Nina Mediatrix – Interview

“She was already a mediatrix for all who were seeking the fullness of joy. She had never been just a spectator, but a full participant willingly involving herself in the needs of others.”

nmediatrixMake no bones about it, Nina Mediatrix, a.k.a Mediatrix Music, is cool. After an incredible response of over 80,000 views on You Tube to 2015’s ‘Maybe Mediatrix’ bootleg remix of Björk‘s ‘Lionsong’, the London based twenty something gained a certain kudos, which has only served to enhance the reputation of the producer/DJ/artist, building on previous mixes of the likes of Zhala in the guise of Nina The First. She has since gone on to work with other musicians as diverse as My Ruin vocalist Tairrie B., contributing to her recent rap project, Paleface Junkies and indie pop hipsters Faded Paper Figures, as well as releasing a single, ‘Summer Saga’, in her own right.

Nina has quietly built an enviable portfolio of work and with a host of other projects in the pipeline, such as ‘The Cassette Project’, it is fair to say the future looks bright for this hard working innovator. Moreover, given that women in music already have a difficult enough time getting taken as seriously as they deserve, being on the production side, where “male dominated” would be an immense understatement, makes Nina’s credentials even more admirable.

Anyway, I recently caught up with Nina on Twitter and put a few questions to her about her career, collaborations and the difficulties women face in the music business; here’s what she had to say…

Last year’s bootleg remix of Björk’s ‘Lionsong’ helped establish your credentials as a producer, but given that you are also putting out your own music, how do you see yourself – Producer? DJ? Artist?
I’m a remixer, producer and songwriter, but whenever I meet a new person and I’m asked that question I always answer “a musician”- I think this label really covers all of it!

Was/Is your music career planned out?
I’ve always been the kind of person to make lists and vision boards so I can be clear about what I need to do and I do like to be organised. Of course I certainly have goals for things that I want to achieve in the next few years, but I wouldn’t say it’s planned as in a military operation.

How difficult has it been and has your gender made it even more complicated?
Well my producer name is ‘Mediatrix Music’, or if I’m doing a remix ‘Mediatrix Remix’, so as a name it is non gender specific, so I think that the majority of people who hear my music at this stage won’t be approaching it from the angle of “I’m listening to something that a woman produced/remixed”. But the response I’ve had so far to my music has been positive and actually looking at my youtube stats (and I don’t know how accurate these really are), more men listen to my music on youtube than women so… make of that what you will.

So, how hard is it for women to be taken seriously? Is it even harder on the production side of things? – personally I can’t think of one female producer (except you!) which is unreal!
I’m going to quote Björk on this. She summed up the situation in an interview: “You’re not just imagining things. It’s tough. Everything that a guy says once, you have to say five times.” So..if a woman as accomplished and successful as Björk is saying that then it is certainly something to think about and remember. Personally, I think that I was lucky in that when I started producing and remixing the people that I was working alongside at the time were very supportive and respectful so I had a positive experience early on. If they had not been so great, maybe it would have discouraged me- because faith and confidence can be really fragile things especially when you’re starting something new- I like to think that it wouldn’t and I’d find my way, but I appreciate that it can be tough.

Also, off the top of my head, two great examples of female producers!- Linda Perry and Grimes. I think there’s a lot more people getting into production generally because technology has really opened up this aspect of the industry and I think a lot of writers and artists are enjoying producing and seeing the possibilities that go with it. I think we’ll eventually see a lot more women moving into this area – I hope so.

You’ve had some interesting collaborations of late with the likes of Tairrie B, Pale Faced Junkies and Faded Paper Figures – how did these come about?
Long story short, I’ve been a fan of Tairrie’s for a long time and I had done an interview last year where I listed her as one of my top women in music; so I think initially we connected on Twitter through that. When I had heard Vintage Curses I loved it and approached Tairrie about remixing for her, and it was exciting because I hadn’t really listened to her early 90s rap music, I was a My Ruin fan, so it was very cool to be able to rediscover and enjoy her work in a completely different genre. After producing my first remix for her which was for the ‘Wicked Witch Of The West Coast’ track Tairrie invited me back to do another for ‘Sky Above City Below’ and then after she had released the video for BTCHCRVFT, she reminded me that it was the track I had initially approached her to remix, so I’ve just finished producing that! So we’ve kind of gone full circle which is quite witchy and mystical- very Vintage Curses!

