Ever since the rise of the internet, with the help of MySpace and Facebook of course, many unsigned bands have managed to secure a wide underground following and popular fan base without a recording contract, or a space in the charts.
As part of a uni project, where myself and two of my friends had to produce a magazine – we chose to create a music magazine, I wrote a feature based around this unsigned band culture, and talked to Adam, Bob and Toby from unsigned band Hold Fast.
Fresh from the south of England, Hold Fast is made up of Roberta (Bob) Collins – lead vocals, and synth (a strong contender to steal the crown from Florence Welch of Florence And The Machine), Toby Wheeler – drums, Adam Macualay – guitar and backing vocals, and Ben Hogan – bass.
Faye: How long has Hold Fast been together for?
Adam: Hold Fast has been playing under the moniker for approx 5 years, but none of the current members were in the original line up. The founding member is sadly no longer around and there have been multiple drummers and bass players. The four of us have been together for just over a year so I suppose you could say that’s how long Hold Fast has really been a band.
Toby: Hold Fast has been going in the current form for 1 year and 2 months.
F: How did you come up with the name Hold Fast?
A: I think it has something do with the Portsmouth Navy connection?
Bob: Apparently, it’s a nautical and religious term which means standing firmly where you are in times of difficulty, although I think it was picked by a friend because it was on the merchandise of his favourite rum.
F: How would you describe your sound?
T: Death-Pop. Cinematic Gravity. White Noise Elation. Ethereal Dance-Wonk.
A: Post-punk is probably the safest bet. But we have had all manner of comparisons, some of them accurate, others not so much. Do you think we sound like Keane? I’d like to think it’s slightly darker than that!
F: You have supported White Lies, Pulled Apart By Horses, and a number of other bands – who was your favourite and why?
T: White Lies. Great venue, great audience and an electric atmosphere.
A: I’d like to say White Lies, but the fact is that when we supported them and they were playing their set, we were outside pushing our car down a busy high street trying to start the bugger. Grammatics are a fantastic band to perform with; they recently just came off tour with Bloc Party. Got to love the cello…
F: What was your favourite performance and why?
B: Southsea Festival last year was phenomenal. Little Johnny Russell’s was a great place to play.
A: Notting Hill Arts Centre recently was amazing – the crowd went batshit!
T: Yer ‘Death Disco’ in Notting Hill. Lo-fi venue in the day which transforms into chic hangout at night. Enthusiastic crowd and a fun night.
F: Are you lined up to play any huge festivals over the summer, and if so which ones?
A: Well the ones we are aiming for are the obvious big badgers – Reading/Leeds, maybe Glastonbury. But hopefully in the near future; Camden Crawl and The Great Escape.
B: We’re playing for Josie Curtis at Southsea Festival again, which is always a highlight because it has such a friendly atmosphere. Personally, I would love to play Iceland Airwaves!
S: Who are your influences?
A: We all have a plethora of influences between us, sometimes they overlap, other times they clash. We tend to fuse together ideas from completely contrasting artists which makes for a lot of fun when writing songs. I could never single out specific ones without mentioning others so will just rattle off some genres – post-punk, 80s synth-pop, pop in general, rock, and electro.
B: I love Pet Shop Boys but I think everyone’s fairly varied. We can all appreciate things like Mew, NIN, Depeche Mode and Burial. We’ve been compared to a lot of bands, but films are always a great source of inspiration for us. Especially Lost Boys.
F: If you could collaborate with any other band or artist, who would they be and why?
A: Well, the ultimate honour is to support Radiohead by personal invitation. Though collaboration with some seemingly unknown and contrasting artist would be fun, maybe Mr Blobby?
B: There are so many talented musicians out there that I don’t think we could pick just one. At the moment, it’d be great to get involved with other artists, designers and musicians generally.
F: Any interesting new material or performances coming up?
T: Yep. We are working on new material at the moment for another CD release in the next few months.
A: We’re playing with Chew Lips in Southampton at the end of January but apart from that, we’re just keeping quiet, and writing, writing, writing. It’s far more fun to constantly rotate the set rather than playing the same things at every show.
F: What is your biggest accomplishment with the band?
A: We’ve accomplished a number of small feats so far, but our sights are set very high so there are many things yet to be achieved. For 2010, the primary focus is play all the UK summer festivals.
B: I’d like to think that’s ahead of us and not a destination already reached, but we’re having a lovely time so far!
F: Who writes the music, and how do they get inspiration for a track?
A: Bob is our wordsmith. She pens really great lyrics which are both introspective, retrospective, and encapsulate the mood of a lot of the music. It’s predominantly dark subject matter. The music is written by all of us. It’s a pretty common scenario, band member comes into practice with an idea then we build on it as a band. We’ve found that 4 heads are definitely better than one.
B: I tend to write and arrange a basic structure and it gets reworked and hopefully improved at practice. The lyrics are often silly dreams I’ve had or daft predictions that have been made. One came true once. That was slightly scary!
F: How does studying and having another job fit around the band?
A: Currently, Bob is at University and the rest of us have day jobs. All the guys live in Portsmouth except me. I live further away and work at Universal in London, so practising is rare and we have to make the utmost use of the time when we have it. Things are tough at the moment but it just emphasises how dedicated we all are.
F: Is it your main aim to get signed, or do you think you can be successful without a recording contract?
A: Unsigned bands can certainly have some degree of success, but it’s extremely rare and you could probably count the success stories on one hand. In reality there are very few major bands that make a substantial living and are on an indie label. All the others are either on majors or subsidiaries of majors. That’s what we’re hoping to achieve.
T: Any positives which come as a result of playing honest music are welcomed. Playing original music which people enjoy listening to and creating shows that people enjoy watching are at the core of our drive.
B: The main aim is enjoyment, and perhaps a free dinner.
For more information please visit http://www.myspace.com/holdfast
This photograph was taken by Justin Parry at the New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth, permissions have been given to use it.