Xtra Mile Artists & OneFest Talk of Lost Evenings
On 12–15 May 2017, Camden's Roundhouse hosts Frank Turner and OneFest's Lost Evenings – four nights of live music with weekend daytime panels and discussions for people wanting to get advice on getting into the music industry. On Monday 15 May 2017, the last day of the festival is dedicated to Xtra Mile acts under Radio 1 DJ Huw Stephens's Label of Love banner. You can see Frank, Skinny Lister and Will Varley on the main stage, and Ben Marwood, Non Canon and Ducking Punches (a solo set) on the Nick Alexander stage, all in one evening. We also have Beans on Toast playing on Sunday, Chris T-T celebrating 20 years of playing music on Saturday daytime as part of the OneFest lineup, and both Sam Duckworth and Rob Lynch at our XMR BBQ at the Monarch on Saturday.
OneFest has collaborated with Frank Turner to put on this weekend of incredible music and essential music industry advice. This is what they do, create festivals with a social conscience at heart, providing training and hands-on experience to young people new to the music business, providing a platform for emerging talent. We spoke to Sandra Bhatia, Director of OneFest, about how Lost Evenings came about.
How and at what stage did OneFest get involved with Frank and the Lost Evenings idea?
At the stage when we were looking for not just a Headliner, but an ideal ambassador and supporter for what we were doing. As soon as the conversations started, it just seemed like a very natural fit and things started to click into place.
When you first engaged with Frank and the Roundhouse, did you have a vision for how Lost Evenings might work?
Yes, the vision was always there to continue as a festival with a social conscience and build on the history of the two previous festivals, which provided voluntary opportunities and a platform for new music. I have also worked with the Roundhouse before on similar music based projects, and they are just fantastic. They do such amazing work with young talent, so were also a very obvious natural fit.
When choosing the up-and-coming music professionals for this project, assembling the team as it were, did you already have a team in mind or a pool to choose from? What size of team has it taken to put on this festival?
Our talented young professionals came through Young Guns who helped us with the selection process. They put forward and recommended the strongest candidates. They were then whittled down to the final six by us and The Hub who run our professional development programme. A core team of four run OneFest and we have partnerships in place for other sections of the project.
Have you had feedback from those chosen to help put this event on? What's the general feeling been (eg. hard work, enlightening, exciting etc.)?
I think all of what you have mentioned! The aim was to challenge and provide a platform for their talent and ideas. So, for example one of them programmed the Nick Alexander Stage, having whittled down from over 800 bands. Hard work, but they enjoyed it. Another is speaking on a panel, which she hasn’t done before - excited and a bit nervous! I also know that they are all enjoying working together, meeting new people and increasing their network as a result of the event.
There's a lot of excellent-sounding talks and discussions being had during the daytime Lost Evenings programme. Do you think combining gigs, attended by motivated, energetic fans, with industry discussions are the way forward in terms of developing the music industry?
It's already being done by other events. But maybe not so obviously. Fans are also interested in certain types industry discussions, particularly when it includes their favourite artist. Sometimes, it can be just as satisfying to see your hero talk and explain whats behind the music as it is to watch them perform it.
What do you see as the biggest obstacles currently facing the music industry and people who want to work in it?
There are so many. You can be in a disadvantaged location, plus quality of education, lack of money, even just general lack of opportunity. It is extremely competitive, and the work can be patchy so carving out a sustainable career for yourself can be extremely difficult. It makes me sad that there could be some serious talent out there that is being held back through lack of resource. Accessibility and further support, I feel, are key for the next gen coming through.
If a keen attendee could only see four items across the weekend of OneFest's programming, what would you recommend
Erm, that’s hard!
- The collaboration between Harry Pane (Music Glue Winner) and Frank is going to be something brilliant to witness.
- 'Working in Live Music Events & Festivals - A Reality' panel because I LOVE a good discussion and this is at the heart of what we do.
- Mental Health Workshop - because its such a huge topical issue, and it goes beyond music.
- All of the Music Glue winners on the Nick Alexander Stage, because they are all excellent.
How do people get involved in OneFest's mission and opportunities?
Anyone can get in touch via the website. But when we start recruiting for the cohort and looking for bands / artists, it will be via partner organisations again.
