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Mazes

How to be Indie

POSTED Feb 15, 2013

According to Jack Cooper, frontman with UK guitar trio Mazes, there are ten commandments you must follow...

Since the band formed in Manchester in early 2009, Cooper and his bandmates have amassed a wealth of knowledge that they're keen to pass on, including such gems as always using the venue's in-house engineer, never staying in hotels and NOT touring America.

1. You probably don't need a sound engineer

The in-house engineer at the venue invariably knows the room and sound desk better than the guy you're paying £100 a day to drink your rider. No offence to travelling engineers, but anyone who would rather sit in a van all day for less money than they'd get for showing up to a static venue at 6pm is a sociopath. You can occasionally find an engineer who offers value for money by driving your van as well. These people should be avoided at all costs. You do not want to be sleeping next to someone like this.

2. Hotels

Hotels are a crazy extravagance. Nothing is as cool or DIY as hanging out at someone's house after a show. Playing records, getting stoned and all that jazz. Maybe even a guerrilla gig? Sure, Travelodges are clean and there's something comforting about staying somewhere that's a molecular copy of the last room you stayed in, but sleeping on someone's floor is a lot more real. Plus you get to inhale as much cat hair and as many dust mites as you'd like.

3. Work with nice people

We are fortunate enough to work with a great label and we have cool sympathetic people doing our press and bookings. This hasn't always been the case. If a label buys you a drink, that's great. If they buy you dinner once or twice, that's cool too. If they buy you dinner every night and offer you coke, then you're dealing with someone who's happy to fritter away the ill-gotten proceeds of Robert Johnson, Roky Erickson and Arthur Russell's genius on expenses at the Shacklewell Arms. Doesn't bode well for the proceeds of your genius.

4. Make your rider requests sensible

While the temptation is to ask for M&Ms with all the brown ones taken out or something cute and indie like a stamped postcard to send your girlfriend, the best thing to do is to ask for sandwich materials. You can make a sandwich when you get to the venue and take the stuff with you for breakfast the next day. The flipside of this is that when you bump into one of your 10 fans on the way out of the venue and you're carrying a half-eaten loaf of Warburtons, the remains of a Sainsbury's hummus and 50 apples, you will kill rock'n'roll for ever for all concerned.

5. Twittiquette

Mazes have a Twitter account that we occasionally use to post news, links and things that aren't likely to rock the boat. I have my own Twitter on which I post dubious opinions and am generally a bit emo. I've had a few hundred followers for about two years; I gain and lose about one new follower a day. I'm constantly upsetting people and slagging off other bands. Also, don't retweet absolutely everything anyone says about your band. While it's comforting for your followers to know they're not completely alone, retweeting what Dave in Newcastle thinks about something you "leaked" online is worse than pleasuring yourself in the mirror.

6. Don't slag off other bands

They will find out, or, when you bump into them buying kale in at the grocer's and they tell you they like your new record, you will feel like dying.

7. Be nice

The bands you play with are usually involved with music in some other capacity. They will be a promoter in Birmingham or a press agent you meet down the line. So, be nice. Also, it's a fact that you'll meet many people playing music and you won't be able to remember everyone. Plus, people in bands look alike. When being introduced to someone, pre-empt any awkwardness by always saying: "Yeah, I think we've met before …" If you have met before, then that's cool and if you haven't, you have the moral high ground. However, just because you're in an indie band, you don't have to refer to every band you've ever played with as "friends".

8. Don't tour America

Only Coldplay and U2 have ever actually made money from touring America. Our advice is not to bother and this is based on having spent two-and-a-bit months there last year. If the suckers at PRS fund you to play SXSW, then go, have fun, but don't play any shows. Drink as much free PBR as you can, have your photo taken in front of the Daniel Johnston mural and then get the hell out of there. Better still, don't even go, just say you did and write a tour diary about it.

9. Release your own records

Instead of getting no money from selling records, this way you'll get "some" money. To my knowledge nobody has ever done this, but the dream is to just say you've released a record, not bother and then tell everyone it's sold out. Instant cred with none of the hassle. If you want to go a step further, create an eBay account and occasionally list one of the sold-out records for something daft like £250. Link to the auction on Twitter and say something like, "Can't believe anyone would pay this much for our record?!"

10. Have fun

The record industry was ruined by expense accounts and arrogance. Don't even try to make money or think about quitting your day job. You should be doing this because you want to experience new things, to see new places, to meet like-minded people and to scratch the creative itch many of us have … the primal misguided quest to leave something when you die or for people to think you're "cool". Make music that you'd like to hear.

 

 

Source: The Guardian external link