This is the second in a series of follow up interviews with the “Five British Rock Bands that Could Use a Break” featured here: https://hardpresseded.wordpress.com/2015/08/06/five-british-rock-bands-that-could-use-a-break/.
Each band is giving me their perspective on the difficulties they face at the ever tougher, no success – no money, arse end of the music biz. It’s eye opening stuff and really shows just how much impact the internet has really had, besides highlighting the importance of supporting new bands and giving them a chance; after all, today’s new talent is tomorrow’s headliner. In between, however, there exists a kind of twilight zone which sooner or later comes to a point where you either accept your position in the hierarchy, give up or just keep pushing for that one big break. Romans seem to have taken quite a philosophical attitude, which I find admirable, but it is actually quite depressing to hear about the futility of the predicament of these young bands.
Romans are a four piece alternative rock band from the Midlands, whose recent album, – = + (less is more), is stacked with melodic hooks and hard rocking riffs with an upbeat vibe. They’ve certainly put some nice songs together showcasing some serious guitar talent; check out the smoking solo on ‘Mary’. Each track on the album is curiously named after a person, because, according to Tom, in the interest of keeping things simple, during songwriting he asked the others to shout out the first name that came into their heads; which despite being just a bit of fun, has actually served to give the songs an air of personality.
As with Blind Wives, the guys in Romans balance their time between band and work; Tom working as a Stock Administrator for a Skate Company, Mike for a stage and sound equipment distributer, Will as a personal trainer/life guard (also studying to become a Teacher) and Josh at a local Fish and Chip shop; which they tell me is “Far from glamorous, but it pays for us to do the stuff we want to do in the band. It’s hard to find companies that are flexible for things in a band, I’ve been very fortunate with my employer, not everybody gets as lucky though.” The overall sensation with Romans is that they are interested in music being fun and this really comes through in their hard groove; there’s an infectious positivity to their well arranged songs, and given more resources to help develop the production side they have the potential to achieve so much more.
What is making the music scene so difficult for new bands?
This is always a funny question, because I feel that not only has it never been harder to become noticed, it’s also never been easier. I’m fully aware that makes no sense whatsoever, so bare with me on this. The introduction of The internet and social media has lead to a complete flood of bands in every genre. Bands are trying to clamber over one another just to get a gasp of air, while the others are doing their best to drag their competitors back under the water in order to get their own foot hold and a chance at breathing. But, with that being said, it’s amazing that there are now so many platforms for these great bands to showcase what they’re about!
How competitive is the current scene?
As far as the ‘Scene’ goes, we’re a midlands based band, and as far as we’re concerned there are some incredible bands out there, you just have to put the time in to seek them out. We aren’t a group with an abundance of band ‘friends’ so to speak. We’ve always been thrown on different styled line ups because of the type of music we play, which has enabled us to meet some great people, we aren’t competitive in that sense, we just like to play with ace bands. We played with Palm Reader a few months back, and it instantly made us want to get back in the practice room and tighten every screw in our performance. Just for the record, Palm Reader are fucking incredible and deserve your time and attention.
Do you see the internet as a positive aspect to life in a band/the scene?
We have so many platforms on which to promote our band that its hard to know where to start. Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Band-camp, Spotify and the list goes on and on. It provides anybody with the chance of creating their own music and unleashing it on a ‘New Product’ hungry world. While its easy to look at it like a drowning pool, we shouldn’t forget that this also brings forward the opportunity to provide free (to a certain extent) publicity to you and your band. To almost anybody around the world. It has become an actual possibility to become a rising act overnight, and in some cases, you don’t even have to leave your bedroom to manage it! So, i can’t give you a solid answer on this, as I feel it does work both ways.
Do you have jobs? If so, how do you balance the time? If not, how do you survive?!