Finally, what bands are you excited about seeing? And have you got any Frank songs you particularly want to hear over the weekend?
I’m looking forward to seeing Seth Lakeman. I just love his music, lyrics and style. Romeo Stodart, because without fail he always gives a great performance.
Frank tunes, well…there are a good number.. But if I had to choose, 'The Way I Tend to Be' is a favourite, and also 'Polaroid Picture'.
Those are my songs, so if you’re listening Frank….
XMR Artists on Lost Evenings
Just ahead of the festival, we sent round some questions to each of the Xtra Mile Recordings artists playing the festival. We got some lovely answers back from Skinny Lister, Will Varley, Ben Marwood and Non Canon, who all play Monday 15 May. Read on for their musings on lost evenings with Frank and how it feels to be playing the Roundhouse.
Tell us a story about a “lost evening” with Frank or, alternatively, how you met / have worked together.
Lorna (Skinny Lister): Skinny Lister has shared many an evening with Frank! It has been a total pleasure. We definitely counted over 80 with him and that was when we were in Hamburg in January 2016 so quite a while ago now. Skinny aren’t as diligent in counting so now we’ve lost track. The first time we played with Frank in the UK was during Independent Venue Week where we opened an acoustic evening for him in Manchester at the great bar that is Night & Day Cafe. I remember him sharing his dressing room with us and pouring more than I care to remember of a bottle of whiskey down my neck before I went on. Prior to that he’d been to our gig at XMR Summer Party, which was a particularly messy evening down at the Monarch in Camden. All blurry good times!
Will Varley: Over the last couple of years I've 'lost' a fair few evenings in Frank's company. From austere Hamburg dive bars to the beaches of the Bahamas. One recent escapade occurred during a night off we had in Omaha, Nebraska. Our buses were parked a few miles apart but by chance we ended up in the same establishment at dinner time. A bottle of wine later we were in a taxi heading for an open mic night on the outskirts of town. It was a rainy, freezing cold Nebraska night, and I'd just bought Frank a two-foot tall figurine of Elvis Presley from a junk shop. We arrived at the bar, with Elvis in tow, and in between shots of Jameson and bottles of American beer we played a few songs to the ten or fifteen audience members in the room. There was a neon sign on the wall that read "When Adam met Eve, that's when the blues started...". A couple of nights later we were playing those same songs to four thousand people or so at The Agganis Arena in Boston.
Ben Marwood: Hah, nice try. What happens on lost evenings stays lost, right? Frank and I met for the first time at a show in Devizes, Wiltshire in April of 2006 and we have been long-distance buds ever since then. I mean, I'm more or less still in the same place, but that man travels like no-one else I've met. We've done plenty of shows together, and there's one more at the Roundhouse this Monday. Maybe our next step should be recording a song together. Better work on my harmonies.
Non Canon: I think we first met playing a couple of shows about a month apart at The Croft in Bristol - one was the "Softcore" tour he did with Jonah Matranga, Jacob Golden and Joshua English, the other was a birthday show where Frank headlined an eclectic bill (featuring my friends/one of my favourite bands Left Side Brain). Since then I've opened for a couple of his festival warm-up shows, played festivals together, and toured with Möngöl Hörde. Those were all with Oxygen Thief, so I'm looking forward to playing my first Non Canon show with him.
Ducking Punches (Dan): I used to tech for Frank for a little but when the mighty Cahir and Dougie were away and I remember getting a call from Frank about filling in on guitar when he was injured. He gave me a week to learn 25 songs. Bastard. However, I had the most fun and it was an absolute honour to put on a white shirt and be a Sleeping Soul for a month. I was welcomed with open arms. We're now firm and close friends.
We talk a lot about the XMR Family. What do you think brings XMR artists together?
Lorna (Skinny Lister): It’s such a privilege to be part of such a great label. There’s a real culture of togetherness. I think that Frank has spearheaded a real move towards supporting your fellow artists rather than competing with them, which can definitely happen out there in the music biz. We all really do appreciate each other’s art and the DIY nature in which we go about it. We all take it seriously and we know we have to put in hard work to get out the real gains. For example, Frank having taken us on the road with him has meant that we’re selling more tickets at our own headline shows, having had two sell out UK tours now. In addition to that we have so many events planned with other label mates who have become like family. It makes it all so much more fun!