The Paleface Junkies collaboration was connected to my work with Tairrie, as Kid Vibe from Paleface Junkies had done an excellent remix for her first single ‘Beware The Crone’ and at the end of last year he got in touch with me about remixing his own song ‘Heated Up’, which also features Liquor Store Bandits. I had already checked out his work and I loved his Golden Era/old school vibe, so was happy to do it and I think the remix is a cool switch up. Faded Paper Figures and I had connected through Twitter but as their music has been played on Greys Anatomy I had probably heard their stuff before, as I’m a big fan of that show! The track I remixed is ‘Hear Me Out’ with the original song being from their most recent EP ‘Remnants’.

There is quite a depth to your remixes, with a number of influences from different genres, as well as an Old Skool feel – are you a bit of a music geek?
Probably. I listen to every genre under the sun, you know if I like it, I’m not really worried about whether it’s cool or what it ‘says’ about me as a person. I don’t believe in musical snobbery. Also I’m a pianist and I think piano is quite a geeky instrument- it’s not guitar or drums is it? But i also think it’s the best instrument to have training in if you’re going to want to write for other instruments, because you can easily mimic their behaviour and sound, particularly with keyboards and software tones. I’m not saying it’s better than getting real musicians in, but you have the option if you’re writing or producing.

How do you approach a remix, do you immediately know what you want to do?
It’s probably not the most satisfactory answer but every track is different! Often when I hear the original version of a track I will get some ideas and may start working those as a starting point. Occasionally an early idea can form the backbone of a remix and be expanded upon, but then sometimes the finished track is completely different to my original plan. It’s trial and error and both technical and instinctive. Also, I want to consider the artist that I’m producing for and who the artist’s fan base is – I’m trying to create music which I love and that I hope the artist and their fans will also love.

Who are your musical heroes and biggest influences?
Too many to mention! But saying that I will copy paste what I put on my Facebook page: Michael Jackson, Björk, Cheiron Studio, Denniz PoP, Motown, Gary Numan, Depeche Mode, Quincy Jones, NIN, Darkchild, Timbaland, Tairrie B, Tracey Emin, Robyn, Salvador Dali, Orbital, Madonna, Chopin, Beethoven, Nora Tate, Stock Aitken Waterman, Danja, The Prodigy, 808s, Chords, Orchestra Hits, Pitch Bends. God. Endless…

Given the ever changing dynamic of the music industry, is it possible to make a living, or do you need a day job?
I actually think the shift is overall positive. I think certain aspects of the changes happening may put off the kind of person who is attracted to music solely for reasons like instant fame and riches or whatever. But for most of the people I know in music, they’re in it because of an incredible passion for it and they see it as a vocation, more than a job. Obviously people need to make a living, but this is what the whole indie movement is about at the moment because this is really the first generation that have the opportunity to completely reshape how things are done and ways of monetising are changing. I’m hoping for a renaissance period. Imagine in the future if we had a situation where if a kid says “I want to be musician/artist/producer” – people actually take it seriously, rather than discouraging the child, and see it as a viable profession and something concrete – not necessarily chasing mega bucks, but a job like an artisan, earning your living through your craft and skill.

Also I’m grateful for the technology that we have in terms of connectivity and being able to share your work. It’s great for collaborating – the people you want to work with and the people that you want to hear your work, whether artists or producers – these people are far more accessible – that doesn’t mean that they’re going to say yes to working with you (!), but you have the opportunity to make contact and get your music heard in a way that was previously difficult.

