Friday, 20 March 2015

Rose-tinted glasses.

We played our first £12 gig the other night, every band needs a £12 gig, it's a real indication of the progress you've made! The guitar player and I, hot and sweaty from playing to a near full house at The Fleece in Bristol, climbed the old black stairs behind the bar and knocked on the manager's door.

"Hi, we're going to slip off now but thanks for the gig!"
"You guys were great, well done! Let me sort you out some cash, follow me!"

We followed him to the box office, weaving in and out of the crowds as Sheelanagig started up and the place erupted. The manager scanned the door-list, did a quick bit of arithmetic, plunged his hand into the kitty and handed over £12. "There you go boys, really well done, we'll get you a main slot here next!" he said and vanished back into the space. We stood for a moment stunned and then began to smile, and then began to laugh. 
"This band never ceases to amaze me!" said the guitar player as he carefully folded the two crisp fivers and jingled the four 50 pence pieces. 
"That £2.40 each! Almost enough for a pint 10 years ago!" 

That's where we are now; 'you are you're last gig' as they say, and it's a pretty clear reflection in truth, playing to large crowds for no payment. Rarely do you take home any money, only weddings and the odd arts centre give you any thing close to resembling a wage. Festivals give you free tickets and some lukewarm vegetable curry before your slot. Pub gigs give you beer and some loose change. Support gigs, as in the one we've just done, give you the main act's fan base and enough for a pint 10 years ago!

The Sam Brookes Quartet
It's been a long slog, getting to this heady milestone, 5 and a half years since our inception way back in 2009. Myself and my long-term musical partner, Sam Brookes (known on this blog as the guitar player), began what would become our fifth musical venture. Needing a little more depth we invited the piano player along and so began The Sam Brookes Quartet. We unleashed our jumped-up-not-quite-folk in early 2010 in a succession of old barns and friend's public houses, releasing a self-titled EP that same year and supporting Johnny Flynn at The Acorn to top it all off. We garnered a loyal following and pushed on in 2011, spreading our wings and playing in Devon and even Kent! Reuniting with Johnny Flynn again at The Guildhall and then going one better and playing at The Tate! By late 2011 we had enough material to make an album and ducked into the studio again. 2012 saw the launch of our debut album, The Sweet Release, and the increase of the lineup to 4 with the addition of the bass player.

2012 also saw our name change and the official birth of The Odd Folk. We joined twitter that year too and made a website. All very posh. 2013 saw us venture into London and experiment with drums, first our old friend Frazer Young started playing with us and then, after a few months of auditioning a succession of rhythmically flawed drummers, we finally found our 5th member, a retired cage-fighter who now works in a windmill making flour! The Sweet Release was voted album of the year in Derbyshire, we went on our first tour, made our first film and launched Merry Folking Christmas at The Acorn. 2014; we jumped on the festival circuit, dipped into arts centres and started writing new material, toured Holland and Belgium, made another film and sold-out Merry Folking Christmas once again. And here we are now, in early 2015 having just recording our second album, Haul Away, and having played our first £12 gig!

So what's next? 
Where do we go from here? 
It's been a steady climb since we started stomping box drums with our feet and crooning out of tune shanties to a bunch of hippies in a leaky old barn in West Cornwall. A lot has changed since then, we've moved to Bristol, bought houses, got girlfriends, had babies, got proper jobs, started businesses and all the while managed to steer this ship onwards and upwards, gathering a multitude of fans and friends along the way, none more so than reflected in the readership of this blog! And we've done it all on our own, with no helping hand from a label/manager/producer/agent. We've begged, borrowed and stolen enough money to keep this band ticking over. Kept this vehicle with enough diesel in it for another windy adventure. We'll release this new record, unofficially in June, and carry it about a little this summer before it's official launch and promotion in September. We'll release our second film and return to Holland and Belgium. Merry Folking Christmas will return for a third year and then it's 2016 and who know's what will happen? We might be making some money out of music by then, but I doubt it somehow, and it's not really about the money, as the bass player once said, it's about the adventures along the way and the people you touch. This band has taken us to some of the most random yet wonderful places, landed us in situations you can't even make up! From cows and hay bales to the BBC, from tiny pubs to vast churches, small garden parties to mainstream festivals. We've played to 5 people and 5000! Gone from one mishap to another in our roundabout way, on our roundabout route. 13 different musicians have come and gone under The Odd Folk umbrella. It's bridged our lives as we've grown from directionless youths to grown-ups with children and *death-grips. And it still continues to trundle onwards and upwards, and you never know, one day it may pay enough for a pint in the current climate!

* mortgage