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David Head and Matt Glover: A Good Service On All Other Lines

By | Published on Sunday 29 March 2020

If you were at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2018, you might have come across a show called ‘A Good Service On All Other Lines’, a mixture of storytelling, music and comedy that won many fans.

When we heard that the show had been turned into a five part podcast -slightly altered for a more audio-tailored experience – we thought that’s just the kind of thing our readers will be interested in during our current, shut-in times.

To find out more about the podcast, the original show, and the talented people behind it, I spoke to creators David Head and Matt Glover.

CM: Let’s start with talking about the content of your five part podcast – can you give us an idea of what to expect? Whose story does it tell?
DH: You can expect a variety of short, funny love stories – telling the tales of many different characters – all set in, or around, a midnight train out of London. These are mixed in with some songs that build on those narratives. And everything comes together at the end.

CM: What themes do you explore through these narratives?
DH: We focus on love and loss, and the folly of both. Moments of madness, joy and pain. Alongside some jokes about trains.

CM: Can you describe the music? Can it be categorised by genre?
MG: I guess broadly you could think of it as contemporary folk, which is sort of the only type of music I’ve ever written. Although the songs definitely gently stray elsewhere, and having a different brief from writing for myself or my band allowed a bit more freedom.

It’s pretty simple in terms of instrumentation: voices, acoustic guitar, cello and a harmonica on one of the songs. David did buy a triangle, but we forgot to record it in the end, amongst all the excitement of layering vocal harmonies.

CM: What was the inspiration for it? How did you get the idea for the content?
MG: We’d talked about making something together for a long time that used some combination of spoken word, comedy and music, but had struggled to nail down a fuller concept. I think the first talk of it was 2011/12 when David was up in Edinburgh doing sketch comedy. It took us five years to sit down and start writing the thing.

We threw around some ideas for the possible premise of some short stories, and the midnight train out of London really became the central conceit. David came back with a tale of a ghostly ticket inspector and we were off.

Drawing on our shared love of London, trains, sad music and making each other laugh, and some personal experience of the themes, we started to build it piece by piece. It took some moulding as we weren’t sure what the end of the process, or the show, would look like.

I think Eurovision, with the sound off, and pizza were involved. Twice. It took a whole year from conception to completion.

CM: It began life as a live show, of course, up at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2018. What made you decide to take the show up to the Festival and how did the run go for you?
DH: We’d always aimed to go to the Fringe, having originally been inspired to try creating a show together by a trip up there, as Matt says. However, our own run in 2018 was a rollercoaster.

Our first show was performed to an empty room, as no tickets were sold and no one came. We got about two-thirds of the way through before despair overtook us. The next night we had four in and celebrated madly. Matt got a carpet burn break dancing.

But we were lucky enough to gradually get some great reviews, and by the end of our run we had sold out the last show. So it turned out to be an amazing and enriching experience.

CM: Do you have any plans to perform it live again?
MG: Not as it stands, but we still like it, so no reason why not. We’ve done it nearly 30 times, so once more couldn’t hurt.

CM: What made you decide this would work as a podcast?
MG: Some of the reviews we got in Edinburgh, really. Both audiences and some of the review publications mentioned it could work as a kind of audiobook. I guess given the simplicity of the live shows: two humans, two microphones, a guitar in a space with some lights, we thought it would easily transfer. We were drawn to the idea of serialising it – so podcast.

CM: Did you change the material in any way? Does the content of the podcast differ at all from the live show?
DH: Yeah, we really tried to make it a different listening experience, even for people who’ve seen the show previously.

We’ve got some wonderful backing vocals and cello performed by Dom Main. And we have added in sound effects, courtesy of the lovely Carlos Bricio, to hopefully create an immersive atmosphere for listeners. The combined effect brings it all to life in a very fresh way.

Then I rewrote one joke. Maybe two? Just for good measure.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about yourselves – what are your backgrounds in performance, and how did you come to be pursuing your respective careers?
DH: So I am a writer, and formerly dabbled in stand-up and sketch comedy. Alongside these shows with Matt, I write tiny stories for Instagram and am planning some solo stuff. I pursue these things alongside a day job in advertising.

MG: I’ve been writing songs for a very long time. I’ve mainly been the singer-songwriter in the band Sincere Deceivers, putting out artistically fulfilling and commercially unsuccessful indie-folk for the last five to ten years. We’ve gigged a lot, released some EPs and had some national radio play. I’m also day-jobbing in health research.

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future?
DH: Given the very uncertain times we’re currently in I think our ambition is just for people to listen to and enjoy the show. Nothing grander than that. We hope the show can provide a welcome distraction while people are understandably worried and scared right now.

Then possibly fame, glory and adulation once all this has passed.

CM: What do have coming up next (virus willing)? Any plans in the pipeline?
DH: We were hoping to take a new show to the Edinburgh Fringe this summer, but it remains to be seen what happens.

MG: We have a website though, which we update with our plans, and we’re on all the social media, so follow us for updates.

DH: Thanks for talking to us, and we hope people enjoy the podcast.

MG: And we should add it was made with the support of public funds from Arts Council England.

You can listen to ‘A Good Service On All Other Lines’ on Acast, Apple Podcasts and Spotify – and most other podcast apps.

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