unsigned but not unheard

new music breaking through?

The tides are beginning to change in the world of music - as of two weeks ago, Koopa became the first unsigned band to enter the UK Top 40 singles chart, after taking advantage of the new rulings allowing downloads to count towards sales eligible for the chart.

Also, lots of independently promoted gigs have started popping up across the nation showcasing some of the best unsigned talent within the UK, and are becoming more popular amongst punters as time passes by.

"You can play these gigs and play with good bands, you maybe don’t get a big crowd, but if five of those people like your bands, they’ll come back next time and they’ll bring people with them" says Sean Cumming, frontman of the Glasgow based post-grad indie five-piece Piano Bar Fight, who we caught up with shortly before they were due to play a small independently promoted gig in Dundee.


"I think it’s vitally important that we have nights like tonight, as you’d have nothing - you’d have the mainstream and nothing else. It’s good to have a thriving underground, locally and nationally as well, and there is."
Sean Cumming, Piano Bar Fight

"As a band, we’ve got a pretty strong stance on supporting independent stuff over more corporate money-making things, and I’d much rather play a gig that was independent and maybe not the most popular gig in town over a massive sell-out gig where we had to compromise our musicianship and people skills to play" muses guitarist and vocalist Ben Pomphrett.

Sean Cumming agrees: "I think it’s vitally important that we have nights like tonight, as you’d have nothing - you’d have the mainstream and nothing else. It’s good to have a thriving underground, locally and nationally as well, and there is. If you look on MySpace, there’s so much good music! We’re about to release our own music, so then I’d say we weren’t unsigned, we’ve got our own label!"

As mentioned earlier, the new rules for the singles chart has opened a possibility for unsigned bands to stand a chance at gaining some level of mainstream attention, as shown by Koopa. Some say that the new chart rules will change unsigned music, and the band seem to agree with this.

"I think that it’s something that has to be embraced and the independent music community has been far more forthcoming with embracing these new technologies than all the majors have, and that’s why all these lawsuits are going around, because the majors haven’t latched onto this amazing idea that music doesn’t have to have some sort of unique packaging to it - music is music at the end of the day" states Pomphrett.

However, a market where people just download music doesn’t appear to be fully to Sean Cummings taste: "I really like having records, I’ve got a lot of records at home, and that’s generally what I do, I buy records, so I suppose I’m a bit of a stooge for the record companies! I like listening to a whole record as opposed to one song, but for that band to get into the charts is brilliant!".

"It’s one to the system" claims Pomphrett. "It’s all this mumbo-jumbo about when you buy an album, and two months later it’s two pounds cheaper and it’s got this extra stuff on it, some people just really push it and you’ve got to strike a balance".


"I think the quick success route has happened to too many bands, you see so many bands that were successful a couple of years ago and now they’re not doing anything, I think it’s a timing issue"
Ben Pomphrett, Piano Bar Fight

There are lots of talented Scottish bands touring the small venues right now, and it seems that the route to massive sales and radio play seems shorter than ever, as bands like The Fratellis and The View, who just a year ago were playing tiny little venues and were unheard of are now becoming some of the best known names in the country. Both Cumming and Pomphrett appear very clear on how they see their own personal vision for the band.

"I think we’d be lying if we said we didn’t want to play to massive crowds, but to have that as your sole aspiration... the forefront of our thoughts is to make good music for ourselves" says Pomphrett, and their modesty towards their music is reflected by Cummings:

"for me, success is when one person says "I really liked that song", and it’s not somebody I know".

Being signed is often a big turning point for a band, and Piano Bar Fight have their own views on taking a record deal: "I think we would deal with it if we thought if we deserved it or not" says Pomphrett. "I think the quick success route has happened to too many bands, you see so many bands that were successful a couple of years ago and now they’re not doing anything, I think it’s a timing issue".

...continues on page two >>

article by: Matthew Shaw

published: 30/01/2007 18:07


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