Charlotte Evans of Sleeping Giant
Charlotte Evans
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Sleeping Giant

female vocal fronted light progressive rock

music reviews and artist reflections

Interview and Review © Russell W. Elliot 2002-2003
Additional Review © Stephen Lambe 2002
photographs © Chris Walkden 2002
used with permission
Formatted for 800 x 600 or larger windows
Original: 14 May 2002 | Last update: 13 April 2003

Liverpool-based Sleeping Giant are one of three bands that performed on the first night of the 2002 Classic Rock Society Spring Rockfest at The Oakwood Centre in Rotherham. Followed by Karnataka (DVD review) and Mostly Autumn (DVD/CD review) on the night, Sleeping Giant were indeed a new musical discovery.

Fronted by the polished and powerful lead singer Charlotte Evans, the band also features Dave Foster (guitar), Leon Parr (percussion), Simon Crumley (bass) and James Rimmer (keyboards). We met several of the band members between sets and after the show. Our first interview was arranged shortly after. A subsequent discussion with them was held in conjunction with our review of their 2002 EP "Embers."

The band's debut album Primates released in 2002 is a self-produced project and is available at their gigs and also from their website. This feature includes our first album review an interview with Dave and Charlotte and a second review of the project as well. You'll also find a review of their EP "Embers" within this feature.

The band's live performance is entirely captivating. We had no preconceptions prior to their performance but by the second track, the band's professional approach and singer's vocal energy and stagecraft had us hooked. While the debut album does them proud, we found their live show--performed on the night without a soundcheck--simply stunning and one not to be missed. Photos included in the article were taken by Chris Walkden at Rotherham.

Music Reviews

  Primates CD Cover
image © Sleeping Giant 2002

Primates is comprised of eight accessible tracks and will be most enjoyed by those that have seen the band on stage. Arrangements are well blended and percussion is crisp throughout. Charlotte's lead vocals are mixed way up, well above the backing instrumentals, but the clarity heard in the concert setting was somewhat disturbed along the way in the recording process. Nevertheless, whether singing purely solo or in conjunction harmony layers, her power, range and variety of style is effectively illustrated on the recording. The instrumentals--principally guitar and keyboard--are also superb.

The funky rock number "City Of Chimps" is a good introduction to Sleeping Giant and Charlotte's powerful solo voice. The bright vocal hook of the chorus is balanced with a lush guitar and keyboard melody; the band's tightness is illustrated in the bridge. "The Longest Day" is a well-written progressive ballad with a high energy chorus propelled by Charlotte's vocal prowess--exploring her extensive range--and richly arranged instrumentals.

"Precious" continues the ballad theme with verses blending easily into a memorable chorus. Charlotte's soaring vocal excursions--in range, style and speed--are brilliantly performed and are well supported by lush keyboard and crisp guitar licks. The keyboard-laced and richly layered harmonies in the chorus of "When Your Best Is Never Good Enough" are contrasted by sharper vocal edges in the verses. Equally strong instrumental and vocal edges in the bridges produce a lovely contrast.

"My Release" and "Lazarus"--one of the Rotherham crowd pleasers--continue to explore Charlotte's vocal range while the instrumental arrangements build with especially crisp percussion. Dave's acoustic guitar in adds a folky feel to "Fickle," and also provides a good backdrop for Charlotte's searching vocal lead; harmony vocals add texture to the track. "Unique" mixes progressive orchestral sounds with accessible upbeat arrangements and, with Charlotte's soaring vocals throughout, brings the album to a close.

Embers EP Cover
Embers EP
image © Sleeping Giant 2002


Embers is the follow-up recording to Primates. A four-track self-produced collection of studio versions of their live performance crowd pleasers, the band have been getting the impression that people see them evolving over the last two years and the EP is indeed a significant improvement over their debut album.

The superb production quality is immediately evident in opening track "December Moon." Again Charlotte Evans' vocals are mixed well atop the instrumentals. Guitar, keyboard and percussion are perfectly mixed. A powerful bass pedal part provides additional depth. We especially enjoyed the way the power--including Charlotte's soaring vocals--of the song develops.

