Derbyshire swing band reveal role in Oscar nominated Phantom Thread

Derbyshire swing band Kal's Kats on stage in the Oscar-nominated film Phantom Thread.

A band of amateur musicians from Erewash and Amber Valley could be about to become the height of fashion, after revealing their role in a major new Hollywood film.

Jump jive and swing group Kal’s Kats will appear in Phantom Thread—the latest work by acclaimed director Paul Thomas Anderson—which has been shortlisted for six Oscars.

Kal's Kats, from left: Phil Britten, Brian Luke, Peter Cowley, Roy Symonds, Kal Vaikla, Jordan Hopwood, Fred Evans and Paddy Shaw.

Unable to discuss the project until now, Turnditch resident and bandleader Kal Vaikla, 54, said: “This has all been going on since we were first contacted in March 2017, so it’s nice to lift the lid on it at last.

“We didn’t even know what the job was at first. We were just told that it was high budget, they liked our look and could we put together a recording of Auld Lang Syne.”

Kal pulled in the band members at short notice, quickly put the recording together and sent it off. It was only then that he found out what was in store.

He said: “They wanted a dance band for a scene set at one of the old Chelsea Arts Club New Year’s Eve balls in the Albert Hall.

“The producers loved our camaraderie. They didn’t want any old eight musicians. It was quite staggering, but I think when we play people can see the fun we have, and our love for what we do, and they feel that spirit.”

Set in the glamorous world of the 1950s London fashion industry, attention to detail was essential for the filmmakers.

The scenes were filmed over two days at the Blackpool Tower ballroom, and the band were fully immersed in the stylish atmosphere.

Saxophonist Kal said: “We had to play period instruments, fitted in vintage dinner jackets, haircuts and shaves. They even made gold drapes for the music stands with our black cat logo.

“We were on stage from 6am to 10pm each day. Obviously, we’re not the main focus of the scene, but the way it was filmed the camera could have caught us at any moment.

“It was challenging to maintain our poise for all that time, but it was just a magical experience to see how it all came together.”

The band even got to add their own magic touch in a late-night moment focused on lead actor Daniel Day-Lewis.

Kal said: “He is in an embrace, reminiscing, and we were just left in the background playing a waltz we had written ourselves, which seemed to fit nicely.”

Day-Lewis, who says the film will be his last as an actor, is famous for the lengths he goes to when in character, and the band were enthralled to watch his work.

Kal said: “Everyone on set was very friendly and welcoming. The crew treated us as equals, and he was chatting away with us as Daniel, but as soon as they called action it was a complete transformation.”

In cinemas from February 2, the band have yet to see the film, so have no idea how much of their work will survive the final cut - but they are planning a big night out to watch it and celebrate.

Kal said: “Even if we’re only there for a micro-second, we’re delighted to have been part of something so special.”

The ensemble, also known as the Kalamazoo Dance Band, have proved a big hit on the vintage scene since their first show in Long Eaton in 2014.

Now based at Kirk Hallam Social Club, they play events all over the UK, often in wartime, Great Gatsby, or Peaky Blinders theme, and their diary is packed out into 2019.

Kal’s day job in healthcare has already taken him around the world, but he hopes the film will open new doors.

He said: “I started the band as a hobby after being blown away by one I saw while working in America. It was a dream I never thought would happen, but I bought the equipment and wished for the best. As they say in another film: ‘Build it and they will come.’”

For more information, visit www.kalskats.com or www.kalamazoodanceband.com.

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