All four of us work full time, so balancing work is possibly the hardest part of being in a band, that, and keeping all four members happy all the time. We recorded the majority of our album in our practice room, which is essentially a shed in the middle of a field. Studio time is so so expensive, that it just wasn’t possible to book two weeks off work, and then spend literally thousands of pounds on making a record in a top end studio. If we could have, then believe me, we would have, but it just wasn’t possible. It was nice to have our home comforts and record, but we couldn’t ever really immerse ourselves in the whole experience as we still had to work and carry on the 9-5 life whilst recording on top. It was a really positive experience, it made us better players as the majority of the album is recorded live, but in an industry that favors crystal clean, precise and essentially shit hot production, it may in some respects not worked in our favor.
How often do you rehearse?
We practice twice a week. Sundays and Wednesdays. We have done ever since the band started. Unfortunately we practice as a three piece on weekends as our bass player has other commitments then, not ideal, but, it’s part and parcel of being in a band. It’s like being in a long term relationship with three other people. You have to learn about how each of you tick and work to your strengths. If we have a show coming up, we’ll up the practices in the run up to the date.
How many gigs do you get a month? Is it difficult to get a gig or is it limited by other difficulties?
Again, this is nowadays limited by our private lives a little. Tours and shows up and down the country are becoming harder to take, time off work keeps us out of pocket, so its about taking the right shows. We’ve played some of the best shows this band has ever had through 2015, and I think it’s due to us learning to take the right things and not just say yes to the first email in our inbox. We were younger and had less to worry about when the band started, but I’m now 26, and looking to put a deposit down on a house early next year, leaving work at 12 O’clock to go and play in Leeds, doesn’t help pay for that unfortunately. I wish I didn’t love playing and writing music as much as I do, my bank balance would be a lot healthier, but its something that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to shake, I just have to think about the bigger picture a little more than I did 5 years ago.
Are you making any money? If so, how?
Romans have been going for 5 years. No member of this band has ever made a penny, but we’ve put thousands and thousands of pounds of our own money in. We’ve never had a label, management, booking agent, or anything of that kind. Everything we have done has been self funded, which is probably a testament to our love of playing music with our friends. We have T-shirts on sale, but they just fund themselves, and any ‘profit’ made from those goes into a small kitty for petrol money and back into making more shirts. If we were in a band to make money, we’d have stopped years ago. And to be honest, if your in a band just to make money, you’re more than likely going to end up disappointed.
What do you think of streaming services?
Honestly? If you’d have asked me a few months ago I’d probably be giving you a totally different answer, but with the release of our album, its been a real eye opener into the world of streaming. The most obvious example for us is with our physical sales. When we’re at shows, we find it so much easier to move copies of the album as opposed to online. I totally understand why people wouldn’t pay the money for a physical, when they can pay a monthly fee and essentially have it for free. People work hard for their pay, and its hard to let your money go. But coming from a band’s standpoint, we’ve not even covered 5% back of the overall costs of recording, printing and then releasing our album. We make nothing back from the streaming sites, so although its brilliant that people can get hold of our music so easily, it makes self recording and releasing music even more un-sustainable. So again, we probably share a mixed view on this side of things too.
How do you promote the band?
Facebook, Twitter, Bandcamp, Instagram, Youtube and through word of mouth. We’re definitely at a stage where if you aren’t up with the competition regarding social media platforms, you run the risk of being left behind. It’s still possible to run up a buzz about your band through shows and word of mouth alone, but its becoming more of an online based set up nowadays.
What are your short term and long term plans?
To make sure whatever we do, we have fun. We used to have these grand ambitions of playing Reading and Glastonbury, huge Tours and sold out shows, which I suppose we still harbour a little, but as we’ve got a little bit older and a little bit wiser, we know that if it stops being fun, you’ve got to stop. So for us, as long as people keep turning up and asking us to play and write music, and we’re having fun doing so, that’s all we’re fussed about. It’s really easy to become very negative about a lot of the things going on within music at the moment. With the introduction of the internet, everybody now has a voice, everybody’s a pro, and everybody will let you know exactly what they think. As long as you’re having fun, and you don’t mind RIFFROCKER3764 saying your music is shit, you’ll have some of the best times of your life. Just enjoy the ride and whatever comes along with it!
A review of Romans’ album can be read here: http://alreadyheard.com/post/125166527648/album-review-romans-less-is-more and it is available to buy through all the usual outlets.