Music journalism focuses on bands who’ve made it. Bands who have been on global tours. Bands who have performed sell out shows. Bands who are signed to huge record companies- and so it should. It’s great to be able to grab onto pearls of wisdom from your favourite artist or get a glimpse at their lifestyle.
However, it is rare that we’re able to see the flip side. For bands climbing their way onto the music scene, tales of main stages at festivals and releasing records can seem a million miles away. Bands don’t just become famous. Music doesn’t write itself.
So how does it all come together? What’s the secret to making it in one of the hardest industries in the world?
I was lucky enough to catch up with HAIZE, an up-and-coming band based in Reading. While they didn’t for a second pretend to have all the answers, the determined four-piece gave me a raw and compelling insight into what it’s like to start out as a band.
They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover – but a band’s image is incredibly important. For HAIZE it’s all about good pictures. “It’s such a massive part of bands these days,” Alex (drums) explained. But as a band in its formative stages, it’s surely hard to afford professional photography. Luckily for the boys, they grew up with photographer Matt Goff who has worked with the likes of fellow Reading band The Amazons. “We went to school with Matt, as we’ve grown so has he,” Jacob (lead vocals) added.
The band certainly look the part. From the trademark long overgrown hair to shirts probably found at the back of their dad’s wardrobes, they wouldn’t look out of place next to the likes of Blossoms or Peace. Oddly enough, the hair of bassist Sam created quite a focus of our interview. “One of the hardest parts for the band was when Sam went to dye his hair… we were all biting our nails.” The long, blonde, highlighted locks weren’t a success at first. “It came out bright ginger,” Ben (bass) added, “but now it’s become a part of the band and we’ve all got ours booked in.” They clearly don’t take themselves too seriously which is refreshing to see.
“Being relatable to people” is a big part of the band’s ethos. Rightly so, when you look at the artists that capture the nation’s hearts and who make it big, charisma always plays a part. They all agreed “It’s annoying when you see bands who think they are unearthly.” I wanted to delve further into this idea, it’s all very well and good claiming to be down-to-earth, but how does that work in practice?
Sam added “putting on cool live shows and speaking to people afterwards.” But what about for those who can’t get to see the band? The trusty CD seems to be the answer. HAIZE put two of their singles Solar and Blue Lights on a CD along with a couple of their all-important photos and offered them out free to fans via social media. “It’s quite a nice personal thing.” This expense may seem somewhat contradictory, but for bands starting out, getting noticed is vital. Small personal touches can have a huge impact.
Money, time and money again: the key struggles the boys have faced. “We’ve invested so much time and money… more than I’ve ever earned in my life.” However, like any lifestyle decision, risk-taking is so important. “It would be pointless to now be like ‘fuck it,’” they explained.
But what does an average day look like for a band just starting out? “We all work” is the simple answer. As a result, rehearsing and gigging has to take place around normal 9-5’s. Getting noticed while “finding time when we are all free to rehearse” is a struggle for HAIZE. “It’s always really, really late for like two hours… rehearsals take place 9-11pm,” Sam added.
Once they’ve managed to work out when to rehearse, deciding where is another question altogether. “We don’t have our own space to practice,” they explained, “sometimes we practice at my dad’s school.” However, tongue-in-cheek as ever, they managed to sugar coat the venue: “It’s more of a stadium practice.”
Work finished, rehearsals over, what about gig day? Throughout our chat what became more and more apparent was the boys’ love of Wetherspoons. At every venue a key part of their schedule is to “find a ‘Spoons’.” (The Tennessee burger is highly recommended by Sam…). After that it’s time to “run back to soundcheck, which we’re always late to” and hope it’s all sounding “squeaky clean.” Although, as they say in the industry, even if it’s not all good, the show must go on!
In recent months the bands portfolio has grown enormously. From supporting bands like The Amazons and Spring King – whom are both making their mark in the alt-rock scene – to recording in Liverpool, slowly and surely they boys are making progress. “We haven’t done many festivals”, they explained, but they expressed a love for small gigs. “They’re really intimate and everyone just goes nuts,” Alex added. With regards to recording, it was a landmark occasion for HAIZE. “It was the first time we’d felt like a proper band,” they said “we went to the studio and the kit was way more than we could ever afford.” and “To get an offer to record was sick,” they all agreed. But how did they manage it? The answer is fairly simple. “It was a favour.” Luck seems to be a key ingredient to starting out as a band, they sent over some demos to the studio and “to our surprise he actually really liked them.”
After gauging an idea of what the boys have been up to and achieved so far, our talk turned to the future of HAIZE. “We’ll see how far we can get,” was the general consensus. Battling the perceived expectation to go to university, HAIZE are determined to put their all into making it. And if one thing is certain, their aim is “not wearing proper clothes ever”, “Imagine having to wear a suit…” Ben ended on.By Rachel Moore