I remember well my introduction to the Strange Folk on an otherwise forgettable evening last year when they took to the stage in the Flag at a battle of the bands competition.

Fronted by the haunting, soaring vocals of front-woman Annalise Spurr, the Watford-based four-piece were fantastic; serving up a fresh, original, and exciting set more than good enough to stand your hair on end.

Mind you, this should come as no surprise. Practice, as they say, makes perfect and Strange Folk has been plugging away in its various guises since 2002 – with two its members playing together for more than a decade.

So why is their obvious talent not better recognised?

I caught up with Annalise this week ahead of the launch of the Folk’s (hopefully) breakthrough EP The Portrait and a much deserved festival gig in Italy.

“I suppose we’re a bit unusual for a lot of people’s tastes,” she quips. “We used to be described as having an acid folk sound, whatever that means.

“But recently we’ve toughened up our sound a bit with more of a metal and grunge influence – grunge folk if you like!”

Now, grunge and acid folk might sound about as appetising as a peanut butter and jam sandwich but, just like this wonderful culinary creation, it actually works very well indeed. (Try one for yourselves and you’ll know what I mean.) Strange Folk, you see, are an unashamedly hybrid act, blending what, on the surface seem to be very different musical tastes – one such example being the Fairport Convention and Alice in Chains.

“My dad played the fiddle in a folk band so that type of music has always been with me,” continues Annalise. “Ever since me and Dave (Setterfield, guitarist) first came together at West Herts College it’s been at the core of our music since.

But like everyone else we’ve evolved over time and with experience and we’re a lot more comfortable as a band.”

This comfort undoubtedly comes from a lot of hard work; from playing four or five live gigs a month for the last few years. As the band know to their cost, however, hard work often counts for very little in the notoriously fickle music business.

“I think because we are different we always have to prove ourselves to new audiences. I think we often get pigeon holed because of our style and because we’ve got a female singer: I think people see me and think some weedy sound is going to come out when I open my mouth and female singer and assume we’ll come out with some weedy sound. But we always like to surprise.

“I suppose we like to be different at a time when a lot of people seem scared to do it themselves - from the music they like to the clothes they wear.

“But we love what we do and we’ll keep doing it – hopefully until some crazy old hippie with loads of money comes to sign us up.”

Next Friday the guys hope to surprise and delight in equal measure the gathered throng at the Made in Europe Festival, in Domodossoia, Italy.

For more info, gig dates or to order an EP visit myspace.com/strangefolk or www.strangefolk.co.uk .

Strange folk are completed by Ian Prangnell (bass) and Steve Birkett (drums)