Last year, a handful of indie’s finest gathered in dingy east London venue Kamio to play three shows of cheesy pop covers. The gigs, which featured members of The Vaccines, Peace, Slaves, Years & Years, Wolf Alice and more, weren’t just a bit of pre-Christmas fun. As Bands 4 Refugees, they were raising money and awareness for Help Refugees, who are trying to tackle the refugee crisis in Europe.
Bands 4 Refugees will unite once more at the VO5 NME Awards 2017 at London’s O2 Academy Brixton on February 15. This time round the line-up will include Charli XCX, Pixie Geldof, and members of Peace, Slaves, Years & Years, Circa Waves, Swim Deep and Black Honey. Peace frontman Harry Koisser has taken over the organising while Wolf Alice are in LA working on their second album and he told us about the future of the project and what to expect from the night.
You were a part of the covers nights in December. What was that experience like and why did you get involved?
Harry: “It felt like there was a lot of people involved in the shows and it felt like there was a real collective consciousness. Like there’s a lot of people in bands who want to be more active in helping out and make a change. That’s where the Bands 4 Refugees thing was conceived. Help Refugees had been going since summer 2015 and we [Peace] did something at the Kentish Town Forum with Paloma Faith so when I heard they were doing the covers nights with Wolf Alice, I was like ‘definitely getting involved with that’. There was a lot more people then, there was a lot more people on the email chain. It was really cool. It felt good. There was a buzz about it, which was good.”
Is bands speaking out about issues like this something that’s missing from music right now?
“Yeah everyone’s been saying that. Obviously the state of the world has been getting more fucked up over the last few years. It’s like a pan – it simmers and simmers and simmers and then it hits boiling point and suddenly everyone’s like ‘you know what, fuck it – now is the time we get involved’. I think the extent of the refugee crisis and how in your face it is and how horrible it is, everyone was like ‘right, we can actually do something here’. That was also Josie from Help Refugees getting in touch and pulling the music aspect into it and being like ‘you guys can help by raising funds and raising awareness’. Everyone then was like ‘yeah, we’ll get on board’. So it’s gone from there and is still growing. There’s more and more people getting involved, more and more Whatsapp messages being sent, more and more bullying people over phone calls to get involved.”
So this is something that will continue beyond this performance?
“One hundred percent. That’s what I was saying to Josie last week. The opportunity to do something at the NME Awards is a really big opportunity. If we can pull in more people, hopefully that will be a catalyst for a lot more involvement this year and bigger artists and people with louder voices getting involved to shout about it. That would be awesome. That’s what I see this year as being about. The refugee crisis isn’t over. I worry that people might have forgotten that it’s still going on, but it’s worse and we need to get involved.”
You’ve taken over the organising from Ellie [Rowsell, Wolf Alice]. How’s that been?
“It has been easy because Ellie put in so much work around the Bands4Refugees shows before. Ellie put out a message to a big group of people and I said ‘I’ve got some time and I can help pull this together while she’s away’. So the pieces were already there, but I have gone through my phonebook and called other people and tried to bring in more people and put more energy from different places behind it. Luckily it’s a cause that people will just drop anything to get involved with so it’s not a lot of work. I’m just helping answering emails. It was Ellie that put in the groundwork so fair play to her.”
The VO5 NME Awards 2017 take place at London’s O2 Academy Brixton on February 15. You could be there to see all the performances from Bands4Refugees, Pet Shop Boys, Wiley, Bastille and Dua Lipa – the last remaining tickets are available to buy from here.