The mid-tempo tune "Nothing More" offers typically warm Sleeping Giant construction. An impressive treatment of Charlotte's building and evocative lead vocal part doesn't diminish the strength of the supporting arrangements. The tempo and style change in "An Apology" is captivating. The funkier yet accessible rhythms, multi-tracked vocal harmonies, lush instrumental bridges and overall style suit the band well and demonstrate their virtuousity. The bass pedal again provides added depth to the arrangement.

The multi-dimensional tune "Embers" concludes the EP. A bluesy progressive rocker at its foundation, Charlotte's vocals soar through her entire stylistic range with supporting instrumentals adding depth, texture and warmth to the tune. Be sure to pick up the EP at one of Sleeping Giant's gigs.


We asked Dave to tell us about his background prior to Sleeping Giant. He told us, "I was born and bred in St. Helens and after leaving school went to the Sandown music college in Liverpool for 12 months, hated it and then went to Leigh Music College in 1988." He went on, "I loved it so much that I went on to stay for four brilliant years. In the mean time, I formed the band, Mr. So & So, who went on to release three albums and played with bands such as Marillion, Moody Marsden, Jadis and others."

Dave told us that after leaving Music College, he went to work in a music shop as the guitar demonstrator. He told us, "Surprisingly, I got bored after two years and left. Then I went to St. Helens Technical College to study Architecture, but two years into that, got drafted into the family business, which is where I still am." And about the others in his life, he told us, "I am married to Clare--a music teacher--and live near Warrington with Clare and a big fat cat called Bruno."

Dave Foster
Dave Foster
image © Chris Walkden 2002
  Dave Foster
Simon Crumley
image © Chris Walkden 2002

Dave told us that after leaving Music College, he went to work in a music shop as the guitar demonstrator. He told us, "Surprisingly, I got bored after two years and left. Then I went to St. Helens Technical College to study Architecture, but two years into that, got drafted into the family business, which is where I still am." And about the others in his life, he told us, "I am married to Clare--a music teacher--and live near Warrington with Clare and a big fat cat called Bruno."

We asked Charlotte about her background. She told us, "I am from Doncaster, Yorkshire originally now living in sunny Leigh. Also classically trained, she told us about her education, "I went to Leigh College and did a Popular Music BTEC and a HND in Popular Music and recording. I currently work full time in an office. I am in a duo also with James; we gig at various pubs and clubs."

Sleeping Giant's music is indeed quite varied so we asked Dave to tell us how he views their music. "Asking us or any band to categorise their own music is always difficult, but to give our primary influences as Peter Gabriel, Sting, Joni Mitchell and The Dave Mathews Band, kind of points you in the right direction."

Dave remarked about the band's backgrounds further, "We all went to music college--a good music college at that--and not only were we educated, technically and theoretically, but we were all exposed the many different kinds of music: jazz, latin, funk, orchestral and so on, as well as listening to the usual rock stuff."

Charlotte Evans
Charlotte Evans
image © Chris Walkden 2002


Charlotte's remarks were somewhat startling to us, "My favourite singer is Stevie Wonder without a doubt. I love and can't stop listening to Jeff Buckley. I also listen to a band called D' Sound a lot. There are too many to mention as I love all kinds of music From Rage against the Machine and Radiohead to Tower of Power and Zero 7."

As we expected, Charlotte has had an extensive amount of vocal training. She explained, "I first started having singing lessons when I was about 14. My music teacher at School recommended I take it up so I started singing lessons and loved it."

She continued, "I was always classically trained learning Italian arias and songs from musicals and operas. I joined two operatic societies and performed in various musicals."

When Charlotte left school at 16 she decided to go to college to further her music studies. She elaborated further, "I Went to Leigh College and did a BTEC in Popular Music. I then stayed on and to do a HND in popular music and recording. I still attend singing lessons once a week and enjoy singing the classical stuff."

Clearly an established live performer, Charlotte reflected on her training, "I think by learning how to use my voice correctly it has helped a great deal with my projection and range. I listen to many singers and think. 'wow that was good, they way they did that!' And then try to do something similar when I am thinking of melodies."

