Punk survivors The Nightingales are still making great music after more than 40 years. Andrew White talks to Robert Lloyd.

THEY’VE been described as misfits, outliers and cult heroes and now punk’s great survivors, The Nightingales, are heading to Darlington.

Formed by members of The Prefects – ‘Birmingham’s original punk group’ – following that band’s demise in 1979, The Nightingales has had a fluctuating line-up ever since.

But charismatic frontman, singer and lyricist Robert Lloyd has been ever present.

The Northern Echo: Robert LloydRobert Lloyd

Critically acclaimed, but without achieving the level of commercial success their music deserves, Lloyd has had a varied career.

He’s been a music producer and video director, food writer and postman – but it’s his work with The Nightingales which has given him the most pleasure.

Darlings of the music press in their early years, the band stopped working in the late 1980s, but regrouped in 2004, before arriving at its current line-up.

And since re-starting they have been more productive than ever, with numerous releases alongside regular tours of the UK, mainland Europe and the USA.

And despite their longevity, Lloyd believes the band is still improving.

The Northern Echo: The Nightingales on stageThe Nightingales on stage

“I obviously like it when I have written what I think is a good lyric,” he says.

“I do like the open mindedness of the group and their music, plus I know we are a very good live band – and sometimes excellent.

“But I am most satisfied when we make a real good album and to be honest – and I don’t know how – the records have been getting better with each release.

“We have not always been faultless by any stretch of the imagination but the good stuff is very good in my opinion.

“It is the records that will remain after I have gone and I suppose they are what I will be judged by – at least there is some gear there to be proud of.

“It has been an achievement of some sort to keep going and to have found some pretty top people to work with – plus I’d like to think I have been a half decent bloke with a modicum of integrity and a fair degree of empathy.”

However, he adds: “Unfortunately, certain aspects of being in the band – especially being largely overlooked – has brought the most pain.

“As I have often said, it is not the end of the world if a pop group can’t catch a break, but there is no denying it can be disheartening sometimes.”

The Northern Echo: The NightingalesThe Nightingales

He’s at a loss to explain that lack of commercial success, describing it as a combination of “irritation, annoyance and amusement at different times and to assorted depths.

“Frustration also,” he adds. “But there is FA I can do about it. I feel I must have done something wrong somewhere along the line because I do not get the attention of the popular artists nor the love or respect of the cult figures.

“Or maybe people just don’t like me or my music, that is always possible.”

And those descriptions of him as a misfit, outlier and cult hero?

“Maybe I am a misfit in the ‘music biz’ because I am not overly concerned about what the world thinks of me and I am not keen to ‘play the game’ for the sake of commercial success.

“I also do not hang around with other bands or align my own group with any ‘movement’, or what have you.

“I don’t know about cult hero – maybe, but if so it’s a relatively small cult!”

The Northern Echo: The NightingalesThe Nightingales

The 2020 documentary about Lloyd and The Nightingales, King Rocker, raised his profile.

But Lloyd was not completely comfortable making the film, directed by Michael Cumming and written by Stewart Lee.

“Thankfully I’ve never been recognised in the street, but for sure it introduced some new people to The Nightingales’ music and ultimately that was what I wanted when I agreed to do it.

“In my mind I have the thought that the group is so good that if people actually get to hear us they will dig it.”

Despite a long career of many highlights – The Prefects were part of The Clash’s White Riot tour and The Nightingales have supported acts as diverse as as Bo Diddley and Nico – Lloyd still has some ambitions.

“I would like the Nightingales to play Japan and I’d like to meet Dolly Parton,” he says.

“But it’d be particularly nice if the band sold more records and got the sort of acclaim I think is deserved, though obviously you can’t account for taste.

The Northern Echo:

And his message to Darlington music fans is: “I hope y’all are gonna come out in droves, it’s going to be a good night.

“The Nightingales is a non stop hour of words, rhythm, melody and racket and even if it’s not your cup of Bovril you won’t be able to truly say ‘It’s shit’.”

* The Nightingales will be at The Forum Music Centre on Borough Road, Darlington, on Friday, April 22. They will be supported by stand-up comedian and musician Ted Chippington, as well as Dutch post-punk and modern lo-fi band Rats on Rafts.

For tickets, priced £14.50, call the Forum on 01325-363135 or online at www.theforumonline.co.uk

Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated Darlington Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on newsdesk@nne.co.uk or contact 01325 505054