Plans for the future?
Hopefully continuing to work with people that inspire me and those with similar musical visions. I’ve got lots of remix projects coming up over the next few months and I’ll be releasing an EP as well this year. The working title is ‘The Cassette Project’ and it’ll be available digitally from iTunes, Tidal, Spotify etc, but also I’ll be doing a limited edition run in cassette format. It’s going to be a cool nostalgia trip with some very 90s influences and hopefully something fun for those that didn’t get to experience the joy of cassettes (and the 90s) the first time round. It’s also a cool way to amalgamate the Mediatrix Music sound. I work with lots of different genres, and most of what I’ve created so far has been totally different from track to track, so I think this is a good way for people that are interested to hear more of what I’m about as musician.

Many thanks to Nina for taking the time to give such thoughtful and thorough answers.
For more on Mediatrix check out: http://www.mediatrixmusic.com and here are links for free downloads of Mediatrix remixes of Tairrie B.: https://tairrieb.bandcamp.com/track/sky-above-city-below-mediatrix-remix
https://tairrieb.bandcamp.com/track/wicked-witch-of-the-west-coast-mediatrix-remix

MEDIATRIX+MUSIC+WEB+LOGO

Kapitu

Kapitu

Recentemente escrevi um artigo gigantesco sobre o estado (precário) da cena musical local em Niterói/Rio de Janeiro, comparando-a com a situação de bandas “grass roots” da Inglaterra. Descobri que os países tem muito em comum quando se trata de musica no fim da cadeia alimentar mas, realmente a situação das bandas fazendo musica autoral, especialmente se for “indie” ou rock alternativo, é mais complicada ainda aqui. https://hardpresseded.wordpress.com/2015/12/01/rock-in-rio-literally/

O artigo em questão foi escrito baseado em entrevistas conduzidas através de email e pessoalmente, e contei com a participação de membros do Barcamundi, Ambstract, Anxtron e o projeto “On The Rock”, além da grande contribuição do Fabricio Figueiredo do Útero Ruídos e Victor Cunha de A Conspiraçao Produçoes. Porém, uma participação que chegou tarde demais para ser incluída mas é tão interessante que merece publicação, vem do Felipe Viana, vulgo Jahba, guitarrista da banda Kapitu. Ele conseguiu abranger todas as ideias do artigo original de uma forma interessante, especialmente vindo do ponto da vista de uma banda que já conseguiu avançar um pouco mais nas estradas do rock brasileiro.

Kapitu é uma banda que combina aquele som clássico da música brasileira, reminiscente dos anos oitenta, com uns ares de “hard rock” contemporânea. O resultado é mais que agradável; com composições bem pensadas, repletas de uma variedade de “riffs”, refrões marcantes e, de vez em quando, um solo fulminante. Sem medo de misturar os estilos e ritmos, a banda consegue abranger vários aspetos do “rock n roll” e manter uma qualidade invejável.

A seguir estão as respostas profundas do Jahba sobre a cena musical do Brasil:

Quais são as dificuldades mais comuns do cenário musical no Rio?
Acho que a dificuldade maior de se tocar no Rio de Janeiro, fazendo som autoral, é conseguir espaços com boa estrutura de som para tocar. Há um circuito independente no Rio relativamente extenso, mas, no geral, ou são casas underground ou são lugares que não têm shows mas são adaptados pros eventos acontecerem. Isso prejudica muito as apresentações. É ótimo tocar nesses lugares e sempre serão o berço das bandas de rock e nunca devem sair do circuito, mas esses são praticamente o ÚNICO espaço que a cena independente tem.
Se a gente pegar como exemplo nossa cidade, Niterói, quase exclusivamente uma única casa abarca esse tipo de evento, o Convés. Quem é mais das antigas vai se lembrar que existiam outros espaços como o Arab’s Café (em Piratininga) ou a BOX 35 e São Dom Dom (ambos na Cantareira).

