Undying Heads are Frank Ryder and Sam Wilkinson, they play an eclectic mix of original acoustic folk music as well as the occasional cover. Their music takes influences from many sources and is impossible to pin down to one genre.
Frank and Sam met in January 2018, where they also met Kev Saunders, a double bass player. Here Undying Heads was born from the travelling and busking scene in Lagos, Portugal. Frank is a prolific songwriter and singer who plays guitar and mandola. Originally Sam was behind the scenes as manager while Kev was the other permanent member playing double bass, harmonica and cajon. Kev decided not to carry on into 2019 and so Sam took over on stage playing bodhran and singing. In early 2020 the three played together at a couple of gigs and hope to occasionally gig as a trio in the future.
In August 2021 they released their second album, ‘A Break in the Country’ mostly written during the first lockdown while in Morocco. Their debut album ‘Can’t Be Late’ was released in 2019. Their EP ‘Live at the Horsedrawn’ was recorded in 2018. All these are available on their website or on Bandcamp. Also available are the last few 2018 ‘Undying Heads’ T-shirts. Their very popular, although some would say obscene, ‘Anti-Social, Social Media’ T-shirts may soon be back on sale!
Since they got together Undying Heads have played many venues across Portugal including the huge Freekuency festival and Total Resistance festival. In 2018 they toured the UK and Ireland playing at The Magic Garden in Battersea, Landed festival in Wales, Left Bank Village in Hereford and the Horsedrawn festival as well as plenty of other venues. In 2019 the played lots of venues along the Algarve and west coast of Portugal. They also got involved in hosting open mic nights, helping and encouraging musicians with little experience of playing live.
Frank and Sam live some of the time in their campervan, they travel a lot of the time for gigs and busking as well as for the love of travelling. Living on the road is a big part of their life and making music is their life! They love to get people smiling, dancing and enjoying themselves.
They are based in Portugal but as they travel frequently they visit other countries often on their travels and are always keen to travel to new places for gigs. Sometimes guest artists join them for occasional songs, recordings or whole gigs.
Frank and Sam recorded their 2019 ‘Can’t be Late’ album themselves in their van using one track recording so what you hear on the album is exactly what you get at a gig! The recording was all made using solar power and all the CDs were made on their own laptop and printer. They are strong believers in a DIY ethic and feel that to make their own material is the best way until they can afford professionals!
Their 2021 album ‘A Break in the Country’ is also a home recording, some done in the van and some at Frank’s house in central Portugal. This album uses layers of vocals and instruments and is not so much what you would hear live unless they can afford to hire some session musicians!
More about Undying Heads...
Songwriter, Vocals, Guitar and Mandola
Frank is a singer songwriter from Dublin, Ireland who plays guitar and mandola. Frank says “I remember being fourteen years old and having a copy of a Lynyrd Skynyrd album, and seeing this gang of long haired’s singing about whiskey, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll and life on the road. For me growing up in suburban Dublin that was a glimpse of something outside. It excited me.”
So, how did Frank escape the suffocation of a repressed Irish childhood? He travelled. Much of his youth was spent trekking around Europe, and he has lived for periods in France, Germany, Spain and Portugal. He read too: the anarchist writers and philosophers, the libertarians, anything to do with the Sixties counter-culture.
In the early 1990s Frank (then going by the guise of Frank X. Hibbet) was part of the band Far Canals, based in Galway, Ireland. They released two albums and one EP with Hunter S. Records. The bands anarchic, anti-establishment ethos was reflected in many of their songs which railed against the police, drug laws, organised religion and political corruption. Influenced by punk and blues, the Far Canals combined unusual guitar arrangements and distortion pedals to produce a highly distinctive sound. The group disbanded in 1996.
Frank also played many gigs as a solo act, he was the support artist for Julian Cope on his ‘An audience with the Cope tour’ of Irish Castles in 1993. Frank has also been a live sound engineer and he worked for a number of artists playing in the Galway area.
In 2000 Frank moved to Barcelona for four years where he took a break from playing instruments to make electronic music and to become a DJ, where he wrote and performed under the name 3bass. He played at many events, parties and festivals in Spain and Portugal and also recorded some tracks with singer and flute player Amy Ahern.
Frank then moved to the mountains of central Portugal. After meeting two guitarists in there he picked up his guitar again and started The Rocking Horse of Oisin which still play occasional gigs at festivals and venues in Portugal.
In October 2017 the area in Portugal where Frank has his land was devastated by wild fires. Frank lost all his music equipment, including his favourite guitar as well as amps and microphones used for gigs. He also lost his Sprinter campervan and his Mercedes bus that were full of other personal possessions from clothes and photographs to body boards and wetsuits.
Frank took this as a sign to move on and moved back onto the road in a van. Once back on the road he started writing and playing more live music again. He feels that there is not many people writing from the perspective of a sixty something male and wanted his take on the world to be in his song writing. He is now more determined than ever to be playing and writing as much as possible.
Vocals, Bodhran and Mandola
Sam is a singer, mandola player, bodhran player and percussionist from Cirencester, UK. Sam started singing at age 15 thanks to a youth club initiative to get teenagers into playing music. She was in a new wave band called Enzone who played a few gigs, their best one being at The Barge Semington in Gloucester to a packed house.
Sam remembers the first song she heard that made her really take notice of music, Soft Cell’s Tainted Love. Despite that she was always mostly disillusioned with ‘chart’ music feeling it didn’t reflect her life or say anything to her. During the 1980s she found Paul Weller & Billy Bragg who she connected with much more and she also got turned on to Psychobilly music, a fusion of Punk and Rockabilly.
During the 1990s reggae, dub, rave music and the new age travelling scene had a big impact on Sam. She wasn’t making or playing music much herself as between juggling being a single mum to her son, and working full-time she found little time to perform. During this time she did take up the guitar and sang a lot at home.
In 2004 Sam joined anarcho punk band, Drug Sniffin' Dogs for a while. Sam practiced with them for a six month period but left before actually gigging with them. They are still going now despite the sad death of founder member & good friend Hayden Daniels.
In 2005 she went on to sing in the Gloucester Community Folk Choir which was a great lesson in singing technique as well as a brilliant way to learn some obscure folk songs from around the world.
In 2010 Sam moved permanently into her campervan & travelled extensively in the UK, Ireland, France, Belgium, Holland, Spain & Portugal.
After meeting Frank she was inspired to take up singing again as well as learning the bodhran and other percussion. In the 2020 lockdown she took up the guitar again and learnt the mandola, something she shares in common with Bill Bailey as well as one of her hero's, Jeremy from The Levellers.
Guest artists include:
Songwriter, Vocals, Double Bass, Harmonica and Cajon
Kev is a musician from a village just outside Norwich, UK. Kev bought a double bass at 17 years old after becoming interested in Rockabilly and Psychobilly music. His double bass is older than him, made in the 1930’s in what was then Czechoslovakia.
In his early 20s Kev moved to Atlanta, Georgia in the USA when he joined a blues band, Brother to Brother, playing Harmonica. It was there he discovered his love of blues, country and jazz music.
On returning from Atlanta Kev settled down to married life, raising his two children and building work. He moved his young family to Spain where he carried on building, hardly ever picking up an instrument.
After the breakdown of his marriage Kev moved to Portugal and started playing music again. He dusted off his bass and played with some friends much older than him, he was in fact the youngest in the band that comprised also of a banjo, fiddle and guitar players. The band had no name but they played around the Alvaiazere area in cafes and bars.
Realising that he would struggle to buy his own home again and loving the idea of being out on the road Kev bought a van and converted it to a camper to live in. In 2015 he and two friends started a band called Next Port of Call, a country blues busking band that also played quite a few gigs over the couple of years they were together.
After the band broke up in 2017 he briefly met Frank through mutual friends and they made a loose plan to perhaps meet up in the Algarve that winter. Luckily they did and Undying Heads was born!
Guitar and Cajon
Vocals and Guitar
Thanks for your interest and we hope you enjoy our music. Please contact us via email or telephone for all enquires, our contact details are at the bottom of this page.
Thank you to Olaf Tyaransen for some of the information on Frank and Far Canals.