A year ago, Departure From Normal were still playing college ‘Battle Of The Bands’ events. Since then, they’ve sold out one of Brighton’s most popular venues and have been booked to play the 600-capacity Concorde 2.
How did that happen? A lot of “smashing it”. Apparently. They also claim to have “a big following in America”; hubristic or the biggest band you’ve never heard of? You decide.
You’re headlining the Concorde 2 in December. Other artists due to play there include The 1975, Passenger, Coheed and Cambria and The Darkness. How did that booking come about?
Bam (Lead Vocals/Lead Guitar): “Years of hard work, dedicated management, a great promotion company and smashing every gig we play. We’ve been gigging around Brighton for ages but the past ten months with Lout Promotions have taken such an upward path, from the beginning playing empty rooms, then playing Sticky Mike’s to twenty people to our last gig where we sold out Coalition. We were over the moon when Lout suggested our next step was Concorde 2, it’s our dream to play there and we can’t wait to see what the future brings!”
Jordan (Bass Guitar/Vocals): “Just constant gigging, building a fanbase and constantly smashing shows, it’s important to make a massive performance of a show, whatever it takes. Whether that’s with putting your heart and soul into each and every song, making a real connection with the audience or special effects and a massive production. The crowd are there to have a good time as well, they’re not there to watch you play instruments. They’re there to hear the music, have a good time and see you putting in everything you’ve got on stage because the crowd feed off you. And if the crowd are having a good time then your performance levels go up even more.”
You must be ecstatic to be able to headline shows like that so early on in your career, but who do you dream of opening shows for and why?
Bam: “I don’t view it as so early in our career because we’ve been working for years to get to where we are and will continue to in the future. We’re loving the shows we’re playing at the moment because we get a real intimate relationship with the audience and our fans. I wouldn’t say there’s a particular artist I’d like to open for but it would be an absolute dream to play a massive festival next summer with the biggest artists around”
Jordan: “I don’t dream of opening shows for anyone if I’m honest, we’re happy to smash whatever comes our way. I go there to play my part. Whether we’re supporting someone or not it’s still ‘our’ show I feel and we go out there and put on a show like we would even if we were headlining. But if I had to say who I’d like to play with then I’d love to go on a world tour with The Script. Because they just seem like nice guys and they worked hard for where they are.”
Would you rather sell-out your own headline show at the Concorde 2 or be booked as the opening act for the Brighton Dome?
Bam: “Ahh for me it’s ALWAYS got to be Concorde 2. I think since I’ve been a kid Concorde 2 has been my favourite venue in Brighton, even more than the Dome or Brighton Centre. Ever since I’ve been playing guitar, since 14 Concorde 2 has always been the one.”
Jordan: “Concorde 2. Easy, simples.”
You’ve played several shows in collaboration with Lout Promotions’ Brighton Rocks; how important do you think it is for live promoters to support new local acts?
Bam: “Hugely. I don’t think that the importance of unsigned artists being pushed through can be underestimated. There’s very few events for unsigned bands trying to catch a break and that’s why I feel Lout are doing a fantastic job with their Brighton Rocks events and if you impress there then they will push you on to the next level as they’ve done with us.”
Jordan: “I feel it’s crucial because we live in an era of music where people are hand-picked by the big labels and crafted into what the labels want them to be and I feel that the creativity is becoming lost and young bands that write their own material and put on their own shows in almost an independent way need the same push.”
Leon (Drums): “Very, the amount of fresh new talent that is out there every night is incredible. And having a stage for those people to play on gives them a huge chance to get more exposure and attention.”
You’ve developed a fanbase in Brighton but how are things looking for you outside of your hometown?
Bam: “Pretty crazy to be honest! We are always so grateful for our local fanbase because we wouldn’t be anywhere near where we are without their support, but recently our online following has become so important. Not only [do we have] our fans in the UK and America but also in more remote places where we’ve had an amazing reception like Brazil, Argentina, Ireland, Canada and more. We love to hear from our fans from all over the world.”
Jordan: “Twitter’s crazy, our videos on YouTube as well, we’ve got a big American following and through online media we’re attracting people from Argentina, Brazil, Ireland, Canada… Even Plymouth! Social media is becoming more and more important because you’re reaching out globally even right from the beginning. Immediately you can go global, and it’s important that you get that because I think it’s important to realise as you get bigger as an artist that globally you can expand.”
You seem to have gained a following the old-fashioned way by playing your music to all who are willing to listen, but would you still say social media has been an important part of your growth?
Bam: “I think social media has become more and more important in the way that we’re developing. I think at the beginning years ago it was all about getting gigs playing to whoever and however many people we could. Whereas now we have longer between gigs making sure they’re as professional and as slick as possible, social media is a huge part of that as it’s the best modern way of promoting yourself and your events.”
Jordan: “Yeah like I said, through the internet now you can have fans anywhere who share and like your videos and see the tweets, what you get up to, and I think that’s crucial to becoming bigger as a band and big labels and big people seeing how you can grow globally rather than just nationally.”
Leon: “Very much so, being able to communicate with fans through social media brings more of a personal aspect to the table, and makes it very easy to get our tracks out to new listeners.”
From what you’ve learnt so far, what advice would you give to budding bands wanting to play more shows?
Bam: ” Be really good to work with, be as helpful to everyone you meet as you possibly can be, be everywhere 15 minutes early and just work hard because you’re going to get out what you put in. Also I would say having good management is important, everybody needs a direction and as a young musician it can be very hard to see that side of what you want to achieve, I think that’s one of the things that sets us apart from other local artists I’ve seen. Finally, just keep at it. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it and ‘it’s not a proper job’ and you need to have a ‘set future’ ahead of you. But… Someone’s got to make it, why can’t it be you?”
Jordan: “Work hard, rehearse a lot and make it your life. Do it now, don’t grow old and wonder what would’ve happened if you’d really pushed it from the word go. Get yourself about, work hard with your management, e-mail anyone and everyone, and make sure you get your material recorded and videos made because sooner or later someone’s going to believe in you and that could be the person to take you somewhere.”
Leon: “Professionalism is key, be where you’re asked to be on time and keep people happy. Know your set inside out and backwards. You will be playing bigger gigs in no time.”
Finally, apart from yourselves, which young Brighton band are you tipping for success?
Jordan: “That’s a tough question because there’s so many great young bands around Brighton which I’ve been lucky enough to see and discover. But my choice is… Vaude Villains, who are totally unique and have a sound which isn’t as exposed as it should be, and T.R.i - I don’t normally like acoustic music but there’s something about them which is just brilliant. If I was a record label I’d sign them tomorrow.”
Interview via e-mail by Amy Jo McLellan.