A Internet ajuda ou atrapalha as bandas?
Ajuda (e muito!), mas se você souber usá-la. No princípio (ou para sempre), você não vai ter rádio, televisão. Sua vitrine vai ser a internet. Lá é o canal oficial da banda e onde você vai divulgar as primeiras demos, lançamentos de EPs e discos, clipes, vídeos ao vivo. No começo da banda será seu círculo de amigos e companheiros de som que divulgarão seu trabalho.
O erro que muita gente comete é achar que a internet é um local à parte do mundo e que as coisas andam sozinhas, por si só. Primeiro, a internet está o tempo todo em diálogo com as movimentações da “vida real”, ou seja, você precisa estar em conexão com os produtores, bandas, agentes públicos da sua região. É preciso sair de casa e tocar, tocar, tocar, tocar. A internet virá dialogando, complementando e amplificando tudo isso.
Segundo, você precisa divulgar seu material ativamente. As pessoas não vão escutar sua música uma vez e pensar que você é um gênio e automaticamente seu som vai viralizar no mundo inteiro. Tem que tomar a postura de enviar todo o material que estiver produzindo para todas as pontes possíveis. E, de maneira contínua, estar sempre atualizando o material.

O cenário musical aqui do Rio é muito competitivo?
É competitivo no sentido de que tem muitas, muitas bandas de alta qualidade circulando por aí. Só em Niterói sei de cabeça umas seis bandas que já lançaram materiais de alto nível. Facção Caipira, Bow Bow Cogumelo, Parola, Lougo Mouro, Bezouros Verdes, RivoTrio. E teriam outras que nem material lançaram ainda…
Repito: essas são as que eu mais conheço e as de Niterói. Existem muitas, muitas mais.

Kapitu 2

Dá para ganhar dinheiro com música aqui?
Dá sim. Na Kapitu, Marcolino e Yuri, por exemplo, vivem de música. Eles participam de outros projetos, autorais e não autorais, e seguem esse caminho. Mas é importante lembrar que viver de música autoral, é muito difícil. Um caminho que poucos ainda conseguiram traçar, mas que, depois de uma longa estrada, é possível sim.

Em relação a música, quais são seus planos de curto e longo prazo?
Vou responder aqui pelo KAPITU. O plano sempre foi poder fazer nosso som da maneira mais honesta e autônoma possível. Até agora, penso que conseguimos fazer isso. Mas o caminho é longo!

É fácil de se arrumar lugar para tocar aqui, e/ou de se produzir e fazer seu próprio show?
Não… Mas como te disse, desde 2008 estamos circulando de maneira quase frenética. Tocamos em muitos lugares, participamos de festivais, shows coletivos, viajamos, etc. Já temos um público que nos acompanha e sempre recebemos convites para participar de shows e fazer parcerias. Isso não quer dizer que nos acomodamos. Continuamos produzindo nossos shows e produzindo nosso material. Temos de fazer constantes reuniões para planejar as coisas, como produzir vídeos, músicas, compor, dar entrevistas. Acho que quanto mais subimos, mais tarefas, e cada vez mais complexas, vão aparecendo. Nossas últimos desafios foram produzir todas as etapas de confecção do disco, fazer um “crowdfunding” e produzir um clipe!

Com que frequência sua banda ensaia?
Semanalmente, por 3 horas. Mas dependendo da atividade que estivermos mais engajados, concentramos mais nisso. Por exemplo, no começo da banda ensaiávamos até 2 vezes por semana. Antes do primeiro show compomos e ensaiamos durante 10 meses. Na época de gravação do último disco, o “Vermelho” (2015), chegamos a ficar várias semanas tocando quase que diariamente para terminar os arranjos. Em épocas que temos que nos concentrar mais na produção executiva da banda, podemos substituir o ensaio por reuniões também.

Você gostaria de contribuir mais alguma coisa?
Não sei se teria algo mais a acrescentar. Só gostaria de reforçar para galera que está começando: se organizem, toquem em qualquer buraco e façam exaustivos ensaios! Ter controle sobre o que se está fazendo exige muita responsabilidade, humildade e trabalho. Ser roquenrou é arriscar e meter a cara por aí! Então, mãos à obra! Te juro que é compensador.

