With so many fresh new bands battling for recognition in the cut throat gig world, Badge of Friendship are a breathe of fresh air.
Music aficionados Claire and Paul have built on their love of music to become live music promoters who are dedicated to fighting the corner for unsigned, exciting new bands, giving them a chance to get out there and get heard.
With an every growing fan base, the hardworking duo have put on some awesome nights this year, topped by the innovative DIY Festival in July. Dee Massey brings you this report from the underground.
So firstly, introduce yourselves.
Claire & Paul: Hello! We are Claire and Paul i.e. A BADGE OF FRIENDSHIP – gig promoters based in London town.
You started off running the ‘zine ‘Broken Violin‘ – how did you make the jump from ‘zine to promoter? What exactly is Badge of Friendship, how did it all come about?
Claire: It was quite easy to go from writing a ‘zine to being a promoter because some contacts had already been made with bands and things, but I personally find promoting more enjoyable. Broken Violin was fun to do but I essentially wanted to do something that turned heads and really got bands noticed and so when I met Paul that’s when we started A Badge of Friendship. A Badge of Friendship is the name we use when promoting gigs in London and the aim is to put on really cool nights that bring about some sort of “community spirit” amongst the bands and fellow music lovers in the underground music scene. We want to get people excited about live shows again!
Paul: It was never really our intention to do the ‘zine on a long term basis. We love live music so much that it seemed like a natural progression to move into promoting. It was also something we wanted to do because we felt there wasn’t enough of the type of bands that we like playing. So, instead of complaining about the live music scene from the comfort of our own home, we decided to try and influence it directly.
Your first night was the awesome Barfly show with Hell is For Heroes, Sucioperro and Silicon Vultures – how did you get involved with Captains of Industry to put that show together?
We had gotten to know Ben Myers through our friends, who are in Biffy Clyro. I grew up with them and toured with them for a while (doing various jobs) and subsequently met HIFH on one of those tours a while back (it all sounds a bit incestuous!). All of us have a similar ethos, and as a result decided to put on the best show possible, with a cool label high on integrity, cool bands and, quality DJ-ing.
We’ve actually been promoting for about 3 years now but our first night at The Barfly was with HIFH. This was our biggest show to date and it was so much fun. We’ve got many mutual musical friends and just started talking about helping each other out and promoting the label and basically having an excuse to party!
The DIY Festival was a huge success, what was behind the idea for that, and tell us a little about it.
Claire: There are so many festivals that are just bullshit and boring. The same bands play the same places and it just becomes a showcase for talentless drivel that doesn’t show you anything new. So we both decided we would just put on all the bands we love at our own festival. It was a great chance for small labels, bands and music fans to meet up, exchange CDs, drinks and chat! We so many nice people during the festival and received many awesome comments afterwards. It was such a brilliant chance for smaller bands to play to different folk.
Paul: Yeah, the whole day just had great vibes, with everyone enjoying the music and the company. That is really what we try to purport – good vibes, good music, good people – and I think we managed to achieve it with the DIY Festival. Also, it was an attempt to do something different from most of the big summer festivals and to at least give people an alternative option. So, we decided to go up against Live Earth and T in the Park, just to give ourselves a bit of a challenge! Ha ha.
You champion younger unsigned bands – who should we be looking out for in the future?
Paul: There are so many unsigned and underground bands out there – the scene is vibrant at the moment. People should check out Limn, Silent Front, One Unique Signal, Zettasaur, The Furious Sleep, Elks, Restlesslist… That is just a few and only encompasses these shores.
Claire: The scene at the moment is absolutely brimming with talented bands. Look out for They Died Too Young if you’re into your alt-rock noisy stuff. They are a brilliant live band and the loveliest boys you’ll ever meet. YouMeTheSwitch are also great. They’ve played for us a few times now and are outstanding. There are so many though – check out our myspace top friends to see who we’re listening to at the moment. It’s hard to name a favourite – we love them all!
What’re you hopes and plans for Badge of Friendship?
Claire: We obviously want to progress and become slightly bigger, branch out and put on bigger bands so we can get our favorite smaller acts on the bill as well. We’d also like to take ABoF to various festivals and things and possibly do another DIY Festival because it was lots of fun, hard work but worth it! There are other things going on too, but we don’t want to give too much away at this point – you’ll have to watch this space!
