Late & Live Sessions -Breathing Life Into the Live Music Scene

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Late & Live Sessions, image from the official Facebook page

Last Saturday night was a miserable and rainy autumn one in Canterbury. The wind was howling and soggy leaves were strewn across the pavements. Dodging puddles became a necessity every few steps. It was the kind of night where you’d much rather stay in with a pizza and a Marvel film than go out.

However, for those of us who braved these bitter conditions, there was a treat in store at The Lounge Bar and Kitchen. This venue is the Student Union for one of the main universities in Canterbury and on this night in particular (Saturday 14th November) played host to Late & Live Sessions, a new live music event which prides itself on showcasing the best live music offerings from around the Canterbury and Whitstable area. Last week, the event had 4 sets from exciting artists such as Standard Lamps (who have opened for The Who), Hey Maggie (Late & Live veterans and crowd favourites), Noble Jacks (giving off splendid Mumford and Sons vibes) and solo artist Sam Brothers (the guy can play the harmonica and the guitar at the same time…need I say more?) Sounds exciting, right?

I arrived at the venue about an hour before kick-off and the room was thrumming with activity. Cases containing unidentifiable pieces of sound and lighting equipment were being brought in and hooked up; the stage was empty but for a few microphone stands and bundles of wires; the bar was being stocked and was emitting a tempting warm light. But I was not to be distracted, I was there to meet with Chris Monti who is, alongside his father Carlo, co-founder of Late & Live Sessions to talk about how this exciting project came about.

 

“We started the Late & Live Sessions with our launch event on July 5th 2015 based in a venue in Canterbury called Lifestyle Fitness, a 1000 capacity venue,” he says. “We launched it to showcase up-and-coming talent from the UK live music scene. We were really interested in Canterbury with the buskers, the small venue performers, anyone we’ve seen and wanted to give an opportunity to showcase their music. That was the initial strategy because we felt that in Canterbury, there is a big clubbing scene, a lot of house music and really great event companies, but there wasn’t as much offering within the live music scene, so it’s a sort of gap in the market and an opportunity to show that there’s a lot of talent out there and so we brought it all together.”

So that’s how it came about, you wanted to plug this gap? “Well no it actually came about because we often come through Canterbury high street and see a lot of buskers (like Hey Maggie) performing and we wanted to put on a big show where we could showcase their talent. And that was how it sparked the interest. It was something we’ve always planned to do, but we were looking for the right time and the right venue to do it. Lifestyle Fitness gave us the opportunity to do it and it’s sort of kicked off from there.”

How do you go about setting up an event like this? “In some of our venues, we will put the whole production on, so we work with local suppliers, in terms of the staging, equipment and sound systems and then work with local security teams like Akon Security. We actively go round to bars in the high street and meet the bands or solo performers face to face, speak to them and share what we’re trying to do, our vision, and get them on board. It’s a lot of background work trying to liaise with everyone to get it right. Each one of the performers who comes to our venue gets paid and then we’ll run all the marketing and promotion on our side, all the staging, the lighting and the venue. We do all of the logistical side, we just want to let them perform.”

What are there certain steps you’ve got to go through before you can put on such an event? “Yeah there’s a lot of planning that goes on behind the scenes. Depending on what venue we’re using or the size capacity, it could be up to 3 months planning or a month. This one was quite a quick turnaround and because we’ve worked with suppliers on a frequent basis, we sort of understand the set up better now to when we initially started. Our first launch in July was about 3 months planning of trying to find the right suppliers who could work with us and be our partners and finding the right bands to do our launch event who were actively on board with what our vision was. From there, it’s just grown and we’ve actually got bands approaching us and saying they want to perform in our events, it’s great! We now work with 3 venues. Alongside Lifestyle Fitness, we’ve got the Umbrella Centre in Whitstable, now we’ve luckily got an opportunity to work here with The Lounge Bar and Kitchen.”

Who’s involved in your team to help set this all up? “My father obviously [Chris’ father Carlo Monti who is also co-founder of the Late & Live Sessions], and my brother who helps with all the designs, he’s a graphic designer which is very lucky [for us]. He does all the posters we’ve got, all the marketing material for us, and all the social media designs. I run the social media pages, plus do a lot of the logistical operations. My dad runs the business from the Kent side. We’ve got people who promote our events, we’ve got bands who work closely with us, we’ve got some suppliers we’ve worked with for an ongoing basis, and so once we’ve got that structure in place it’s easy to move our set-up to each venue. Hopefully we’ll be able to grow eventually to London.”

