Life in the wardrobe of the Rails
When Island Records welcomes a young band to its celebrated pink label, it’s clear something special is stirring.
The same imprint that released the British folk elite in the late 1960s and early ’70s – Nick Drake, John Martyn and Fairport Convention – is now home to folk-rock two-piece the Rails, husband and wife James Walbourne and Kami Thompson, herself the daughter of Fairport Convention co-founder Richard Thompson and famed folk chanteuse Linda Thompson.
James has spent plenty of time on the road, as guitarist for Son Volt, Pernice Brothers, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Davies, the Pogues and the Pretenders. “Well, yeah, when I was a teenager – I’m 34 now!” he chuckles. “I was just a kid playing guitar.” His solo work has been described by novelist Nick Hornby as “an unearthly cross between James Burton, Peter Green and Richard Thompson.”
The writer then turned matchmaker, introducing James to Kami (Nick is a long-time friend of Richard and Linda). Kami was already an accomplished musician, having sung backing vocals for her mother and performed with the Wainwright family, Sean Lennon and Bonnie “Prince” Billy, as well as releasing her own solo album, Love Lies, in 2011.
When it comes to style, Kami likes to mix and match, blending vintage gems, high-street staples and designer pieces. “I’m one of those flipside wardrobe people,” she says. “I have millions of things, but then I have eight amazing coats and eight amazing pairs of shoes and eight amazing bags. Fancy-schmancy things, you know.”
She adores the colour green, from her well-worn sage Jimmy Choo party shoes to her treasured custom-made Chanel bag (a gift from her mother), and her favourite tartan shirt from Zara. And she loves her Manolos. “These are my favourites – I don’t even know why,” she exclaims. “I’ve worn them about twice and they don’t go with anything. They’re a mixture of the weird and the classic, but I still love them.” Then there are her Jackie O-style Miu Miu sunglasses, a leopard-print Louis Vuitton shawl she’s lost and re-found on several occasions and a Vivienne Westwood number that she wore to Rufus Wainwright’s wedding.
Kami’s go-to piece is her 1980s Chanel jacket. “It’s only got one button missing, which I think is quite an achievement,” she says. “I crack it out for just about everything. It’s just so easy.” Finally, she brings out the dress to end all dresses: a floor-length wedding gown by Alessandra Rich. She admires the intricate lace detail before suddenly saying, “I’m seriously considering dyeing it black.” There is a gasp in the room. “Seems a bit wrong, hey?” she says, laughing as everyone breathes a sigh of relief.
Text: Nazanin Shahnavaz
Portrait: Paul Kelly