posted on August 11, 2009 19:00
Being play-listed on BBC Radio One, an album recorded in France with a top class producer (David Odlum- The Frames, Gemma Hayes), glowing critical praise; after eight years together Pocket Promise are starting to realise some of their promise. Cluas.com caught up with Belfast based indie ban on the week they released their debut album I’ve been here for ages.
Firstly, congratulations on the album release. The band has been together a long time, were you nervous about finally getting the record out there?
Thanks! Yeah, definitely there's always going to be a certain amount of apprehension and nerves when releasing something, but it's completely overshadowed by the sense of achievement, pride and relief at getting the finished product finished and out into the public. We've been working so hard with promoting the album and letting everyone know what we're doing that we haven't had a chance to enter into any kind of feelings of fear. We feel like this was the right time to do this and we're very pleased that it's been well received.
Is the record a collection of entirely new material, or a balance between
songs you’ve had for a while and new stuff?
The record has a bit of a balance of both. We finished the recording process of the album around the end of September 2007, so even since then we've developed a lot of 'newer' songs. A lot of material on the album was written right before we went to record so the songs are still new to us and most of our followers. The recording process itself really influenced the style of music we have created since and it also helped to develop more avenues with the older songs. We've a few songs which we've written in the last few months that we are already thinking about recording. We'll leave it a month or two yet though - the focus right now is ...Ages.
Pocket Promise have been together almost eight years, have you had moments where you all think, “Is this going to go anywhere?”
Constantly! It's natural that we would have highs and lows throughout our time together and 8 years is a long time for anyone. We've worked so hard at trying to achieve a career in music as a band because we truly believe in what we're doing. We love making music and we love that a lot of people like what we do. We'd be foolish to pretend we don't get doubts. We're lucky that our faith in what we're doing has kept us together and we're thankful for the support we've received from those around us. We're still just cracking the surface at the minute. There are so many people out there who have yet to hear about us and what we do - we have faith that it is all going somewhere and that we can get the music to the ears of those people.
You moved to London for a period a number of years ago. Did you as a band find the environment much different?
Yes, definitely London was different. It's a self sustaining world of it's own. It's incredibly vast in so many respects especially in the artistic scenes that exist there. When we moved there, we came in on the whole Libertines boom (Pete Doherty himself was actually at our first London gig in the Dublin Castle) so the mood at the time in the music scene was one of Pete lookalikes and doomed, poetic mishaps with top hats and pointy shoes. It was very difficult to be seen above that whole movement. We were a million miles away with our big-to-small sounds, all heartfelt and warm. But, in saying that, we stuck at it for two years and managed to play in some of the best venues in the city. We were lucky to meet other bands who we grouped with and created our own little movement! We really enjoyed it and plan on getting back soon to play some of those venues again.
A lot of groups head over and get overawed by the sheer size difference in the music “scene”, is it an easy place to get swallowed up without notice? Do you feel the experience benefited you as a band and a group of mates who play in a band?
I think the experience really did us the world of good. In so many respects it influenced our album very heavily and it made us a better live band. Dragging a stage piano in and out of a packed tube on a working day, only to play to four people at a gig and then get home to bed in the small hours can be deflating at best - but as with everything that requires sticking power, it was worth it. The experience brought us closer as a band and as friends. We all lived together over there so we learned to get on with what we went over there to do and we enjoyed socialising together as well. Maybe a little too much at times! It would be very easy to get swallowed without notice because of the size of London and not knowing where to start. There is a lot of trial and error involved with becoming part of the scene there. There are a lot of venues which just aren't worth playing, a lot of promoters who aren't worth knowing and a lot of bands who really aren't
in it for the same reasons you are. But then, when you want to be seen and heard, you can't really afford to turn down gigs. It's a double edged sword; we learned a lot from that experience.
At what point did you decide, “Ok, its all or nothing”, and focus full time on the band?
When we came back from recording in France we decided to dedicate our time one hundred percent to the band. It was a brave move and again one which definitely involved a lot of 'trial and error'. It was very difficult trying to get good gigs back in Ireland because we'd been gone for so long, but we've stuck at it and we're really starting to break through into a band to take notice of. Financially though we've still had to drop in and out of other employment to allow us to continue to fund the music.
I’ve Been Here for Ages was recorded in France, with producer David Odlum (Frames, Gemma Hayes). Did the exotic venue and quality of the producer add some spice to recording and inspire you?
Yes, the location was incredible. Blackbox Studios has been built and developed with the artist in mind. The area is absolutely beautiful, with truly magical scenery and a very distant serenity that allows you to totally remove yourself from the real world. We loved every minute. David himself is a great person to work with. He challenged our thoughts on the songs and made great suggestions which often changed timescales and tempos, lengths of songs, arrangements and sounds - ultimately improving everything we recorded with him.
The record is being released on your own label, Stop: Go Music. Are you fearful of the difficulty in gaining exposure through independent release?
It's a very tough area, in that - on one hand you have the freedom to do with your recording as you please. You have one hundred percent control. You also remain in possession of all your own material and can make the choices in regard costs and profits associated. On the other hand you've funded the album from your own pocket and taken a gamble on whether or not it will sell. We only have a certain amount of power when it comes to exposure but working with the right people has really helped us to gain further exposure. Jeff Robinson, who looks after our PR, has been instrumental in helping us to promote our release. The advantage of working with a label would be that you have on board a large number of people who have years of experience, who have built many contacts and have a much larger budget to work with. In reality we're doing this on a
smaller scale, all being well one that will grow!
With the imploding global economy, do you see it as a much more challenging environment to sell music and entice people to listen than, say, in the last number of years?
Well, again it's a tough call. At this level, a lot depends on luck - whether or not people will listen up and start buying your music. It is definitely challenging for bands to release music, especially by themselves. But there are tools out there that can really help artists reach audiences and ultimately sell their music, particularly with respect to the ever growing number of websites people use. We can only keep working within that environment and try and discover new ways of promoting ourselves and selling our music. If we were in it for the the money though, we would have given up long ago...!
It’s been an exciting year, with two single releases, the album and appearances nationwide. What’s the plan for the immediate future for Pocket Promise?
It has been an exciting year and we're very happy to have come this far. Our main focus for the next while will definitely still be the album. It's our biggest achievement to date and we're hoping to keep pushing it out there. We're really hoping to record a few newly written tracks as soon as possible. We'll maybe just pop the songs on a CD and distribute them as a little EP at gigs or maybe just give the songs away via our website. We'll have to see! But that's definitely the way we would like to see the future of Pocket Promise - being productive on our own terms and getting the music to the ears of our listeners as soon as possible!
Pocket Promise play Dublin at the Purty Loft in Dun Laoghaire on 14th August.