Earlier this year Cat On The Wall received a very impassioned email from Julian Bowman introducing us to the happily independent EyeSeeSound. The website is currently run by Julian, Simon and recent addition Peter, three music enthusiasts who really enjoy spending time supporting independent and unsigned musicians. Together they create high quality live music videos which are then released as DVDs, you can also hear the live tracks in their sound form too. Not only that, on the EyeSeeSound website you can access specially created TV format shows, mixtapes, a blog… so much effort has been put into the website and it’s a truly beautiful thing. Cat On The Wall’s Jo Whitby caught up with Julian via email for a great in-depth chat about the website and his views on the current state of the music industry. You can also find the EyeSeeSound podcast at the bottom of the interview as well as the lovely mixtapes created exclusively for Cat On The Wall…
Julian Bowman: The short version is that Simon and I carried on with something I started with another friend, iKe; a webTV show for urban music and young people. iKe didn’t have time, Simon and I didn’t like the musical direction much or the format of the show or the site, so we knocked that on the head, but Simon and I wanted to do something. We’d kind of grown bored with music as it seemed that everything pushed through the regular press was just quite dull, derivative and uninspiring. We’d come across some great stuff whilst hunting for music for the first incarnation so decided to set ourselves a remit of finding great independent and DIY bands that weren’t well known, but should be. At and its core – that is what we’re all about. We spend a lot of time hunting around until we find stuff that touches or impresses us, then we try and get permission to feature it.
We also want to entertain, which is why we have different formats. For quick and easy access to music we have HeadsUp and the Mix Tapes, but we also created our webTV show, The Show, where we used our presenters in an irreverent way, creating a loose narrative ark over the 6 episodes which plotted a doomed love affair which ended with Peter drowning Emily in a bobbing-apple bucket on Christmas Day. The whole idea was to create a TV show which could be used to present the music, but was also entertaining and engaging in its own right. Each episode has other bits and bobs in it too, like short films, etc. And it’s not half bad either.
We also do Live Sessions with the bands which we record with 5 cameras at The Luminaire in London, mix and master the audio, edit and grade the video so that the end results are quite professional even though they’re done on a ridiculously tiny budget (i.e. our savings). The point of these is that we love the visceral sound of live music, but also a lot of bands we found and liked simply didn’t have music videos, and sometimes even good studio recordings, and this seemed like a good way of getting them onto the site.
As for SeeSound.co.uk, ha ha, didn’t even know about them until you asked. Nope, nothing to do with us. I see their copyright is 2010 so maybe the saw us and thought yep, we’ll give that a go, or maybe their name and the similarities of their formats is coincidence. Either way, at least they are trying to do something of value for smaller bands, so good luck to them for that, but they need to step up the quality a bit. Sure, if you only have one small video camera to film your gig and can’t blag another then fair enough, but at least take the audio out from the mixing desk and get someone you know to clean up the sound… recording through the camera mic doesn’t do anyone any favours
COTW: There are some excellent quality DVDs and recordings on the site, what has been the reception of the works so far from the artists and fans alike? Which venue do you use for the videos?
JB: Many thanks The bands love them, which is lovely. And the feedback we’ve had from site users has been pretty positive too. We’ve sold a few so the fact that people are exchanging their money for the DVD EPs we’ve made is pretty flattering. We’ve made a lot of mistakes with the live sessions since we started a couple of years back, but we’ve finally found our feet with them… and in fact finding Peter and getting him on board was a major touch as he’s a damn good mixer, loves what we do and accepted a third of the business so we get his talents for free… and seeing as the business isn’t worth anything, that’s a big win for me and Si
We record at The Luminaire in Kilburn, with 5 cameras. It’s a great music venue and pretty much perfect for what we do, including the fact that the car park round the back is empty on a Sunday which is great for the bands. The only gripe is that the stage is a little small so we struggle a bit when a band has 6 or more people. We really love the Live Sessions. Love filming them. Love editing them, mixing the audio and putting out this great looking and sounding session for bands we like. It costs a fair bit of money to record each one but we all agree that as long as we can keep funding them we’ll keep on doing them.
COTW: You’ve just started making podcasts, is there a particular theme or idea for each show?
JB: Ha ha, there isn’t even a script. No, we just got together and chatted shit, argued, took the piss out of each other and others. The only thing we had thought about was we wanted to interview Karen Carpenter… in fact we’ll be interviewing other musicians over time, and Peter will be all of them.
Simon and I will forever have student humour i think. We get older, learn more stuff, become more cantankerous and resolute about slagging off those we hate and ourselves, but our sense of humour will always remain stuck in our early 20s. You can see this in the humour of The Show. With the podcasts we wanted to try and reflect this sense of us, who we are, that we’re both a bit bright and a bit crap, that we have a sense of humour, that we hate corporate shit and McMusic. A lot of the site is quite dry in terms of personality so this is to counteract that. Plus we feel it is important to balance the fact that a fair chunk of the site is music videos, short films and mp3s made by other people, thus we do the Live Sessions, The Show and now the Podcasts. Plus, they are fun to do and if it can’t be fun, why bother?
JB: Actually we say the music industry is dead, long live music. It’s an ironic call to arms and celebration of real music for music’s sake. The music industry will never die… as in vanish. The big players will always remain even if, and I hope this turns out, they only do so to peddle McSingles and become archive libraries of their back catalogues. Thing is the Major’s are eating themselves alive. They drew attention to P2P because their greed and need for perpetual expansion, combined with their ignorance and arrogance, decided that by crying about piracy would make it stop because, you know, they’re ethical caring nurturing groups of music loving souls and WE.MUST.TREASURE.THEM. Problem is they aren’t. They’re business wo/men and bean counters shifting Product. By bleating about a form of piracy that no-one really knew about, the outcome has been that everyone now knows about it and iTunes, Spotify, Last FM, we7 etc have been invented to counteract it, but all those services do is enable everyone to hear an album really easily… and that’s the killer for Majors, because most of the albums they release aren’t very good now are they? So at £15 a pop, or £12 or even £10 people are listening to them and going ‘nah, that’s crap’ rather than buying them then going ‘shit, that’s crap’.
