Steve Spithray catches up with Elliott from new Teesside band Gone Tomorrow for a chat about the trials and tribulations of being a band starting out during a pandemic.
While it’s been great to have live music back (at time of writing), it was even better to see established local bands and venues pulling together to give the gig scene an extra boost in these uncertain times with many artists keen to get back on stage as soon as possible.
With floor space and profits at a premium, it is more important than ever for promoters to, literally, put bums on seats with established crowd pleasers. But, what about those bands that might have got together or written their first songs during lockdown, who are keen to get their music out there for the first time? How will they get on that elusive first rung of the local ladder or even book their first shows in the new normal?
Gone Tomorrow were lucky enough to record some demos back in February but lockdown has meant they are still to play their first gig which must be particularly frustrating.
Elliott says, “We have a few gigs/venues in mind that we would love to play at some point hopefully in the not too distant future but due to how unpredictable everything is at the moment we’re making sure we stay well-rehearsed so as soon as the green light is given, we are ready to go.”
With all the venues closed for live music again at least until December, it seems opportunity may now have to wait until the new year when venues like Base Camp in Middlesbrough will hopefully start scheduling those open mic nights and elusive support slots that are so important for bands and artists to get stage time under their belts.
One thing Gone Tomorrow have not suffered is any kind of lockdown lethargy even having the wherewithal to sign with Sound Music Group earlier in the year and I asked Elliott how that came about and what they help with.
“Sound Music Group said they were looking for artists to be part of their team,” he says, “so we submitted some of our early demos online and within a week we got an email saying they’d love us to be on board. They act as a booking agent for us and will be helping us organise gigs and events for us.”
One of the tracks that caught the attention of Sound Music Group, Less Talking, blends influences such as Arctic Monkeys and early Oasis to create a breakneck grit-pop racket that defies their tender years and could pitch them at the vanguard of the 90s revival given the opportunity.
For many young bands it’s the live circuit that allows them to hone their stagecraft and tighten their sound, and the grassroots scene in Teesside is usually a competitive but inclusive battleground for the more DIY shows that allow bands to evolve and find their own place. But it’s also the networking opportunities that live music presents that are equally vital. Getting your face and name known at gigs. Starting a conversation with a promoter or headline act often goes so much further than some social media interaction or a few emails. It’s also industry events put on by the likes of Generator NE and Tees Music Alliance, as well as Twisterella Festival’s Unconference that give new bands access to advice and support on everything from getting gigs to designing a PR campaign to social media strategies.
With nothing much else to do Gone Tomorrow set about readying an EP which, under more normal circumstances, might have seemed too soon for them but, as Elliott explains, “Early in lockdown it was hard to rehearse or even see the rest of the band, so what better way to spend all the free time by writing songs? Three of the four songs on our EP were written during this time. We spent a very, very long time rehearsing these songs when we were able to, to make sure we got them exactly how we wanted them. As restrictions were eased we got in touch with a friend of ours, Patrick Jordan, and set a date to start working on the EP. Overall the process was very quick, the drums were recorded first all in a few hours. Then the instruments recorded on a separate day and the vocals the day afterwards. We hope one of the tracks will be released in the coming months.”
For most bands going into a proper recording studio for the first time is a testing but exciting time but even this must have posed its own new challenges however Elliott is surprisingly pragmatic.
“The recording process was actually easier than expected,” he says. “We had a maximum of two of us in a room at any time plus Patrick. The only downside was we were aiming to have recorded back in July as that’s when the songs were ready but safety comes first.”
With an EP in the bag, a punk edge to the band’s sound will start to present further challenges when thinking about the pre-requisite all-seated, socially distanced audiences live music will be limited to in the coming months…
Elliott admits, “Yeah, having the punk/rock element to our music is certain to pose challenges when thinking about playing live as we’d want to create an electric atmosphere and put on a good show for the audience. That being said, we just have to work with what we’ve got and do our best to generate an atmosphere. Also, there is a possibility we could play stripped back sets if it was suitable to do so.”
As a music writer I think this poses potentially the biggest challenge of them all for a lot of bands starting out right now. Gone Tomorrow may be at the forefront of a guitar music renaissance in the area but without the rowdy, shoulder-to-shoulder standing audiences many of us are used to they are already disadvantaged but, as they say, adversity is the mother of invention. Watch this space.
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