WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO THE FLOE
A lock down project started Christmas 2020 has seen us revisit the vast LRB music and video archive spanning over 10 years with in excess of 100 headline artists and many more opening & supporting artists.
Besides Grammy & Juno award winning, major record label and international artists that we have been privileged to host there are several artists who have featured on multiple occasions.
One name, The Floe, from the early years of LRB features prominently with five appearances, the first couple before the barn adopted its fond name of Little Rabbit.
The Floe archive was retrieved and auditioned. There were mixed emotions. Excited to be reliving a band that wrote well crafted, accessible lyrics with strong melodies and arrangements underpinned by exemplary musicianship. Sad, that despite the promise of wider recognition and reaping benefits from commercial success it did not play out according to their script and it was not down to unreadiness or effort. They had all the credentials. Done their research and had a plan in place to weight chance. Their ability, sound and marketability was not in question.
Rather than give my view on how The Floe story played out we are going to have a chat with Sarah and Liz aka The Floe and ask them.
Before that, a brief look back at their timeline and for completeness…discography.
Ten years on from the Sarah Springett/Liz Townsend Duo aka The Floe, time has shown this to be the final line up of Essex band Aloneme.
Aloneme was the evolution of the early 2000s Springett/Booth Duo into a band with other local musicians drummer/programmer Simon Edgoose and singer/multi-instrumentalist Liz Townsend.
Springett Booth Albums | Because | EP released 2002 | Only one
2003 Simon Edgoose joins and Aloneme formed
Aloneme albums and EPs | Target Practice | Blurred Words | Paperlake | Live | Sketch (2007)
Unlike Chris Rea’s 1978 debut album WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BENNY SANTINI, The Floe, was not the record company’s attempt to rebrand the artist. Instead, it was popular local band Aloneme with a loyal and dedicated following rebranding themselves because someone in the music industry told them it was ‘the worst name in music history.’
I hear you say ‘what the heck’ (or similar!) does that matter in this industry!
Well, we won’t go into that debate. Clearly it did to them.
Following rebranding as The Floe, a new album, NO LOOKING BACK, was released in early 2010, recorded & produced by the band but mixed with gold dust by 2005 Grammy winner, Best Album, U2 producer, Simon Gogerly.
NO LOOKING BACK | Debut album for The Floe | Produced by U2 Grammy Award winner SImon Gogerly | Planned released 01 February 2010 actual release 15 March 2010
The Floe featured in Maverick magazine in 2010 with a four-star review, described as’ Full of timeless classics.’
NO LOOKING BACK | Promo flyer
Prestigious support slots with major artists opened up, such as Midge Ure’s Ultravox further paving the road ahead to greater recognition.
Local radio sessions were followed by showcasing at the BBC radio theatre with a national radio playlisting. Airplay on the prestigious Bob Harris Saturday Night Show in 2010 further underlined the bands credentials, testament to their upward trajectory.
No doubt, The Floe attracted new fans wherever they played & grew a loyal following.
Not only a big and popular draw on the local circuit, they were soon in demand for music festivals and live events much wider afield.
The direction of the band and demands of touring commitments were instrumental in the first of two major changes to the band that happened in quick succession.
First, Simon Edgoose, resigned from The Floe due largely to work commitments with Yamaha, where he was much in demand globally to support their electronic drum kits.
Then followed the irreplaceable loss of David Booth, founder member, largely due to commitments of a new family.
Throughout all these changes and difficult times, Sarah was running a kidney transplant awareness campaign to encourage donors, as her now husband, then boyfriend required a kidney transplant and Sarah was to be the donor.
You now can appreciate why the anthemic song Not What Knocks You Down is Sarah’s favourite song as it epitomises both Sarah and Liz.
Out of adversity, the pair emerged stronger with a new sound, new arrangements, using technology to replace lost band members.
New image for Sarah and Liz | THE FLOE
Down to the brilliant programming and arranging skills, both girls not only reworked the original Springett/Booth songs the band used to play but continued to write and arrange new songs including some superbly reworked covers.
Dave, a long-time fan of the band so aptly quoted ‘that they had out-adeled Adele’ on their reworking of the Bond classic Skyfall.
He recalls …their cover of Skyfall was incredible. “I think they were a raffle prize for a fund raiser and the winner asked them to perform at a James Bond themed event, so they had to learn new songs. They did, in concert at Milton Keynes Stables where I saw them, play Nobody Does it Better, and moved beautifully (with the fantastic piano of Liz) into Skyfall.”
He says, “when Adele sings Skyfall, I tell everyone that she is singing a cover by The Floe.”
The Floe | Sarah Springett (above) and Liz Townsend (below) Photo credit | David Filce
Time now to catch up with Sarah and Liz to let them fill in the gaps and bring their story up to date.