Paul: If we can get to a point where we can put on bands from all over the world that we truly love and include the bands we have had the privilege to work with so far, then that would be perfect. Also, if we can develop and enhance the scene and give smaller, more diverse bands the opportunity to grow and help reinvigorate the music scene on a wider scale.
As promoters, what are your pet hates about gig nights?
Claire: This is an easy one… HIRE FEES! If you want a decent venue then the hire fees are sky-high and it’s difficult to make back expenses and things. Then there’s the flip side of doing gigs in cheaper venues where the sound is rubbish or it’s in a crap location etc etc… For smaller promoters, it’s just a pain to pay so much money out to do one single gig and if you make a huge loss it can be really dis-heartening. We’re trying to put smaller, unknown bands in more commercial venues because we’re now finding that despite the expense, random punters become intrigued and actually end up paying to watch the bands which is great news. Apart from that everything else is peachy. Doing gigs is what we love!
Paul: Having to deal with the odd (and they are odd) disingenuous individual circling like vultures coming in to mess with our shit! As I said before, we just want to create an enjoyable evening for the bands, the punters, the venue staff and ourselves, so it can be quite dis-heatening when people aren’t there for the right reasons.
What’s been your favourite Badge of Friendship night?
Paul: There are a few that spring to mind: a Gringo records evening a few years back where it was packed and we had the likes of Lords and Bilge Pump rockin’. This gig actually made us realise that we were on the right path and promoting was probably somthing we could do. Also, when we put on one of our favourite bands from the last couple of years Riddle of Steel. We subsequently discovered another band who they were touring with – Roma 79 – who were also superb. These were the first bands from The States we had put on, which was apt, as this was the country which probably shaped our musical taste more than any other.
Claire: The gig that sticks out for me at the moment was An Emergency, They Died Too Young, Jesus Knives, Geordi La Force and Cinemechanica quite recently at The Fly. This was a 5 band bill! We put on Cinemechanica last minute as they were touring the UK (they are from Georgia, USA) and one of their shows had been cancelled. It ended up being a really busy night and every single band was really well received; everyone from the crowd to the bar staff loved all of the bands. What a night, good vibes all round. Cinemechanica said that it was one of the best shows they’ve done here and in the USA! What a compliment.
What’s in the pipeline?
Claire: As I said before, I think doing bigger shows, working with different labels and things. We’ve been talking about a label at some point but there are so many great underground labels out there (Captains of Industry, Gringo, Big Scary Monsters, Ascetic…) that it would be hard to compete with such quality! Never say never though… There are just so many great bands out there that need to be signed! And yes, a few more things… Top secret though! Crossfire will be one of the first to know!
Paul: Gigs, gigs, gigs! We are putting on a Dischord band called Antelope on Saturday 10th November, and then Meet Me In St. Louis and Bee and Flower next month. So, quite varied nights if anyone fancies a night on the tiles.
What tips have you got for people who want to put on their own nights?
Paul: Stick to your principals, maintain your integrity and follow your heart. If you do that, your in with a shout because it will be real and not transparent or cliched.
Claire: You need a lot of patience, be a genuine, an excellent communicator and have an absolute burning passion for the music scene and bands you are trying to promote. We’ve heard a lot of bands say they’ve had nightmare promoters just put shows together to make a quick buck or not even turn up at all! It’s very hard to make money from promoting shows so it should just always be about the bands first and foremost. The bands should always be happy and never let them see how stressed you really are!
What would be your dream line up for a Badge of Friendship night?
Claire: Oooh, I like questions like this but it’s too difficult to choose just one line up. I’ll just say some of the bands I’d like to put on! Les Savy Fav, Trans Am, Faraquet, Shellac and Slint are amongst some of my all time favourites. There are a plethora of amazing unsigned bands we could put on the bill to support them as well.
Paul: Really difficult – I could probably name about 5 different line-ups. Here goes though: let’s start with an atmospheric band like American Football, followed by the rockin’ Faraquet, a side order of their label fathers Fugazi, and finishing with a big show from Mew. Oh I forgot Burning Airlines and Braid and Shiner and…
For further information on Badge of Friendship nights check out www.myspace.com/abadgeoffriendship