, I’ve been pretty good trying to cut back without quitting. I’m not really that much of a smoker (laughter). I find it hard to say that I will quit when I only smoke at shows. I feel like I deserve it (laughter). We will have to see what happens. If it starts to really get to me then I will stop, and I don’t think that will be too hard, but until then I will enjoy a cigarette or two every once in a while.
What next for Colleen Rennison and No Sinner?
Well Kevin after the Dot To Dot Festival we are playing Leeds and London and then we are going to Paris and Amsterdam which will be really exciting. Eric and Brandon haven’t been there before so that will be exciting for them and then we head off to Germany where we were touring extensively last year. So hopefully those shows will be interesting. I think that they will be good and hopefully well attended.
Colleen thanks for taking the time to speak to me.
Thanks so much for taking the time to speak to me. I will see you on Sunday, have a lovely evening, and it was nice speaking to you Kevin. Thank you.
For more information about the band, their tour and the new album visit
We would like to thank Kevin Cooper and www.regionalmag.com for the interview and to Kevin in particular for the amazing photography.
Review: Phil Stiles
Live photography & interview Kevin Cooper (Kevin@regionalmag.com)