The Money, Rock City, July 2011. Pic: David Baird
They’re in The Money, the sky is sunny, and - with the noise from their opening slot on the main stage at Splendour still ringing in their ears, after winning this year’s Future Sound of Nottingham – they’ve got a lot of what it takes to get along. One of the few bands in town to actually make a living out of music, due to a side-project of playing covers gigs on the side across the continent, frontman Stav Mylonas and guitarist Jake Buckley sat down with us and spelled out their plans to cash in on their recent success…
So, Splendour: how was it for you?
Jake: It was wicked - very surreal, but we got used to it incredibly quickly. We put a lot of energy into it; a few moments did go wrong, but we made up for it with energy. The sound guy helped us loads.
Stav: It felt really good, just looking out and seeing a lot of people, it’s a nice day so it’s just perfect. Very English. There was a lot of friends and family, and then a load of other people
How did it feel to win the Future Sound of Nottingham?
Jake: Splendid! It’s nice having a big fat ‘yes’ after having plenty of years of ‘no’.
Stav: It’s a nice pat on the back, isn’t it? We’ve always try to get more gigs outside of Nottingham, so we spent a lot of time emailing people who get back to us and say; ‘You’re not local’ or; ‘you’re not big enough yet.’ So having a festival main stage slot under our belts isn’t going to hurt at all.
What do you think of these Battle of the Bands-type competitions? Don’t they usually boil down to a popularity contest?
Jake: I usually hate them, because it’s very hard for them to be fair. Although when Mark Del explained the reasons behind the voting for FSN, then I understood it. I hadn’t even known that we had entered until we were up on the stage at the Market Square and it was like; ‘Bloody hell, I’m in a Battle of the Bands!’ We play so much out of town these days that it’s impossible to get everyone we know to one gig.
Stav: It’s out of Nottingham that we’ve been aiming at, but when we found out about the competition it encouraged us to get our name out there locally again.
Jake: But I tell you what; Battle of the Bands competitions are bloody great if you win them.
So what is the state of play with The Money, circa 2011?
Jake: We feel that we are now at the level where we’re ready for a bigger stage. We’ve got everything together - the EPK, a wicked live show, the songs - so we want to do gigs that matter. And we’ve got a nationwide fanbase.
Stav: A lot of our fans on Facebook are from when we spent three and a half months in Greece a few years ago. The two of us stayed out for seven weeks, came back home and then decided to go back out with the whole band for the whole summer. It was literally, move out your house, quit your job, go away for months, and come back with big smiles on your faces.
Jake: We gigged three times a night, five times a week, drank a lot, made a lot of friends, and got very good at playing covers.
Stav: We got very tight as a band, because we lived together as well as played together. More importantly, we are also recorded our own original music and sold our own CDs, collected email addresses, and got people to tag photos of us on Facebook. We really PR’ed ourselves.
Jake: It was such a great way to get fans. You become part of their holiday, the most memorable week of their year, and they buy your album and support you and remember you. We’re still reaping the benefits of it.
Stav: When we got back we all did our jobs for a little bit, but then out of the money we made we got our equipment and our own PA.
The Money open up the main stage at Splendour, July 2011. Pic: David Baird
What’s it like making the leap to being effectively a full-time band?
Jake: Well, we’re not exactly full-time. Stav is, but I work in Homemade three days a week making brownies and lasagnes. I don’t have to, but I like it - it gets me up in the mornings. But if I could just make all of my money from music, I would.
Stav: The reason I packed in my job is that I think I’ve got the more logistical brain in the band. I was working in a vintage clothing shop, and when you’re on a shop floor there are certain things you can’t do, like take calls for gigs. You’d leave work and go straight to a gig, get back and then wake up for work the next day. But we spend five days a week doing this - we rehearse Monday, Wednesday and Friday and Saturday and Sunday we are gigging.
Have you got any advice for bands who are just starting out?
Jake: If I was a 17 year-old and I wanted to make a living out of it off the bat, I would get together two 45-minute sets of covers, get it tight and sounding nice, and go around pubs and bars getting gigs. Once you’ve done that for a couple of years, start harassing agencies and try and get yourself on a showcase.
Jake: Yeah. Getting on a showcase was the beginning of the rest of our musical lives.
