INTERVIEW Sarah Basford
Sarah Basford had a chat to Nick Palmer, Tim Byles and Mitchell Grace from Sydney band Far Away Stables.
You guys just recently played with Lydia, Jonny Craig and the Getaway Plan and earlier this year, you opened for Paramore and The Offspring. Aside from obvious talent, how was it possible to score such huge gigs?
Tim: Boyish good looks.
Mitchell: Um, were just super lucky to be at the right place, at the right time. We played with a band called Billy Talent last year and we were lucky enough to run into a guy called AJ, who is the promoter of Soundwave and you know, we just started chatting to him and gave him the EP and we just hit it off and he really seemed to like it. He said “Yeah, good stuff, we’ll put you on more shows”…
Tim: So he did.
Mitchell: Yeah and all of sudden; Paramore. It was great.
What kind of impact has your online presence had on your band’s success? Facebook, YouTube? EP sales?
Mitchell: We owe all our success to online media these days, like it’s the number one way to go.
Tim: If you release something to a certain demographic via a certain medium, it can sort of propel itself.
Mitchell: Yeah, targeting certain people. If you release a cover then you can target fans of that cover…
Tim: We released a cover a while back [Cinema by Skrillex] and we got our friend who has a YouTube channel with thousands of subscribers and they’re all specifically fans of covers so that just propelled it for us.
Mitchell: It just did wonders for us.
How important is the online fan base and presence on social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube for upcoming bands?
Mitchell: It’s 100% important. I would say you are not going to succeed 100% if you don’t get all that stuff happening online.
Tim: It’s something you really need to understand as well. I’ve had people come up to me and ask to set up pages for them and I say like “don’t even bother being in a band because you need to know how to do it yourself”. You need to learn the ins and outs of reaching people basically.
Have you ever considered hiring anyone to handle your social media sites?
Tim: No, not really. We don’t really make that sort of money to do it practically. Also, I hate when bands are that big that if you’re lucky enough to speak to them [online], you get a reply back that’s from their PR guy or their publicist.
Mitchell: I think we like doing all the stuff ourselves anyway. If someone else was to do it for
us, we’d like to sort of control it anyway. We like to be in charge of that sort of thing.
Tim: We’ve been progressing to eventually record our own stuff [without a producer], or do our own art or do our own shirts, we’ll print our own CD’s and fold them ourselves. We’re moving towards that now, we’re releasing a new single in a fortnight and we’re doing all the CD printing ourselves, all the cover art, all the designs. Also, it saves a whole lot of money and it just… I think people like that. I would like it if one of my favourite bands released CD’s
that they’ve actually touched.
Mitchell: I think people see that we’re 100% and we’re really pushing forward and everything is coming from us. I think people can really connect with that more as well.
Given the tumultuous nature of the online world, is there a downside to utilising the web. How does, if at all, torrenting, piracy and company scams hinder or undermine the success of upcoming bands like your own?
Tim: Yeah, I think everybody pirates in one sense or another and I think everyone’s just waiting for the record companies to come around and make it a bit more viable to buy CD’s. Things like Spotify help a lot but yeah, there’s downsides but at the same time, we’re at a point where we can release an album to thousands of people from our bedroom which thirty years ago you wouldn’t be able to do.
Mitchell: You’d have to literally give [the CD] to thousands of people.
Tim: If Fleetwood Mac didn’t get a record deal, they wouldn’t have been a band. That was going through the whole A&R process, finding bands that can be megastars and they’re not always right, people make mistakes. We can now release things from our bedroom and we hope it can be a hit, I guess, and spread and people will enjoy it and come to shows and buy CD’s and it opens up a range of possibilities. So I think that the positives negate the negatives.
Do you think that piracy and torrents have affected EP sales?
Mitchell: I don’t know if ours can be downloaded online [for free].
Tim: Actually, someone has our EP up on Pirate Bay.
Nick: Oh really? Yeah, but that’s not bad because it’s reaching more people and that’s what
Mitchell: It’s kind of like “Thank you? I think”.
Tim: Yeah, it’s up on a few I think. I just did some googling earlier. The way the economy is moving in the music industry is moving away from record sales. Record sales don’t make up much of the profit anymore but that’s good though because people are coming to more shows, I think. In the past year and a half that we’ve been a band, the scene has probably increased a little bit and I’m not going to take credit for it but people are coming to more shows, probably buying more shirts and stuff like that and willing to pay a bit more to see you live. If they don’t like you, they won’t come to see you but if they do like you, then, well we are getting paid to play shows now which is good. If you’re not bringing a crowd, you probably shouldn’t get paid. So yeah, it’s a bit of a bummer that people aren’t buying CD’s because I love buying CD’s. I tutor a girl and she was talking to me about music and she’s about 14 and she thought buying CD’s was stupid, she only buys stuff off iTunes. I think the way the business model is changing, it’ll see another shift in a little while and people will start buying CD’s again because I think people like to have that tangible copy of a CD. You’ve got to make the product something worth buying so whether it’s like package design…
Mitchell: Or the booklet inside.