Muitíssimo obrigado Felipe pelo seu tempo e suas respostas legais. Valeu!

The British Ibm – Interview

IBM01
Recently, I had the pleasure of stumbling across, and subsequently reviewing, the delightful slice of folk tinged indie rock that is the British Ibm. Their second album, ‘Psychopaths Dream in Black and White’ is a highly enjoyable, soothing collection of richly textured tracks, with swathes of lilting cello that compliment the comfortable melancholy of Aidy Killens thoughtful songwriting. As I’ve had the album on heavy rotation since before its official release, it makes for a lovely chilled listen after a big day, I decided to hit Aidy up for an interview and he has been good enough to answer a few questions about the band, the album and future plans; here’s what we talked about.

So, how’s the album doing, are you happy with the reception so far?
Really well, it’s got some decent reviews and feedback and even some radio play in the US. Also, one of the tracks is being used in the new trailer for ‘From Bedrooms to Billions: The Amiga Years’, which is cool, as they used the title track from the previous album on their first ‘Bedrooms to Billions’ film (see below).

‘Psychopaths Dream in Black and White’ seems like an unusual title for such a laid back record, what was the thinking behind it?
I came up with the idea for an album about psychopaths quite a while ago and wanted to create something conceptual that told the story of a psychopath and how his lack of empathy was more of an asset than than a hindrance. It was influenced by stuff like ‘Kill Your Friends’ by John Niven. The title of the album comes from the book ‘The Psychopath Test’.

For me the use of the cello on a number of the tracks adds a real depth, how was it that Anna Scott came to be involved?
Anna’s awesome and probably my favorite bit of the recording session because you get to just sit around and listen to her play. She’s also just the right mix of indie-savvy (if that’s a word) and classically trained. So you don’t need everything written out in perfect musical notation; she can adapt and change to the songs as they progress in the session.
I got to know about her via the local scene and she played with other bands we knew like Eureka Stockade. She played on the last album too and did an equally awesome job on that too.

Did she contribute to the composition or had you already worked out the orchestrated parts?
I already had the majority of the string parts composed on the original demo tracks using synth strings, which she replicated. But she did ad-lib on a couple of bits. The middle eight on ‘We Were the Stars’ and also ‘I’m Just Like You’.

Does she/Will she ever join you live?
She joined us once live for a radio session with Q Radio. You can download the session from the shareware section of our site for free. http://www.thebritishibm.com

How much of a team effort is British Ibm?
It’s mainly me to be honest, I write all the songs and manage all the day to day stuff and then teach the songs to Dave and Paul for the live shows. Both of them are pretty busy with their own projects too. Paul plays in multiple bands and also acts and writes. Dave plays in a few bands too and recently started his own band called Taken With The Tides.

You seem to be a very prolific song writer, is there already another project in the pipeline?
Always! I make video games in my spare time with a friend under the name Gimpy Software and we’re working on the mobile version of a game we released on Xbox 360 a while ago. It’s called ‘Lunar Panda’, and we’re also working on a sequel to our other mobile game ‘Gimpy Bomber’. So I’ll be doing all the music for those. I’ve also got some ideas and demos for the next British IBM album, which has the working title of ‘Where is Matthew Smith?’.

I realize that there is this relationship between gaming and music, but I wanted to know more about your musical and songwriting influences…
I was a bit obsessed with REM growing up and their stuff from the IRS years. Although one of my favorite REM albums is ‘New Adventures in Hifi’, which influenced at least one track off this album. As well as REM though, I listen to a lot of music and a lot of different stuff, though probably 80% of what I listen to is within the genre of indie rock. I guess all that kind of bleeds into my songwriting in some way or another.

