Saturday, 22 October 2011

MATT BECK (This Is Tmrw) Interview

This Is Tmrw share their name with a fashion shoot from the 60s.
But instead of showcasing clothes on cat walks, they showcase bands on stages.

Secret Admirer caught up with This Is Tmrw’s main man Matt Beck in The Victoria pub; nestled away in Birmingham’s city centre.

Matt is making damn sure that people hear tomorrow’s sounds today.


When and why did This Is Tmrw start?
Mainly…we started in 2006. Slightly by chance, we did…you know Oxjam? We started doing a couple of events for them and it went pretty well. And when we started delving into the Birmingham scene, there was a real lack of quality promoters putting on the sort of bands we were listening to. The gig line ups didn’t suite the bands we wanted to put on. Our whole ethos was to put on bands from Birmingham on line ups that would suite them.
There is a million and one promoters, without naming any names, that tell the support bands to sell fifty tickets and then all their mates come and never watch the headline band. So, we kind of wanted to make shows more like events. So people come for the package as opposed to coming to see your mate’s band and fucking off, basically.
And then we had a little bit of luck, the first we put on were Foals at The Sunflower Lounge, just round the corner from here. And then we had just a really good run of shows. We had a band called The Draytones, who were really good back in the day. We just sort of developed it from there. We held a weekly residency at The Yard Bird. It’s actually a jazz club in Paradise Forum. It’s going to be knocked down in the next two years, because it’s where the old library used to be.
But yeah, we held a weekly, sort of Wednesday club night there. We put on Hot Club De Paris and Johnny Foreigner, all those sorts of bands. We are now in a position where we just put on the bands we like. We don’t see it as a career or anything though, like a business or money making thing. We just want to put on great bands, gigs with really good line ups and art work. Just busy shows really. That’s the whole point.
So that’s kind of why we started, to bring in bands that wouldn’t normally play Birmingham and put them with brilliant local bands in Birmingham. They never get any recognition, and part of that is their own fault for not putting themselves out there. Birmingham is often seen in the music press as a cultural black hole, when it’s not really. That’s a little bit na├»ve. It’s easy to look down your nose at Birmingham. But I think there is a hell of a lot more going on here than there is in places like Nottingham at the moment.
Bands are quite notorious for not promoting themselves, especially in Northampton (Secret Admirer’s birthplace). They just set up a Facebook page and wait for people to have interest in them.
Yeah, it’s bad to say but you’ve got to be a bit business-like about it. I think you have to.
Sell yourself.
Well yeah. We had Calories play at the start of the Mazes show, a couple of nights ago. Calories used to be a band called Distophia. Who were a band about five or six years ago, maybe even a bit longer now. They were kind of on the cusp of being absolutely massive. They were signed to Necessary Records and went on tour with Hard-Fi. Because Hard-Fi were on Necessary Records. This is when Hard-Fi’s first album had come out, they were selling out the academies and stuff. And Distophia are kind of a little bit like Sonic Youth, loads of feedback. And they absolutely bombed to this sort of Hard-Fi crowd of like skin heads and young indie kids that were just loving The Streets and stuff. They just called it a day and reformed as Calories. They are so, so good and like they don’t shout about themselves whatsoever.
They are one of these bands that can be like really crap because they don’t rehearse or really incredible because they are just on it. And they happen to just nail it. They are incredible musicians, and they did a set of completely new material and it was just like, jaw to the floor stuff. They were so good and that sort of quality of song, would stand up to the likes of Mazes. In fact, they were probably the band of the night in fairness. So, certainly keep an eye on Calories. That’s the main reason really, we just wanted to shout about Birmingham. Bring the bands here and put them on good shows, have a good turn out and put them on with bands that they liked. The audience that would come to see Calories for instance, would clearly love Hot Club De Paris. So Hot Club De Paris got some new fans from it.
The touring bands we have had, we’ve got quite good working relationships with them now. They are quite happy to Birmingham shows with us because they know that it will be well promoted.
Why did you choose the name This Is Tmrw?
No profound reasons or anything, it was more a case of wanting to put on bands that were a bit more cutting edge and not necessarily looking backwards. Bands that were of the moment, kind of two weeks away from going in the NME and stuff like that.
Just really new music for a young audience. This Is Tomorrow was actually a fashion shoot in the sixties for a lot of the sort of mods. Quite famous, but it’s not based on that as such, kind of more inspired by the idea of future music. And not putting on bands that are ten years out of date. So that’s the main thing, just modern music.
It’s a great name.
Oh, cool. Cheers.
You do a lot of DJing as well; do you prefer DJing or promoting?
We’ve always kind of DJed to supplement what we are doing financially, so we DJ at The Victoria every second Friday of the month. And we DJ at The Yard Bird as well. That’s kind of done for fun really, but in terms of doing under the This Is Tomorrow guise, that’s a fairly new thing.
I think the alternative music culture has changed a hell of a lot in recent times. And all these lines are incredibly blurred now as to what people are into. I think it’s not a problem thinking of an indie kid listening to a house record now or an indie kid listening to, for want of a better word, a dubstep record. Or, you know, hip hop. The cross over is so massive that we’ve kind of naturally wanted to put on some of these DJs to play that sort of music.
Our heart will always be with live shows but DJ culture is a completely different kettle of fish to putting on bands. It’s that much more difficult in a lot of respects. We started a club night at The Bull’s Head in Moseley, which is just down the road from Kings Heath. It’s difficult because if you’ve got a band onstage and they are playing guitars and they are playing whatever they are playing, people are instantaneously watching you. If we are doing a three hour DJ set, it’s incredibly easy to lose people’s attention. And people are a lot more fickle when it comes to DJs, if there is one song they don’t know, they are half the time, straight out the room. So we are kind of getting there with it but the live stuff is where our expertise lies. We’ll see what happens.
Do you have a favourite venue in Birmingham?