Stav: We piled in a crappy old van, ploughed through the snow all the way to Sheffield, and turned up all excited. There were ten other bands in the room, Jools Holland-style. We didn’t have any lights, so we swapped some drumsticks for some.
Jake: They were those yellow lights that builders have at the side of the road.
Stav: And that was our audition for our agency, and it landed us a residency in a club in Israel.
Jake: One of the best moments ever was being sat at the side of the stage, and this guy was like; ‘I think I might sign you to our agency’, then this other guy comes out of nowhere and says; ‘you played that guitar better than I’ve ever seen’. It looked so staged and perfect.
You’re one of the few bands around who aren’t afraid of the cover version.
Jake: What landed us the agency slot was that they liked the fact that our covers were originals. Even though they were covers, we played them our way.
Stav: The fact is, it’s a lot easier to get somewhere in the covers world then it is the originals world. If we put our minds to it, we could make a proper career out of the covers.
Jake: There is a constant battle between the originals and the covers. It’s a constant compromise between both, and it drives us all insane sometimes when we have to skip original stuff to do the covers.
Stav: I think we do find a balance, though. The one thing is that we’ll get offered gigs at the weekend in Nottingham, but we’ll already have our weekends booked up…
Jake:…and if we agreed to them we would be throwing away three grand’s worth of money to play for practically free.
Don’t you worry that it stunts your growth as a band, though, and that people would sooner hear you cover something they know than listen to something they don’t?
Stav: In my old band, I used to think that doing a cover wasn’t being true to our own music. But once you start playing other people’s songs, you start to learn how songs are put together.
Jake: It’s never been a problem for me, because I’m constantly writing my own songs. If people think, ‘There’s Jake and that covers band’, I don’t care. We’ve got over a hundred covers songs in the tank that we don’t rehearse - we spend our time writing and learning the craft of songwriting. I can see why some guy who works at B&Q and is in some experimental electro thing and would look at the likes of us - a nice rock n roll band with a poppy edge - and think ‘tossers’. But we want to make our money from making original music.
Why should we go out and buy your new EP Sparks?
Stav: It’s finely crafted, that’s why. A lot of effort and passion went it to that...
Jake:...and Dragon Stout.
Stav: And Dragon Stout. We went in to a studio in Northampton that you live in, like a commune. You sleep there, wake up, have your breakfast, grab a few coffees, and straight into the studio until four or five in the morning. Every day it was Dragon Stout, Red Stripe… it gets to the middle of the night and you feel like you are going through cold turkey…
Jake: …and you start knocking back pecan pies every five minutes. It’s a really nicely put together piece of music, there’s no fat on it. If you see us live, we are a real live band, but when we get to the studio we like to keep it all proper.
How are you finding the local scene at the moment?
Stav: Because we’ve been dabbling our toe in and out, and are often on weekends playing gigs that are our money-earners, we’ve not been in the scene, but we’ve been coming back for gigs again recently. I think the Nottingham scene is in good nick; as FSN showed, there are some properly good bands out there.
Jake: Like the Austin Francis Connection - they didn’t play my favourite song on the night, but their recordings just make me crease.
What other Notts acts are you feeling?
Stav: Chris Reeve and his banjo, and Atticus Anthem.
Jake: Gallery 47 for me. My dad’s dentist is his dad - I went home one time, and he was like; ‘listen to this’, and I absolutely adored it. I did a gig at The Golden Fleece where I was headlining above Gallery 47 and I was like, ‘Nooo!’ And then Freaky River Styx - who very rarely rehearse, but when they play live they are just the most explosive dirty bluesy rock quartet that I have ever heard in my entire life. And who’s that Nina…?
Jake: Yeah. Oh my God.
Stav: We saw her with The Petebox the other night, and it was amazing.
So now you’ve got Splendour under your belt, what next?
Jake: Hard work. Playing to crowds like this, but out of town. This is the biggest thing we’ve done, but we’d love to go out and conquer the world and come back.
Stav: Imagine coming back and headlining this festival with everyone knowing the songs, see people singing along. That’s what we want
The Money play the Nottingham Oxfam East Africa Appeal at the Rescue Rooms on Friday 19 August 2011.
The Money website