Award-winning musical duo Neil Faulkner and Chris Brown met at de Stafford School in Caterham in the 1970s. They got to know each other through the football team, although their first direct interaction, says Neil, was when Chris saved his shot in a penalty shootout…
Aged 15, they bonded further over a shared love of music. Neil played guitar and drums and discovered that Chris, whose musical influences included Steve Harley, David Bowie and John Denver, had a folder full of lyrics he’d written.
“Neil asked if he could take a look,” says Chris. “A month later, he said ‘I’ve got some songs I’d like you to hear’, so I went round his house and listened to them. I was amazed he’d taken my words and put music to them, it was flattering. But I hadn’t banked on him asking me to sing them, which I’d never done before!”
With Neil on drums, Chris on vocals and a friend on guitar, they began rehearsing in the back room of Neil’s home in Whyteleafe, using his microphone and stereo cassette deck to record their efforts.
Their first tracks had a ‘folky rock and pop’ vibe, says Neil, but as the punk scene emerged, their sound began to reflect that.
“When Chris was in sixth form and I was working in the city, we decided to put a punk band together. We called ourselves Nuffin: me drumming, Chris on vocals and friends Steve on guitar, and Paul on bass.”
Nuffin played a live set at de Stafford in March 1977, plus gigs at Chaldon Village Hall and the British Legion in Caterham, while their major claim to fame was being filmed at the Roxy in Covent Garden for a documentary narrated by Janet Street-Porter, called The Year of Punk. Further musical experimentation followed, but by the mid-eighties both Chris and Neil had started families, and the pair lost touch until around 2010, when they were reunited through Facebook.
(Neil and Chris)
Reminiscences about music led to talk of a Nuffin reunion, and a few years later the original foursome began gigging again, releasing album Crowd Control in 2018. Neil and Chris also experimented with different styles of music which, as they didn’t fit Nuffin’s punky nature, led to them creating Sun-Pinned Leaves, writing songs that feature on playlists as diverse as Americana, pop, rock, country, blues and jazz.
Their first album came out in 2019, with the second and third in 2020. Lockdown prevented them from playing live, but Chris got busy contacting independent radio stations, resulting in Sun-Pinned Leaves being played in almost every UK county, and across every state in the US.
In 2022, they won a World Songwriting Award for Best Collaboration, and this year they picked up the Gold Award for International Vocal Duo at the International Singer Songwriters Association awards. They have also recently been nominated by Fair Play Country Music for their 2024 awards.
Sun-Pinned Leaves are currently working on their seventh album, and Neil says that his and Chris’s mutual respect for each other should ensure a long future for their music:
“For me, Sun-Pinned Leaves very much represents my friendship with Chris, so it’s a way for us to support each other in our artistic endeavours.”
Although now living in Deal, Kent, Chris remembers his time in Caterham fondly:
“I have great memories of the people and the town. They were good, happy days.”
Find more information, and hear Sun-Pinned Leaves here.