Rock legend Peter Townshend was so “blown away” by unsigned duo The Bookshop Band that he offered to produce their next album – and ended up playing on every track.

The result is Emerge, Return, a dark album of 13 literary-inspired songs, all written by Ben Please and Beth Porter and released on 28 June.

Ben and Beth will then launch a 71-date UK tour of intimate gigs, mostly in independent bookshops.

Townshend (himself a former bookshop owner) discovered The Bookshop Band’s music when he was gifted a set of their CDs.

He said“I listened to the CDs in my car as I was travelling. I was blown away, completely blown away. I got into the whole Bookshop Band technique, which is just two people making this sound like a symphony orchestra. It’s quite extraordinary. Each song was special in its own way. So, I reached out.”

Emerge, Return responds to themes including the oppression of bodies, free will and free speech explored in books such as:

  • The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood
  • Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
  • and The Book Of Dust, by Philip Pullman. 

It is already attracting praise with Shaun Keaveny describing it as “Hypnotically beautiful” on Radio 2’s The Folk Showand Zoe Ball describing the band as “amazing!” on the Breakfast Show.

The title comes from a song inspired by Robert Macfarlane’s Underland, which glimpses our underworlds and morality in the scale of deep time.

Ben said: “It’s been a rollercoaster working with Pete Townshend, really exciting and not something we could ever have predicted happening. 

“He brought his great musicality and experience to the recording process, doing things we’d never have thought of ourselves, offering a different perspective on the songs. That’s the value of working with a great producer. 

“And the fact that he ended up playing on every track added an extra dimension – I think that fans will hear his influence woven right the way through the album.”

The band, which has worked with many celebrated authors, plays gigs in small bookshops across the UK, USA and Europe. It is much admired among writers, with best-sellers such as Kate Mosse (The Ghost Ship) specifically asking them to write songs for the book launches.

The band has existed largely off-grid, occupying a creative space between the music and book worlds. Their approach is to read books, respond by writing a song, then bring the work to new audiences by performing in (mostly independent) bookshops.

They have previously recorded 13 albums, which have been sold at gigs and online. Emerge, Return will be their first wider, commercial release.

The release takes place alongside a podcast series of conversations with the authors of some of the books (15-22 June). The tour starts at Glastonbury Festival with a set at Toad Hall.

Beth said: Ben and I are really excited to be touring this album. Playing these songs live and getting to share stories in bookshops is what this band is all about.”

The Bookshop Band was formed in Beth and Ben’s former home city of Bath in 2010, as a collaboration between a group of musicians and local indie bookshop, Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights. The duo now live in Wigtown, Scotland’s National Book Town, where they are important contributors to the well-known annual book festival.


Notes for editors

About the album (see attached background briefing)

The artwork for the cover was created by Stanley Donwood (Radiohead / Glastonbury Festival). The books were chosen through a number of curations, including the author events at Mr B’s, but also by the V&A Museum, written for their season on banned books, and for the National Portrait Gallery responding to their exhibition on the Brontë sisters. 

There will be three singles released, and a podcast series, leading up to the album. 

  • 14 May – Sanctuary (Inspired by Philip Pullman’s The Book Of Dust: La Belle Sauvage)
  • 5 June – Eve In Your Garden (Inspired by Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments)
  • 19 June – Dirty Word (inspired by Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World

The focus track will be: Room For Three (Inspired by Philip Pullman’s The Book Of Dust)

About the band

The Bookshop Band (musicians Beth Porter (also of Lost Words: Spell Songs) and Ben Please) were Ivor Novello nominated for their work on Aardman Animation’s Oscar & BAFTA nominated musical, Robin Robin. They would welcome interviews. Quality photography can be provided plus quotes from Pete Townshend and some authors.  

  • “Not just good but achingly good.” The New York Times
  • “Really fabulous new music… just delightful.” Bob Harris, BBC Radio 2

Contacts and links: Distribution enquiries: Chris McCourt // State 51. Booking enquires: Gail Cooke // Laughing Dog Music. Direct contact: [email protected]

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Media enquiries: Matthew Shelley 07786 704299, [email protected]EPK available at