With so many music related things going on yet again this year in Southsea, not least Victorious which is shaping up nicely for the August Bank Holiday weekend, Icebreaker Festival and the return of Southsea Fest, we reached out to guys who are performing at Victorious this year to get their take on playing in Southsea ...
Nick Courtney has been promoting live music in Portsmouth since 2003 and booking the local and regional bands for Victorious since it began.
“Each year Victorious Festival continues to grow and the standard of performers continues to get higher every year. This year we welcome a new World music stage and the RMA Tavern stage which has enabled us to increase the number of local performers at the event. The Portsmouth music scene has a great sense of community and I am told by visiting musicians that it is far better here than many other cities. There has been a massive rise in demand for local shows since the law changed a few years ago allowing smaller venues to provide live music without having to pay for a separate entertainment license."
"Portsmouth musicians are very supportive of each other and regularly attend each other’s shows. It's a great city for music and packed full of talent, so much so, that Britain’s got talent, The Voice and X-Factor all now visit Portsmouth during their National audition process.”
Kassassin Street's Rowan also had a chat with us, so how do you describe your sound and how long have you been going? "Angular Indie ... never ask a lady her age! (nearly 5 years!)"
Where are you based? "We are spread across Portsmouth but most of us live in Southsea. I love Southsea."
Have you played Victorious before ... what can we expect from your set there? "Absolutely, I believe we’ve played at every one. It’s always very much a highlight of the summer, playing to the home crowd. I’ll probably sing a bit, I may dance, I may break down uncontrollably, it’s all to play for to be honest."
How does your environment and people around you affect your music? "I wouldn’t write songs at all without the environment and people around me affecting me to be honest. Some form of social commentary seems to sneak it’s way into most of my songs and I think it’s a really important time to be alive. We’re a society amidst constant change and some awful, awful things have happened around the world in the past few years. Documenting that in art is incredibly important for us all."
What are your thoughts on the local scene, there seems to be a great sense of community? "Very much so, unfortunately I spend most of my time writing in my bedroom so I don’t get to enjoy as much of the scene as often as I’d like to. There seems to be a natural family feel here, and island mentality I guess."
How does this compare to other places you have played? "Everywhere is different I guess, I’m a big fan of travelling myself and love visiting new places. I guess all towns, cities, villages, castles have their own kinda soul. What I would say is that kids in the north dance harder at midday than they do in the south. Prove me wrong Victorious ..."
What is the best thing about living / playing in Southsea? "I walk everywhere. EVERYWHERE." Have you seen a rise in the demand for local shows since you have been involved here? "Sadly the opposite but I don’t wish to be negative"
We see people appreciating and getting down early to shows to support each other, have you found the same? "Yeah of course, supporting your mates is so important and it’s a vital step for any new band to get your mates supporting you. The best bit is, they still support you while you’re completely awful, it’s what mates do!" What could be improved here? The local train networks. Death to Southern Rail."
Mike Hartley from Portsmouth-based Underground Pilots had a chat to us, they have been going for 3 years now, so Mike, how would you describe your sound? "Our new sound is more towards the like’s of Tool & The Cooper Temple Clause – quite dynamic and still heavy!"
Have you played Victorious before? "Yes, this is our third year in a row and very fortunate!" So what can we expect from your set at Victorious this year? "A brand new set with our new direction which hopefully will leave you happy!" and how does Victorious compare to other places you have played? "It doesn’t, Victorious is a real festival without the camping!"
What are your thoughts on the local scene, there seems to be a great sense of community? "The local scene is growing again, it seems that festivals like Icebreaker & Victorious Festival gives bands opportunities to play in front of a large audience, which was missing from our scene for a long time, we now have a good number of venues and promoters to continue building on our amazing music scene. Playing in Southsea means you can always be part of the pulse and can be recognised on bigger stages such as Victorious, Icebreaker, SouthseaFest."
Have you seen a rise in the demand for local shows since you have been involved here? "I’ve been on the scene for 16 years now and seen it go from high to really low but I strongly agree it’s on the rise again!" What could be improved? "Bands could be more vigilant towards playing too many shows in a short space of time."
