Could you tell us a little bit about Narrow Plains for people who have not heard of the band before?
We are a three-piece, acoustic-based, folk/rock band. We are mostly based in London, although we have played some shows around other parts of the UK. We write and produce all our own songs and videos. We base our sound around the ‘back to basics’ instrumentals and heartfelt lyrics of folk mixed with more anthemic rocky choruses. Apparently we make a surprising amount of noise for a guitar, bass and tiny drum kit!
How did the band start, how did you meet?
Well, we were not that imaginative! Rog – the bassist – is my elder brother and Charlie is my best mate. We all went to the same school in Caterham, which is just south of London, and although we all played in different rock and punk bands at school we never all played together during that time. Charlie and I played together in a rock band for a while and then we worked as a two-piece band during holidays while we were at different universities. Charlie was performing as a singer/songwriter and I was guesting with a few different bands but we often played gigs together as a two-piece, acoustic band. We even made a few live videos.
The band only all came together a couple of years ago when Rog joined us. He hadn’t played in a band for a few years after school but he was missing the fun of playing live music. We started discussing playing some original acoustic-based material together as a three-piece band. We spent some time playing and rearranging the songs that Charlie and I had been playing into a full band format and it all seemed to click into place. We then started recording an EP straight away.
Could you tell us a little bit about your writing process?
It’s a pretty fluid process nowadays. As the guitarist and lead vocalist, Charlie will often come up with a basic song idea, which we then develop and arrange together. Sometimes, the lyrics come first; sometimes it’s just a riff; sometimes the melody. We usually get together with our instruments and recording equipment, although sometimes we just record the first cut acoustically on an iPhone. One of the advantages of knowing each other so well is that we can be really honest with each other. All the ideas are thrown into the bear pit and no holds are barred! We all exchange ideas on the structure or arrangement of the song and change things around. Then, later on, we go back to the rough cuts and work out how we can improve them.
We have decided to release our debut album this year, although we still haven’t got a label deal so we may have to go it alone again. So we have been doing a huge amount of writing recently. We have been playing most of them live for some time and a live audience is always the best feedback you can get! We have definitely written far too many songs for one album so it’s going to be fun, arguing over/selecting which songs go on the album!
How did the recording of your latest ep somewhere in between go?
That was really the beginnings of the band. As I mentioned, Charlie and I had been performing a number of songs together for quite a while but somehow they always sounded better live than when we recorded them. We decided that we really needed a good bassist – and Rog was looking to get back into music so we persuaded him to come and do some recording. We borrowed our Gran’s lovely house in Dorset for a week and transformed it into an ad hoc recording studio. We lived on pizza and beer and spent all day and most of the nights rearranging those songs so that they would fit the band format. The recording process was a great experience for us and definitely cemented the band together and improved our recording abilities. We love the freedom of doing recordings on our own and not having to pay for studio time. It means that you can literally wake up in the middle of the night with an idea and record it straight away. In the end we were really happy with the 5 tracks we had down and sent them off to get mastered.
What has been your most memorable moment as a band so far?
There have been quite a few but probably the one that sticks out in my mind is the about a month ago when I had a nightmare experience on stage. Mid-song the bass drum pedal decided that it couldn’t take any more punishment and the beater flew off into the air. I suddenly realised that the song was missing a bit of low end kick and looked down to see no beater! I looked up and saw a very confused Roger standing next to it at the front of the stage. I had no choice but to stop playing and go and get it and run backstage for the right tool to re-attach it. Luckily Charlie used it as a chance to chat to the crowd and according to my mates ‘we barely noticed’… although I think they might have been trying to make me feel better!
What has been your favourite gig so far?
I think we all feel that it was headlining the O2 Academy2 in Islington. A lot of our friends and followers showed up and it felt like a special evening. The venue was packed and the audience was brilliant! I still can’t get over the feeling of seeing people we’ve never met before singing our lyrics back to us.
Could you tell us a little bit about the making of the music video for Somewhere In Between, how did you come up with the concept?
Well after doing quite a lot of live videos we really wanted to do a ‘proper music video’, and Charlie came up with the idea of using green screens as a backdrop so that the audience sees the actual screen and then it changes mid-song. We then thought about the lyric ‘slow down’ in the chorus of the song and thought that it might be cool to record the video at quarter speed. So in the video Roger and I are moving around really fast and Charlie is slow. That’s not a green screen- he is just sitting very still and singing very slowly. We were originally going to do the video inside the building but couldn’t get enough light in there… so we just moved the whole thing outside!
What do you think could be out there to help new bands and musicians, that isn’t there already?
There is already so much that new musicians can do from home recordings to internet marketing. The world of music-making has become a lot better for small acts in recent years. I would say one thing that we’ve had to do the old-fashioned way is find promoters and book shows by getting to know the right people. An online gig-booking database that hooks small bands up with promoters would be pretty great- especially if it became an industry standard.
Our website is www.narrowplains.com but we are on most social and music media, like Twitter, Facebook, Reverbnation, Soundcloud, Bandcamp and lots more. Our music is available on iTunes, Spotify and most music media. Our videos are available on YouTube under http://www.youtube.com/user/narrowplains
Are there any plans for the summer, any big gigs or festivals?
We have been fortunate enough to be invited to some great festivals this year. We have already been confirmed as playing at Yardlife in April, Lechlade Festival in May, Colourfest in June and Redfest in July. We are optimistic that we will get some other offers to play. Our whole ethos is about playing live music to as wide an audience as possible.