Interview: Ben Lovett of Communion

Ben Lovett
Image Courtesy of Chords and Candles

Aviela Kraikos at Chords and Candles caught up with Ben Lovett (Mumford and Sons) to chat to him about record label/indie night Communion and what 2011 holds for them. Aviela has kindly let us post the interview, especially as Lovett talks about Communion’s plans for Australia. This interview follows one from our chat with the other face of Communion Kevin Jones.

So a little background info on Ben. Benjamin Lovett, along with fellow musician Kevin Jones and producer Ian Grimble run the Communion night at the Notting Hill Arts Club and more recently the Communion record label. Ben is also a member of the fantastic double Grammy nominated band Mumford and Sons, and as well as this, has found time to collaborate with the lovely Ellie Goulding on one of her latest tracks, “Your Song” (a cover of the Elton John classic), which is available to download on iTunes.

So, where to start? I first met Ben at the Communion Christmas special, Notting Hill Arts Club, on 5th December 2010, where we had a little chat and he said that he was really excited about what was going to be coming up for Communion in 2011. I asked if maybe we could arrange a proper chat so I could find out more. There is no denying that at Chords and Candles and at our “vrother-from-another-mother” site Timber and Steel in Australia, there is a lot of love for Communion and what they do, so we were all pretty excited about the chance to talk to Ben Lovett about the future and who he sees big things happening for.

So fast-forward to the Shuga Buddha Christmas party, on the 15th December at The Bedford in Balham, London. The party was amazing and had a great bunch of artists performing: Moon Visionaries, Handshake, Public Service Broadcasting and The Joker and the Thief. Ben was there to do the DJ set for the evening (see above) and agreed to catch up with us at the end of the night.

We caught up outside the venue when everyone got turfed out for the evening/morning, and we sat on the steps in front of the door to protect us from the wind and rain (though one little spot kept dripping on to Ben’s knee from the doorway). He had taken off the wonderful Christmas tree sunglasses that he had worn through his DJ set (a gift from a friend of mine) and looked dashing as always.

Aviela Krakos: The first thing I wanted to ask you was how you, Kev and Ian actually met and set up Communion?
Ben Lovett: Well it started with hot rocket. We were looking for a bassist and we met Kevin, probably early 2006 I think. In spring 2006, Ian was at one of our gigs and said that he wanted to produce a record for us, which was very flattering. So he talked to some managers of ours and we went into his studio which used to be in Wood Lane, now moved to Finsbury Park, and we did a recording with him.”
AK: So how did Communion happened to be called Communion?
BL: We were in the Rose and Crown in Wimbledon one night, and we were all hanging out, and Marcus (Mumford) was like, “why don’t you just call it Communion?” And that sounded like a good idea, community, communion, it kinda made sense.
AV: What cities in the UK does Communion actually work from?
BL: In the UK now is London, Bristol, Oxford, Brighton, Leeds, York, Belfast, and we’ve also got Dublin in Ireland, and we are launching imminently in Manchester and Portsmouth. We get approached by lots of different cities, Edinburgh would be a good place to get it.
AK: Communion has gone from strength to strength really, it started off as a London thing didn’t it?
BL: Yep
AK: And you’ve recently announced that you are starting a New York one? What’s the deal with that?
BL: Yes, in the month of January. New York is a really hard place to do club nights because no one does it. There is no other city really like it. So it’s always been a bit of a struggle to figure out how to put things on there, but obviously there is as many bands within New York as there are in London. And I heard a statistic not that long ago that there are over 10,000 active bands in London. So there is probably that and the rest in New York.
AK: So will you be taking acts over from the UK or will you be sourcing acts local to the area?
BL: Yeah, certainly. More news on that coming.
AK: Where else is Communion based? I mean there’s Communion Australia, I’ve actually been asked to ask you what’s happening with the Australian one because they’ve not had anything for a while?
BL: We’re working on developing Communion Australia with some friends based out there. There’s currently a Communion endorsed tour on the cards but the club nights are still in their embryonic stage.
AK: How does it feel to have gone from something based in London, to becoming a national thing and branching further a field in such a short space of time?
BL: It feels good, it feels good. I’m slightly worried that the vibe will get lost, but we’ve put years and years into the vibe of the one in London, the people who turn up, the dedication to the music, not trying to make money out of it. All we started it out as was a launch bed for Hot Rocket, so we didn’t care whether we made any money out of it or not, as long as it was busy. And then once Hot Rocket closed down, we were like, it’s just a really good atmosphere for people coming and playing, and I’d much rather put a load of effort in and get people down to see bands they don’t even know.
AK: Other than the Communion Compilation Vinyl and the EP’s on the Communion website, what releases do you guys have coming up?
BL: Next year we are releasing Marcus Foster’s album, which I’m really excited about.
AK: Yeah definitely, he’s been recording that in Rockfield studio’s right?
BL: In Wales, yeah. And the Flowerpot compilation which we did this summer at the Flowerpot venue which is like 21 artists. Its going to be ridiculous for a collaboration compilation, which should bring a lot of focus to what Communion is about.
AK: And lastly, but not leastly, out of all the people you are working with, who do you see progressing the most in 2011?
BL: I would be surprised if Marcus Foster’s album doesn’t get nominated for a Mercury! I’d be really surprised, having heard the album. I’d be upset if we can’t secure a future for Rachel [Sermanni] and for [Andrew] Davie. And Matthew and the Atlas, who are obviously like a band’s band you know?
AK: Yeah, Matthew and the Atlas are incredible.
BL: I think they could be a cult classic, but I want them to be a bit more than that.

