Real Junk Food Recordings

Towards the close of 2014 I was involved in a project which helped rejuvenate my enthusiasm for my music and gave me a little more faith in humanity.

Before November I had been vaguely aware of ‘that cafe where you can pay what you like,’ but I didn’t have a clear idea of what the Real Junk Food Project was. It turns out that the Real Junk Food Junk Food Project is just that: an initiative which intercepts food that would otherwise be wasted from restaurants and supermarkets and cooks high quality meals, which are served on a pay as you feel basis. Founded in my university city of Leeds, the flagship Pay As You Feel cafe was just down the road from me in Armley, but similar cafes are popping up across the country.

I heard that friends at the University of Leeds Folk Society were recording some music to raise awareness and funds for the cafe so I went along with them to the studio to show moral support and soon learnt that the Armley Pay As You Feel cafe was under threat of closure as the landlord had put the premises up for sale, and that the founder and head chef Adam Smith had started an indiegogo campaign to raise the money to buy their home. A group of musicians from the folk society and Leeds College of Music were recording an album to try and help them, and were kindly being offered free studio time at the incredible Old Chapel Studios.

In my typical over committing style, within half an hour I had agreed to contribute my PR experience and my music to the album. The former involved sitting down with project leader Lorentz Bloom and photographer Maria Alzamora to try and garner some direction for the album. We decided to call our project ‘Real Junk Food Recordings,’ and agreed that it would be available on bandcamp on a pay as you feel basis like the food from the cafe. We set up a facebook page, Maria did some gorgeous artwork for us and I threw together a couple of press releases and gave the other two some hashtagging lessons.

The musical side of my involvement was a lovely experience. I chose my song SAD to put forward to the album, because of its seasonal relevance and its simple, acoustic sound. With some help from songwriter Arthur Rei on tenor guitar, we recorded it at the wonderful Old Chapel Studios in Holbeck, Leeds.

Recording the harp at Old Chapel Studios
Recording the harp at Old Chapel Studios

We had a very limited time to record all twenty artists who were to feature on the album and so we managed to get SAD down in two takes. This ninja speed of recording was nerve wracking but also liberating: I knew I wasn’t going to get it 100% perfect in the limited time I had so I could really enjoy giving an emotive performance. Thanks to some nice guitar-ing from Arthur and the impressive sound engineering and production skills of Darcy Taranto, I’m pretty content with the final result.

The album was released on bandcamp on 15th December and is available to download on a pay as you feel basis, with every penny going directly towards the cafe campaign. Just under a month later on 10th January, I was thrilled to hear that £23,000 had been raised for the cafe, enough to convince investors to fund the remaining cost of the cafe via social loans.

Album artwork by Maria Alzamora
Album artwork by Maria Alzamora

It was wonderful to be able to donate my musical skills to a great cause and work with some great artists. The album is still available on a pay as you feel basis on the Real Junk Food Recordings Bandcamp and there is some really high quality music on there. Fans of folk and jazz in particular are well catered for. My personal favorites are The Evan Davies Band’s ‘Nightingale,’ and Aino Elina’s ‘Lähdetään.’

Why not check it out

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