Will Varley: Xtra Mile is an independent label, and has a great sense of grit and underdog about it. If you think about Frank's story of starting from scratch, playing to anyone who would listen to selling out four nights at the Roundhouse two months up front, that's a pretty amazing achievement. The point is though that he didn't do it overnight, and he didn't do it alone. He did it by making a lot of friends and working hard for a long time.That's basically what Xtra Mile stands for to me. Working hard, and looking out for each other. Whether it's Beans On Toast, Skinny Lister or any of the other acts on the roster, I think it's that attitude that brings us together. That and having a good time. Then there's the army of followers the label has acquired over the years, they have a great sense of camaraderie too, and of course the wonderful staff who work behind the scenes and very much cultivate the family vibe.
Ben Marwood: Honestly, Frank has a lot to do with that since I believe a healthy percentage of the XMR die-hards ended up as fans thanks to FT and, before that, Million Dead. On top of that, there's a great community spirit with acts often playing shows together and then there's a great street team too. I'd be foolish to not draw attention to Val here - she's great at whipping people into a frenzy. It helps that Charlie, Anf and Dani are all good people, and there's this guy called Brad too. Heard of him? He has good hair.
Non Canon: I think it's because we've all met at shows first - either touring or playing at gigs/festivals together - so a lot of the acts, such as Frank & co, Ben Marwood, Chris T-T, Jim Lockey, Beans On Toast, Crazy Arm, The Lion and the Wolf, Ducking Punches, have all met and become friends before being labelmates...and would have carried on being so even if you hadn't signed me. So from there on in with any other band that join the roster it's an automatic "these guys are going to be great" both musically and to hang out with.
Ducking Punches (Dan): I think there's a huge sense of unity amongst XMR artists, everyone I've met has the same ethics, drive and work ethic as myself and I think that makes the label so special.
You've been on tour with Frank in the past. What makes being a supporting act at an FT gig unlike any other?
Lorna (Skinny Lister): Frank crowds are insanely participative. They know the score: turn up early to see the openers, sing as loud as you can, dance as hard as you can and be good to each other. The vibe at a Frank gig is an insanely friendly one. I also think he enjoys being with the audience so much that it kind of blurs the line between them and him. He’s so positive about what his support bands bring to the party that even though you’re opening for him, pretty much 100% of the audience is there and waiting eagerly for the evening to begin. That’s a great feeling. I mean, Frank getting up to play 'Trouble on Oxford Street' with us might to some bands mean taking away some element of magic but in fact it’s totally the opposite. The audience fall more in love with him and creates such a buzz on stage and off that it’s just impossible to see how the night could go wrong!
You've developed quite the friendship with our Frank. What do you think you can (or already do) learn from each other, either musically or personally (or both)?
Will Varley: I think we have a lot in common from both being solo performers who did years of touring alone. It's quite a strange existence in a way, so it's always nice to meet people who understand that way of life. Frank's a very generous chap too, so he's always been willing to answer my questions and offer his advice whenever I've needed it. For me, watching him perform is like a masterclass in how to handle a room and how to scale a show up from a local pub to a huge theatre. When we tour together I'll often watch his shows all the way through, night after night, and by seeing the difference between each one I feel like I'm really getting an understanding of how things are being put together. It's incredible to see how much he mentally and physically puts in to his performance, how many people are around him making it possible and how powerfully the audience respond on such a life affirming level.
You and Frank have performed The Postal Service cover ('The District Sleeps Alone Tonight') together several times live. When was the first time you performed that with him, how did it come about, and how does it feel to have him as an occasional guest in your performances?
Ben Marwood: I think the sands of time have claimed my memories of exactly when and where it happened, but I remember that I was playing it as a cover, and then a little later he had his own version. The first time we did it together was probably in the middle of 2011 when I was opening for Frank on his solo tour of small venues to help promote England Keep My Bones. Franz Nicolay was on that tour too and there's a great video that our friend Ben Morse shot near the end of the tour with all three of us.
