Through the work of our recently announced Artist Development Partners, 2015 will see us support a new wave of talented artists right across the UK.
The Sundowners are one of the first acts to benefit from these partnerships, with their February tour (kicking off in Leeds on 10 February) supported by Merseyside Arts Foundation - one of of our new Artist Development Partners commited to supporting emerging talent in Liverpool.
We caught up with Niamh from the band to discuss the importance of practical support for new artists, what playing live means to The Sundowners, and where things are heading next.
To give some background, how did the band come about, and where do you see yourselves in terms of genre/sound?
Me and Fiona met when we were younger and we're obsessed with The Last Waltz and Easy Rider so that's what really got us into music. We started playing together locally doing covers then started writing our own stuff. That's when James and Alfie Skelly heard us and got us in the band. From there Jim and Tim joined and we recorded Hummingbird. Our sound came quite naturally really and me & Fiona had always loved folk/country/psych harmonies so it just seemed to go in that direction.
The tour is supported by Merseyside Arts Foundation, one of our Artist Development Partners. What did it mean to you when you found out you’d be receiving support, and how possible do you think this would have been without it?
We were all really made up and relieved to get the tour support. It's expensive paying for a tour yourself and we can't work full time and be in a band so we would have been scraping the barrel to do it without support. It's taking a lot of stress and worry out of it so we can relax and really enjoy touring our debut album.
It’s an exciting and difficult time for new artists. What keeps you driven? Does playing live play an important role?
We really enjoy the music we play and each other’s company. Playing live is probably our forte because that's what we've done the past 5 years. The energy and excitement and adrenaline is what it's all about.
Where/when did you first play live?
Our first gig was in The Ruby Lounge in Manchester and Jim, our drummer, hadn't joined the band yet but we were so desperate to play that we played without drums. It was probably confusing to the audience (ha) but it made sense when Jim joined! I think that gig was about 2009/10, how time flies!
Your final show of the tour is at the Kazimier, a pretty iconic venue for Liverpool. Do you feel part of a strong scene in the city? Are there any other bands you’d recommend?
Yeah we're really excited for that gig! There's a massive music scene in Liverpool, there always has been. The city is bursting with music! We have our label mates Marvin Powell and She Drew The Gun playing with us that night and they're both really talented solo artists. Sankofa are playing that night too, they're a really good band and have are great live! I can't wait to see them all on the night!
What would you say to other new artists who were just starting out? Would you encourage them to seek out funding?
I'd say if your hearts not in it don't waste your time. I'd encourage any artist to seek funding; it's a hard world to get by in if you’re creative so take all the help that's available to you.
You’ve just announced you’ll be supporting Paul Weller at a handful of upcoming shows. How did that come about?
Yeah we're ecstatic about that one!!! His manager got in touch with us and asked if we'd be interested in supporting and of course we jumped at the chance! I think James Skelly (The Coral, James Skelly & The Intenders) sent him our album so maybe that's how he found us. I think it's great that he's getting unknown bands to support him. He's really giving young bands a chance.
Your debut album got a strong 7/10 review from The Line of Best Fit. Is this upcoming tour a chance to see how it translates live? Is that part of the excitement?
I know. Everything we've heard back so far has been positive so we're really happy with that. We've been playing a lot of the songs for a while but I'm glad people will have a chance to hear it recorded and to come to the gigs and know the songs. It's good to have the album to sell because if they like the music they can take it away and listen again and again whereas before they'd hear stuff they liked but not be able to hear it again!
This tour should definitely open up new opportunities and we’re glad Help Musicians UK has been able to offer support in partnership with Merseyside Arts Foundation. Looking forward, what other plans are in the pipeline?
Thanks, we're really glad to have the help and hopefully more bands will hear about it and get the opportunities too! We've started working on the 2nd album so after the tour we'll carry on recording in our practice room and hopefully have another album ready for next year!
The band have also put together a quick playlist of tracks they’ll be taking with them on tour. Take a listen.