Hello Sarah & Liz, first a big thank you for agreeing to revisit the past and share your story with all the fans of The Floe, that I’m sure still play the records (showing my age here) or stream your music and wonder to themselves ‘whatever happened to The Floe?’
Q. Firstly, can we catch up with what you are both doing now.
Sarah, I know you were telling me, that the last time you sung in public was seven years ago, round the time you were expecting your first daughter. I reckon that was probably when you & Liz…I mean The Floe…played Live at The Cottage in Debenham.
We were there too and it was the final time we saw The Floe. Certain irony that the last show you play was promoted by former The Floe band member, David Booth whose departure took you in a new direction.
Sarah: Like many things in life, I’m not sure we ever realised our last would be our last! If we had I don’t think we’d have ever left the stage! Haha! Yes, I fell pregnant with my now 6 year old daughter in 2013 and my second, my son, was born in 2017 so I have been kept busy ever since and my musical alter-ego and past life seems a distant memory right now unfortunately! I’m such a cliche! Haha! Liz is still involved in making, performing and teaching music but based in Hertfordshire so we see much less of each other than in the good old days. I miss her madly though and we are still most definitely in touch. She’ll always be my other half!
Q. I’m intrigued to ask and I’m sure I’m not alone, what is the inside story, the real reason, the boys ditched you both. You can share this, it won’t go any further and I won’t divulge to the tabloids…ha-ha.
Liz: Ha! I really wish there was more gossip and intrigue but I’m afraid it’s pretty much as you said. Simon was balancing his work for Yamaha with the band and family life and I guess the band couldn’t give him the success and financial security working for Yamaha could.
As for Dave, I think the stress and pressure of trying to ‘make it’ was just too much. When you start a band, it’s a labour of love but there’s always love involved. I guess by the time Dave left, it just wasn’t there anymore.
Sarah: I think Liz has summed it up pretty well there. I don’t feel we can really say any more on their behalf. Sorry to disappoint!
J: Well, I guess that’s the end of the tabloid interest….and big money….haha!
Q. What was your plan for The Floe. The end game if you like.
Liz: I guess for myself, and I’m pretty certain Sarah’s answer will be the same, our plan was to make a living out of doing something we loved.
We certainly loved writing and performing music together but making a living out of it was nigh on impossible! We were very lucky to have supportive partners, LOL!
Sarah: Agreed! It was never a search for fame, celebrity, fortune, glory…even during the time when we were seeking maximum exposure and ‘success’ as a band. It was simply a passion for the music and wanting to share it with as many people as possible. We longed to pursue that ambition full time but unfortunately ‘real life’ eventually got in the way.
Q. So what would your measure of success have been at the time.
Liz: That’s a good question because I think at the time, we never really gave ourselves credit or recognition for the successes we had as we were always so tied up with the admin and running the business and searching for the next stage in our career to ‘make it’. Looking back, I think one of our successes was the SIMPLE PLEASURES concert at High Barn with the string trio. That will always be one of the best nights of my life.
Sarah: I think ‘giving up the day job’ would have been a massive milestone for me. We were mostly chasing mainstream radio/press support and fixated on increasing our ‘fanbase’, although on reflection it was actually really wonderful knowing so many of our most loyal followers so personally and being so hands on in the creation and delivery of our physical releases etc. I agree with Liz that the SIMPLE PLEASURES LIVE album and event will be forever locked in as a personal proudest accomplishment, both musically and emotionally!
Q. With the benefit of hindsight what would you have done differently, if anything, because you were the perfect duo…ha-ha.
Liz: Oh… now there’s a question! Hindsight is a wonderful thing isn’t it? Of course there are things we could have done differently but I have no regrets. I loved my time with the band, both with the boys and with just the two of us and we made fantastic memories touring round the country, performing at various venues, eating lots of BLT sandwiches and meeting some amazing people like yourself.
J: That’s nice, thank you Liz.
Sarah: I think with hindsight it would have been healthier to care less what ‘the industry’ thought of us and to go with our gut more, but at the time we were just fighting so hard to breakthrough that we did what we had to. We did have some great times in the studio and on the road and met some wonderful people which I will be forever thankful for.
J: It’s a sad fact that freedom in the arts can only be bought with success.
Q. Your debut album as The Floe was NO LOOKING BACK. Do you have any regrets looking back….
Liz: It’s not a regret as such but at the time I was a full time secondary school teacher so whilst the others were in the recording studio I was in a sweaty classroom with moody, hormonal teenagers! I’d record my tracks in the evening and felt like I missed out on the creative process a bit… apart from the cover of ‘Heatwave’, that was just Sarah and I one evening playing about and we came up with that arrangement. It was then that we realised we had a creative spark.