How do you think Oxygen Thief and Non Canon fit as complimentary acts to Frank on tour or at festivals?
Non Canon: I think the two acts compliment different sides of Frank's back-catalogue; Oxygen Thief shows are all about grabbing attention and rocking out, so fit in with his "punk" side. Non Canon is about subtlety, so fits in with his more introspective/folkier songs.
How much has Frank affected your approach to music, whether in business or songwriting? Do you think he's helped pave the way for artists like yourself?
Dan (Ducking Punches): He genuinely enforced a touring schedule in myself that while it's unbeatable is completely inspiring. The man never stops. It makes me feel lazy.
What does playing Lost Evenings mean to you both as an XMR act and as an act with an already rich history?
Lorna (Skinny Lister): First and foremost it is a total pleasure to be playing with someone who loves music as much as Frank does and someone who continues to have aspirations and ambition to grow and develop and to provide something new and different to his audience. Secondly, I’ve talked about how great the label is and the other artists on the label but what I have neglected to do and wrongly so is talk about the XMR followers. There’s such a great community out there in the crowd and a lot of the people that follow us XMR artists have become like friends. It’s just such a great circle of appreciation.
Will Varley: Well the Roundhouse is such a legendary venue, so just the chance to play in that room is brilliant in itself. The fact that it's part of Lost Evenings makes it a very special show indeed. Before I met Frank, the biggest gigs I'd ever done were to a couple of hundred people. Frank Turner and Beans On Toast introduced me to a lot of people, and those people have lead to opportunities to travel the world, meet my heroes and continue doing this weird music thing that I've been tinkering around with since I was eight or nine years old. Without Frank there's no way I would have been able to share my songs with so many people, and there's a good chance I'd be doing something else by now.
Ben Marwood: Well for a start it was touching to be invited, but it always is. I mean, how else does someone with a face like this get to play the Roundhouse? It's pretty nuts. The size of this festival and the satellite events that are going on around it must have taken a lot of planning and I get to close the Nick Alexander stage which is an honour in itself, and I'm looking forward to seeing everyone look completely shattered/satisfied at a job well done. I've done the politician thing here of saying words out loud that don't really answer your question.
Non Canon: It's exciting to be a part of such a brilliant weekend of music, especially one celebrating both the label and Camden as a whole - I've loved that part of London since I was a teenager and all of my favourite gigs I've played in the capital have been in that area.
Dan (Ducking Punches): It's great to be invited, I'm gutted I'm not there for the whole thing. The lineup is unreal.
Finally, what part of the Lost Evenings weekend are you most looking forward to?
Lorna (Skinny Lister): A whole weekend filled with great music and great people from all over the world. What more could anyone want?
Will Varley: There's a lot going on around Camden that weekend, stuff at The Monarch and Dingwalls. I'm looking forward to checking all that stuff out. I'm a sucker for the hangouts though. For the bits before and after. I've spent vast chunks of the past two years living in very close quarters with Frank, The Sleeping Souls and their crew so it'll be great to see everyone again. It's been a while since I got drunk with Skinny Lister too, so that'll be nice. I suppose I don't really know exactly. Maybe that's what lost evenings are all about, the unexpected, the spontaneous and the unplanned. The bits that make you laugh or make you mad. The bits you remember when you wake up the next day on a train somewhere and it feels like somehow the world has changed, just a little bit...
Ben Marwood: Hmmmmmmm. I sometimes have a hard time playing shows, so I'm looking forward to the sweet relief of playing the last few chords of my set. Also it'll be nice to see Non Canon and Dan of Ducking Punches, and Frank (duh), but outside of all that I have an actual ticket for the Sunday and I'm looking forward to checking out Louise Distras who I've followed on Twitter for one hundred years but never seen. If I was there on the opening night I'd have loved to have seen AJJ because they are one of the best bands in the world right now and so it was good to see them scooted up the bill. Hooray!
Non Canon: I can't wait to hang out with all the XMR label crew and artists - it's not very often so many of us are in the same place at the same time, so will be great to catch up. And obviously I'm looking forward to playing my set.
Dan (Ducking Punches): I'm really looking forward to playing (obviously) but I'm also stoked to see Ben Marwood. It's been ages!