Sleeping Giant are clearly a song-based band. Dave told us about the influences of the band's sound, "An obvious influence is Peter Gabriel. I think the main reason that he has influenced us is down to the Beatles mentality, that the 'song' comes first, everything else such as technique, texture and production all follow afterwards." He continued, "Listen to the very simple chords and melody of 'Secret World.' This might seem a bit mad with us having this attitude, when you consider that a lot of our songs are technically a bit more advanced, odd time signatures and a lot of modal progressions, but they genuinely happen that way."

  Simon Crumley and Leon Parr
Simon Crumley and Leon Par
image © Chris Walkden 2002

He compared Sleeping Giant to Mr. So & So. "We liked to showcase our abilities, so the mentality was 'lets make the middle section in 9/8 ... because we can!' The problem with that is the ong is always too long and consequently, your interest in the hook disappears." He cautioned, "Don't get me wrong, there a some fantastic long tracks, 'Starship Trooper,' 'Bohemian Rhapsody,' 'Kashmir' and others, but none of them have a chorus like 'She Said' by the Beatles or 'In Your Eyes' by Peter Gabriel."

Dave continued, "Also as far as technique goes, we do have a wide variety of influences, more a collection of genres than individuals, Leon and James are big Jazzers, me and Simon are big Proggies, Charlotte and Leon are big Funksters, Leon and me are big into Led Zeppelin, etc. so we do have loads of influences and more importantly we all still love music. Some people get bored; you can tell it in their songs. But it's the food of life to the five of us."

We were interested in how Sleeping Giant writes their music. Dave told us, "There's no formula as such, but usually, I'll come up with a riff or a chord progression and then we jam it out at rehearsals to see if it would work or not. I'm not as precious about the tunes at this stage, so it's easy for the rest of the band to tell me if they don't like the tune. Then, if after a couple of weeks we are still playing the tune, I'll try to write some lyrics, not my strong point, but I think I'm getting better."

Charlotte Evans
Charlotte Evans
image © Chris Walkden 2002


Dave also writes the lyrics. He told us, "I then give the lyrics to Charlotte and give her a brief outline as to the rhythm of the lyrical phrasing and then it's Charlotte's turn to find the pitch of the melody. I think that this process is a bit unusual but it's worked so far. After all of that, the band will always be credited for writing the song mainly because, without all of us the song wouldn't evolve in the way it does. And also if we ever did make it, I wouldn't want to be well off and the rest of the band skint."

We asked Dave to tell us about the band's live performances. He elaborated, "I've only just started to enjoy gigging, believe it or not. In the past, I did virtually everything for Mr. So & So: organized the gigs, hired the van, picked all the band up, drove to the gigs, then played, couldn't drink, as I was driving--I don't drink now, but that's not the point--so everybody else got tanked up and enjoyed the experience whilst I was getting all the gear back in the van and driving people back home." He compared that experience to Sleeping Giant, "In this band it's just so easy, we all get on very well and getting to gigs is easier. I like the atmosphere when we gig, we all look after each other so, we can all relax more."

And about the CRS spring rockfest, "The gig with Karnataka and Mostly Autumn was really good," Dave said, "both bands were very easy to get on with--makes all the difference when you play these multi-band gigs, believe me."

We asked Dave to tell us how the internet has influenced Sleeping Giant's musical career. He told us, " It's changed the industry altogether, though I'm not entirely sure it's for the better. Because it's easier to get exposure, it becomes more difficult for the potential listener to discover new bands, sites like People-sound are good but, there are too many bands there, where do you start. The Musical Discoveries site is a great idea because it is genre specific. So you know what you are going to get. The internet should really be used alongside traditional public relations and distribution much the same way television was--well, when we had music programmes!"

(12 April 2003) We asked Dave to tell us about the songs on the "Embers" EP. He told us, "We feel that the four songs on the EP, are more of what we sound like now, though to be honest the recordings are nearly a year old now and we have moved on again since!" What about "December Moon" then? We've heard that in Rotherham and Aylesbury. Dave remarked, "It is a crowd favourite and when we play it live we do drive it toward the end, try to make it a big as possible, this was one of those songs that kind of write themselves once I had the first line. Lyrically its about wondering exactly who you are!"