Sarah: If I’m really honest, I am sad for the girl I was back then that she had her heart broken by what she perceived to be failure, but the woman and mother I am today is proud of her for having the courage and tenacity to go as far as she did. Other than that, I feel like The Floe has probably had it’s moment, although I will be forever indebted to Liz for never giving up on me or on us. I’m not sure we should look back but we can always look ahead!
J: Gosh, that’s from the heart…NO LOOKING BACK..for sure…that was such an appropriate album title. Sarah, your fans were gutted for you, wanting you to achieve the wider recognition that The Floe deserved. Where the two of you took The Floe will always be seen as success, a triumph over adversity, and the legacy of your music..your art….will live on.
It’s good to hear that time is a healer and that you are rightly proud of where you took The Floe. The music business is fickle for sure.
THE FLOE | Don’t look down | Filmed at Little Rabbit Barn | Simple Pleasure Live tour 27 October 2012
Q. Please give us a final run down of your discography including Eps and singles as The Floe.
Liz: Singles released under the band name ‘The Floe’:
I Hope You Know
One Deep Breath
Deco Remixes (only available online)
No Looking Back
THE FLOE SINGLES | Headlights | I hope you know | One deep breath
THE FLOE EPs | Deco Remixes | Simple Pleasures Limited Edition
THE FLOE ALBUMS | No looking back | Simple Pleasures Live
Q. Are these all still available, if so how can folks get hold of them now.
Liz: I think there’s a few left over in the loft but not many… if anyone wanted to purchase a copy they could still message us on Facebook.
Sarah: The tracks are also available to stream and download digitally online. Just pop The Floe into your favourite search engine and the results should be plentiful!
Q A favourite with me and everyone at the time is without doubt Sun, Moon and Stars. Dave says….. “What a song. What an incredible song. I never, ever understood why this wasn’t pushed. It’s the perfect first dance song at a wedding, the perfect romantic song for any occasion”.
J: Sarah, I recall your gig at LRB on Saturday 22 October 2011, just before playing out with SM&S you announced your then boyfriend had asked you to marry that day. That song clearly meant a lot to you.
How did you come up with the idea for the song and how did it evolve.
THE FLOE | Sun, Moon and Stars | Filmed at Little Rabbit Barn | Simple Pleasure Live tour 27 October 2012
Dave says, “I don’t think they realised….there was gold dust in their hands and it slipped through”.
Liz: Over to you Sarah…
Sarah…err thanks Liz…just finishing the set list
Sarah: Firstly, thank you!! Ha! I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for ‘Sun, Moon and Stars’ too. We actually performed it during my sister’s candlelit winter wedding service which was wonderfully romantic and special. I’m not sure where it came from! It wrote itself really! I think Liz’s piano part is just so weightless and delicate that I wanted to capture that sense of love being the ultimate escape and the one thing greater and vaster than anything earthly. I do wish more people could hear it and fall under its spell.
J: For me, if I had to chose one song from your whole collection, this song captures The Floe. It’s Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven….need I say anymore! The arrangement with strings and cello is inspired.
I will just add…there’s a song by another LRB favourite, Danni Nicholls, AMA UK award nominated for several years in succession and more than deserving of the award recognition, that sadly didn’t come her way. It’s called Goodnight Moon, and it always makes me think of SM&S. Do check it out. Think I’ll suggest to Danni your Not what knocks you down.
The Floe | Sarah Springett (above) and Liz Townsend (below) Photo credit | David Filce
Q Please tell us the thinking behind the electro remixes and the Deco trilogy.
In fact, please tell us more, how did it come about and how did it fit in or was it a direction that you wanted to explore and would have regretted had you not.
Liz: When Dave left, he also took with him his own very distinctive song writing style and of course, his guitar playing skills. Both Sarah and I weren’t keen on the idea of finding other musicians to replace Dave and Simon as it’s never that simple. Sarah and I wanted to find our ‘own’ sound. I’m primarily a pianist so our main backing sound was going to be piano or synths and that automatically took us down a more electro route.
We created an amazing track called ‘Headlights’ in Maida Vale with producer James Earp and were so excited with the sound that we decided to work with more local producers in Chelmsford and Hitchin to create the ‘Deco Remixes’. I love those tracks still and listen to them when I go running 😊
Sarah: I have always loved music with a more atmospheric electro or Trip Hop sound (Massive Attack for e.g.) so it didn’t seem such a massive departure somehow and, as Liz said, a natural progression to getting a more full sound with just the two of us. I understand that the acoustic purists may have felt it was unfamiliar territory but at this stage we had tried things the other end of the spectrum and not broken through so we felt we had nothing to lose!
