So, this week, the band took another big step forward. We left the relative comfort of our Camden nest, spread our musical wings and ventured out to explore the crazy world that is.. Europe. Namely, Paris. Which is in France.
We bought train tickets, packed the guitars, gave the bassist his monthly bath and set off to play a gig, shoot a music video and have a great time in the city of fluff. Ooh-La La.
(N.B. This blog isn’t just going to be an itinerary of what happened on our trip, there is a point to it. I promise).
After a few breakfast gin & tonics on the Eurostar we arrived bright, early and motivated in Paris on Thursday morning. Even though we were carrying several hundred tonnes of equipment, we were in good spirits (no pun intended) and decided to head off to see the sights of one of the most beautiful cities on Earth on a gloriously sun-drenched July day. After 20 minutes of walking, crawling and sweating, we found a bar by a canal and stayed there for five hours.
We played the gig that night and it was tremendous. It was a private live show for several friends and collaborators that had been set up in one of the city’s live studios. We had managed to make friends with a group of very talented musicians & film makers who had amazingly organised the whole thing and also scheduled the weekend to include the filming of a music video for one of our new songs.
After the gig we were all buzzing, filled with confidence and cheap wine. Brimming with smiles, we all headed out into the late balmy Paris night, where we quickly found a bar, and stayed there for 5 hours.
There really has been a better feeling in the group over the past few months. An excitement that finally, after all this time of dedication, persistence and learning our stage craft, we are no longer just OK, we are becoming a seriously great live band. None of us are pretentious, sure, we talk big and strut around like the cock of the chicken coup, but we know what we are and we know that in order to be better we have to work very hard. No-one gives you anything for free if you’re crap. So get good.
Scorching sun, blinding light and sticky-beer-sweat made up the ingredients for the next day as our new French family (love you guys) packed the band, 5 gallons of water and several thousand pounds worth of filming equipment into a car and a van and made the 2 hour trip to a desert south of Paris (yes, there is a very small desert south of Paris). The whole pitch for the video had been made to us by a very talented French director & special effects wizard a few months ago who had the concept of filming in very extreme but contrasting locations and it fit perfectly with our sound and the song. Because we are a very generous band we jumped at the chance of paying him virtually nothing so we could use his talents, sleep in his house and drink all of his wine whilst he created an amazing video for us. Yes, there were slight hiccups whilst filming and a lot of the time we were just waiting around, carrying heavy equipment and sweating like a group of nuns at a penguin shoot, but it really was a small price to pay for the truly outstanding professionalism and hospitality that we received.
And now comes the point to this story.
Surround yourself with people who can help you.
If you’re determined to get to the top in what you do (band, solo artist, pony whisperer) then it’s soooooo much easier with a group of dedicated and eager people helping to push you along. It also really helps if they’re fans too. And rich.
But the only problem is getting good enough that people want to help you. As a wise man once said – if you’re crap, no-one will give you anything for free. So practise and get good.
There are so many things for a band to do in the modern world in order to stand out that there is no way you can do it alone. Ok, you can write the songs and play them in pubs and small clubs but if you want to play bigger venues and actually make an impression on the world you need to do so much more. Social media, professional recordings, music videos, merchandise, photo shoots, blah blah blah… All of which you can do on your own but it’s more difficult and tiring. Plus, if you have a traditional rock band like ours, you have to organise 4 slightly dim witted fools into one smooth, cohesive machine and that’s never easy.
Getting a label or management team can be good but very often it’s not as they just want to bleed you dry rather than genuinely help you. That isn’t meant as an attack on labels of course, obviously they’re a business, not your mum. However, once you do start to make them money it becomes much easier to justify the help they give you and the benefits are much greater. If you’re a good band, a good label will get you to Glastonbury. You will never get that sort of opportunity from your mates no matter how much they help you.
I think that the trip to Paris really opened our eyes to the opportunities that we can hope for. We were all surprised at how much people wanted to help us just because we showed up with guitars and played (very) loud music for them. Also our regular gig nights that we run are helping us to make a good circle of band friends that we like and can trust to bring a decent crowd. I understand now why awards acceptance speeches are so long, because if you achieve something amazing it’s normally because you have a shitload of people in the background that have helped get you there.
The end of the trip culminated in four very tired but very happy band mates limping back into London late on Sunday night feeling extremely proud and excited about the future.
Until the next adventure.