Pete Townshend so ‘blown away’ by Wigtown band he plays on their new album

Pete Townshend from rock group The Who was so “blown away” when he heard a CD by a two-piece band from Wigtown that he recorded, produced and played on their latest album.

The Bookshop Band was formed in 2010 by musicians Ben Please and Beth Porter, who write songs inspired by books and perform them to audiences in small bookshops across the UK, USA and Europe.

The duo, who are said to occupy a creative space between the book and music worlds, have worked with a number of celebrated writers, with some specifically asking them to write songs for their book launches.

The two-piece, originally from Bath but now based in Scotland’s National Book Town, had released 13 albums when Townshend heard them and decided he wanted to work with them on their next one.

The Who guitarist, himself a former bookshop owner, said: “I listened to the CDs in my car as I was travelling. I was blown away, completely blown away.

“I got into the whole Bookshop Band technique, which is just two people making this sound like a symphony orchestra. It’s quite extraordinary. Each song was special in its own way. So, I reached out.”

The band’s new album Emerge, Return comprises 13 songs responding to themes including the oppression of bodies, free will and free speech, and is due to be released on June 28.

The books credited with inspiring songs on the album include Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Philip Pullman’s The Book Of Dust.

Ben Please said of the experience of working with Townshend on the album: “It’s been a rollercoaster working with Pete Townshend, really exciting and not something we could ever have predicted happening.

“He brought his great musicality and experience to the recording process, doing things we’d never have thought of ourselves, offering a different perspective on the songs. That’s the value of working with a great producer.

“And the fact that he ended up playing on every track added an extra dimension – I think that fans will hear his influence woven right the way through the album.”

Beth said: “Ben and I are really excited to be touring this album. Playing these songs live and getting to share stories in bookshops is what this band is all about.”

The Bookshop Band comprises musicians Ben Please and Beth Porter (The Bookshop Band)
The Bookshop Band comprises musicians Ben Please and Beth Porter (The Bookshop Band)

The band’s 14th album, the name if which was inspired by nature writer Robert Macfarlane’s book Underland, is the band’s most commercial offering to date, and has attracted praise from the likes of BBC radio presenters Shaun Keaveny and Zoe Ball.

Its release will take place alongside a podcast series of conversations with the authors of some of the books which inspired its tracks, which will be released between June 15 and 22.

The album will be supported with a 71-date UK tour by the band, mostly in independent bookshops, starting at this year’s Glastonbury Festival with a set at Toad Hall.

Emerge, Return will be released on June 28.