By the time we finish the interview it is bloody freezing, so we quickly hug, pose for a photo and go our separate ways.

Interview: Kevin Jones

Kevin Jones
Image Courtesy of Chords and Candles

Aiden Quinn runs the excellent UK based site Chords and Candles and recently got the chance to chat with Kevin Jones, ex member of Cherbourg and co-creator (with Mumford and Sons’ Ben Lovett) of the Communion night and record label. Jones opened up to Aiden on all things Communion and folk music. This interview was originally printed here (go and show C&C some love!).

Aiden Quinn: How did you come up with the concept for the Communion label and what inspired the name?
Kevin Jones: Ben, Ian and I wanted to set up a night where we could showcase our favourite bands and provide a platform for developing artists and friends. We wanted to make it friendly and inclusive, to have a community feel, hence Communion. Also it’s on a Sunday which tied in nicely.
AQ: How do you go about selecting all the different acts that you have?
KJ: Various sources, friends tipping us off, people approaching us with demos. Any way we can really.
AQ: Who are you actually working with at the moment?
KJ: I’m working on lots of stuff at the moment: the Communion Christmas Party, Marcus Foster’s Album recording and SXSW mainly.
AQ: Have you met any people that have really surprised you, as individuals and as artists?
KJ: Kill it Kid certainly pack a pretty serious punch which you wouldn’t have necessarily expected from meeting them!
AQ: If you had to choose three of your acts that you see big things happening for in the near future, which are your personal favourites and why?
KJ: Marcus Foster, Matt Corby and Andrew Davie – all very talented singers and songwriters.
AQ: What are the best and worst things about heading a label?
KJ: It’s stressful and I’m lucky if I get an afternoon off a week, but It’s also the most rewarding job I could think of.
AQ: Do you still have time to work on your own musical projects or do you see yourself taking a more managerial role?
KJ: I’m still working on a few things of my own. Watch this space!
AQ: If you could sign up any bands that you currently don’t have on your books whom would you like to work with?
KJ: I’d love to have signed Everything Everything and Dry the River.
AQ: Most of the acts involved with Communion are male. Is there any particular reason for this, or is that just the way it kind of happened?
KJ: Next year they are mainly female! There’s no agenda there, obviously, it’s just the way things happen.
AQ: Most of the artists you work with are in the folk/blues kind of genre, why do you think that so many younger performers are falling into this style of music?
KJ: It’s fashionable. You imitate what you hear on the radio and at gigs. Laura Marling, Noah and the Whale and Mumford and Sons paved the way for the rest.
AQ: There has definitely been a shift in styles, from young people doing punchy poppy music to a softer and more acoustic style, thinking more about what they are writing and taking their time to develop. Do you think that this is something that we are going to see for a while? or do you see signs of it already evolving into something different?
KJ: It will evolve of course. I predict it will become more electric and progressive next year.
AQ: What would you say are the main aims of the Communion label? What message are you trying to put out to people?
KJ: We’re just trying to promote good musicians and honest songwriting. “Real” music if that doesn’t sound too contrived.
AQ: What advice would you give to young musicians, bands and singer/songwriters who are just starting out and wanting to become involved in the whole folk/blues scene and wanting to get involved with Communion itself?
KJ: Work on your songs. Keep writing, it’s a craft. “That will do” won’t get you anywhere. And say yes to everything until you get to a certain point, and then start saying no to almost everything.
AQ: Communion is a relatively young venture, how long exactly has it been going? And how do you see it progressing and developing in the future?
KJ: The night has been going for 3 years or so in London, the regionals a little less, and the label about a year. The plan is keep going!
AQ: I’ve seen you take an active role with some of the performers, playing bass for Matt Corby for example, is this something you do a lot? Does it help with the bonding process and getting to know the artists? Because communion seems to be like a family more than just a bunch of musicians.
KJ: Yeah it really does. People bond through playing music and there’s a mutual respect between us as label/artists and the artists we sign, develop or produce.
AQ: For Communion fans like myself who like to try and help out, is there any advice you would give to us? What’s the best way for us to help out with communion? Do you ever take on volunteers to sell merchandise and EP’s at gigs or is that something arranged with the individual artists?
KJ: The best way is simply tell your friends about us, and come to shows and buy records! It’s how we are able to keep doing what we are doing.
AQ: As well as Communion in the UK, there is also Communion in Australia; do you have plans to take it to anywhere else in the future? World domination perhaps?
KJ: We’re looking to set up a few more in Australia and looking at one in New York too.

For the full interview and other great musical content check out Chords and Candles

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