As romantic as it seems, being independent often represents some seriously hard graft.
Simply keeping a band afloat can be a full time job, and when you consider that most bands have Actual Full Time Jobs to contend with it's a miracle that most projects get off the ground.
Echotape have dealt with more than their fair share of this. Opting to go it alone, the band have pushed ahead with touring taking them from a small town in Southern England to the plains of Russia. Working with famed producer Youth, the band's debut album 'Collective' emerged earlier this week.
A work of striking confidence, it's the result of more than 12 months of penny pinching, opportunism, lucky breaks and hard graft. Impressed, ClashMusic asked Echotape's Mike Burford for his views on the DIY method.
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DIY is cool, but for all new bands now, it's also a necessity.
10 years ago, major and even indie labels were willing to sign alt bands on development deals. The Kooks were signed up just three months after forming. There were thousands like them who got signed, who hadn’t even played more than a handful of shows. The labels were just prepared to throw money at projects, and this enabled young bands to work with top producers and it gave them access to intensive nationwide and sometimes even international marketing campaigns. Now, labels are not willing to take these risks and these sort of deals are few and far between.
We've been together as Echotape for just over two and a half years, and from filming videos, recording songs, or printing CD singles, we've had to do pretty much everything off our own back. We haven't got financial backing from a big label or investor, so a lot of things have to be done by asking favours or finding cheap alternatives.
We managed to film our first video, for 'Came Into My Blood', for the grand total of £50. We have Chris Warsop, who is an amazing graphic designer and artist, as the unofficial 6th member of the band. He really liked our sound and the visual as well as musical direction that we wanted the band to take, so he came on board. Chris filmed, directed and edited the whole of that debut video. He shot it on an SLR camera, which gives a good quality of footage and is very cheap to buy second hand. (You can get one on eBay for around £200). We borrowed a friend's Sierra, which cost us a pack of beers. We persuaded an actor we knew to star in the video and we created and found many of the props. Our guitarist Marc, borrowed a forklift tractor from the farm down the road and we used that to get the high shots in the film, with Chris sat in the bucket at the front, while Marc lifted him up. It's surprising what you came up with when you are put to the test. That's the magic of a DIY ethic.
We also, together with Chris, design our artwork and our website. I don't think the artwork and image you portray as a band can be neglected. We all see this being equally as important as the music. We'd definitely advise getting a friend or artist on board to help produce everything.
Recording in local studios can be very costly. We record our demos in our rehearsal room and have built up a nice selection of recording gear. It's more expensive at first buying your first desk and microphones but definitely pays for itself over time. It's perfect for song writing too. Just set the mics up to record and jam away for hours.
Having a booking agent has taken the responsibility of booking shows away from us, but in the early days of the band this was a job we had to do. Our other guitarist Bowman, used to scour the gig listings for bands who we'd want to support and hassle promoters to get us on the bill. He's got a bit of German blood in him so is very efficient and organised and the perfect member of our band to do this.
In fact, we all have different roles in the band, which help us promote and push as much as we can. It's extremely important to maximise the skills you have. We sat down a long time ago and decided who's best at doing what jobs. Our singer AK is a bit of a tech geek, so he does all the recordings and release production. Bowman organises us on tour, getting the dates in the early days and now booking the budget hotels on tour (if we're not sleeping in our van or at a mate's house). Dan, our bassist, manages a lot of our social media pages. Marc is our networker. Never underestimate the importance of getting to know the other bands on the circuit and being helpful and supportive to them. I am supposedly the best at writing, strange for a drummer I know, so take on the tasks such as this. And we all chip in to make sure we're always working.
It's never boring having to do things in a DIY fashion and you're always kept busy. As long as we're heading in the right direction and loving what we're doing, I don't see anything wrong with having to do things DIY.
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Finally... stream 'Collective' below.