The silver lining to the McMusic industry dying is that theoretically it opens up space for real bands and musicians to carve out a living. At the moment, much like with the rest of modern capitalism, the lion’s share goes to a minority… thus meaning a small amount of people get a disproportionate, and needless, amount of wealth, and the many get next to nothing. I’d like to see it where many musicians and artists are earning a living. Even spending a few years being able to make music and express themselves, entertain, touch people then moving onto something else, be that creative or not, would be wonderful. But there are still obstacles to that happening. The technology is now available for bands to DIY their music, and they can do so to a very high standard for a reasonable outlay (though if you’re going to spend money on it, spend it on a decent analogue Mastering engineer… they ARE worth their weight in gold)… the problem is getting it heard.
The mainstream press is the last area of true control the Majors and big indies have, and control it they do, be that online, print, radio or TV. Everything from 6music to Pitchfork is still a vessel for the Majors and bigger indies. They’ll say they’re not, but that’s bollocks. Can they put their hands up and say everything they talk about or feature is done solely for a love of/hate of that band? No. We can and I’m sure you can, but we fund ourselves and work our arses off to retain absolute content control and we’ll try and figure out how to make it pay in other ways. But no, I don’t believe they could stand before God and swear they are. Sure little bands get in now and then, but not proportionately to the quality of the music they produce compared to that which is championed. A lot of the time all it takes is one decent song and a big PR budget and wheels are set in motion that hog column inches and airtime for years for bands that having nothing more than that one decent song.
Yep, there are people not doing this. Us. You. Dandelion Radio. Glasgow Podcart, etc. but we are small too. So a lot of great music isn’t being heard. Music which would definitely please people more than what they hear on the radio or are told to love by the press. Hopefully this will change. All of us forming this alternative media seem to be stoically marching on, and people will slowly discover us, and through us the bands we’re talking about. I’d like there to be a sort of collective mentality amongst this alternative media which can help it grow as a whole. I love ‘press’ who write about what they love rather than what they think they should write about or what they’re asked to write about and nudged towards with back-scratching and all that toss.
Another problem is the UK live scene. It’s basically littered with shit promoters whose notion of promotion is hearing demos, putting on random bands and telling them to bring 30 people… [pardon me here]… FUCK OFF AND CRAWL UNDER A DARK WET MOSSY ROCK YOU *****. Sorry. There are very few people who seem to want to put on a night and build up a reputation based on the quality of the bands they put on. Promoters who can put any three bands on, without telling people who is playing, and people will come because they trust that the bands will be good, the ticket prices are fair and they’ll have a good night. If you put bands on 7 nights a week how can you maintain either the quality or the attendance? You can’t. Put a gig on every fortnight or every month. Build a crowd. Let great bands from around the country play to that crowd and entertain them. It’s bloody simple. Problem is people are lazy and greedy a lot of the time and don’t have any qualms about using other people to make money.
Sorry, this has been a long rant, but it frustrates me… all of us actually, I’m just speaking here but the other two agree. So yes, there is a future for music. You’ll even be able to sell CDs, because people do still want them. but for it to work there needs to be a quiet revolution, an underground movement working together from the musicians through the live scene and the ‘press’ (i.e.: Us, the current little ones) to create something of value so that people who love music go ‘fuck me, yes, i can read about them here, see them here and buy their CD from here… and every fuckwit in the world isn’t wearing their fucking t-shirts because they don’t know about them. Sure, none of us will ever be rich, but we can earn a living and we’ll all be fucking happy
COTW: What artists should we be on the look out for at the moment?
JB: I always want to say just go to the site and have a look. We don’t expect anyone to love everything on there. In fact some of it you’ll hate because it isn’t your thing. But it is good and if you have a set genre or genres you like you’ll find stuff that fits your taste. What www.eyeseesound.tv is about is us sifting through the thousands and thousands and presenting what we see as the better and best bits. You, the viewer, can then decide which of that you like, without having to spend hours finding those few you do like. Personally I love everything on the site, but I put the content up, so I would (though Simon is the gatekeeper of content… I guess I’m the builder… and Peter is our little gimp boy who we’re badgering to wear a gimp ball).
But as that is a cop out, hear are seven personal favourites (because I like the number 7): Sound Of Rum. Ex Libras. Found. The Phenomenal Handclap Band. Mister Lee. The Bookhouse Boys and What Would Jesus Drive (and for transparency, we’re releasing the WWJD album so of course we love them
COTW: Finally, what does the future hold for EyeSeeSound?
JB: God knows. We’re about to start www.eyeseesound.com which is our production side, so offering video, graphic design, motion animation, audio recording, mixing and mastering, which are our skill sets as a group. If we can make enough money from that to earn a living then we’ll happily keep www.eyeseesound.tv running at a loss because we believe in it, love it and enjoy it. We’re releasing What Would Jesus Drive’s albums and some EPs and are trying to get behind them because they’re actually pretty good and we really like them too (which helps a great deal) and are considering another couple of bands but it all depends on different things, not least of all money
So I don’t know, other than to say we’ve started a ball rolling and we’re going to keep trying to make it roll.