Loz Taylor: “Anyone Can Start A Band Or Put On Shows, But Be Prepared To Put Some Elbow Grease In”
Many independently-minded bands have adopted a DIY approach, but few have taken it quite so far, or quite as literally, as While She Sleeps. The Sheffield-based band put their own blood, sweat and tears into rebuilding an old warehouse on Kelham Island, a former home of Sheffield steel and the cooled industrial heart of the city, in order to create a HQ incorporating recording studios, rehearsal spaces and a place for other bands to stay.
For frontman Lawrence ‘Loz’ Taylor, this enthusiasm for all things punk rock, independent and DIY extends to putting on shows in both Sheffield and his hometown of Doncaster. As well as headliners by the likes of Frank Carter And The Rattlesnakes, Black Peaks and SHVPES, there’s a semi-regular all-dayer called Festivile, which last year was headlined by SikTh.
We caught up with Loz to find out why he’s so passionate about putting on shows and how you can get involved in your own local scene…
How did you first get involved in putting shows on?
“When I first had throat surgery, when I found out there was a problem with my voice, I had to take some time out from the band to get it all sorted out. I was laid up for a while. I was writing lyrics and trying to occupy my time, but you’re not supposed to do anything strenuous when you’ve had that surgery. I was laid in bed feeling sorry for myself and I thought to myself, ‘You know what, there’s not a lot going on in my local area in terms of live music.’ That was where I grew up and got into bands and I thought it was kinda shitty really that there was nobody trying to bring bands towards Doncaster. It’s important to me to try to keep bands coming back to small towns, so that young people can be inspired to start their own bands. Or, if they don’t have the cash to travel all the time to shows and they get to see bands in their hometown, that’s the end goal for me.”
How did it grow into the Festivile all-dayer?
“That was the first thing really. I basically tried to put on a show and it turned into this bigger thing where I’d booked quite a few bands. There were no venues in Doncaster that could house it in the right way so I moved it to Corp (Sheffield Corporation). That sparked the idea really and from there I just continued to book more local shows.
“It’s not something that happens every year, much as I’d like it to, but with While She sleeps and everything else I’ve got going on, it can be very, very taxing on your time. But it is a passion of mine and it’s nice to see the end result of people enjoying themselves at something you’ve worked so hard on and see people enjoying themselves. If people can say they’ve seen some awesome bands they’d never seen before and checked out some new artists as well as the bands they know and love - that’s pretty much why I do it.”
Would you advise people who are interested to go ahead and put shows on in their area?
“To a degree. Initially it sounds a lot easier than it actually is. Until you’ve booked a few shows and you get to know the ropes a bit more, it can be quite tricky. Obviously, you don’t want to get caught short with paying bands. It can get quite messy quite easily, but if there are people out there who want to start booking bands and there’s not much happening in their local area, I’d definitely say go for it.”
What do you need to get started?
“That’s a difficult one to answer because every situation’s different with that kind of thing. Initially what you need is a venue that’s going to be really supportive and is receptive to the sort of genre you’re going to be primarily working with. I think if you’re just a down to earth sort of person and you understand bands’ needs when they’re touring, you can learn as you go. So a venue and a website and a ticket link… you’re always going to need that, but I think you can start small with those punk rock, DIY kind of shows and start learning the ropes from thereon in.”
Do you need any money behind you or is it possible to do it on a shoestring?
“You can do both. I guess it depends how confident you are on the show. I would say it would be better to have any money that you’re going to be paying bands in advance, but that’s also why you have ticket links. You’ve got money coming in and it stays in a place for you there, so you can pay the bands with ease.”
What exactly do you mean by ticket links?
“Basically it’s just somewhere that anyone can go to pick up their tickets. Nowadays it’s mostly online and you use e-tickets, which is a good thing in terms of saving on paper and recycling and things like that. For example, I run a lot of my gigs through Big Cartel, which is just a nice, simple website. It’s somewhere that people can see your gig listings and buy tickets with ease. When you’re promoting shows, that’s imperative.”
You jumped in at the deep end, but would you suggest that would-be promoters work up to something like an all-day festival?
“Yeah, I think that’s the way to do it. There’s so much that you can learn from putting on small punk rock shows. Everybody has to start somewhere and I think any young person trying to bring new bands to their local area can start a scene near to where you live. You can learn so much and sometimes those shows can be more testing than the bigger ones. You’re short on space and time and changeovers can be pretty hectic. So yeah, I’d definitely suggest putting on some smaller shows before building up to something bigger.”
How important is it to keep these grassroot local scenes going?
“It’s important for encouraging new bands, but it’s also important to keep bands coming to local areas so that youngsters don’t always have to travel so far. It just makes it a bit fairer than the big cities always getting the best shows. For example, I was lucky enough to book Every Time I Die, which was a huge band for me growing up and I still love them now. It was just face-melting how loud and energetic the show was in such a small room. We had Every Time I Die playing a 175-cap room, which was mental. That’s part of the fun of it as well. You’re seeing bands in a setting where you wouldn’t usually get to see them, in intimate shows and dirty, sweaty venues. There’s a charm about that that you can’t get sometimes at a festival or a bigger show.”
So would you be happy to inspire anyone who thinks, ‘Well if he can do it, I can do it’?
“Definitely. As long as you’re passionate about anything and want to succeed, eventually you’ll find yourself in a position where your hard work pays off. Whether it’s starting a band or putting on shows, anyone can do it, but it does involve a lot of hard work. Have a go but be prepared to put a bit of elbow grease in!”
And will we be getting another Festivile this year?
“I think 2020’s going to be the next one. I’ve got so much on with While She Sleeps, but I am talking to bands to see who’s available for the next one. You’ll just have to watch this space and see how it goes.”
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