Not a favourite as such, The Hare and Hounds is amazing because it’s got, probably the best live room in the city, for an independent venue that is. And it’s a 250 plus room, the most amazing sound in there. You know, you’ll bring bands there and they will just be like…compared to where they have played in the rest of the country, it’s a real breath of fresh air to them. I mean it’s got three dressing rooms and it’s a pub as well. It’s not a live music venue, it’s just a boozer. So it’s an amazing place, the only bad thing is where it’s located. It’s a little bit harder to get to but…that’s where the best up and coming bands play. Because that’s where the best promoters are at the moment. The Rainbow is good for DJ stuff. Upstairs at The Victoria is amazing as well. It’s a wicked little sweaty room really.
What’s been the best gig you have put on so far?
I think one of the best ones was a guy called Matthew Dear. He kind of like, does that sort of…he’s a bit like a Bowie-fronted Hot Chip or something. He plays with a trumpet player and it’s such a good, good show. He wears black suites, slicked back hair and he’s just got swagger and an amazing, sort of, amazing personality on stage.
It must beat just watching a guy on a laptop.
And we were kind of like really unsure how it would go in Birmingham because we didn’t know if there would be any support for him. Turns out, he was a pretty massive DJ before a live act. And I didn’t really know that. He’s played in front of like, two hundred thousand people.  So there were a lot of these, sort of, techno kids coming out to it and stuff. Did it at the Hare and Hounds and it just went off. Just really, fucking went off. That was definitely a highlight.
Hot Club De Paris always killed it for us, we had them at The Yard Bird on a Saturday night, they did ‘Call Me Al’ at the end as an encore, with just everyone singing it back. Johnny Foreigner are always amazing as well. But yeah, the Matthew Dear one was good because it was a really left field show for us. It was a ‘fuck, we could fall flat on our arses on this one’, because people might not show up to it. It was two hundred people and it was amazing. He is definitely worth checking out, maybe bring him back next year.
Have you had any shows that haven’t gone so well?
Yeah, you always have a few sort of cop-out shows. Ironically, we had a really bad show with our…we had a break from gigging about three, four years ago because I was going travelling. And we had our last show with Hot Club De Paris and Johnny Foreigner on the same bill. We did it upstairs at The Victoria, but it was the same weekend as Glastonbury. So, it wasn’t an absolute wash out but we thought it was a show that would guarantee about a hundred and fifty people. But there was about seventy people there and it was kinda like, man, it’s two big bands really. At the time, we couldn’t get our head round it. By in large we have been quite lucky with our turn outs, the local support bands we put on really get behind the shows. They are happy to play with the bands they like. So, fingers crossed we’ll be alright.
Which bands would you love to put on, that you haven’t yet?
We really want to put on Real Estate.
They are from America aren’t they?
Yeah, they are from Portland. We put on the guitarist in his side project Ducktails. It was brilliant, we put him on over the road at The Island Bar. It was brilliant, just tropical, blissed out, surf-y sort of stuff. I’d love to put them on as a four piece. You know, as a full band. So hopefully we will be able to do something with them in the next twelve months.
It’d be nice to put on someone like Caribou, obviously. That would be amazing. Probably can’t afford it, to be fair.
He’s quite big now.
Yeah, we went to see him at The Apollo in Manchester and he fucking tore the roof off. Just two drummers, trumpet, all the electronics obviously. It was just brilliant. Love to put that show on in Birmingham. So yeah, people like that really, I really like Washed Out. Do you like Washed Out?
Yeah. He’s awesome.
Wanted to put him on for a while. I think they are a little bit concerned about Birmingham, because Washed Out is quite a niche sound, isn’t it really.
A lot of people think it’s for summer and no other time.
Yeah. It’s inside a dark room, it doesn’t matter does it? If there is a lot of people there...hopefully next year. We put on Toro Y Moi not too long ago and he would be really good to put on again.
When was that? His first album or second?
First album, and he was kind of so young as well. And his band was just his mates. I think they needed to come together a bit more as a live act. I think now that they have been on the road for about twenty three months and they have got a second album, EPs…maybe they’ve grown in stature and confidence a little bit. I’d imagine it being a really, really good show now. It wasn’t a bad show at all, I just imagine it as so much better now.
Because I think that first record is quite hard to translate to a live sound. He just did it in his bedroom pretty much.
Their second album definitely sounds like there is a band behind it.
Yeah, that’s it. It’s amazing because he’s just a geeky little kid who just wrote it in his bedroom. They are just getting younger and younger as well, it’s like, just stop it! (Laughs) Makes me feel old.
Why did you choose the artist Lewes Herriot to design your gig posters?
It just added kudos to it. It’s so interesting, so unique, so colourful. And he actually used to be in a band, that’s how the connection started. We put on his band, and he had sort of, all these prints behind where they were playing that he always brought with him to shows. And we were like, man, those would be amazing as posters.
He’s not a graphic designer what so ever, he’s an artist. So what he used to do was draw them and then scan it into his computer and then colour it in on Photoshop or whatever. But there was never any room for mistakes. If one of the bands pulled out of one of our line ups or something, we’d have to completely draw it all over again, but this was back in the day. So we’ve kind of like gone on a slight journey with him I suppose, turning him into a more savvy design as such. Because he’s done all of Johnny Foreigner’s art work. And he’s done some of The Mars Volta’s stuff as well. And he’s had t-shirts in Top Man as well. He’s a typical artist really. (Laughs)
That’s why we have people like you, pushing all these creative types to do something.
Yeah, hopefully. He’s such a talented fucker, he’s so unique and I’d never want to change him. I think the posters get better and he develops as an artist more and more each time. If anything, we would like to work with Lewes more and have him coming and doing visuals and we’ve talked about doing a poster book of like all the posters we’ve done. He’s wanted to do an exhibition for ages and he’s never had one so we’d kind of like to work with him on something like that as well. But as I say, artists are a law unto themselves sometimes, so we’ll see. But yeah, he’s a really talented kid, and those posters, he can knock up in an hour. To do that sort of complexity in that sort of time is scary.
It’s funny because each poster has got a story and nobody really ever thinks about that. And I’ve never thought about it. It was only when I told him to change one of them about six months ago, he goes: ‘well, I can’t change that because each character in the poster is telling a story’. If you were to say: ‘what’s the story?’, he’d give you this whole complex story of this creature is there because blah blah blah. It’s crazy, he’s got a comic book wrote in him somewhere, I don’t know. But I don’t know, it’s money that makes these things happen. Maybe one day. If we have a massive paying gig, I’m sure we could throw him some money. In a dream world.