I’ve recently interviewed some bands about the difficulties of the UK music scene, what’s your view on the current musical climate?
Bands and artists always seem to have a tendency to blame their local music scene for all sorts of reasons and I think it’s the same the world over for bands and artists at our level. I played some gigs in Vegas last year with 8 Bit Weapon who are from LA and we were chatting about our local scenes and seemed to have a lot of the same grievances, despite being an ocean apart.
Although at a higher level there are definitely some things that wind me up such as the growing popularity and enablers of shows like X Factor and The Voice and how prominent these reality shows have become in our culture. For such a small country the UK is probably the largest exporter in the world for music; a lot of the biggest bands have come out of this country such as the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Gorillaz, Prodigy, Oasis etc.. and you can look back at any decade from our past and sum it up with the iconic imagery and a soundtrack that reflects what was going on at the time. Right now it feels like we’re pissing all over that.

Is the internet more of a help or a hindrance?
It’s a massive help to DIY Musicians such as myself, I can distribute and promote my music myself, find gig venues, book hotels when we’re on the road etc. And I’m constantly using online tools like Trello and Google Sheets to manage things. Sure there are some issues and it can be hard to get heard above the noise, but overall I think the pros far outweigh the cons.

As an artist, where do you stand on streaming services? Do you use them as a listener?
Love them! I have Spotify and use it everyday. As a music fan it’s awesome having that much music instantly available at your finger tips. I go through the new albums on Metacritic each week and listen to them on Spotify to discover new stuff, I use it to create playlists and go through back catalogs of artists I’ve discovered, or to just listen to old favorites without having to dig up the physical media from a box somewhere in my attic.
As a musician I don’t make a lot of money off of it, but I’m not bothered, there are other ways to make money from music and it’s still helped with exposure.

Finally, what are your short and long term plans for British IBM?
Short term, do some more promotion and gigs for this album so that I can feel happy that I did everything I could do to get it out into the world. That’s been like a full time job in itself but it has been fun.
Long term, I’m going to start work on ‘Where is Matthew Smith?’ and I’m also going to start incorporating some retro gaming into our live shows in 2016.

Massive thanks to Aidy for such a cool interview. You can find ‘Psychopaths Dream in Black and White” for the absurdly cheap price of five pounds sterling right here:
http://thebritishibm.bandcamp.com/
And you can read my highly complimentary review by following this link: https://hardpresseded.wordpress.com/2015/08/30/british-ibm-psychopaths-dream-in-black-and-white-review/

Of Allies Interview

OfAllies_2015
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.

Romans Interview

Romans Profile

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.

Blind Wives Interview

Blind Wives Press 5 Web

I recently did a piece on ‘Five British Rock Bands that Could Use a Break’ which highlighted young British talent at the hard end of the music industry. This piece came about from reviewing the bands in question and a personal interest in where and how future talent will come to the fore. As a follow up, and after having read an article by Hannah Rose Ewens on Vice about big bands that still had day jobs (or night jobs as the case may be), I decided to contact the bands to find out a little more about just how hard the hard end really is, so as to shed some light on what you have to go through to make it. Blind Wives have very kindly given me a superb interview offering startling insight into what it’s really like on the music scene and just how little money is finding its way down the food chain.

Blind Wives are a three piece from Lincolnshire, in the UK, who play a delightful mix of noisy, indie tinged, slightly poppy, vaguely punky, alternative rock. They manage to sound pretty individual and have a great dynamic to their sometimes quirky, sometimes aggressive songs. Lead guitarist/vocalist Luke Pickering works as a sound engineer (and a part-time lecturer), which as well as saving some valuable cash on production, gives them a little extra artistic freedom to experiment soundwise. They do this to good effect on recent release ‘Recovery Positions’ whose guitar sound meanders between dirty transatlantic, hard pack riffs and downbeat fuzz, whilst maintaining a melodic feel with hooks a plenty. The rhythm section of Charlie O’Neill and Will Clark, who work with the mentally disabled and in retail respectively, are extremely tight, shifting effortlessly between the measured and the frantic on the unpredictable tempo changes coming in the twists and turns of their intricate numbers. All in all,Blind Wives make for enjoyable listening and if they continue the development they’ve shown on their latest release, their first LP will be a cracker. Anyway, here’s what they had to say about the tough end of the UK music scene.

