Interview The Blackout: ‘PledgeMusic Got Us Closer To The Fans’

Fan-fundraising, ficklety and festivals.

The Blackout are currently mid-tour, taking their latest album ‘Hope’ out on the road to meet the fans that helped to pay for it. We caught up with Gavin and Matthew at London’s Koko last week to talk about fan-fundraising, ficklety and festivals.

So your new album ‘Hope’ was released last week. How’s it been received so far?
Gavin: It’s normally quite daunting when we release new music because a lot of fans are quite fickle and they’re like, ‘Oh it’s not as good as the first album or it’s not as good as the first split EP they did five years ago when they didn’t know how to write songs.” But with this one, it’s been quite surreal because everyone’s been saying that this is the best thing we’ve ever done. It’s not normally like that. Obviously, we think it’s the best thing we’ve ever done but to have such an amazing response from all the fans as well is just the cherry on top really.
Matthew: I think there’s been like one comment on iTunes that said ‘it’s awful’ and that was it.

This album was released through Cooking Vinyl but you’ve kept quite quiet about leaving previous label Epitaph - what happened?
G: They wanted to re-negotiate back last February.
M: It just dragged on for ages, that’s why we started the Pledge thing. We were still on Epitaph but it was just taking so long that we decided that we wanted to take control of everything. Then things just didn’t work out with Epitaph.
G: It was an amicable split really. They needed to change our contract and we really couldn’t do it and they were like, ‘Ok, fair enough, we’ll have to split ways.’ There was never any bitterness or anything like that; we just couldn’t work a deal out that would benefit us both at the time so we shook hands and walked away.

You mentioned then about PledgeMusic. The album’s recording was financed through that scheme. What do you think the benefits of fan-fundraising are?
G: You can keep control of everything because obviously you won’t have a label coming in and saying you need two poppier songs or three heavier songs. You can make the album that you want to make.
M: It gave us the power to do what we wanted to do without any external influences. No one telling us what not to do, just us doing what we wanted to.
G: It was just us six and our producer Jason Perry.

Do you think it’s something you would do again, and would you recommend it to other artists?
G: I think it’s going to be a model that a lot of other bands are going to use because it’s worked so well. We’re not the only band that have used it; Funeral For A Friend, Charlie [Simpson] and Fightstar, and so many other bands have used it. For us, it was the right thing for the right time for where we were. As for whether we’ll ever do it again, I’m not sure.
M: If we do it, it won’t be for a while. Just for the fact that all the kids will be like, “Oh, there they are again, milking us.”
G: And some of the stuff we did was up there as one offs. They’ll never happen again so that they were worth the money.
M: Since we’ve done it, we’ve had loads of emails from people who took part saying we hope you do it again or from people who missed out asking would we do it again.
G: Maybe we’ll do it. Maybe if it’s just for charity to meet the fans and put the money towards a good cause.

You’ve talked in the past about how you like to consider fans part of the band as opposed to being quite separate from you. Was the fan-fundraising another way to explore that?
G: It did a bit. It opened our eyes to how amazing and loyal some of our fans are. It blew our mind that so many people wanted us to make another record. They’d obviously not even heard any demos or anything apart from us saying that we wanted to make a new record and they were like, ‘Oh, we want you to make a new record.’ During the pledge process you have a chance to get closer to the fans, and a bunch of them we’ve met before. We try to stick around after shows and meet people but there was a load of people we’ve never even seen before.
M: Yeah, so many new faces. There’s like six girls following this entire tour around so there’s always the hardcore fans that we kind of expected to see at every house party and everything else we’ve done.
G: All of them were lovely as well. Everyone who’s come to hang out backstage has been so polite and so amazing. It’s definitely got us closer to the fans.

Have you done all of the things you pledged yet?
G: We’ve got a bunch of things to sign, and a bunch of actual physical things that we need to make and send out, but I think that we’ve almost done all of the meet-and-greets and stuff.
M: It’s really quite time consuming, it’s quite surprising how much so! All the house parties were like every weekend then in the week we were rehearsing so it’s been really busy.
G: We’ve still got to finish off like 24 photobooks that we’re making ourselves, physically sticking in all the photos and writing notes and stuff like that. We thought that we’d get that done in a day. We spent a day in my house and it just took forever and ever, we got like half way through then we went on the My Chem tour, and straight off that to Australia. We had a week off and then straight on this tour, so it’s finding the time!

You try to stay in touch with fans through Twitter and other means, what’s the strangest thing anyone has ever said to you?
M: On this tour, which we’ve never had before, we’ve had loads and loads of letters from fans saying that we’ve had a positive impact on their lives and that’s really quite humbling.
G: We don’t see ourselves as big rocks stars or influential people we just see ourselves as a bunch of friends making music. To see all these people say ‘You and your music has helped me through these tough times’ is very humbling. Just to think that you’ve offered some sort of help towards that is amazing. To us it seems unbelievable and crazy.

This is your third album now so you’ve been around a little while. Have your fans been there since the beginning or have you seen a turn around of faces?
G: There are a lot of fans that have been there since the beginning.
M: It’s weird because we played Newcastle the other day and there’s this one guy that we’ve seen in the crowd for years and years and years.
G: I’ve never met him. I’ve always wanted to. Every time we play in Leeds or in that area, he’s always in the pit. He’s middle-aged, I’d say, unless he’s had a rough life, and he’s always in the pit. He’s at every show up there since I can remember.
M: On this tour, from the My Chem tour and other shows we’ve done, there seem to be lots of new people coming to try us, which is awesome.
G: All are welcome. The more the merrier!

You’re playing Reading & Leeds main stages this summer. Are you excited about that?
G: Yeah, we opened the mainstage about three years ago so we’re up one place now. In another three years, who knows where we’ll be. By 2050, we’ll be headlining! It’s an honour to be asked again because we’ve always gone there as festival goers so it’s just amazing to be a part of it really.

You had some live dates announced last week. How’s new material fitting into the live set?
G: It’s going really well. We’re going to obviously try and play a bit more new stuff on the next tour. One of the best songs of this tour has been ‘Higher And Higher’, our new single. That’s been going down better than any other big single we’ve ever had.
M: When we released that single, I thought it’d be really split because it’s a little bit different for us, especially with the rapper, so I’m quite surprised it’s gone down so well. Nothing’s gone badly though. We want to play some more new songs but we just need a chance to rehearse them.

The Blackout’s new single ‘Never By Your Side’ will be released on 30th May.

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