We’re super excited this year to welcome back an act who hasn’t graced Farmer Phil’s Festival since 2012. The Undercover Hippy are seriously cool, spreading feelgood vibes with poignant messages wherever they play, and we were chuffed to catch up with frontman Billy Rowan ahead of the main event…
FPF: It’s been four years since The Undercover Hippy played Farmer Phil’s Festival, and since then you’ve had all sorts going on, from playing alongside Grandmaster Flash to releasing your latest album ‘Monkey Suit’. What have been the highlights for you?
TUH: The album finally being finished has to be a highlight, although now we’re in the middle of making our next album, so no rest for the wicked! Other highlights have included playing Buskers Bern festival in Switzerland last year during a heat-wave (think swimming in the river, volleyball, free beer, and swiss girls in bikinis), and playing our first ever Fusion Festival in Germany this summer (think techno and extremely well organized Anarchy).
FPF: Your return to Farmer Phil’s Festival sees you sharing the stage with the likes of Dreadzone, The Bar-Steward Sons of Val Doonican and Gaz Brookfield on the Saturday night – what are you most looking forward to at this year’s event?
TUH: Dreadzone were probably my favourite band when I was 17, so it’s always an honour to share a stage with them. They still have it in strong supply!
FPF: For anyone who hasn’t yet had the pleasure of seeing The Undercover Hippy live, how would you describe your live show in five words (or less)?
TUH: Thought provoking sweaty interactive celebration.
FPF: You started out as a DJ and MC – what prompted you to bust out the guitar back in the day, and how has it served you as a creative outlet since?
TUH: I actually started out originally with a guitar, but ditched it when I was about 16 in favor of dance music. After years as an MC I switched back to guitar, as I found it gave my lyrics more space to breathe and you could play it round a campfire.
FPF: The Undercover Hippy started out as a solo act, but now you tend to play with a full band behind you. How are the two different, and what do you enjoy most about playing live?
TUH: These days I love playing with the band, as you can create so much more energy with drums and bass behind you! But I still do the occasional solo show, usually as a limited capacity intimate event, and I love that as well as it gives me a chance to play material that doesn’t fit in the full band set.
FPF: Besides the accessible grooves and all-round good vibes, your lyrics are very much politically and socially charged – you’ve even sampled David Cameron on ‘Our Streets’. Are there any plans to get Theresa May guesting on your next album?
TUH: Teresa May is going to be busting out a cameo verse on one of the tracks that goes something like:
Climate change isn’t real, And even if it was, It’s probably caused by immigrants, Stealing all our jobs etc
FPF: That suit you wear onstage can’t be comfortable when you’re gigging in the height of summer – what’s the thinking behind it?
TUH: I’ve got a bit lazy with wearing the suit these days and often just wear a shirt! I guess the idea is to make it clear that I’m not a patchouli oil wearing head in the clouds hippy. The idea of The Undercover Hippy is someone who exists within the mainstream, yet still recognises there is something horribly wrong with our current way of doing things and wants to change it (but doesn’t necessarily think the queen is a lizard or want to join a commune!)
FPF: Finally, what’s better – a dance floor full of people losing it to your DJ set, or a field full of sun-drunk festival goers partying to ‘Last Chance to Dance’, and why?
TUH: Being a DJ is awesome. It’s so easy compared to being in a band. You don’t even need to make the music, and these days you don’t even need to mix it! And the crowd are all off their chops so whatever you do they think you’re a god! But writing and performing your own music with a group of talented musicians is definitely better for me, and I get to indoctrinate people with my propaganda at the same time, so it’s win win.. 😉
The Undercover Hippy are playing Farmer Phil’s Festival’s John Evens Parlour stage at 9pm on Saturday 13 August. To whet your appetite, here’s the official video to their single ‘Boyfriend’: