One Hundred Views of the Arts Tower

Avast! Just popping up out of ‘retirement’ to share the news that Sheffield Shanty II features in a new exhibition, One Hundred Views of the Arts Tower. Between now and 31st March you can visit the exhibition at Western Bank Library, University of Sheffield.

I also have an illustration in the exhibition, which I named ‘I don’t need to navigate by stars’:

New single – Formicarium – out today

As promised, here’s one last single from me before I leave music behind to focus on further study and family, at least for a good while.

I wrote this one a couple of Septembers ago but hadn’t recorded it until now – I didn’t want it to be the one that got left behind. It’s available now from iTunes and Bandcamp (on Bandcamp it comes with a home demo b-side: ‘Breathe, Rabbit, Breathe’). It’s already had some love from Gideon Coe on BBC 6 music and from WFUV in New Yoik.

Bandcamp – free/pay what you like. Includes b-side
iTunes – 99p
Or you can stream it on Spotify. Lyric video here.

It features my band of lovelies – Hannah (flute, vocals, percussion), Oliver (banjo) and Katherine (violin) – and was recorded in one short session at 2Fly Studios here in Sheffield on September 1st. I hope you’ll give it a listen and share it with anyone you think would appreciate it.

FInally, a big big THANK YOU for all your support over the years, it really means a lot and I wish you all lots of happiness in return.

Forwards, fellow creatures
Ant Johnson

I was born into the summertime so I’d see September arriving
I crashed and clawed my way to 35
But that year I learned to walk quietly – now you will never hear me by scarce perceptible stream
I’ll stare a pheasant right down from a couple of feet

Water don’t move, it’s the forces upon: gravity, sun and wind

See I’ve already gone (she’s already gone)
Slipped away by the light of day (slipped away by the light of day)
To the Pinetum (to the Pinetum)
Where I’ve stashed all your stork-given babes

When I’m a giant I stroke the land, oh so very gently, my great hand
Over prickling treetops, green velvet hills
A spire, now chimney smoke, through my fingers spread wide
I wash my hands in the lake, rub the water in

Giants don’t get a giant brain, just a heart that beats nice and slow

And now I have got the brawn (she has got the brawn)
To lift great boulders from the moor (boulders from the moor)
And drop them out of the dimming sky (out of the dimming sky)
On the dogs who live next door

And when I shrink back down (when she shrinks back down)
If I should shrink too small (if she should shrink too small)
Build me a formicarium (formicarium)
And keep me sheltered from the storm

Keep the river to the right (keep the river to the right)
If you’re here, be here (to the bridge and back again)
Under willow we will sleep (under willow we will sleep)
On the cusp of severe (it’s just that time of year)

Dead as the water, alive as the wind
(To the bridge and back again)
Dead as the water, alive as the wind
(To the bridge and back again)
Dead as the water, alive as the wind
Dead as the water

I am standing still (we are standing still)
At both ends of the lane (both ends of the lane)
Cos time stops when I run (time stops when we run)
To the bridge and back again (to the bridge and back again)

And you saw a solid thing (you saw a solid thing)
While I swam in the Hall
The theatre spins through space
As rockets fly above us all


Thanks to everyone at Gullivers in Manchester last night for making my last gig for a good while such a nice one. Really enjoyed playing and of course getting to see/meet Laura Gibson.

I’ll be putting one more song out next month sometime, before I (musically) disappear for a while. Wishing I had ended the set with a smoke bomb disappearance now, as Kev and I always planned to do back in the old days but never managed to.

Pic of me above by Jayson Turner.

My set list:

March, March
Not Now, Horse
Lonely in the Dark
Talkin’ Like You
Anne, the Gardener
Emily, the Diver

A final farewell to MSTU, and another impending farewell

Our Casket Letters reunion weekend is over, and that’s that for Monkey Swallows the Universe! We had the best time and we were really touched by how many people came out to see us play those songs one last time on Friday at Sheffield City Hall and at Indietracks Festival yesterday (where we were hastily moved to the indoor stage at the last minute due to torrential rain!).


Thanks to Greg Povey, Anya Portus and Steve Vickers for these pics. You can see some more photos and a couple of video clips from Friday over on my Facebook page.

We are down to the very last few MSTU albums – get them here while they last!

I’ve got one more (solo) gig coming up before I go into some kind of retirement (having a baby / going back to uni part-time – there’s not going to be much time for music in the foreseeable future!) so please come and see me if you can on 23rd August at Gulliver’s in Manchester, supporting the incredible Laura Gibson.

I’ve also reduced some prices in my bandcamp store.

MSTU Scrapbook Volume II

Ahead of our last EVER (we mean it this time) Monkey Swallows the Universe gigs at the end of this month, I’ve been going through the nostalgia files from mid-2006 to our last gigs in Feb 2008. Take a look over here.

At the launch of The Casket Letters, Aug 2007. By Lucy Davies

We’re playing our second album, The Casket Letters, in full at Sheffield City Hall Ballroom on Fri 28th July. Tickets here.

And a set of our favourites at Indietracks Festival, Derbyshire, on Sun 30th July.

Reviews for The Casket Letters from 2007:
“Bloodline is reminiscent of Stereolab’s Ping Pong, but MSTU’s heart still lies with stripped-down folk, Nat Johnson’s gorgeous vocals draped over acoustic guitars, cello and violin. The band are ghostly on Gravestones and giddy on Matterhoney’s waltzing pop, but it’s their maturity and restraint that impresses.” – The Guardian ****

“In the wrong hands this could be all too saccharine, but singer Nat Johnson has a voice that can do withering as well as whimsical…proof there’s more than one primate-monickered South Yorkshire outfit worth listening to.” – NME

“Beneath the cosy wool can lurk some nasty, if always softly spoken, surprises. This Sheffield band’s lovely second album abounds with these, wrapping Nat Johnson’s at times vaguely Smiths-like melodies and beautiful, Tracey Thornesque voice in lovely, lilting folk-pop.” – The Times

“On their ravishing second album, you can’t help but think The Beautiful South – but there’s no doubt this lot are way cooler.” – The Sun

“Aimed at fans of The Decemberists, this would be equally satisfying to fans of The Beautiful South. And that’s more of a compliment than it sounds.” – Independent on Sunday

Support at City Hall comes from The Perfect English Weather, aka Simon and Wendy from The Popguns:
The Perfect English Weather are Simon and Wendy Pickles, a duo from Brighton taking a break between Popguns records to create a slightly more reflective and partly acoustic collection of songs on their new album, Isobar Blues. The subject matter covers the usual concerns of wet afternoons imprisoned in seaside cafes, conversations with cats, and weekend adventures to cancelled Morrissey concerts. Inspired by the unjaded love of a great pop song, the result is grown up music for those who still prefer a karaoke party to a dinner party!

Laura Gibson!

Overjoyed to be supporting one of my absolute faves, Laura Gibson, in Manchester this August!

I’ve been a fan for years, since I first heard this song:

And last year’s Empire Builder was my favourite album of 2016.

Get tickets here