What is making the music scene so difficult for new bands?
It seems the best way to get noticed now is to establish yourself as a strong, head-turning live act. It’s live shows which bring people together, get a ‘buzz’ and word-of-mouth going. So the ongoing closure and therefore lack of small venues I believe is one of the biggest issues for new bands trying to make waves. I would argue the Internet has had a massive effect too – it provides people with that instant gratification of finding new music without having to venture out, pay entry for a gig, and then watch a half an hour set.

How competitive is the current scene?
I think whatever music you play, the pool is always going to be overcrowded, but it’s a bit weird for us as we’ve never really managed to fit into a ‘scene’ as such. We’ve been on metal bills, plenty of math-rock bills… lately we’ve got better at finding and playing with acts that are on the same wavelength as us, swapping gigs, shouting out on social media, spreading the word – so I think it’s more a case of helping each other out, rather than ‘competing’, at least in our experience so far.

Do you see the internet as a positive aspect to life in a band/the scene?
The internet is brilliant for all the stuff I just mentioned! We also really enjoy having a say over the marketing, design and promotion of our own stuff, and being self-sufficient would be more difficult without the Internet. It’s difficult… there are pros and cons with everything. People can discover you easily, but then forget you 5 seconds later as they’ve clicked on something else – and a lot of the best music doesn’t necessarily hit you straight away.

Do you have jobs and how do you balance the time?
We all work, yes. We don’t make a profit from the band, so currently it’s a labour of love! We are all thankfully in flexible positions with our jobs, which means we can put the time in to make it worthwhile – there’s been a few changes in that department in the last year or so and it’s resulted in the best year for us as a band. We’re saying yes to a lot more gigs, essentially!

So, how often do you manage to rehearse?
It really depends on how many gigs we have around that time… so if we have a tour or weekender coming up, we might rehearse twice that week. If we’re just focusing on recording on the other hand, maybe every 3 weeks!

How many gigs do you get a month? Is it difficult to get a gig or is it limited by other difficulties?
Lately we have had more luck getting gigs by making friends and swapping gigs with other bands of a similar genre. We don’t have a lot of luck just emailing places out of the blue. Going to gigs, helping each other out and making contacts seems to be the way to go. As for how frequent we gig, it really varies – a couple of months ago we had 4 shows in a week but lately because of holidays and work related stuff we haven’t gigged in a month.

Are you making any money?
We don’t make any money from the band putting it simply. Occasionally we will sell a lot of merch or get a nice pay from playing a gig, but when you weigh up how much you spend on getting that merch made up, CDs duplicated, petrol, food, practice money…

What do you think of streaming services?
Simply put, artists aren’t being paid enough, and I don’t think enough bigger artists speak out about it. It’s brilliant for discovering artists – for example I’ll use Spotify to see if I like the sound of a new album, and then if I like it enough I’ll go out and buy it. Perhaps they should limit more the amount of plays you get for free, or charge more for membership.

How do you promote the band?
By playing as many gigs as we can, and utilising all the usual social media outlets.

What are your short term and long term plans?
We want to push the video side of things, as we’ve just released our new EP and feel all 5 tracks could potentially have some visual accompaniment! Not to mention our 2 music videos are for a song we don’t play anymore and an old recording of a new song, respectively. We’re also intent on getting on the back of a bigger band for a tour probably early next year. Finally, there’s an album to write.

In the meantime, ‘Recovery Positions’ is available for the ridiculously cheap price of three English pounds for the download and four for the CD, right here: http://blindwives.bandcamp.com/album/recovery-positions-ep, the review of which can be read in the following link: http://alreadyheard.com/post/125758036322/album-review-blind-wives-recovery-positions-ep