Hi folks welcome to the interview today. What made you decide that music is a thing for you?
I don’t think I had much choice, really. My dad was an organist and church choirmaster (in his spare time) so music was all around me – even when I was curled up inside the womb. Also, my sister, who was 5 years older than me, was an avid rock music fan who spent a fortune on singles and albums that I greedily devoured. I spent 6 years in the local choir as a boy soprano. Finally, growing up in Liverpool, I couldn’t NOT be besotted by The Beatles, The Bunnymen, The Teardrop Explodes etc, etc. Without music, I would be nothing.
Introduce us to all the members and your musical history.
I’m Graham Trust, singer-songwriter and multi instrumentalist (Jack of most trades and master of absolutely none).
Tony Potter is our drummer
Martyn Gilbert is The Vow’s lead guitarist as well as that of a nationally renowned (UK) Doors tribute act “Doors Rising”
Nick Reynolds is our bass guitarist, graphic designer and general Smart Alec who we turn to should we have any equipment failure.
We made our commercial debut in 2012 with the album ‘For a Dreamer’ and we are to release our 5th studio album called ‘Igloo’ this Summer – once we’ve finished recording the 17th track for it ‘Don’t let it die’ in July. We had all been around in the Liverpool music scene prior to our formation, but none of us were in any bands of particular note. We started off in obscurity….and quite liked it !!!
Name me your 3 favorite Albums?
- ‘Kilimanjaro’ by the Teardrop Explodes. I must have played this album every single morning for years. It’s such an energetic and joyful record that it would actually send me off to school (and then later to work) with a smile on my face and with just enough energy to last the day through.
- ‘The Slider’ by T.Rex. This was down to my sister’s influence as she was / is a MASSIVE T.Rex fan. In my opinion, every single song on this album is a gem. Bolan was at the top of his song writing game at this stage. He had gained international notoriety, and from here on in, it was all downhill for him….in fact he fell off a cliff, never to get back up….in my opinion.
‘Igloo’ by The Vow. I jest, of course. Self-praise is NO praise, but just you wait, it’s a belter!!!
- Led Zeppelin IV. Where do you begin with this? It’s got everything – Heavy Rock, Folk, Blues, Pop but all beautifully crafted songs with the most brilliant musicianship imaginable.
Those are my choices for today. Catch me on another day and I might say “Hunky Dorey”, “Ziggy Stardust” and “Aladdin Sane” by David Bowie. Oh, and I’ve forgotten about “Revolver” by The Beatles…….Oh, just tell me to shut up.
What was the first song you heard that steered you into a music path?
I suppose, it wasn’t just one song, it was all of the music from the punk movement from late 1976 onwards. At that point I realised that, if I practised hard enough, I could play the 3 chord songs my heroes were performing. Once I’d learnt a few chords, I was able to join a band of like-minded friends at school and immediately began writing my own punk pastiches. You’ve got to start somewhere.
From a songwriter’s perspective, the song ‘Mother’ and the rest of the songs on ‘John Lennon / Plastic Ono Band’ made me realise that, up until that point, I was only messing about. Lennon was writing about real life, he was fearless in talking / singing about his problems, his self doubt, his pain, about the world around him. In short, his songs are heartbreakingly honest and so BRAVE. I learnt from that album that you have to put your whole self into your songs. The last thing I want to be accused of is being a fake or a coward with my lyrics.
The music industry is the hardest industry in the world to progress in, How do you feel you are doing?
I am achieving EVERYTHING that I want to achieve. Admittedly, it has been a struggle financially and we don’t have the contacts we need to open doors for us, but the important thing is to keep doing what we’re doing. The Vow has been lucky enough NOT to be signed by a record company, publisher, management, or any other music industry body. That means we are TRULY independent and, as a writer, I have been free to develop my own unique style. Nobody has told me or the band what to do. We have been blessed. Yes, of course, we would love international adulation, but we’re realistic enough to know that there is NO chance of that happening without a multi-million dollar publicity machine behind us.
I’m seeing a lot of debate about women not feeling safe at music gigs, any thoughts on what we need to do to help?
I’ve read about assaults happening in the close confines at festivals and other crowded spaces. I would like to think these are a rarity, but I suspect that only a fraction of these attacks are reported. This is such a complicated area to get into because the problem is an historical, religious and societal one that permeates every aspect of our lives – ie – the marginalisation and objectification of women. Unfortunately, there are predatory men out there who are just waiting for the opportunity to indulge their perversions. In short, we’re not going to solve this problem today. The important thing is to keep calling out this disgusting behaviour and keep reiterating that it is unacceptable. I believe at least some of these people will mend their ways once their behaviour is exposed. They should be shamed into stopping.
As you develop as an artist and develop using socials what ways do you get new ears on your music? Any tips?
There is an element of the film ‘The Field’ with Kevin Costner in this answer. I believe that ‘If you build it, they will come.” It’s very important to accept that, unless you get a machine behind you, then your development in music is going to be very slow. I can’t advise anybody on socials because I don’t use them.
I prefer to keep an element of “mystique” around me / The Vow. Gigging is undoubtedly a way to get newears, but that can be a really, really hard slog as well. The key is just to keep going. We’ve been releasing music for 11 years and our popularity has increased slowly but surely. Unfortunately, you have to face up to the fact that sometimes you will have to give your music away for free. I would urge other bands to get in store radio play via companies like Jamendo, Tribe of Noise, Audiosparx and Soundreef. They PAY you for the use of your music in shops, restaurants, gymnasiums, shopping malls etc ALL OVER THE WORLD.