We see people appreciating and getting down early to shows to support each other, have you found the same? "Yes – I’ve been running the Wedgewood Rooms showcase this year and have found a lot of people are getting down early to support all the bands which is incredible to see!"
Skin For A Canvas has been going for about 5 years now, songwriter Ian Mortimer started the project as a duo with Dani Burnett who left to do his own thing, carrying on solo Ian is currently working on other projects.
“I use my own studio now so I am spending time making my old songs bigger than ever with more spacey like vibes.” “I played Victorious when it was in the dockyard, then a year later after they moved to Southsea Common I played again and now again this year”.
Your thoughts on the local music scene? “I know a lot of the bands in Portsmouth … there are some awesome bands around, I do feel that some of the bands don't get as much notice than I feel they should if that makes sense”. “You get to know some cool people and get to see people's bands play and they see you play the word kinda gets about”.
“I feel that not enough shows look after their bands or artist I've played shows and got zip for it I know it's not about money or anything like that but myself and others spend so much time doing what they do and out on great shows but then the places are just not giving back you’re playing in their place bringing new people and playing to their customers it's a shame because it can be off putting to do shows even when you play further abroad. In Europe I've been on tour with a band and you get looked after so much more, I just wish it kinda was the same here too."
"At the moment I'm hardly playing shows because I’m working on my studio stuff as I’m gonna be a dad soon … free shows don't really pay the bills but I guess as corny as it is Just keep at it and work hard!”.
Portsmouth’s Novellas played their first gig in April 2015, with their self-styled “Dreamy Rock N’ Roll” and play Victorious for the first time this year.
We asked them what we can expect from their set, which apparently will be “a pure high energy spectacle. To be pulled into our world for half an hour...”
How about playing in Portsmouth generally?
“When you start to see a room full of familiar faces when returning to hometown gigs it’s a real honour, so inspiring. It makes you wanna work harder for them and really give them everything you have."
"Portsmouth has potential to have a great music scene if it wasn’t for the clique. I think if some of Portsmouth's promoters opened up the doors wider and really gave new fresh acts a proper chance it could be pumping out some of the greatest musicians in the country. The talent is here it’s whether certain people see it or not.”
Do you think there has been a rise in demand for local shows? “We couldn't say if the demand for shows in Portsmouth is increasing, however since June last year every Portsmouth gig we've played, other than one, the venue or promoter has approached us. So the response to us has been cool to see...”
What about the community of music-goers in general, do you see people appreciating and getting down early to shows to support each other?
“The role of the support band is important - People should get down when doors open but equally a promoter needs to build a line up to convince people to not sit in the pub until the headline band!”.
Any thoughts on the music industry in general?
“It'd be nice to see more bands saying and doing something different and being true to their own identity instead of an Oasis or Artic Monkeys cliché.”
Novellas play Victorious Saturday on the AMP Stage and Sunday on the Seaside Stage at 11:30am. Their eponymous double A-side of debut singles is out now on Spotify.
Sam Cutbush plays in Portsmouth’s own Foxer who have been going for 3 years now with their mix of grunge, blues and a bit of funk. As Victorious regulars this year will be their 4th year performing at the festival.
We asked Sam what we can expect from their set?
“Foxer’s trademark loud noises are chilling out a touch as we play an acoustic set, headlining the Radweb stage. We write on a wide variety of subjects, and some of our songs make reference to the state of things, be they local or global. Some things you can’t ignore.”
On the Southsea scene, do you see a good sense of community here?
“Yes there is, you look at all the festivals springing up and the crowds that come to gigs, there is a lot of talent here and hard work to go with it. Having played in London, Southampton and Brighton we’re certain that Portsmouth has far and away the best scene in the south. There’s always something going on, if you’re not playing yourself you can be sure to catch one of your favourite local acts.”
Have you seen a rise in the demand for local shows since you have been involved here?
“I think so, there are some great acts that put on mind-blowing shows, and most promoters seem to want to build a show with acts that complement each other rather than cobbling any genres together.”
