Image Courtesy of The Falls
“Home”, the first single from The Falls’ upcoming EP Hollywood, is officially released tomorrow (1st May). We sat down with Melinda Kirwin and Simon Rudston-Brown from the Sydney based duo last week to talk about the release, the recording process and the band’s regular Folk Club night at the Hotel Hollywood – all of which can be found in Part 1 of our interview here. In Part 2 we delve a little deeper and discover just what The Falls are doing to make it in the challenging modern music industry.
Evan Hughes: In the press there’s lots of doom and gloom around the music industry with everything from illegal downloads to venues closing down. And I hear that from some artists as well about how hard it is to find a gig when you’re starting out. You guys have just taken the bull by the horns and instead of waiting to be booked at one of the remaining established venues you’ve just gone ahead and started your own regular show at the Hotel Hollywood, Folk Club.
Melinda Kirwin: That’s exactly what we did I think. There aren’t any small venues left in Sydney and that’s the battle for new artists. There’s no where you can play and play to new people. If you play any of the bigger rooms you’re expected to bring the crowd and there’s only so many favours you can call in and friends you can ask to so many gigs. We felt the thing that was really missing was a free night where hopefully you could play to a room full of newbies, not people that have heard you before or friends of friends but actual new people that want to come and hear good music. We felt like that was something that was really missing here so we thought “well, we’re going to make our own night”. By making it free often people will come down to check it out and see who’s playing and discover new music. Even though you’re not making money from the door hopefully the pay off is that new people hear you and buy your music. Even though vendors are disappearing as far as physical copies go I still think gigs are a great place to sell your music and people do want to buy [there]. The Hollywood has been an amazing place for artists to sell their music.
EH: There can be a little bit of a “woe is me” attitude among some artists, especially in Sydney, when it comes to finding live gigs. Many of them are saying “it’s not like Melbourne, there’s no venues, you can’t get a gig” whereas you guys have just proven that you can just walk into a bar and ask.
MK: And you can! I actually feel like that. You just have to go out there and do it. You can make it for yourself. All we did was approach the Hollywood Hotel, they didn’t have any music at the time, and say we wanted to put on a gig. We said to them “look, just give it a go and if you hate it we won’t come back next week”. And we came and played, then we played the next week and the next week and now we’ve been there for a couple of years and it keeps getting bigger. It was hard to begin with – every week was like a launch because you’d hope that people would come. We’re very lucky this year that it has gotten to the point that I always dreamed it would that people are starting to know that there’s a free music night at The Hollywood and they know what they’re going to get if they come down. We’ve tried to keep it stylistically consistent and the quality really high and now people are just coming because there are lots of people out there who want to hear new music – sometimes they just don’t know where to find it.
EH: And it seems that since you rebranded to Folk Club this year and brought in the interview and video elements there’s a lot more buzz around the night as well. Are you finding that? Are you seeing lots of new faces in the crowd? And a bigger crowd?
Simon Rudston-Brown: Definitely. This year has been really well attended and well received. It’s hard to know exactly whether it is the video or whether it’s just because it’s a new year.
MK: I wanted to take it up a notch. I really loved what we’ve been doing at the Hollywood and saw so many amazing artists coming through every Wednesday. I was there every week going “these artists are incredible”. I was getting so blown away each week and I just wanted more people to know about it. I was like “how do we let more people know this is happening” – it just needed an identity. The idea of it being a place where people could come together – I think that’s where the name Folk Club came from.
EH: As a kid I grew up in actual folk clubs and folk societies and regular performance nights were a big part of my childhood. And Folk Club does have that feel to it – I know you’re not a literal club in the way that you have a membership or an AGM or anything but it does feel like you’re part of something, part of a community.
MK: That’s so nice to hear because I guess that’s what we wanted to create. One of the inspirations for it was we went to Tamworth a year or so ago and we found the country music community was just warm and inviting and supportive of each other, particularly the artists supporting other artists. We just busked on the street as part of the [Tamworth Country Music] Festival and someone would hear you play and say “I’m playing at the Tamworth Hotel tonight, you should get up and do a couple of songs”. We tried to bring a bit of that into the Hollywood – if there’s a friend in town unexpectedly we’ll get them up to do a few tunes and give them a chance to play to new people. I think it’s really nice, I hope it keeps growing.
EH: Have you got big plans to evolve the night further?
MK: [laughs] I always have a lot of ideas, I always have big plans. I want to have a TV show! I’d love Folk Club to keep growing and keep getting bigger so that the audience can keep getting bigger and the exposure for the artists can keep getting bigger. That’s what new artists need – exposure. The hardest thing about the music industry right now is getting heard because there are so many people making music and the avenues for getting heard are shrinking. But right now [evolving] Folk Club is on hold for a month or so while I try to get The Falls heard.
EH: I feel like in Australia music is very tribal. If you play indie venues and indie festivals and get played on indie radio then you’re not going to get booked on the folk circuit. And if you play folk festivals you’re not going to get booked on the country circuit and so on. You don’t get that so much overseas. It’s so easy to limit your options here just by choosing which of those avenues, which of those scenes you fit into.
