"It would have been very easy for us to give up by now. But the passion we feel for the music has kept us going" – hmv.com talks to Canterbury
Surrey four-piece Canterbury have never been a band to do things in the conventional way. Formed back in 2005, the band released their debut album Thank You as a free download and followed it up in 2012 with Heavy In The Dark, an album they released on their own bedroom label Sweet Lime Records.
This time out they've teamed up with Hassle Records to put out new album Dark Days, but they still had to fund the thing themselves.
hmv.com sat down with Mike Sparks and Luke Prebble to talk about their new record and cutting their own path in the music industry…
How did making this record compare to making Heavy In The Day?
Mike: "I think the main difference was the time we had to make it. All our other albums have had years worth of material on there, obviously the first record you have your whole life to write and then for the second album we had a good three or four years to write that, on this, it wasn't until we had everything sorted in terms of getting it out that we really started writing. We had six months to write, we had a deadline, that made it a very different experience, it made us work in a different way, but we enjoyed that."
Luke: "This is much more of an album, rather than a collection of songs, it's a period of time in the band's career."
Last time out, you put the whole album out yourself, this time, you're working with Hassle Records, why the change? Did you not fancy doing it again yourselves?
Luke: "It's not that we didn't want to, last time was a massive learning curve and it was more that we didn't have any other options but to do it ourselves. With this one, we had the offer from Hassle, it was nice to get involved with a label with more infrastructure and more opportunities for us. Anyone would pick that over doing it on their own label I think."
You funded the record through a Pledge campaign, why did you choose to go that way?
Luke: "It made absolute sense for us, in this band, there's just us and our fans, there's nothing else. It's a good way to show that off I think."
There have been lots of Pledge campaigns recently offering lots of different prizes, some have been celebrated, and some have been heavily ridiculed. How did you make sure that didn't happen to you?
Mike: "I think it's quite easy to be cynical about it, but obviously it does work."
Luke: "At first, I think it felt a bit cap in hand, it was basically saying 'I'm skint can I have some money please'?"
Mike: "But now I think it's absolutely no secret how hard it is for bands to simply afford to make music. We wanted to keep it as basically a year long pre-order, we didn't want to put prizes up like 'Go to the zoo with us', or asking people round for dinner."
Luke: "Pledge were quite involved, they suggested lots of ideas to us and advised on how much to charge. If we'd been on our own, we wouldn't have had a clue how to price things, but the guys at Pledge really helped us out with that."
Mike: "It also meant that we walked into the studio and we'd already sold 600 copies, so we had a sort of guarantee that people were keen to hear it, which was reassuring during the recording."
Would you do it again to pay for your next album?
Luke: "I'd definitely consider it. We already had a label set up to take the album, we didn't have to shop it around. I feel like every band should have a Pledge campaign, no matter how big you are, you might as well have your pre-order running for as long as you can, it's a great way to get revenue and give your fans some cool exclusives."
Do you feel like this album is a particularly dark record?
Mike: "We're getting that a lot, it's mostly from the title I think. It's an album that reflects a particular six months in our lives, we were writing naturally about how we felt, writing about whether our band would survive. It sums up what we were thinking during that time, it's a light at the end of a tunnel record."
You're three records into your career now, is there another band you look to for inspiration? You've had quite a unique career so far…
Luke: "I think you're right, there's no real blueprint for what we've done because it would have been very easy for us to give us by now. But because of the passion and the intensity we feel for the music, that has kept us going. There's no direct comparison, people reference Biffy Clyro when they're talking to us, how long it took them to explode, but there's no one band we look to."
Have you come close to giving up?
Mike: Oh yeah, very. It always comes back to the same things, the same basic frustrations like not being able to take your girlfriend out for dinner. You get paid very well emotionally in this band, but day-to-day life, you often end up thinking 'I'd just like a little bit more money, just to live'.
Luke: "The thing is, it's still going up, we're doing better with each record, it might seem very gradual, but we're still going up. If that stops, we might well feel differently about the band."
Where do you think Canterbury sit in terms of bands who are out there at the moment?
Luke: "We struggle to place ourselves anywhere, I've heard people call us a mixture between Two Door Cinema Club and Foo Fighters, we're not a million miles away from either, but we certainly don't sit easily alongside them."
Are there any songwriters you really look up to?
Mike: "Paul Simon. Elton John. Lindsey Buckingham. That's when songwriting was at it's best. I can hear a song now and think 'That's a wonderful song', but the chances are it's just a carbon copy of what happened 30 years ago. Those are the kind of people we look to."
So finally, what does the rest of 2014 have in store for you? More touring?
Luke: "Absolutely, we're hoping to be going throughout the year. We've never had much of a shot at any of the bigger festivals, so we'd really like to be in contention for those come the summer time."
Canterbury's new album Dark Days is out now and can be previewed by clicking on the icon in the top-right-hand corner of this page.