Wolverhampton's unsigned artist Sam Lambeth reflects on 10 years in music
There’s something so tongue-in-cheek about the way Wolverhampton’s Sam Lambeth discusses his latest project, you wonder if he is completely duping you.
A man of many faces – he has fronted bands such as Quinn, The MonoBloggers and Winona on the local scene – he has tasted varying degrees of success with each of his previous endeavours.
They have all ceased to exist. His name and his back catalogue are all he has musically. But he prevails – albeit, he swears, just for a short time. And looking back over his past decade of creating guitar-driven music, he decided to release them all in an off-beat ‘greatest hits’ collection called Ten Years On Four Chords: The Best Of 2009 – 2019.
“The styles and looks may have changed, but Ten Years… shows that I have always been ahead of the curve,” he says while promoting the record – which is out today. “While others have chased the zeitgeist and sold out, I stayed true to my sizeable melodic gifts, crafting songs that ached, soared and sighed in equal measure.”
READ MORE: Album review
So he is pretty sure that a greatest hits record is the correct way forward from here, right? Wrong.
“It’s hard to defend them, really, as both just seem to scream repugnant narcissism,” he says of the album, plus an upcoming gig at Birmingham’s The Victoria to promote it. “A gig and CD devoted to myself, released and promoted by myself? Not even [American Psycho protagonist] Patrick Bateman would stoop to that.
“But when you go from band to band, as I have done over the past 10 years, old songs are discarded and new ones are hastily written. It’s like starting a new job - your old projects don’t tend to come with you, even if you did a particularly smashing PowerPoint. And that’s the boat I was in.
“When I was in Quinn, I couldn’t play MonoBloggers songs. When I was in Winona, I couldn’t play Quinn songs. Often I thought, if I had the chance, I would play a set that just had choice cuts from every band, and what a set that would be. I knew I’d written some stinkers in my time, but I also knew I’d made some great songs.”
Both the album and show capture what Sam hopes will be a beautiful cross-section of his career. And he hopes the influences that inspired him to write them at varying points over the last decade will still resonate with listeners.
“When I realised it was 10 years since The MonoBloggers got together and released their first record, I thought it would be a great opportunity to celebrate,” he continues.
“I’m always one for nostalgia and found myself listening back to the old stuff. I sensed the ambition, the urgency, the fight. I felt the teenage dashed romanticism and forced maturity run through those early songs. They were scratchy, gawky and inexperienced, but I loved them all the more for it.”
And in a possible side-swipe at some of his former bandmates he is philosophical about what might have been had one of his incarnations hit the big time.
“Each song is a snapshot. I wanted to capture all of them in one handy collection. The ‘best of’ and gig would be that chance.
“I still hold on to the feeling that if I’d have been a bit luckier, if I’d had people that were as ruthlessly devoted to the cause as I was, maybe I’d have gotten somewhere. I know I had the songs. But that’s for another day.”
Not wanting to come across as wholly arrogant, Lambeth is thinking about others while setting off on his latest chapter.
The Teenage Cancer Trust – the charity set up in memory of brave Burntwood teenager Stephen Sutton by his mother Jane after his death in May 2014 – will be the beneficiaries of that gig at The Victoria. It takes place on July 12.
So why extend the helping hand?
“I have never made much from music, and that’s never been a problem – I’ve always had a full-time job, so being in a band was for serious fun.
“This time, the idea of financial gain feels even more frivolous. I don’t have gear to buy, recording sessions to arrange or photoshoots to pay for. It’s a one-off gig that will hopefully bring back a lot of memories and create new ones. But once it’s over, I’ll fade into the background once more.
“Giving the money away to charity feels sensible and makes me feel this is a worthwhile venture, rather than doing it just as some sort of weird pat-on-the-back. I am donating the money to Teenage Cancer Trust. I am not sure how much we’ll make. The venue holds 100 people, so I would love to sell it out, but I don’t know 100 people. Let alone 100 people who like my music.
“But hopefully people will realise this is a one-off and I’m pretty much retired from the business, so it’s a last chance to see me. No excuses.”
There will be another group to benefit, too.
“Not Normal Not OK will also be in attendance, raising awareness of sexual assaults that happen at gigs and spreading their message of consent. Those two factors make this gig exciting for me – it’s a chance to do something good while doing something I enjoy. There’s no guilt then, only joy and hope that I can make a tiny bit of difference.”
And if his music has made a difference to anybody’s life over the past 10 years, they are welcome to go along and raise some money with him.