MK: That’s interesting. I think everybody’s conscious of that, it’s hard not to be. Sometimes its impossible to guess what’s going to work for what “tribe” in the way you’re describing it. We try to do everything. We feel like we do fit the folk scene but we’re not traditional folk. And then we’d love to be part of the triple j scene because that’s kind of the music we’re doing but we’re also very country. We’ve always found that we walk this tightrope where we don’t quite know where we fit and that’s been tricky for us. For us we’ve gone “let’s do it and we’ll see where we end up”.
EH: That’s one of the reasons I started Timber and Steel – because I could see so many similarities between the folk music being played at folk festivals and the folk inspired music being played on triple j yet the two scenes were never meeting. Timber and Steel was meant to be a way to introduce them to each other.
MK: I like that you’ve done that – I have noticed that. Timber and Steel does cover a lot of different music under the umbrella of folk. I guess that’s why Folk Club’s “Folk Club at The Hollywood”. We want to try and do a similar thing.
EH: Lets talk about social media for a second. You guys are really clever at using things like Twitter and Facebook to get your own stuff and Folk Club out there. How important is social media to your careers as artists?
MK: It’s key. It’s so important for everything that we’re doing. We have a mailing list as well which has been key because that’s people that have chosen to find out more about what you’re doing. Social media has become such a big part of everybody’s lives – people plan their whole social calendar using Facebook so for gigs and stuff it’s key. It’s a great way for reaching people every day.
EH: And of course having content like good quality video is so important because that can be shared across social networks. Is that something you had in mind when you decided to shoot a video for “Home”?
SR-B: It’s good to have some content to share but we also wanted with the video just to create something visual to go with the song. People can hear the song in one way but if you put a visual to it it can give them a context that maybe they didn’t think about. With “Home” we’ve done something interesting and unique with the take on the title – the clip is going to change the perception of the song a little bit and not pigeonhole the music into being too folky or whatever. Instead going “this is just music” and creating a whole image around that song. I think that was more the reason why we wanted to do a clip rather than just having “content”.
EH: Considering how successful you have been with social media, with crowd funding and with getting a residency have you ever considered mentoring other bands? Let them know “this is what we’ve done, this is what’s been successful, this is what we would have done differently”.
MK: I think everyone does mentor each other unconsciously because we all talk to each other about what we’re doing, what’s working and what’s not working. I think we’re all in the same boat – there is not right or wrong way to get out there. Everyone’s just trying to find ways to reach people and get their music heard. I’m always keen to chat to people if they want to because it helps me as well. Every time you start a dialogue with somebody about it you come up with new ideas and they teach you something, they come up with something you’ve never even thought of doing. I think bands should be mentoring each other. Musicians are often working on their own, all battling away, all trying to be heard and trying to figure out how to do it by themselves. It’s great when musicians can come together, we need each other’s support.
EH: There are a few avenues out there for that kind of mentoring I guess. The big example is obviously The Seed which John Butler put together. And there’s also Jen Cloher’s I Manage My Music program that she’s put together. The great thing about music is it’s not a competition and people are always willing to help and always willing to offer advice.
SR-B: Melinda attended The Seed in 2010. She came back from that very motivated with lots of ideas from speaking to other people about what they’ve been doing, how things have gone. Those kind of things are awesome.
MK: Sometimes you just need to know you’re on the right track and that’s what those [programs] do. It’s not even about getting taught a way to do it, it’s someone going “actually you’re doing the right thing. Hang in there and keep going the way you’re going and you’re going to be OK”. I think that things like The Seed and what Jen’s doing is amazing. And it gives you resources that you didn’t even know about. The Seed was amazing for me because there’s so many little details about the industry that I just had no idea about. It gave you a little bit of inside knowledge. Seed applications have just opened just so you know. I think The Seed is one of the best things happening in the country at the moment, for managers as well. The artist manager actually has the hardest job because you’re not the artist and you’re putting your whole life out there for the artist. I have so much admiration for anyone that’s managing a band at the moment.
EH: We’ll be sure to link to it for aspiring artists and managers out there. Well that’s all I have for you today. Thanks so much guys, this has been great – I’m really looking forward to the EP!
SR-B: Yeah, the single [“Home”] is out on the 1st May and the video should be out the 1st May as well with the EP coming a month later.
MK: The 1st June. We’ve got heaps of shows too.
SR-B: Come to a show!
EH: Of course. Thank you so much guys.
MK: Thank you!
Sat 5th May – The Front Gallery, Canberra, ACT w/ Jack Carty
Tue 8th May – Northcote Social Club, Melbourne, VIC w/ Jack Carty
Wed 9th May – The Hotel Hollywood, Sydney, NSW w/ Evan & The Brave
Thur 10th May – Black Bear Lodge, Brisbane, QLD w/ Jack Carty
Fri 11th May – The Front Gallery, Canberra, ACT w/ Evan & The Brave
Sat 12th May – The Wesley Anne, Melbourne, VIC w/ Evan & The Brave
Saturday 19th May – The Waiting Room, Brisbane, QLD w/ Evan & The Brave
Sunday 27th May – Yours & Owls, Wollongong, NSW w/ Evan & The Brave