How did you get involved with Communion?
I finished university and I realised I wanted to get into music, so I set up my own night at The Bedford in Balham, south London. I then started tour managing a few bands including Kevin Jones’ band Cherbourg. I knew Ben really well too, so when Communion was set up they asked me to get on board. My role developed into ‘the live guy’ and I started overseeing all the regional nights and festivals we do and it’s gone on from there.
How far have the Communion live events progressed since you started?
It started off as a club night in 2006. When I started working with them we had Brighton and Bristol as well. Now we have Communion in Oxford, Dublin, Galway, Belfast, Manchester, Leeds, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Glasgow and now Sidney, Melbourne, New York, San Fransico and we’re launching Nashville soon!
What role do you play?
Well, we obviously have teams in America and so on but the majority of the line-ups are overseen through us. We have reps in all the cities where Communion takes place who are dear friends of ours and very switched-on independent promoters who all have the same mind-set us we do. It’s something that we take great care over because a Communion night has to be a great experience where you get to hear new music – it’s not about waiting for a headline act and then shooting off home. It’s also about exposing talented songwriters to new audiences of a few hundred people without it meaning they have to bring all their friends down.
How do you build a night?
It’s all about lots of small elements and each small step is thought about carefully. It’ll be one of those things where we’ll look at five to seven local and international bands and we don’t really have a headliner as such, it’s not about that. If we have bigger bands playing at one of our London club nights, we might put them on third or fourth and then put someone who has no following whatsoever that we believe in just before them so they are guaranteed to have a fan base watching them and we build up the night so we have a crowd full of music-lovers who can find new bands. Everything from the ticketing to the advertising is given a lot of care.
How do you advertise?
Well, instead of taking big adverts in the national press we’ll try to find the right fan base on relevant blogs. With our ticketing we use an independent company called Music Glue who give cheap online e-tickets, it just works really well.
Do you go out and A&R bands to play?
We’ll get sent a load of band’s demos and we’ll make sure we listen to every single one regardless of what it is. I remember a long time ago getting sent an email with a Ben Howard song and I was like: ‘This guy’s great, let’s book him!’ and now we’re doing three shows with him. Dry The River, again, came from an email. I think it’s really important to listen to music like that and feedback to the artists and see what they’re doing. Obviously, we all go out to shows and watch new bands, particularly to watch support acts at gigs.
Also, the regional network that we’ve built up from the Communion events are a great source of demos. We’ll get to hear these great bands we’d never heard of from Glasgow and so on, we’ll get them down to London and start building a fanbase here for them.
How did Bushstock start?
It was an idea between three or four of us. North London had Camden Crawl, east London had Stag and Dagger and yet there was a really strong music heritage in west London we wanted to represent. I took it upon myself to programme something and the first year went really well. The venues are really different, we’ve got a church who let us use their underground basement, there’s a bar and a pub.
How did you find the unusual venues that are part of Bushstock?
St Stephen’s Church, well there’s quite a strong community in the church, I met up with the vicar and they were really keen for it as they had this great space and when did it, it almost gave another life for the church – we had 400 people packed in listening to this great music. We do the gig and then I walk around with the vicar swinging the incense trying to get the smell of the gig out. There’s also a bar which is under the Endemol building which is almost like an office – we popped in there one day and even though it’s not normally a gig venue I thought it would be great to put something on there.
What’s good about the venues is that you can see breaking artists who in a year’s time will be playing 2-3,000 capacity venues in a 200 capacity venue where you can have a chat with them afterwards.
Can you give us the lowdown on any hidden gems playing at Bushstock?
Everything is exciting to me, it’s pretty much all my favourite bands. Fink is going to be doing an acoustic set, there’s up-and-coming Communion act David McCaffrey and Daughter who opened last year’s festival are now headlining. We also have two Newcastle bands, Lanterns On The Lake and Let’s Buy Happiness who we are really excited about.