Soldiers to get festival marching to a different beat

KEANE may be the stars of the show at tonight’s Hastings Beer and Music Festival gig, in Alexandra Park, but the band’s support act is certainly emerging as one to watch.

Virgin Soldiers is made up of a group of musicians from Sussex and Kent who are hoping to follow the success of the Battle boys, but with their own unique blend of strings and rock, a sound which the band has christened ‘Strock’.

And now, supporting perhaps one of the biggest acts ever to come out of 1066 Country, Virgin Soldiers are preparing to take their music to a whole new audience.

The group was formed in the summer of 2009 by Hastings-born musician James Beeny.

James, who had studied piano and taught himself to play the guitar, liked the idea of using classical instruments to play contemporary music, not just as backing musicians but as an integral part of the band.

He placed an advert in the Wealden Advertiser in a bid to find a fellow musician who shared his vision and received a response from Mike Parkin, a classically trained violinist from Hastings.

In 2010 they were joined by guitarist James Luke, from Hilldenborough, who now plays bass for the band.

Shortly afterwards, Mike introduced the band to Gina Georghiou, from Battle.

Gina had been playing the piano since she was four years old, but despite her love for music she was planning an academic career, possibly teaching overseas.

But after just one gig, Gina made a life-changing decision and joined Virgin Soldiers.

The line-up was finally complete in 2011 with the arrival of Bromley-based cellist Hannah Masson and Georgia Morrison, a viola player at the Royal Academy.

Speaking about the group’s distinctive sound, James Beeny, who grew up in Battle, told the Observer: “We call the music ‘strock’ because we struggle to put it into a specific category.

“The strings section is very much a part of the group, not part of the backing.

“And the rest of the music is really good and rocky.”

Although the group prides itself on its unique sound, there are similarities between Virgin Soldiers and Keane.

James said: “When they (Keane) first came out, one of their big things was their sound was different and not having a guitar was big for them.

“We do not have a drum kit.”

James, who attended both Vinehall School in Robertsbridge and Tonbrigde School in Kent as Keane frontman Tom Chaplin had done a number of years before, said the group was proud to be supporting the four-piece at tonight’s (Friday’s) event.

James said: “We are absolutely delighted.

“Obviously Keane are a local band and it’s great for us to play a gig like that.

“It is a great opportunity to try and rally local support.”

And James hopes that local support will help the band’s debut single Moon Song, which is released on August 20, on its way to chart success.

He said: “We are trying to become only the twelfth unsigned band ever to get into the top 40.

“It’s a case of telling as many people as we possibly can.”

Virgin Soldiers, who have already supported McFly this year, will continue to spread the word with a series of gigs across the south east, including an appearance at the Danson Festival in Bexley, Kent, on July 8 and opening for the legendary Joan Armatrading at the King’s Theatre, Portsmouth, on October 8.

To find out more about Virgin Soldiers, or to view the video for the group’s debut single Moon Song, visit www.virginsoldiers.com