What is your vision for L&L? Would a move to London be part of that? “The vision is to build our brand in the Kent area. To carry on introducing amazing bands. What really stood out to me after our first event was that we had Hey Maggie performing at our first event and they’ve come back to us again now. The amount of feedback I’ve had from people who have said “Hey, I’ve never heard of this band before, they’re amazing” is amazing and we’ve got people coming this evening just to see this band again that they hadn’t previously heard about. So that’s what we try and do. We try and get a whole mix of different genres and different live music from the scene, so people who might actually watch rock or go to rock nights or go to house music events see a different genre and absolutely love it.”

What are some of the drawbacks or difficulties of trying to start an event like this? “There’s a number of things that happen behind the scenes: it could be bands pulling out at the last minute, it could be trying to get the right mix of music in the venues sorted. Some of the events aren’t always commercially viable but we want to put on an event that we’re proud of and that people really want to come to. I’d rather spend money and give a really good show than spend less money and have a poor quality show that people don’t want to come back to.”

Who are some of your favourite acts that you’ve had perform at Late & Live? “Everyone!”

You must have a favourite though? “It’s hard to choose because I like all music. I like the clubbing scene, I like going to live music, and there’s some [we’ve had perform] that I wouldn’t actively put on my Spotify playlist or listen to on YouTube, but it’s a completely different atmosphere when you see them live. And there’s some that I’d listen to on a playlist on the tube and then if I go to their show, the performance they put on is outstanding and that’s the most important thing about live music – it’s about really giving the energy, the atmosphere, and everyone getting together. That’s what live music is about.”

Before we met tonight you were out promoting the event, who are the L&L Sessions aimed at? “Canterbury is a student area, there’s 2 big universities, so obviously there’s a student demographic and we’re here [tonight] at a student lounge. But not necessarily just students, we sometimes have families attend our events, especially in Whitstable a lot of families come because they love what we’re doing. There’s a lot of clubbing here, but there’s not so much for all age groups: you could go to the Marlow Theatre, but in terms of just purely live music, there’s nothing really on offer. Really we’re looking at every opportunity to really grow the live scene here and make sure it’s around.”

What do you hope that L&L can achieve in the future? “Next year, I want to do an outdoor, 4 stages, full live production. Time will tell if we can do that next year or the following year. We also want to branch, to London and hit that scene as well. I live in London and the live music scene is fantastic and there’s a lot of amazing bands and logistically it’s a lot harder to bring them down to Kent and make it commercially viable, but if we can branch to London, we could bring Kent bands to London and that would be a fantastic opportunity for everyone.”

What’s coming up next? “December 12th should be our next event and then following that, in the New Year, we plan on going big, but plans are still pending!”

Can we expect more of the same in December as you’ve provided tonight? “December will have 3 sets, and a completely different mix of genres, but we’re going to hold that back until next week!”

Haha fine! So people need to keep an eye on social media to wait for these announcements then. “Yes, the best way for people to find out about our new events is through our website lateandlivesessions.com. We’ve got a Facebook page (Late & Live Sessions), and we are actively trying to push our Instagram page (Late & Live) which shows images from the events. But probably the best one is our Facebook page which features our venues that we’re working with, where we’re going to be next, what the bands are and what we actually want to do is promote the bands themselves, so you can check out their latest videos and click on their pages. It’s not just about Late & Live the brand, we want to share the live music scene too.”

 

In a world where the words ‘selling out’ and ‘just in it for the money’ are  frequently heard, Late & Live is a refreshing break from that and signals that there is life for UK music outside of the commercial, label-backed offerings currently circling the airwaves. They care about putting on a great show for people who love live music. Simple as that. Their vision is infectious and Chris’s enthusiasm for what he and his father are putting together is amazing. For them, the music and the experience of the night trumps all else. They deserve all the support they can get for championing live music – get on their Facebook page, smash that ‘Like’ button and get to the next event. You won’t regret it. Pinkie promise.

