Spotify is, as we”™ve said before, a great tool for sharing music. It”™s affordable, it”™s legal, the artists are recognised, and millions of people all over the world are using it. As a tool to spread music, it”™s unmatched, and up-and-coming artists are recognising it as so. We spoke to Captain Horizon, an unsigned band who are using Spotify and other digital media tools to promote their music, alongside successful festival appearances at Glastonbudget and Sonic Rock Solstice this summer, about their approach to digital promotion.
Spotisfaction: Hey guys, hope you”™re all well. How”™s life?
Captain Horizon: It”™s good thanks, we just won a battle of the bands last night so we”™re all in a pretty good mood today :D – though we”™re also helping Alex move house so we”™re sitting in an empty room, on the floor, huddled round the laptop!
SF: You won! Fantastic. To introduce you guys to the readership, who are you, where are you from, and what are you up to? Tell us about the gigs you”™re doing atm and the competition you won yesterday.
CH: Big question! We”™re Captain Horizon, a four piece alt-rock band from Birmingham consisting of front man Steve “Whitty” Whittington, Guitarist Joshua Watson, Bassist Alex Thomson & Drummer James “Mez” Merrix. We”™re gigging around, just trying to get our songs out there and build up a bit of interest and excitement. At the moment we”™re mainly gigging in the Midlands – Brum, Nottingham etc. We did a couple of festivals this summer, Glastonbudget and Sonic Rock Solstice, both were awesome and we”™ve been having a blast playing to new people.
The competition we won yesterday was the Evesham battle of the bands, it”™s been a really awesome competition because it”™s judged on the music, stage presence and performance rather than how many of your mates you can clobber into coming down to support you. It”™s been really refreshing and the crowd down there are all awesome and really warm and supportive. The prize was Â£750 quid which really helps us with rehearsal space costs and all that.
SF: Have you been able to use the competition, and your other gigs, to promote your digital space? By that I mean, you have a visible presence on MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, and your EP is on Spotify, so do you find yourself just giving out CDs, or do you make more of an effort to advertise your Spotify/MySpace content? Is there a strategy to combine the two?
CH: Well, [we] try and use a combination of both really. Simply because we don”™t want to alienate the older generation of music lovers who won”™t tend to use these services as much as the younger generation. We have the usual presence on the various social sites, such as MySpace, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. We”™ve found that most of our fans tend to follow us and communicate with us on our Facebook fan page, which we tend to channel more effort into that particular area than some of the other sites.
During gigs we always hand out flyers which always point people to our website, which is the central hub for everything that we have online. We”™ve got plans to extend this further – to integrate the experience of these social sites into ours and to allow us to connect all of our fans together. It will be something which when implemented will be a benchmark for other band websites to follow.
But something to remember is that it”™s not just about promoting the digital space – the web is an awesome tool for promoting our music and gigs, and that”™s the focus!
SF: Well exactly. As mentioned, your EP is on Spotify, which is great tool to get your music heard. How has that been?
CH: It”™s been great to get new people to listen to the music – you can just send them a playlist link or people just using the search often come across us. Oh and the royalties help too!
SF: Could you tell us more about the process? How did you decide Spotify was right for you, how did you go about doing it, and has it proven worth it? Will you be using it for your forthcoming material, and would you recommend other unsigned bands follow your suit?
CH: Well, when the EP was finished, making it available online was going to be an essential part of getting our music out there to anywhere in the world through anyones preferred retailer. We found a digital distribution service called Ditto Music – who were able to help us get our music onto a number of websites (and make it chart elligible!) and fortunately enough, Spotify was one of the places they were able to distribute our music to.
We”™ll definitely be using it for the next EP which should be coming out later in the year if all goes well. And for sure it”™s a great service for unsigned bands, if only because it makes it so easy for new people to hear the music, which is what you want at the end of the day. The other thing is that it”™s extremely affordable for unsigned bands.
SF: Tell us more about your self-titled EP. How long were you working on it?
CH: Well the songs were worked [on] over a few months – when we started the band we only had three or four originals so it was really fun working up the material for a decent EP as quickly as possible. When it came to recording, we decided to use a studio rather than record it ourselves, as we had been for our demos. We wanted to go to a cool place where we could focus on the performances without having to keep our engineer hats on at the same time. The place we chose was Vale Studios in Evesham (we love that place!). It”™s in a big 14th century country mansion which was incredible to stay in, and the studio is all fitted out with vintage gear – old valve equipment and a huge mixing desk.
Once we”™d got the tracks recorded we took it back to our practice studio for mixing and Josh worked on it for about a month while mez designed the artwork and got the website geared up for promoting the finished CD. The finishing touches were added by mastering engineer Andy Jackson, who got a grammy for Pink Floyd”™s “Division Bell” so that was pretty cool!
SF: How did you find working with such an influential engineer? Was he receptive to your vision for the sound of the EP, or did you defer to him a lot (hell, I would have done!)?
CH: Well as the mastering engineer he kind of had to work with the mixes we gave him, which was pretty nerve racking for Josh! But the whole point of a mastering engineer is a fresh set of ears and a fresh room, so you”™ve kinda got to trust their opinions. We did say we didn”™t want it to be too over-compressed and loud because that crushes a lot of the life out of the music, and he was more than happy to listen to that! The recording engineer was called Chris D”™adda, he was really excited about the band from day one – he”™s so into rock music it”™s almost silly, when you start playing and see this big grin from the other side of the glass you know you”™re in good hands, especially when you listen to the playback and know he”™s captured what you wanted to put across as you played the song.
We didn”™t want an overproduced record and there”™s nothing on the EP we can”™t pull off live. We felt that was important for a debut EP – show people what the band is about, rather than how well we can polish ourselves.
SF I think you”™ve done that, the EP sounds earthy and like a band, rather than in-your-face production for the sake of it. And you”™ve hinted at more material later this year, what can we look forward to?
CH: Well we”™ve had more time to refine our sound and explore what we”™re about, so I think the new material is going to be a bit more defining for us – the songs are different but you can hear they”™ve been written by the same four guys. We”™re possibly moving towards something a bit more modern – fast tempos, atmosphere and cool riffs and a little less “classic rock” than the likes of “Fall Like That” from the debut EP. We also think it”™s important to keep evolving. Most of the big name bands that we enjoy have done that, exploring new ground and trying new things. It keeps it interesting and it keeps you on the edge which is where the excitement is! We”™ve got this new song, “Stop”, and it”™s so much fun to play, it”™s a bit like a roller coaster for us. There”™s a slide solo in the middle. Josh loves slide. We”™re also going for more big dynamic changes – the kind of stuff that makes listeners go “what was that!?”
SF: We look forward to that! Where can we see you guys next, and where can our readers find out more about you?
CH: Well, we”™re at a place called the Tap and Tumbler in Nottingham on 23rd July and heading to another venue called the Actress & Bishop in Birmingham on the 20th August. We”™re also going to be doing a couple of charity gigs for ”˜Help for Heroes”™.
People can find us by going to http://www.captainhorizon.co.uk. They can also find us by searching for ”˜captainhorizon”™ / ”˜Captain Horizon”™ on various social networks or other band related websites.
SF: Great stuff, we look forward to hearing the new material and congratulations again on winning the Evesham Battle of the Bands. Thanks for taking the time with us today!
CH: No problem, it”™s been great talking to you! Now we have to go back to helping Alex move house. Save us.