They say never meet your idols. Having had the opportunity to meet a few over the years, I can say that it’s definitely a hit-and-miss experience. Probably my favourite was meeting Elvis Costello backstage at a gig on Treasure Island in San Francisco. I knew in advance I’d be attending the meet and greet and, remembering him from when I was just a will-o’-the-wisp and he was breaking through with performances on Top of the Pops, I spent the day of the show in a state of nervous excitement. I made sure I had a sharpie with me so I could get his autograph and I planned what I would say to him, something about how he was one of the artists who inspired me to get involved in music when I was a kid. The evening came and the lucky meet and greeters were stood in a loose group in a room somewhere backstage having been trucked in on a train of carriages pulled by a golf buggy. At the required amount of lateness after the appointed moment, Elvis shuffled in through a side door and took up his position in front a massive flowerpot of bamboo. We each then took our turn to step forward and share a few words with the man.
Interflow are a must-see band.
I can still remember my heart racing as I walked the five or so metres to stand beside Elvis. We were shoulder to shoulder for the photo op and then I leaned into him and spoke my carefully rehearsed words right into his ear. He turned and looked at me for a moment, his hooded eyes magnified behind those thick black frames of his and…grunted. That was it! Later, Elvis and his band played a magnificent set. The man was switched on to the max and that’s where I found my redemption, in his music and performance. Who cares if he had nothing to say to me? Why would I have expected him to have anything to say to person 13-out-of-22, a complete stranger who’d invaded his workplace all for the sake of my vanity?
At that stage of his career, Costello certainly didn’t need to be making fans out of punters one by one anymore. I’d already been hooked for decades and nothing about the experience of meeting him permanently tarnished his aura as far as I was concerned. I was hoping, when I told him what an inspiration he’d been, he might say, “That’s great,” or, “Thank you,” or, in my wildest dreams, invite me up on stage to jam with him. Ha! It was a lesson in why stars are best sticking to the stage and punters to the other side of the crash barrier.
There’s a moment early in every successful musician’s career when they’re making fans out of punters one by one. Every band that’s ever achieved any degree of success has to go through this. There are no short cuts, no digital magic bullets, you just have to make nice with your audience and get them to fall in love with you. This is how bands light the fuse of exponential audience growth and it means you need to have something to say, a little bit of pillow talk for the people who are going to help your career take off. Or not.
It’s the same with the media. Early-stage musicians and bands get so little opportunity for any kind of media coverage that they need to make the most of what they can get. Let’s face it, most ‘music journalists’ write in such a pedestrian, I-asked-this, they-said-that kind of way that if you have nothing interesting to say in response to their where-did-you-get-the-band-name-from and other equally boring questions, no one is going to read/listen/watch.
While I can attest to meeting your idols being a hit-and-miss experience, speaking to emerging artists is a very consistent one. Of the hundreds I’ve spoken to, only two* have had anything interesting to say about themselves or their music. Even when I’ve tried to goad musos into saying something controversial or speak about politics/religion/world peace, anything that might add a bit of colour, it’s been hard yakka. Sometimes, I’ve had to make stuff up, just to satisfy my own desire to write something at least a little bit interesting.
More recently, I’ve started providing advice to musos about how they can engage better with the media — come prepared with something to say, some key lines that you stick to no matter what dumb questions you get asked, things that will stick in the minds of punters and make them want to come check you out.
Ostensibly, this article is about Perth blues rock band, Interflow. I’ve seen them live and they are hot as. Interflow blend traditional blues rock with indie agitation. In vocalist, Jacob Willis-Fullford, they feature one of the most intriguing and promising vocalists you’d ever want to hear. His vocals are vulnerable, kind of reedy — in a good way — and have power behind them that allows him to project when he needs to. Couple that with some highly accomplished and beautifully nuanced guitar work from Will Gibbs, a rhythm section that knows when to rock it and when to let it roll, and Interflow are one of the best live bands going around.
Are they impish and badly behaved when you meet them? Are they dripping with presence and gravitas? Do they have anything of interest to say about themselves and their music? No, no and no. Don’t get me wrong, the members of Interflow are the loveliest people you’d ever want to meet. And, did I say this already, they are one of the hottest live bands going around. And, and, and, even though they’ve only been around since 2019, their catalogue of recorded stuff is extensive and, best of all, really fucking good.
When we did speak, one of the most intriguing things drummer Charlie Pascoe mentioned was that the band are at the stage where they have people wanting to meet them after their shows. That’s when I slipped into agony aunt mode, spruiking the value of interaction with punters and having something memorable to say.
“I didn’t think we were going to get so much advice,” was guitarist Will Gibbs’ response.
I took this as a good sign and ploughed on.
If you’re into discovering next-big-things, Interflow are a must-see band. After they’ve blown your socks off, stick around to have a chat with them, see how they’re going with their after-show bants. No matter what happens, I promise you won’t be disappointed and, if what they say and how they deliver the message sticks in your mind, expect to see Interflow playing sunset spots at festivals and filling venues like the Astor in about five years’ time. That’s how good they are.
Over to you Jacob, Will, Sully, Finley and Charlie.
*Send me a message if you want to know who they were.