We see people appreciating and getting down early to shows to support each other, have you found the same? “I think that’s still up in the air. A lot of people do come from start to finish, but there are still plenty of people who clear out of a venue after seeing ‘their’ act. It’s their choice obviously. Sadly it happens with some acts too, they play their set and go. We always try to stick around even if we are miles out of town. It gets noticed. We think every gig should be an event, an occasion. Inviting people on Facebook is all that a lot of acts do. We all need to work hard and give people a reason to come see us. Be creative, be daring.”
Do you have any thoughts on the music industry in general you would like to share?
“Stay positive. The Justin Biebers of this world won’t last forever. Real music stands the test of time.”
We spoke to LST's Leigh who describes his sound "with the acoustic set up, which I like to call 'The Mandem' I would describe the sound as 'acoustic hiphop with a catchy soulful twist' but these days I'm also bringing club vibes along with me as well. Leigh started out as a grime MC working the club circuits and has been performing with 'The Mandem' for around 2 years.
So it's been going well for your Leigh ... "yeah, we've performed a few gigs (understatement of the year) including showcases at Ronnie Scott's, Wembley, Common People Festival, Blissfields, Isle Of Wight Festival & Victorious Festival, performed live on BBC 6 Music with Steve Lamacq & more recently performed in the Live Lounge for BBC Introducing: The South in Brighton. I've also worked my way back into the club scene & have been lucky enough to support the likes of Kano, Wretch 32, Devlin, P Money, Ocean Wisdom & have been asked to support Akala at The Social, Southampton Friday 21st October which I count as a another blessing. "So you're playing Victorious again this year? "This year I am returning to victorious not only to perform an acoustic set on Sunday at the Nevada Music Stage (3:40-4:10) but I have also been invited as a special guest to perform my club MC set in the Beats & Swing Tent by the guys at Beats & Swing. (5:45-6:00). I performed for these guys at the Isle of Wight Festival this year & I'm honoured to have been asked to do it all over again at yet another amazing festival."
"I write frequently in a team & by myself on all sorts of projects. I find that I'm effected quite a lot by my surroundings but a lot of the time it's subconsciously & I don't realise until I'm finished writing. I've learned to appreciate the good times & hold onto them for as long as possible...& the hard/bad times...I do my best to embrace them as much as I can ... sometimes you gotta go through some madness to get the goodness out!"
"The one thing I find with the local scene is that you get a very loyal following...I like that but that's not to say it doesn't happen else where. I'm yet to go to a place where I haven't been made to feel welcome & we've been to a place or two. The best thing about playing in Southsea is ... the people. "
"The local scene has always been good to me & I'm grateful that I get asked to play in my area on a regular basis. Recently I have seen a rise in bookings for local shows which can only be a very good thing. Us guys always try our best to get down early to catch performances from other artists if we can, it's just what you do isn't it?!"
"I think the local scene is doing a good job of making noise about music. Just keep up the good work & no doubt things will just keep getting better. If the local scene can help acts earn enough to live a "normal" life from their passion & talent then that's a win in anyone's book."
So your thoughts on the industry in general? "My thoughts on the industry don't matter right now. All that matters is that you do what you love & love what you do. Too many people being unhappy out here. Be you & get there like everybody else but don't get there being like everybody else."
So if you fancy a trip down to the south coast, we highly recommend SOUTHSEA!
Albert Road is a hive of activity with an array of quirky shops and great venues like The Wedgewood Rooms and the Edge of The Wedge for both touring and local bands.
There are summer sessions down on the common at The Bandstand which are great for a summer's day and Castle Road's Pie & Vinyl is a great little venue for acoustic in-store performances as well as delicious pies!
For the morning after we recommend Smile cafe on Marmion Road for their friendly service and great (vegan-friendly as well as regular) breakfasts.
Thanks to all the super-talented guys who had a chat to us and are continuing to shape the local music scene in Southsea ... hope to see you all at some more great local shows real soon!
Tickets for Victorious Festival on August 27-28th are on sale now at www.victoriousfestival.co.uk, you can also check out full details of SouthseaFest for the October 1st event from southseafest.com, as well as all the local venues for fantastic shows all year round.