"Nothing More" is more typically Sleeping Giant. Dave remarks, "Yeah, it is another one that goes down really well live--it has a warmth to the song which I adore, kind of like a Suzanne Vega song. The lyrics are a bit angry ut its played in a way that makes the song sound more relaxed and easy."

The band have developed significantly since Primates. We asked Dave to tell us more. "'An Apology' is an unusual song. We haven't played this a lot live, sometimes we try to push the boundaries a little bit and this is one of those occasions, even though the main body of the song is quite simple, the middle and end section are an example of these boundaries being pushed, the section where written around the top line melody which is very angular in musical terms, but we have 'hidden' the tune in amongst some very clever chords, I hope in fifty years time this will still sound unusual."

The title track of the band's 2003 EP provides a further illustration. Dave told us, "'Embers' is my baby really--it's certainly the most contested of our songs--some people really love and some people just cant get their head round it. Its an ambitious tune that involves a lot of unusual chord structures against an almost jungle-like rhythm section. The words are about the best I've written so far." He continued, "It's about contemplating catching up with people from your past, but wondering if they will even remember you! I get the biggest buzz out of this song, because you'll never hear another song like it."

Sleeping Giant continue to add material to their live repertoire. New songs not yet captured include "The Lemon Tree," which the band say is the start of the next stretch in the Sleeping Giant sound. Also listen for "One by One," "Bulldog Summer" and "Wish." The band are waiting to return to the studio until deliberations with the interested parties in the recording industry conclude.

Additional Primates Album Review

Sleeping Giant are a band with an interesting pedigree, growing from the ashes of progressive band Mr. So and So, whose album Compendium, still available through the Cyclops label, has always been something of a personal favourite--melodic, yet complex. Sleeping Giant are a rather different sort of band.

Charlotte Evans, now taking centre stage as lead vocalist, has a wonderful voice--rich, clear and powerful--with a great range. The rest of the band, obviously playing within themselves, weave arrangements designed to compliment the songs with little touches of complexity thrown in. More importantly, not a significant instrumental solo is to be found on the entire contents of Primates, such is the reverence to the song writing.

Charlotte Evans
Charlotte Evans
image © Chris Walkden 2002


And what songs they are! These are not your average radio-friendly disappointments, and, though the recording quality is not always the best, it rarely detracts from what is on offer here. "Everything Must Come To An End (City of Chimps)" is a tight, uplifting slice of rock-funk, with drummer Leon Parr and Bassist Simon Crumley laying down quite a groove, and the band gelling superbly in the pre-chorus instrumental break.

"The Longest Day" slows things down with James Rimmer’s electric piano, and Charlotte’s lovely vocals to the fore, before a dramatic, synth driven chorus. Dave Foster’s jaunty guitar dominates "Precious," a song which includes an innovative change of pace as verse flows into chorus.

A jazzy piano and guitar section introduces "When Your Best Is Never Good Enough," a song which features the album’s strongest 'hook' driven chorus, while "My Release," another uplifting song, is the piece that reminds me most of Mr. So and So, with guitar again prominent and Charlotte demonstrating her full range.

"Lazarus" is another strong, chorus-driven song, while Foster’s acoustic guitar harmonics on "Fickle" remind me of Steve Howe’s most gentle playing. In fact the whole song hints at Yes in ultra-melodic mode. "Unique," closing the album, chugs along pleasingly, with Foster’s guitar again suggesting Mr So and So, and provides the album’s hardest-rocking moment in its middle eight.

At 34 minutes, this should be classed as a mini-CD--though time was when most albums clocked in at this length--and it actually benefits from such a short length, leaving the listener wanting more rather than outstaying its welcome. Having seen Sleeping Giant live, I had been impressed by Charlotte’s voice and stage presence, as well as the bands instrumental prowess, but had not been so sure about the songs. I was mistaken. The songs are first rate, and this is accessible, yet emotionally uplifting music that deserves a wide audience. I hope the band get it.--Stephen Lambe

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