Now playing: Marmozets – Cry

Best. Valentine’s. Ever

You may or may not be aware, but last Saturday was Valentine’s day.

Don’t panic, I’m not going to go off on a romantic tangent about the as yet undiscovered love of my life or highlight why Valentine’s is the ultimate social construction designed to make the proletariat spend money. Instead I’m going to describe to you what I’d consider to be the best Valentine’s I’ve ever had. I spent it with one of my dear friends Katherine and 9 men. Oooh err, Lizzie, get in there! ;)

Relax, on Saturday night, I travelled an hour or so from Canterbury to the O2 Arena in London for one of the most eagerly anticipated tours of the year so far; the You Me At Six and All Time Low co-headline tour! When I told my house mate about this tour and how amazing it was to get two of my favourite bands in the world on one bill, he called it the rock version of the 2011-12 Kanye West and Jay-Z tour…he doesn’t understand my music but the sentiment is there.

The tour was a short 5 date affair hitting some of the biggest arenas in the country including the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff and the Birmingham LG arena and finishing in the O2 on the 14th of February.

From the pictures and comments I’ve seen on various social media sites, the other shows were as fantastic as the one I witnessed on Saturday.

Opening the show was Walk The Moon, a small four-piece from Ohio, who were completely pumped and unbelievably grateful to have been given the opportunity to play a venue with such prestige as the O2. They buzzed around the stage during their short 6 song set and interacted well with the audience who were gracious enough to give them the time of day considering that no one really cared much because what was to follow promised to be full of excitement. Realistically, it could’ve been the band that plays in the pub down the road from your house jumping around up there and people still would’ve been happy. But Walk The Moon entertained us well with an infectious mélange of pop and rock with a dash of gyrating hips courtesy of the front man Nick Petricca…seriously though, the guy has MOVES and his hips have their own twitter account!

I was already familiar with these guys and they did not disappoint! I first heard of them through a friend who sent me an acoustic version of their own song ‘Anna Sun’, which they played to end their set and which firmly set us on the road to good times.

After a short break, we were antsy for All Time Low and they took to the stage in a frenzy that has become synonymous with an ATL show. They jumped around, interacted well with the audience and made a lot of dick jokes. All Time Low have a really unique ability to be able to take one of the best songs from any of their albums and turn it into something even more powerful and fantastic. The example that immediately springs to mind is the song ‘Weightless’. This song is the ultimate pop-punk anthem and is the reason that I and I’m sure many other ATL fans got turned onto them in the first place. Now, on the record ‘Nothing Personal’, it’s a stand-out track and a real crowd pleaser. But on this particular night in the O2, Alex Gaskarth introduced the song saying that they wanted to try something new and what followed was magical. The song was given a new lease of life through a beautiful acoustic-sounding first verse until the chorus when it took off and became the song we all know and love. ‘Therapy’ was also an emotional highlight for me. This song was just Alex alone on the stage with his guitar, his voice and a spotlight. This song is stunning anyway, but between Alex and the audience (all of whom were singing along) the arena became one of those rare places where you really feel as though you’re in the centre of the world, where thousands of people are united and the room is pregnant with emotion. The phone lights were out looking like stars and Alex even said at one point ‘wow you guys are going to make me cry!’

All Time Low

All Time Low

However, this wasn’t the only such moment from the night. You Me At Six brought the whole of the feels parade and marched it around the arena so that there was not a soul in the whole place left unaffected by the emotion of the songs ‘Crash’ and ‘Fireworks’. These were just two of the highlights of YMAS’s extraordinary set. They’re blistering, powerful and take no prisoners as they command the stage and make the whole of the arena swirl like a living creature during songs like ‘Loverboy’ and the ferocious ‘Bite My Tongue’ . The jumping people down in the pit look fucking cool from above.

Every time I’ve seen YMAS live I’ve been staggered by how good they’ve been, and particularly on this occasion. You can really tell that they’re on the cusp of something huge and especially with the success of their latest album ‘Cavalier Youth’, you really get the sense that YMAS will continue to climb.

