Her Make Believe band can quote some pretty heavy press about their debut release, especially from their sort-of home base of England.
Much is made of singer Cy Winstanley’s similarity to Paul Simon, and there are times when this is true-either in a beguiling and unaffected fashion (“Stay”), or in a perhaps more stylised, knowing way (Drummer Tom Greenhalgh’s Steve Gadd-esque intro to “Welcome Home”- 50 ways to drop a in a musical reference, perhaps?).
That’s a distraction, though, and doesn’t really help. The sound of this album is built around gentle dynamics, subtle arrangements, and the harmonised vocals of Winstanly and bass player Vanessa McGowan.
Acoustic bass, harmonica and accordion all help to evoke a country flavour, best evidenced on the title track. Elsewhere, though, are plenty of reminders that this is a band effort-the arrangement of “D.P.H” sets off a whimsical lyric and melody while “Ba Bah” goes through three different style changes without losing continuity at all- no mean feat.
Despite some up-tempo moments, this group are at their most effective in an intimate mode and are adept at providing sensitive and musically adept settings around some cleverly charming songs.
Review by Trevf
Led by New Zealanders Cy Winstanley and Vanessa McGowan, Her Make Believe Band is a London born band described as a “masterful blend of Americana fused with jazz, soul and pop”.
Her Make Believe Band released their debut album, AM Radio (Old Oak Music) in 2009, to critical acclaim both in NZ and in the UK, including Uncut Magazine UK who described songwriter/vocalist/guitarist Cy Winstanley as “a potent songwriter with a voice gently reminiscent of Paul Simon” while vocalist/bassist Vanessa McGowan “adds beguiling harmonies”. Graham Reid, New Zealand's foremost music journalist, described AM Radio as a "delightful album...hooks you in with melodies and keeps you there by virtue of the words...very sharp stuff". The album was an exploration of the alt-country and pop possibilities of Cy’s songs and has become a timepiece of Cy and Vanessa’s work with London based keyboardist and multi-instrumentalist Sebastian Weiss and drummer Tom Greenhalgh.
Cy Winstanley cut his musical teeth in New Zealand singing, playing guitar and harmonica and, after a passing teenage obsession with guitar rock, discovered bluegrass, jazz and blues, eventually meeting fellow New Zealander, bassist Vanessa McGowan in a local jazz big band. Following the urge to discover his Liverpudlian roots Cy moved to London in 2004 and spent 7 years there busking, writing and playing around the country including performances in London at The Forum supporting the Violent Femmes, Royal Festival Hall, The Borderline, Cornbury Festival and Toast Festival.