You can only find out who's playing at the Manchester event 24 hours before it begins
Off The Record is a brand new festival due to be held in Manchester on November 4. Unlike every other festival you’ve been to, though, it’s keeping its line-up strictly under wraps until 24 hours before the whole thing kicks off. With the focus on new, emerging artists, organisers have called on musicians, DJs and other new music experts to help curate the bill by booking some of the new bands that have been exciting them. Radio 1’s Huw Stephens, Elbow’s Guy Garvey and BBC 6Music DJ Elizabeth Alker are all part of the panel of curators, as is The Charlatans’ Tim Burgess, who told us all about the event, the importance of independent labels and his pick of new artists.
How did you get involved with Off The Record and what about the concept of the festival appealed to you?
“The festival is being organised by the people behind Kendal Calling, Liverpool Sound City and Bluedot Festival and I was at each of those in varying guises – Tim Peaks was at Kendal and Sound City and we did our Hello Moon project and a Tim Book Two event at Bluedot. They were already planning Off The Record so they asked if I’d like to be involved – the idea of bands that have all yet to record an album but are on the radar of the likes of Huw Stephens or Elizabeth Alker was appealing. There’s a new music conference first too so lots of experienced people passing on their wisdom to new bands or labels that have just started out.”
How does the selection process work? Are you given a list of acts to choose from or do you have free rein to come up with whoever you like?
“A total free choice – the bands have to have been together for under two years and have yet to record their debut album.”
Do the curators come together for a big discussion on the line-up or are you left to your own devices? Have you spoken to anyone else involved about your/their choices and the event overall?
“We’re left to our own devices – I was hoping for a giant meeting in a United Nations style mega conference room but it was more of a secret ballot. I know a few of the other curators but I’ve not spoken to them about their choice of bands or mine. I’m not even sure if anyone may have chosen the same bands. It’s like being in some kind of secret society – there’s rolled up trouser legs and coded handshakes going on.”
The focus of Off The Record is emerging artists. What are your five most important tips for new artists?
“1. Make your live shows into events
2. Don’t go crazy on your rider. You’re paying for it yourselves
3. Try not to annoy sound engineers
4. Check that you’re enjoying yourself
5. Think twice before taking advice.”
Would you say it’s easier or harder now for aspiring musicians to get noticed? Why?
“Like anything, some stuff is easier and some stuff is more difficult. Social media broke down lots of barriers and the fact you can have a studio on your laptop makes it a lot easier – but the fact that the rest of the world have those makes it a bit more difficult.
“Festivals like South by Southwest, Liverpool Sound City and Off The Record make it possible to get seen by an audience – there’s a real DIY ethic too, four people in a band can soon drum up an audience of a hundred friends. As long as bands avoid those ‘pay to play’ bills where there are nine bands, £7 tickets and one promoter who pockets all the cash. A few bands have tweeted me a link to a song of theirs on Soundcloud and we’ve asked them to play at The Isle of Wight Festival or Kendal Calling. I think it’s generally easier but it’s also easier for 5,000 other bands, which makes it more difficult.”
What’s the one thing new acts should avoid doing and why?
“Taking yourselves too seriously – most venues put on lots and lots of bands. Some are good, some not so good. Just don’t be remembered as dicks.”
You’re going to be talking at the event about what it means to be an independent label. Why did you start Ogenesis?
“The Charlatans have been on a few record labels since 1990 – from the smallest independent at first to the biggest majors. The label you are on is an important part of being in a band. I became obsessed with labels pretty soon after I started collecting records. It was always an ambition to have my own label and about five years ago I put the idea to some friends and we thought we’d give it a go. Since then we have released records, on vinyl, by The Vaccines, Ian Rankin (the bestselling crimewriter) and Professor Tim O’Brien who loaned us the sound archive from Jodrell Bank to make a techno style banger out of. Plus we’ve released singles by Cabbage, Tear and Laura Cantrell. It’s great to work with so many other bands and with every stage of making a record from hearing their demos to getting test pressings and sending the vinyl out to shops.”
What have been the most rewarding things about running the label? What’s been the most difficult thing about it?
“Working with a band who maybe haven’t had a record out before is really rewarding. I remember seeing our first single in the shops for the first time so it’s brilliant to be part of that exciting again. Finding the time to do everything is difficult – the results make it worthwhile though.”
There seems to be a big support network for independent labels with things like the Independent Label Market, AIM etc. How viable is it to run an independent label in 2016 and why is it important that we support them?
“The Independent Label Market is fantastic. We’ve only been able to do it once as O Genesis – we shared a stall with Pete Fowler – but we sold loads of records and each band on our label came down and worked a couple of hours. Lots of old friends were there with their labels and there was a real sense of camaraderie. The most important element is for a label to live within its means – knowing how many records to press up so the band don’t end up with them under their beds. There’s lots of support but it’s up to you to get the basics right.”
What have you got coming up in the near future?
“A spider outfit for my son for Halloween, a Charlatans gig at The Roundhouse on November 2nd and a trip to The Association of Independent Festivals Congress to talk about Tim Peaks. Next up for O Genesis is a split 7″ with Horsebeach and Pheromoans.”
What new bands are you most excited about at the moment and why?
“Tear, Beds In Parks, Pheromoans and Cabbage – they’re all really exciting to watch and you know that if anyone takes up the recommendation to go and see them, that they are in for a really good night.”