Artist Interview: October Drift
We had the pleasure of hosting the brilliant October Drift at last month’s Richer Unsigned lunchtime session, so we caught up with drummer Chris Holmes to chat about the industry and their music.
You’ve all been close friends with one another since secondary school. Do you think this closeness has been key to your successes?
I’m not sure I’d consider us successful just yet, though I guess that depends on how you judge success. In terms of song writing, performing and touring I think it’s a massive success that none of us have killed each other yet. I think that’s down to how close we are with each other. We’ve been pushed hard at times, especially during touring where we’ve done 10 hour drives on literally no sleep, so sometimes tempers can flare. But we have a relationship where that doesn’t matter. None of us take anything personally and whatever has gone on, in 10 minutes’ time we’re all laughing about it. We all know each other’s strengths and weaknesses inside out, so we all help each other and make up for that.
It’s obvious from your music there are a lot of influences at play. Who would you say are your main musical influences and how have they helped shape your sound?
That’s a hard one. Sometimes I think it’s hard to judge who our biggest musical influences are. It can change from song to song. I know Kiran listens to a lot of sad singer songwriters like Leonard Cohen and Nick Drake, which I think influences his lyrical style. We’re all obsessed with The National, which I think runs further than just liking their music. They're just such an underdog and have slogged for years to get to where they are that it makes me like them even more. I mean they're so self-sabotaging. I watched them this year at Glastonbury and the first 3 songs of the set were perfect. Three banging, high energy tracks that everyone was belting the lyrics out too, which they then followed up with four brand new, unreleased tracks that not a soul in the audience knew. On the Pyramid Stage! But in a weird way it makes me love then even more.
Can you give us an insight into your songwriting process? Is it a joint effort or is one of you spearheading the music?
We have a studio on the Somerset Levels, where we spend far too much time. I use the word ‘studio’ very loosely, because it’s pretty rough and ready, but we’ve been writing there for so long that it’s become pretty important to us. Writing up there is a pretty organic process. It’s kind of like building a jigsaw puzzle, where someone comes in with a small piece and from that we then slowly start building something out of it.
"I sometimes wonder if a band like Radiohead were just starting off today, whether they’d be given the time to develop by a label, or whether they’d get overlooked."
What do you think the biggest challenges unsigned artists are facing in the industry as they try to build a music career?
Finding a way to stand out from all the other bands out there is a big challenge. The internet and social media has given every band a voice, but that isn’t always a good thing. There’s a huge over saturation of bands online all shouting about how great their music is and I think often people can just get overloaded. I only have to look down my news feed and I get absolutely smashed with new music. So sometimes I think you have to do something a bit different to stand out. Ultimately, I’ve been a believer that a great song is always a great song, and eventually that will be what separates a band from the rest. But I think bands are having to come up with more creative ways to reach people with their music, which can sometimes be a bit tricky.
I also think that finance is one of the biggest challenges an artist can face. There's hardly any development deals from labels out there anymore, so finding the funds to tour and release can be difficult. I can see from a labels perspective why they aren’t taking as many chances on unestablished artists as they used to, but it gets to a point where an artist must have that financial backing for them to push on. I sometimes wonder if a band like Radiohead were just starting off today, whether they’d be given the time to develop by a label, or whether they’d get overlooked.
Initially you shied away from using social media to promote the band, why was this? And what has changed since then as you’ve now embraced various social platforms?
Yeah, when we launched the band we really tried to lure people in by doing things differently. Not having social media at the start was done because we wanted to see if the music and imagery alone was enough to draw people in. It seemed to work, because we did a small 4 date tour of tiny venues, which sold out off the back of the release. I think at the start, because we had so little about us online, it helped to create some intrigue and it made people want to try and find out more. After about 6-9months though, it became clear that it wasn’t sustainable and for us to reach a wider audience then we had to start using social media. It wasn’t something that we particularly wanted to do, because none of us are really social media kind of people. Like we didn’t start a band so that we could post about ourselves online and for the 9 months of when we didn’t have it, we could just be a band and not have to worry about updating our status’ every other day. I guess maybe that was what it was like to be a band before the internet kicked off. It was nice to just focus on the stuff that really matters - writing songs and playing great shows.
