BRIGHTON folk-punk stalwarts Levellers play their rearranged Acoustic Tour date at York Barbican next Thursday.

The original gig in March was postponed when drummer Charlie Heather’s 15-year-old son, Alfie Harbord, died after being hit by a bus in Brighton in February.

The release date of Levellers’ 30th anniversary album was put back to March 30 on the band’s own On The Fiddle Recordings label, but, as first planned, We The Collective will be the fulcrum of the York show.

Recorded straight to tape with legendary Radiohead and The Stone Roses producer John Leckie and a string section at Abbey Road Studios, the record revisits Levellers’ back catalogue for new acoustic arrangements of eight singles, such as Liberty, Hope Street and One Way.

These are complemented by two new songs, The Shame and Drug Bust McGee, the first accompanied by a video showing the plight of refugees in Europe; the second tackling the subject of undercover police, whose arm of the law “the band themselves have experienced”.

Had lead singer Mark Chadwick envisaged Levellers would be still going after 30 years when they first led the “crusty movement”? “No, in all honesty, no. I didn’t think we’d still be around,” he says. “But we’ve always had an eye for self-preservation within the music business, which can be quite carnivorous.

“Within a week of starting, we were making our own T-shirts and cassettes and we built our own tour bus with a bit of sweat and a bit of wood.

York Press:

"What we did wasn't the industry norm," says Levellers' Mark Chadwick. Picture: Steve Gullick

"That’s still the main ethos behind the band; it starts with the closeness of the band and that spreads out to the fans, who have been really important to us. What we did wasn’t the industry norm; in fact they didn’t get why we did it when they had people in record companies who could do it for us, but instead we said, ‘why don’t they work with us?’.”

Since 2005, Levellers have put the emphasis on “bums on seats”. “It’s a double-edged sword because it takes away from your record sales, but increases your direct contact [with fans], which is important,” says Chadwick. “Record sales still matter but not as much as they did, though we never made that much from our records.”

We The Collective, however, is a special record for Levellers. “If you get the chance to work in Studio 2 at Abbey Road, working with John Leckie  in that fantastic acoustic, with fantastic equipment, then you do it! John was the consummate producer to work with," says Chadwick.

"We'd been to Abbey Road before, but never to make to make a recording like this. Studio 2 doesn't get used much for recording now, so they were really excited to have a proper rock'n'roll band in there.”

Chadwick and co enjoyed recording with a string section. "They're musicians who could play in an orchestra but also in the back room of a pub, and that's rare," he says. "They were found for us by John Leckie and Hannah [Miller], from Moulettes, who we'd worked with before.

"I think they've brought a real sweet intensity to the songs, almost ghost-like, almost chilling, and some of the string parts that John and Hannah has arranged for us sent shivers down my spine.

"We tried not to over-rehearse the songs for the recordings, so that when you come to record it, you get that spine-tingling moment where everyone plays 20 per cent better." 

York Press:

Levellers or The Levellers? See below for the definitive answer.

As The Shame and Drug Bust McGee would indicate, Levellers remain a political band to the last. “I’m appalled by how there aren’t more political musicians but people are frightened to stick their head above the parapet,” says Chadwick.

“They fear being tarred with a brush, and what they’re frightened of is that most songs are whimsical love songs, from indie rock to rap. But we’re saying, ‘Come on, enough is enough. We can’t take it anymore. We have to say something about what’s going on’.

“That’s why we’re a folk punk band, where there’s that tradition. Sometimes it was folk, sometimes it was punk, but essentially with a folk narrative about the lives of the people and the life they live."

Chadwick, 52, has not mellowed over 30 years of Levelling. "Punk still inspires me completely," he says. "I was inspired by The Clash, Buzzcocks and The Sex Pistold as much as I was inspired by Black Sabbath, Fairport Convention and reggae, all making brave statements.”

Will anything ever put a stop to Levellers? "Only death," vows Chadwick.

Levellers’ Acoustic Tour 2018 visits York Barbican on July 19, supported by Ginger Wildheart’s acoustic set; doors open at 7.30pm. Tickets update: still available on 0844 854 2757 or at

Innercity Live presents Levellers at Zebedee’s Yard, Hull, on July 28, supported by Dreadzone and Tide Lines; doors 6pm. Box office: 0844 249 1000 or

And finally...

Are the band called Levellers or The Levellers?

"There's an implied 'The', but we're very much Levellers," says Mark Chadwick.