Q. Do you think with hindsight you didn’t take your fans with you. Maybe, they didn’t understand why you would even contemplate re-working songs that were to them perfect already. I’m thinking about Dont look down.
Liz: Maybe people who first and foremost fell in love with the sound of AloneMe would have found our sound to be quite a departure and I think that was quite deliberate and inevitable. As for ‘Don’t Look Down’… Both versions were always available; ‘Don’t Look Down’ was simply remixed. When we performed live we were able to do it with the backing or simply with piano and vocals. We weren’t trying to alienate anyone, quite the opposite. We were hoping to appeal to a wider audience.
Sarah: Yup! What she said! We never left our acoustic selves behind. We were just exploring new territory and trying to be the very best we could be in every sense.
J: Thanks for putting the record straight here…haha
Q. We have a dream, that one day, there may be the NEVER SAY NEVER album, song & tour.
Dave goes further….and do you know what….I really like his suggestion.
“One day…. Sarah and Liz do a stripped down version of the AloneMe SKETCH album. The idea is that bits of all the tracks, slowed down to merge into one another, bookended at the start and finish with bits of the track Bulletproof (slow of course). A slow Bulletproof would sound amazing.”
Well what do reckon….
Liz: I think a slow Bulletproof would sound lovely… As you say never say never! However, the SKETCH album was written by Dave and Sarah so we would need to get Dave’s blessing/permission first.
Sarah: Hmmm, yeah, things get tricky when we go back to songs written in the Springett/Booth era as David has very much left the building but I would absolutely love to perform with Liz again at some point. It would just have to be the right thing at the right time and I’m not sure those stars have aligned quite yet. Never say never indeed but also I wouldn’t hold your breath! 😉
J: A couple of song titles here already…never say never and don’t hold your breath! Certainly picking up a good vibe here and the prospect that we can get you performing live again as The Floe, will make lots of folk very happy.
Q. I have another suggestion, a more immediate idea to put into the mix.
Did you know that on Saturday 23 January 2010 you played a band show in the house with both David and Simon. Then on 22 January 2011….yep 10 years ago…you played the first The Floe duo show. Then later that year, 22 October 2011 was the first of two The Floe Duo shows, in Little Rabbit Barn, then again the following year on 27 October 2012 with Chris on cello.
Well the last LRB show was on THE SIMPLE PLEASURES live album tour and for my ears, The Floe were at their peak of this tour and the show on this evening was sublime.
I have dusted down the audio stems from the evening and the mix sounds lovely, really capturing you at a moment in time when you were at a peak. It is what it is, an honest untweaked (except for audio mixing) representation of your live shows. It does not in the least sound dated, a measure of the timeless classic songs from the repertoire that have not aged.
What do you reckon to making a limited edition of 50 available on the website (happy to go higher!) numbered and signed (you can number and sign the CD wraps in advance.
We’ll take care of distribution.
Liz: Wow… er… I’d love to hear it first ha! But that’s super kind of you and a great idea!!
Sarah: That’s a very sweet offer but yes, would need some consideration. Speak to our agent! 😉
J: Keep the interest alight with a 10 year anniversary release….throw caution to the wind! Now if you were Pink Floyd you could bring out 10 year…20 years…30 year…40 year….releases in CD, remastered CD, SHM-CD, SACD of DSOTM and it is only two years until the golden anniversary release! What I’m saying, is I think your due a 10 year anniversary celebration….let’s keeping the candle glowing!
Terrific catching up with you both again….a real pleasure.
Sarah: Thank you so much for your interest and for your unparalleled commitment and support for artists like us!! For me, juggling young children and a ‘proper job’ during this global pandemic etc, The Floe often feels like another lifetime, so surreal and far removed from where we are now, so it has been really lovely to spend a moment reflecting and reminiscing. I hope that even though we are not currently gigging (who is?!!) or writing and releasing new music that our songs will always live on in people’s collections and hearts. Corny but true.
J: Well said Sarah. From me and everyone at Little Rabbit Barn, we send our best wishes to you both and thank you. Remember ‘long live The Floe’ and ‘keep music live’
THE FLOE | Sarah Springett and Liz Townsend | Close out our interview with their inspirational song SAKURA | Filmed at Little Rabbit Barn | Simple Pleasure Live tour 27 October 2012 | Remixed January 2021
Editor: I genuinely hope this is not the epilogue and there will be another chapter in The Floe story.
Credits: Research/Interview/ Author & Editor | Jonathan, LRB | The Floe, Sarah Springett and Liz Townsend
Video: Filmed and recorded at Little Rabbit Barn on Saturday 27 October 2012 | Audio mix and video editing by LRB
Thanks to Dave Filce for memories and the original photos.