After seeing a sneak peek of your live show at the Richer Unsigned session, there’s a lot of energy in your performances. Which shows this year have been stand out ones to you?
Yeah we do get pretty into it! We’ve been really lucky this year with shows - virtually every show has been amazing. The standout one though has to be playing John Peel stage at this year’s Glastonbury Festival. We’ve all grown up as regular Glastonbury goers - what with us all being from Somerset - and it was always a massive goal for us as a band to play there one day. It was a pretty surreal day. We were first on on the Sunday and our agent said to us that it’ll probably be pretty dead and if we get a few hundred in then that’ll be really good. I’m not sure how or why it happened, but something went really right, because 2000 people turned up to see us. It was by far the biggest stage we’ve played on as well, but weirdly it seemed easier than playing a smaller one. Maybe it’s because we’ve got quite a big sound and it lends itself to a bigger sound system, but whatever it was, it felt very natural for us.
"The problem is that now all the vinyl pressing plants are busy pressing thousands of copies of ‘Dark Side Of The Moon"
Where do you thrive the most, on stage or in the studio?
Hmm, I think we’re mostly considered very much a live band at the moment but I think that’s only because it’s the side of the band we’ve really shown so far. I definitely feel that at the moment people have only seen half the picture. We’ve definitely got more to us than just being a loud and energetic live band.
Looking back at your previous releases, they have most of the time been E.Ps. Is there a reason for hanging on until a full length album?
Well it’s something that we would love to do - and we’ve got more than enough material to do one. But I think an album is such a milestone for a band, that it has to be released at the right time in the right way. I don’t think in terms of where we're at profile wise, that it’s the right step for us at the moment. Hopefully that will change in the not too distant future, but at this precise time we don’t feel it would be right to release an album.
What are your thoughts around the way people listen to music these days; Streaming services, the vinyl resurgence, hi–res music etc…
I think people change and move on and industries have to change with them. It's no good looking back at how things were and wishing it could be like it used to be when people were buying CD's. It's over, so there's no point in moaning about it. Just adapt and embrace the change. Make the positives of it work to your advantage. I mean if anything I’d say the demand for music has probably increased, so being a musician isn't like flogging something people don’t want. They just don’t consume it in the same way anymore. People seem to listen to full albums less and most of the people I know listen to playlists. So I guess the emphasis on having big singles is maybe even greater than it was before. Or at least having more songs of that elk on an album.
As far as the vinyl resurgence is concerned, I’m torn on it. Vinyl is such a nice product to have and I think it's awesome that loads of new people are starting collections, but it’s definitely made things difficult for independent bands. When all the major labels saw the vinyl market growing again, they started jumping on the bandwagon and began smashing out loads of re-issues (as any business would when they see an opportunity in a market). But the problem is that now all the vinyl pressing plants are busy pressing thousands of copies of ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ which means turnaround times are crazy. You now have to order runs months in advance, which can sometimes be difficult as a small independent artist, especially if you're funding it via pre-sales as your fans are paying for a product which they won’t receive for a few months (at best). You just have to walk into Tesco and look at the vinyl they stock to see what's happening. I bet I could guess almost all the albums that'll be on the shelf – Adele ‘21', Queen ‘Greatest Hits', Nirvana ‘Nevermind', Marvin Gaye ‘What's Going On', Pink Floyd ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’, The Beatles ‘Sergeant Peppers' etc. It’s not that they aren't great albums – because they are – it's just that the market is being flooded by these records when there's already millions of copies out there and taking something that at first was helping independent artists and made it way more difficult.
Do you have any new music recommendations for us? Who should we be listening to right now?
I really like The Horrors new track. Sounds like a dark Pet Shop Boys in a good way. Also looking forward to The National’s new album next month. The singles they've released off it have been really good. There's also a load of good bands that we've played with recently. The Van T's, Avalanche Party, Slow Readers Club and Keir are all well worth checking out. There are loads more that I've left out, but I’d be here for weeks if I tried to remember them all!
Thank you Chris!
We’re big fans of October Drift at CA HQ and are frequently played on the office hi-fi. Check out the video below for ‘Don’t Give Me Hope’ below and then head to their Spotify profile for more massive tunes!