Flight Brigade: The critics' favourites, mixing hard riffs and delicate harmonies

Saturday 20th October 2018

Tony Cummings quizzed Ollie Baines, the lead singer of Hampshire-based seven-piece FLIGHT BRIGADE

Continued from page 1

Flight Brigade: The critics' favourites, mixing hard riffs and delicate harmonies

Ollie: Yes, we all are. We've grown up in a church community in Hampshire. But I suppose most of the music we listen to is mainstream. A lot of the lyrical content tends to have more of a meaning to it; it can be slightly hidden at times but the music has got a spirit about it. I remember talking to you at Creation Fest saying I think music has a spirit to it. So as Christians you can face difficult issues, very common human struggles but you can face it with hope. I think that is something that is such a huge advantage to Christians because if you've faced the darkness in the world and there is no hope, your music ends up sounding quite despairing, depressing - especially if it's honest. But the flip side of that is to produce music that's just quite throw away. Poppy and up but then it doesn't really have much content. I think it's an advantageous position to be in, in many ways.

Tony: Coming back to this first single, was "Stranger Things" one of the first songs of the batch of songs that are making up the album that you recorded in the studio?

Ollie: No, that was one of the later ones. We recorded three songs with Chris earlier, and then we went back and finished the album at the end of last year. This was one of the ones that were written fairly late on, not long before we went into the studio. We've released "Stranger Things" then the plan is in six weeks we'll release another track, called "Alligators". It's about the guitarist's grandfather in the Second World War. That's going to be released around the time of the centenary of the end of the First World War.

Tony: Alligators? The Second World War? Tell me more.

Ollie: I know; it's a bizarre title. Tom's grandfather lived in Faringdon and he used to spend time by this huge oak tree and the bark of the tree reminded him of alligator skin. But it also relates to people coming back from war having been toughened up and having experienced so much. That's why it's called "Alligators". There are a few animal names in the album; it became a bit of a theme so we try to get animals in our song titles if we can. We've got a song called "Where Eagles Dare" and leopards are mentioned in that. Then we've got "Chased By Wolves"; we've got more animal references than that.

Tony: What are your feelings on streaming? That's become the dominant means for people accessing music.

Ollie: I think it's more of a level playing field in many ways. You can record and release stuff without a major label behind you which is really good. Potentially there's so much money to be made in music from streaming, for people paying for subscriptions like Netflix, for example.

Tony: It seems very small amounts of that get through to the artist.

Ollie: That's the problem. I think there's pressure on Spotify. The guys that publish us and various people are putting pressure on Spotify to make it fairer to artists. I think that will happen in time; it's certainly not there yet. But I think streaming will be good for artists in time. It's a good way for people to discover you. Spotify are now doing a thing where you can submit your own songs to Spotify play list. They've become such a powerful thing now; they've pretty much taken over radio in some respects. If you get on those big play lists it can do wonders for you. But there is a fair way to go, obviously.

Tony: What about the hard financial reality? The received wisdom, and I've been hearing this for years, is that until you get a major hit, whatever the field of music you're working in, being in a band is effectively a vow of poverty. There's very, very little money. Once all the expenses have been paid - the petrol, the equipment - it doesn't make much financial sense. Everybody involved can sometimes go years where it's very hairy. You're a married man with family so is that particularly difficult for you?

Ollie: I think you have to love it. Like you say, it makes no financial sense so people in the band work as well. You have to sacrifice a lot to make it all work and we're a band of seven as well. The drummer has got a baby boy and the violinist has got a couple of kids. People make sacrifices but also you have to learn to be really smart with the money you've got because everything is so expensive, PR, recording, mixing and mastering and all those kinds of things. We've had to learn to do a lot of things ourselves. All the mixing on the album has been done by us. We were very fortunate to do the album with Chris because he really helped us out with that; he sorted us out in terms of the cost of it. Bands today are increasingly becoming self-contained businesses just in order to be as efficient as possible with the money you do make.

Tony: I know you guys love playing festivals - Glastonbury, Greenbelt, Big Church Day Out.

Ollie: For festival organizers, having a big band on stage is quite a draw. So we tend to find that the best and biggest gigs for us are always the festivals and the festival season. We've got a live agent that's been fantastic for us. We play smaller gigs when we tour around releases and singles; you kind of do that to keep yourself sharp, to be constantly improving. Come festival season, if you can get some decent festivals and put on a really good show then I suppose your reputation grows and you can charge more and stuff. Festival season is the most fun in terms of gigs by far. Although you can play a fairly small club in Bristol, say, and loads of people will turn up and it will just be unbelievably amazing. It's very hard to tell. I suppose that's the world of performance. It can be completely different from one night to the next. One that you think is going to be tiny and awful can end up being just incredible.

Tony: Finishing off with another faith question - your faith is clearly very important to you. Do you pray before you go on stage?

Ollie: We do, before every gig. Unless sometimes it's so chaotic that you stumble on stage hoping you're wearing trousers. In those instances sometimes we don't but we usually pray beforehand. It's great. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
About Tony Cummings
Tony CummingsTony Cummings is the music editor for Cross Rhythms website and attends Grace Church in Stoke-on-Trent.

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