The Vow has gained many millions of streams through in store radio and I get messages from people all over the world telling me where they heard our songs and how much they love our music. Another way is “pay to be played”. Some bands will be against this in principle… and I wouldn’t blame them for that. We pay to get on Spotify playlists. I’ve found the very best companies to do this through are Indie Music Academy and Yougrow Promo.
Tell us Two truths and a lie about you.
I am a locally renowned author. My book is “John Moss of Otterspool, 1782-1858” (a VERY great work!!!) and I went to Quarry Bank, which was the same Secondary (Prep) school that John Lennon went to. Also I was a member of a pop group called The Beatles. That’s 3 “facts” for you. I’ll leave it to you to identify if there’s a lie in there or not.
What’s your thought on Spotify’s monopoly on the music industry?
I don’t believe Spotify does have a monopoly on the music industry. They are certainly the largest streaming company, but there are plenty of others not too far behind. However, I must admit that I don’t bother promoting our music on any other platforms than Spotify and Youtube. My view is that the major Record Companies are the ones with the greater monopoly over who gets onto Spotify Playlists, who gets played on National and Local Radio, who features on TV, whose music is featured in films etc, etc, etc.
They are the ones who are squeezing the life out of independent music. Between them, these Majors and the likes of Spotify have conspired to divert streaming royalties to themselves and have given the rest of us a pathetic rate of return. There is NO way for an independent band to make a living from streaming alone while we’re not given a fair commission for our streams. The majors will resist this redistribution of wealth until the end of time. Don’t forget that lousy deals for artists have been the NORM since the dawn of the recording industry.
Money goes to money because they have the wealth to pay for the best lawyers in order to suppress a fair deal for the artists whose work they leach off. The very last thing they have EVER wanted is a fair deal for artists. Do not believe their Baloney.
Do you sign up for any conspiracy theories?
Certainly not……….er……….well, maybe see my previous answer regarding Spotify and the major record companies.
Did you buy anything you don’t need during the pandemic?
Yes – around 30 Covid testing kits. I’ll hang on to them until the next pandemic comes around.
What was the worst experience on stage?
It was on my 25th birthday when I was drunk before I went up on stage (NOT recommended). To make things worse, my Dad (a proper musician remember?) turned up to watch unexpectedly. Our guitarist Martyn then broke a string. The drummer and I carried on playing cover versions very badly while Martyn fumbled around for a spare string for HALF AN HOUR. The acoustics in the venue were just awful, AWFUL and I was so depressed that two of my friends had to walk me around the local park for an hour or so after the gig, trying to dissuade me from committing suicide. Oh, happy days!!!!
Tell us something about you / each member that you think people would be surprised about.
Well, I am insane…..as I think you already know. Tony and Martyn are both very high up in Health & Safety and they work in a Shipbuilders yard and a Power Station respectively. Funnily enough (but not for them!!!) they both suffer from gout. Finally, Nick, despite all the misfortunes that Mother Nature has thrown at him over the last few years, is STILL alive.
What makes you stand out as a band/artist?
We are UNIQUE……….just like everybody else!!!
I hear you have a new music, what can you tell us about it.
Yes. The new single is ‘I am insane’ which was inspired by the line “You’re beautiful and I’m insane” from ‘Venice Bitch’ by Lana Del Rey. To hear such a famous person admit to being insane (whether she meant it or not) inspired me to write about my own mental health struggles. I have to say that the song does NOT make me happy.
In fact, I feel very uncomfortable releasing it. Maybe John Lennon felt the same about bearing his soul on ‘The Plastic Ono Band’ album? David Bowie often said that you MUST get out of your comfort zone in order to produce anything worthwhile. The truth is not always an easy thing to talk about….or even sing about.
Talk me through the thought process of the new tune/s.
I wanted as catchy a melody as I could write in order to counteract the seriousness of the lyrics. It was important also for me to infuse the lyrics with some humour, but not make it sound as if I was ridiculing mental health.
What was the recording process like?
It was the same process as for all our other songs. Because of work commitments, we can’t all be in the studio together. I went in by myself and do the vocals, guitar parts and keyboards on day one. Nick came in to record his bass guitar a few weeks later. Finally, Martyn and Tony came in to lay down their parts a few weeks after that. It’s a very ramshackle way of doing things, but necessity is the mother of invention. Once all our parts were recorded and edited, Simon Denny the studio engineer, spent a full day on production. This may sound very laborious to other bands, but it is our normality.
What was the biggest learning curve in writing the new tunes?
It was actually in the recording studio when Nick came in to record his bass guitar. I hadn’t heard what he intended to play before the day of recording. When I heard what he played, I thought to myself “Oh my God, this is TERRIBLE”. It was a million miles away from anything I would have come up with. However, the more I listened to it, I began to realise that he was being brave, he was “pushing the envelope” and that I would just have to learn not to be such a complete control freak. Nick was pushing me outside of my comfort zone. Remember what David Bowie said? I learnt that I need to trust the people in the band more. They KNOW what they’re doing. They’re not trying to sabotage my song, they’re trying to enhance it. Let them flourish.
Would you change anything now it’s finished?
I am NEVER EVER fully satisfied with anything I’ve done. There is always something that niggles away at you. In this particular case, every time I hear the line “It’s a home grown ball and chain that sends you to solitary”, I think, Oh God, I can’t hear the word “grown”. I would have liked to have turned back time and asked Simon to turn that word up by 1 decibel.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?
Last night the wife said “Oh Boy, when you’re dead you don’t take nothing with you but your soul. THINK. “
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