You Me At Six

You Me At Six

There are many points in the night in which we are reminded of the significance of such shows for both of these bands. Alex particularly highlights the hard work and dedication required of bands of the sizes of YMAS and ATL to make it into venues such as these in a world such as this where rock tends to be shoved to one side. He is right when he says that there is a core of huge bands who can get songs of the radio and play arena tours with complete ease (think Foo Fighters status) but for these comparatively young bands, the way is not paved in gold and they have to work incredibly hard for such opportunities. This evening was a display of the hard work and dedication of these bands and the shining future that lies ahead of them and hopefully the others alongside them charging down the bolted gates of the segregated compound to which they have been previously been designated. The musical revolution is coming.

Now playing: Mallory Knox – Heart & Desire

Live music, Harry Potter and question time with Our Theory – 13/2/14

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Upon entering the Lady Luck bar in Canterbury, I was initially struck by how this was MY kind of place and I have no idea why I haven’t been there before. If you’re a music fan, it will be your kind of place too. The dark walls boast framed images of rock icons from the ages ranging from Elvis to Slash. Contributing to this, they also sell frigging Haribo behind the bar!

It’s the kind of place where you know the bar staff are there for the live music as much as you are, which makes for a very welcoming atmosphere.

The live music I was there for on this particular night was the French post-hardcore band Our Theory, the third of the four acts that evening, who drew bigger audience than that of the headliners Under The Influence.

The five-piece (comprised of vocalist Bastien Berhault, guitarists Mehdi Major and Damien Bauthamy, bassist Yoann Andrieux and drummer Guillaume Cellarius), formed in 2011 in Paris; this is their first musical venture to the UK with friends Under The Influence and they do very well to stand out in a competitive British music scene with their blend of beautiful vocal melodies and churning breakdowns.

During their half hour set, their sound fills the tiny space and if you happened to walk in as they were playing, it would be like being hit by a wall of sound. They sound ferocious. Particularly during one song which we are warned beforehand by Mehdi is “fucking heavy”. He’s not wrong – the song is heavy enough to get the attention of anyone who had not already noticed them and to also make a blu-tacked safety warning fall off the wall.

The ferocity is nicely balanced with the tight musical melodies from the vocals of Bastien and Mehdi which are especially clear during the song ‘The Light’ which is where the musical talent and energy of the band are very obvious. The song is introduced by Mehdi as a “song about losing someone close to you”, showing that not only are they talented musicians, but also some of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. I would know this as after the show, I sat down and had a chat with them.

Firstly, the name, where did it come from?

Mehdi: Originally, we were trying to pick up names, we figured out that we wanted to share our vision of the youth, of today’s youth and everything that’s changed in the last 20 years. So we wanted to share that vision. We have no pretension of trying to change the world, we just wanted to share what we have to say.

What about the logo? I think it strikes many people as being very Harry Potter-esque.

M: Yeah, I know! Everyone, everyone, asks the question. So actually, we just liked the way that triangles looked, and you could put an ‘O’ and a ‘T’ in them and it makes sense, so there is no link with Harry Potter at all. Although, I LOVE Harry Potter, I’m such a big Harry Potter fan, I love it!

(At which point, there was a brief musical interlude due to a rousing chorus of ‘Happy Birthday’ directed towards bassist Yoann).

How did you come to form the band?

M: I was in a band before, and we all met in the French scene in Paris. Damien played in a band called Borderline, he was the guitar player. And so, at some point, I wanted to do something else and Bastien wanted to form a new band, heavier than I was doing before. So he just hooked me up on Facebook and we started writing songs, then went to Damien, and Damien listened to the songs and wanted in.

Damien: When I stopped my old band, I met him [Bastien] and told him that if I was to do a new band, it would be only with this guy [gestures to Bastien]. And so they proposed to me to do a new band and I was like ‘Yeah, cool!’ (he laughs).

You mentioned the French music scene, what’s it like in terms of French bands?

M: The bands are very good. We have loads of friends in really good bands, like Chunk! No Captain Chunk! They took over the world, they’re kind of the French pride!

D: Betraying the Martyrs…

M: Yeah, Betraying the Martyrs. So we have loads of friends in bands. It [the French music scene] used to be shit, but now, it’s getting better and better and people are signing to huge labels. We’ve got a door open.

How has the tour been so far for you?

M: It’s been good! We’ve been with Under The Influence and they’re really taking care of us, looking out for everything and they’re amazing. This is the fourth show now tonight because we did London (which as pretty good), we did Mansfield, then a show in Stockton but it was cancelled and yesterday was Swansea and it was very good although we couldn’t understand the accents at all!