What gigs have you got coming up?
In November, we’ve got a show pretty much every week. We’ve got a band called Gardens And Villa who are signed to Secretly Canadian. Really good label. It’s their first tour of the UK, and they’re doing five dates. They’re playing with Steve Malkmus and they’ve got this kind of Beach House/Grizzly Bear style. Quite a…
Minimalist sound?
Yeah, I mean it’s quite a summery sound as well. They are from Santa Barbara, so of course it’s going to sound summery, but they’ve got a flute player in the band. Some of the tunes are like ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ style Beatles. Really psychedelic and tripped out. I listened to the album on Spotify and I think they are really brilliant. Worth checking out. Pandas And People are supporting them. Another really good local band. The week after we have got Neon Indian, should be a good show. And Trophy Wife are going to support on that as well. We have wanted to put them on for a while. They just happened to be on tour at the same time, so we kind of lumped them together. There’s a band called Victories At Sea who are playing on that as well, kind of like, early sort of New Order. Which is perfect for the line-up. Then after that we have Dutch Uncles, they are brilliant. We had them play The Victoria actually, and they completely packed it out. He’s a really cool front man. He’s kind of like the geekiest guy in the world, but he’s got some cool moves on stage.
The band stand at the back of the stage and do what they are supposed to do, and you just watch him.
Someone described him as a camp Ian Curtis. That’s quite accurate, I’d say. He’s an interesting guy. But they were wicked. So that should be another good show. Then we are going to do a Christmas show here as well with Calories. So it’s a full calendar now, pretty much. Then it’s straight into the new year, see what comes up.
Do you always try and have a local band on the bill?
Yeah, definitely. Because one, you need to in Birmingham because I’d never expect Neon Indian to sell 150 tickets in Birmingham. He probably doesn’t anywhere, because he’s not mainstream enough. So you need a local band that complement the line-up and help to bring a few fans down. I think we always make sure that these local bands are really well suited to the bill. And that they are not just the generic local band that you just want to get out the way. Victories At Sea will be mint on that line up because they’ve got drum machines, great front man and real charisma. Their sound will really suite the kind of guitary-ness of Trophy Wife and the electronic elements of Neon Indian. So we always try and support the local bands that haven’t played as many shows as well. We put Swim Deep on.
It’s good to see some of the good Birmingham bands starting to filter through the ranks. They are so young as well man, they have got a really interesting, actually quite Birmingham sound really. It’s a little bit left of centre. That sums Birmingham up really.
Thank you, that is the end.
Is that the end? Bloody hell, simple!


Photography By Jack Parker

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