Tim: Technology will be moving in a way where you can do more things [with your product]…
Mitchell: There’s always going to be people who want the physical copies so we’re always
going to do that but with the way things are going, it just seems like a piece of plastic that
you don’t need.
Tim: Your biggest selling point is that you can’t sign an MP3. People always love signatures.
Is the online fan base often as interactive as you’d like them to be? Given you have over 5000 likes on Facebook, do you think that it correlates with the support you receive at shows and EP sales?
Tim: You always want more. You always want 5000 people turning up to your shows. We have some in America; we have a lot in Mexico for some reason. I think Skrillex is big in Mexico so that’s probably what the cover [Cinema by Skrillex] did for us over there but yeah, you always want more. After we had all our, I guess you could say, successful support slots, we didn’t really play many other shows or release too much material. So, I guess the next tour we have coming up, I’ll be able to answer that question better then to see how well we capitalise on all the chances we’ll have.
How important are likes on Facebook or views on YouTube? I know there was some controversy with you guys accumulating fake views on a YouTube video you had up.
Tim: This has sort of given us our mentality towards not hiring anybody to do it but he was a publicist or PR guy who worked for a reputable music site. He owned it and ran it and he basically said that through a series of mailing lists, SEO and optimisation stuff, stuff I don’t really know about, he would be able to help us to spread the YouTube video for Art of
Madness to heaps of people. I’d been friends with this guy for a little while as well. He helped promote us on his music site and all that. Basically, we got all the views and we were like “Wow, this is amazing” but something didn’t
feel right. We looked in YouTube at the analytics, they say [that the] minutes watched by country and we saw Indonesia had 1000 views with an accumulative total of about one minute. So it must’ve been just an automated bot just clicking over.
Mitchell: Obviously, so in terms of views, if people see you have a lot they seem to take you more seriously but the thing is, if you’re a band and you’ve just bought 50 000 views and then there’s another band, that have worked really hard to get their 5 000 real views then they’re going to be overlooked and it’s just not fair. It’s huge in the industry.
Tim: We have our Facebook group where we talk to each other and we’re like “these guys
are doing that [buying fake views/likes], don’t work with them”. I kind of liken it to inflation,
if a band buys 10 000 likes or views or whatever, then that means 10 000 likes or views
currently means a lot less. That just lowers the bar…
Mitchell: Yeah, it just decreases the value of what we’re doing.
Tim: Yeah, it decreases the value and for people who worked hard… people might not see it as a big deal and we’re not going to beat up people for doing it but we just won’t go out of our way to work with them or anything. When we came out and told everyone about the video, it was probably better for us anyway because we got more positive publicity.
What’s the next step for Far Away Stables? New EP, more tours?
Tim: We’re touring in October.
Mitchell: Yeah, it’s the ‘single’ tour, I guess.
Tim: We’re releasing the single on the 9th or the 16th [of September], we’re just waiting for the video to come back and then we’ll be touring in Brisbane for a couple of days, Melbourne for a couple of days and we have a big Sydney show on the 24th September at Hot Damn and we’re playing with two of friends, The Sweet Apes and Sound of Seasons.
Mitchell: It’s just going to be a promotional tour to get the single out. It was originally going to be a bigger tour with a whole EP but I guess, in the last couple of weeks we just decided that it would better to push the EP back for a couple of months. We don’t want to rush anything so we’ll just do a lyric video for this song… just so we can get something new out
there for the fans that have been waiting for new music.
Tim: We got almost 5 tracks fully done.
Will this be released only digitally?
Mitchell: Both. Yeah, we will have digital and physical copies.
Tim: Purely for us really because I’d hate not to have a physical copy.
Mitchell: It will definitely be on as many platforms as possible just to make sure if someone can’t buy the physical then they can buy it online and vice versa.
Tim: We’ve got a bit of help with this EP so, with the first EP it was like “Hey Facebook, here’s our new EP” and we’ve learnt a lot since then. So we’ll be doing it a bit more professionally, hopefully.
Mitchell: This past 18 months has been a learning curve and you get more and more experienced in terms of what to do and do everything. Hopefully, it will be a bigger success this time.
Tim: Everyone expects or thinks that they’re going to play for Paramore straight away but we really made sure we built up to that. We made sure our live show was good enough for people to actually offer us that spot. We’re pretty happy with the resume so far.
Thanks for your time.