The Poppy Seeds: The dynamics of a band with multiple singers

By Alex Jones

28 May 2024

Bands with multiple singers are by no means a new concept in the world of music. But this does not make it a common set up. Meet Alex Jacobs, guitarist for Sheffield four-piece band, The Poppy Seeds, who’s unique composition has seen the group split the singing duties amongst three members, Jack Noble, Frankie Richards and occasionally Alex himself. 

“We recognise that it is good to have the variety in there, it sort of brings something new, especially if you have different styles of singing.

“I think it is just a bit of dynamism that most bands could do with really. If I think back to any of the best bands in my opinion or if we think back to the best band in the world by a lot of standards, The Beatles, you have to say they trademark themselves but not having a lead singer. You’d say John but you’d have to say Paul as well. By no means am I comparing us to The Beatles. I would hate to do such a thing.” Alex explained.

The Poppy Seeds official lead singer is Jack but the group’s multivocal sound is their unique selling point. They mostly tend to switch between Jack and Frankie to achieve this.

Jack Noble courtesy of Phil Thorns photography. Listen to our podcast with Phil here.

“They are very different stylistically (Frankie and Jack), Frankie has got sort of a slight Mick Jagger, Bob Dylan twang to his voice. It’s a slight Americanisation which is used throughout music history.

“Jack has a very bassy voice, kind of baritone-esque and I think if I was to compare him to a singer it would probably be Jim Morrison in terms of the sound of his voice.”

Very high praise, Alex. 

When playing live, this variety comes out in a kind of Jack Noble sandwich where Frankie bookends the set. 

“In a half an hour set, that would usually be six songs. Frankie on about two, Jack on about four and if we can squeeze an extra one in, we’ll try. 

“We usually always finish with a song that Frankie sings, a song called perfect unity and in that instance we’ll try and put Frankie at the beginning and at the very end of the set.” 

Alex, Frankie and Jack are all tasked with writing music for the band. Alex said: “We can all write. I write songs, admittedly a bit less than Frankie and Jack do these days… You kind of have the variety within a sound which just adds layers to it.” 

Having a sound that is easy to define is something of a grey area for The Poppy Seeds as a result of creative ammunition being fired from three different directions. But it is this very trait that is helping set them apart from the other bands in South Yorkshire.

Alex said: “I’ve been telling people it is blues rock, Jack Noble has been telling people that it is the future. But I’d have to say that there’s going to be a few sort of twists in there because I’d say blues is the foundation of it but then with Frankie composing more on acoustic guitar, it brings slightly more of a folky tone to it. 

“There has been a sort of narrowing down of the sound. When we started out I was very into Arctic Monkeys and four chords in a standard progression and I think we’ve tried to phase that slightly and try and make our songs a little more dynamic.” 

The instrumental roles of the band are very flexible. The boys are absolute musical Swiss Army Knives, swapping instruments and parts depending on the song.

“I think when you’re starting a band and in a lot of ways, even though we’ve been going for three years it does feel like we are starting a band, you need to explore the best ways to write songs for the group. That can be in a couple of different ways, I’m not claiming to have the monopoly on it but the way that it worked for us was we’d go away and write songs by ourselves and then we come together and some stuff would work. 

“When you are writing individually, you are going to have differences that can be kind of overcome by switching round vocalists and instruments.” Alex explained. All the guitarists are capable of picking up rhythm, lead or the bass and it really depends on the tune in question. 

The Poppy Seeds are now on the cusp of releasing an EP (which they somewhat optimistically tried to cram into a seven hour recording session). Consisting of three songs, the EP will contain two Frankie Richards tunes and one of Jack Noble’s. The boys also have lots of live music coming up, playing at Sidney and Matilda on 11 June, a venue close to their hearts.  

Frankie Richards singing with The Poppy Seeds

Alex spoke fondly of the Sheffield music scene, recommending Marvin’s revenge, April Tapes and Nine out of Ten Dentists as South Yorkshire ones to watch and his favourite times with the band have come from live performances. “Hmm favourite memory, I would say one of the early Green Room gigs. That was like the first time we’d ever played as a four. Because of the nature of it being an open mic, we didn’t get put on stage for about three hours after we expected to and naturally that meant that we sort of had about four / five pints and ended up playing a pretty loose set shall we say.” Alex said.

Whilst many local venues around the nation have been threatened with closure due to a lack of profit and interest in the scene as well as the omnipresent shadow of the cost of living crisis, local groups are doing their best to keep putting on shows and looking after musicians. The Scottish Music Collective for instance have been instrumental in recent times north of the border, but it is Sheffield’s Music Culture Society that have supported The Poppy Seeds in landing a lot of their gigs. It certainly is tough these days, but there is a high chance your city will have a similar group supporting small artists. It is still very possible to get shows in your local area without losing money. 

Oh yeah, and you can do it with more than one singer. 

Catch The Poppy Seeds live @ Sidney and Matilda on 11 June.

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