What’s been the best night so far?

M: I would say maybe Canterbury actually! Even though the venue was small and the sound system was not very good, the crowd was really good, so probably tonight. London was a little bit better [in terms of venue], but it was the first show of the tour, so we had to get into it, but yeah we’ve had good venues, but it’s not about the show, it’s about the crowd.

How is touring in England different to touring in France?

M: It’s different in a way, the crowd is very different. In France you get a lot of people with arms folded and checking you out, waiting for you to make a mistake because everyone is so jealous.

Bastien: It’s very anxious for me because everyone is like “show me your talent” and wait for you to make a mistake.

M: But here it’s so different. At the end of every show, people will come to us and complement us on the set and we get a great response from British people. We get a great response from French people too, but it’s different. Here, people aren’t afraid to come to you and say “Yeah man, that was a great set, I like your band”.

B: We love to play in Paris, but in the beginning it was difficult, now it’s good because we have fans and we’ve grown a fan base. But in the beginning it was very difficult.

M: Also, something very important is that you guys have a great rock and roll culture, in France, it’s not really about rock and roll. You all come to shows and discover new bands, it’s not really the same in France.

B: In Paris, it’s 300 people maximum [at a show]. For Bring Me The Horizon, it’s 1000.

M: Actually going back to the question about the scene in France, you can have huge bands in the UK, like Bring Me The Horizon, they can play 1600 in France, but they can be playing arenas here. Rock and roll is smaller in France. The scene is smaller in France, there’s less people in France for this kind of music than in Britain.

Is there a song off the new album that you enjoy playing live the most?

M: Actually, there’s a song on the album which features Bert from Chunk! No Captain Chunk! called The Liars and I love it, it has great energy and it’s really good.

B: I think I’d say The Liars too, I think it’s really good.

What was the recording process like, particularly with the contributions from Bert from Chunk! No Captain Chunk! and Ed from Devil Sold His Soul?

M: Actually, Bastien had been in contact with Ed for a long time and we’re long-time friends of Devil Sold His Soul and he contacted him [Ed] on Facebook and explained that we had a track that would really fit his vocals. From the beginning we asked him if he would like to do a song with us, he said yes, we wrote the song, and we sent it to him for the vocals and he recorded it in his studio and sent it back to us. We wrote the lyrics and we wanted them to have their touch because they have special vocals.

Who is the chief song writer? And what’s it like writing in English?

M: With the album, I wrote the music and he wrote the lyrics

B: With my girlfriend because she’s American

M: His girlfriend is American so she was an enormous help to us.

What are your plans for the future for Our Theory?

M: Right now, we are writing a new EP, so maybe 4 or 5 songs. But heavier.

B: It’s going to be more metalcore, kind of like Issues [the band], so with more screaming.

M: I think it’s going to be very good, I’m very excited about it. We’ve demoed pretty much everything right now and we are very happy and can’t wait to have people listen to it. We’ll probably have Bert from Chunk! producing the album so it’s going to be really good, it’s going to add some of his style as he’s really good for that. I think we might be touring France a little bit in April with Under The Influence and just waiting for everything to be released to see what’ll happen.

When do you think you’ll be back in the UK again?

M: As soon as possible! (laughs) But we have nothing planned for the moment but as soon as we get the opportunity to come back, we will.

They are as lovely as their English is good – which is very good indeed. Afterwards they sign my album and we talk about Harry Potter some more and contrasting the stereotype of a typical ‘band dude’, they are all very down to earth and approachable. They are a band who are aware of the fact that their present success is due to their music and their fans and are good enough to remember that.

I think something needs to be said of the power of social networking, particularly with Our Theory. In a time before Facebook or Twitter, it would have been incredibly difficult for such a small band to even think about breaking into a different country. But now they can promote their new album ‘Collapse’ or an upcoming show all at the touch of a button. Hopefully, with their new EP coming soon and first appearance in the UK now under their collective belt, they’ll attract the notice of ‘important people’ from ‘important places’ which will really give them a leg-up in their journey to spread their theory and make them a force to be reckoned with in the future.

Watch this space!

Our Theory’s debut album ‘Collapse’ is out now and watch their new music video for ‘The Devil’ here.