This series of interviews began life as an investigation into the difficulties faced by young bands on the UK music scene. The intention was to produce an in depth article with some sound bites from the groups included in the Five British Rock Bands that Could Use a Break piece (https://hardpresseded.wordpress.com/2015/08/06/five-british-rock-bands-that-could-use-a-break/), but the interviews have proved so damn interesting that it seems only fair to publish them in full. Each band has a slightly different perspective, so although the questions are repeated each group’s responses are equally revelatory.
The third band interviewed was Of Allies, who were formed from the ashes of Lavellion and In:audium and immediately gelled into a slick unit with a highly accessible heavyweight sound, overflowing with memorable hooks; when you wake up with a band’s songs replaying in your head they must be doing something right! Instrumentally they are very strong, with pounding riffs aplenty, tight rhythms and interesting arrangements, and in vocalist Rich Nichols they have a talented front man, in spite of his reliance on Halls and Lockets! (Watch the making of ‘Fragments’ at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oym9N_t–Qk and you’ll get it!).
There’s not a duff track over their two EPs and the material is such high quality that this band deserve to be massive. There’s just enough radio friendliness to demand airplay but more than enough intensity to give them a very hard edge; they seem to understand the role of a bass player better than a lot of bands! Despite inhabiting similar territory to other alternative rock acts that know how to write a hook, they have managed to develop a signature sound which sets them apart, giving them a freshness and an air of excitement.
Like the other interviewees, they all have full time jobs; Rich, Tom and Dan all working in education, while Nick runs a marketing company with his brother. Even though they face similar problems to Blind Wives and Romans, Of Allies seem to be a few steps ahead and should their next release build on the obvious talent on display in their first EPs they could well be ready to start breaking through. Here’s what they had to say:
What is making the music scene so difficult for new bands?
I think this is a combination of factors to do with the amount of bands emerging and a downturn in physical music sales. It’s not like in the old days when a band would be spotted by an A&R guy in a small club and be signed to a major label on the back of their talent alone. Labels in particular want to see physical evidence of projective success to reduce the risk of losing money and the scene is jam packed with bands trying to inch out ahead of the pack. This, combined with the cost associated with being in a band nowadays, can often mess with a band’s morale. It’s important to have someone, like a manager, who can ensure the band’s best interests are always at heart to avoid the pitfalls associated with the modern music industry.
How competitive is the current scene?
Short answer, very. There are a lot of really good bands emerging within the British rock scene at the moment and obviously everyone’s trying to achieve similar goals. Fortunately, the vibrancy of the scene has made it into somewhat of a community and I’ve found that bands these days are more eager to help each other out than ever before.
Do you see the internet as a positive aspect to life in a band/the scene?
Yes and no. Yes because it gives bands more control over the ability to market themselves and put themselves out there to a much wider audience than would have previously been possible. It also enables you to find out about and get in touch with other bands and venues more easily. The negative aspect is fairly obvious. The drastic incline in illegally downloaded music has heavily impacted the industry as a whole and individual bands at ground level. Something I’m staunchly against. Without the internet however, we certainly wouldn’t have got as far as we have done so far.
Do you have jobs? If so, how do you balance the time?
Yes, we all have full-time jobs. Balancing the time is very difficult and requires a great deal of commitment. With the band at the level it’s currently at, the workload is equivalent to a full-time job in itself, so the balancing act can be very tricky. I think our passion for music and Of Allies is something that drives the four of us to continue to see it as a primary focus.
How often do you rehearse?
We rehearse once a week when on a touring schedule and sometimes a bit more if we’re writing. We also have weekly band meetings to discuss the “business” aspect of things like booking gigs, making videos and doing interviews like this! Pizza is always involved.
How many gigs do you get a month? Is it difficult to get a gig or is it limited by other difficulties?
Generally we gig one or two times per month unless we have a tour. I don’t think it’s difficult to get a gig but it is difficult to get a good gig with a promoter who works as hard as you. Over time, you come to develop a network of like minded individuals who are all pulling in the same direction, who you know have the same work ethic as you. Over the years we’ve found more and more venues and promoters who think like this.
Are you making any money? If so, how?
Haha, yeah. We’re very lucky to be making money, but we certainly don’t take a salary from the band. Most of the money comes in through EP sales, merch and touring. Every penny we make goes back into touring costs, recording costs, video production, marketing and all the other costs associated with being in a band nowadays.
What do you think of streaming services?
I think they are a necessary evil. I personally am a bit old school and prefer to buy physical copies of music as I think the package including the artwork has more artistic value. There’s nothing better than a double gatefold Pink Floyd vinyl is there? I think when music is reduced to digital files some of the magic is lost. Having said that, the ability streaming services give you to reach wider audiences and keep people excited about new music is awesome. It’s easier to find out about new bands using things like Spotify and it’s cool how you can find a new band and immediately share it with a friend and they can share it with their friend, blah blah blah. I suppose it all depends on your level of musical snobbery. And it’s still better than just stealing it, innit?
How do you promote the band?
We all look at Nick and say “have you promoted the band recently?” He generally mentions something about stats and interaction, by which time the rest of us have entered into a debate on where we should order our pizzas from. Nick loves his stats. Generally we use all the usual social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We also have ofallies.com which serves as a hub for all of them. We also use more old school methods such as posters and flyers to promote a gig as we think there’s still value in that as Facebook invites can become white noise.
What are your short term and long term plans?
We’re currently in the process of beginning to write for a debut album, which we will be recording next year. We also have a few gigs lined up in Leeds, Camden and Hull. Long term, our primary focus is to promote the album and hopefully start to earn a living from making music!
You can keep up with Of Allies at http://ofallies.com/ and buy physical copies of their EPs for the unbelievably good value of five pounds sterling (that’s like the price of a pint and a bag of crisps!) at http://ofallies.bigcartel.com/
Alternatively you can download Fragments from i-tunes for under four quid! https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/fragments-ep/id990902890
My review of Fragments can be found here: http://alreadyheard.com/post/119932405422/album-review-of-allies-fragments-ep and the interviews with Blind Wives and Romans are here: https://hardpresseded.wordpress.com/2015/09/28/blind-wives-interview/ and here: https://hardpresseded.wordpress.com/2015/09/29/romans-interview/ respectively.