INTERVIEW: Pioneers

There’s been a bit of a buzz around Pioneers recently, and I got a chance to meet with them before their sold out gig at The Joiners to discuss how they all met, how it felt being played on Radio 1, and their plans for future releases.

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From left to right: Toby Gathercole (lead guitar), Sam Watts (vocals + rhythm guitar), Bailey Sandom (bass guitar), Charlie Flide (drummer).

FIRST THINGS FIRST, HOW DID YOU ALL MEET?

Charlie: Friends at school, but we weren’t all friends at school.

Sam: Through other things as well, like we’ve tried other bands before with other people.

Toby: Sam and I have been friends since we were young.

Sam: We needed a bassist, so we basically told Bailey to learn the bass.

Toby: We forced him into it.

Sam: He’s just learnt it straight away. It’s only been a year and a half since he’s been learning, so he’s not doing bad.

SO WHAT WAS THE INSPIRATION BEHIND STARTING THE BAND? WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO DO MUSIC?

Toby: Passion of music itself really.

Charlie: Me and Sam used to tweet each other about Arctic Monkeys and then ignore each other in real life for ages. Then we were at school and decided to start a band so we started doing music stuff in a shed.

Charlie: And then yeah, the band happened.

Sam: I think going to gigs as well has been one thing.

Toby: Watching Arctic Monkeys play live, like, we saw them in 2011 and it was just an ‘oh my god’ moment.

Sam: Watching gigs in Southampton Guildhall made me want to do it, like the smaller bands coming to your city to play, that sort of thing is what I like the sound of.

Toby: Watching The Wombats in Southampton Guildhall was absolutely unreal.

HOW DID YOU COME TO CREATE YOUR SOUND?

Toby: We’ve got quite different music tastes.

Sam: It’s a very broad music taste really. Charlie likes Blossoms, his more laidback alternative indie bands. Then Toby is more on the edge of pop punk music.

Toby: It’s not pop punk. Pop punk and hip-hop.

Sam: That’s what Toby’s into. He went from Wu-Tang Clan to Green Day. I just like Jamie T, Arctic Monkeys, Cage the Elephant, those sort of bands, and Bailey only listens to Stereophonics.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE SONG TO PERFORM LIVE? WHICH ONE GETS THE BEST REACTION?

Toby:Take Time’ gets the best reaction.

Sam: My personal favourite is ‘Feeling Blue’ just because everyone sings that one and because it’s a slower one you can really hear the audience.

Toby: There’s no pressure on that one. It’s an easy one to play. Yeah, I’d say ‘Feeling Blue’.

Charlie: I like the song we haven’t played live yet. We’re playing it tonight and it’s the first song we’ve done with a keyboard.

YOU’VE PLAYED QUITE A FEW GIGS ALREADY SINCE YOUR DEBUT ONE, WHAT’S THE BEST MEMORY YOU HAVE FROM ONE (SO FAR)?

Toby: Our EP launch show here at The Joiners in December, that was crazy.

Charlie: I think the words ‘sell out’ just do it for you.

Sam: Common People was good.

Charlie: Yeah, the tent was empty when we walked on and by the end it was full.

Toby: The best live moment was Common People.

YOU’VE ALSO DONE A FEW SHOWS HERE AT THE JOINERS AND HAVE PREVIOUSLY SAID IT’S YOUR FAVOURITE VENUE TO PLAY IN. WHAT IS THE BEST THING YOU FIND ABOUT IT?

Toby: Probably the sound quality. It’s just unmatchable.

Sam: They just put a lot of effort in to making sure you’re comfortable with the performance. You come to soundcheck and you’ll be here for an hour with the sound technicians until you’re happy with exactly how everything sounds.

Toby: It doesn’t feel rushed.

Sam: Sometimes you’ll go to gigs and you don’t feel very prepared, but here you know exactly how it’s going to sound before we go on stage and it takes a bit of weight off your shoulders.

Toby: There’s such a great atmosphere in the building too.

Charlie: It’s the bands who’ve played here before that make it ridiculous too, bands like Oasis and Green Day.

Toby: Green Day played here?

Sam: Yeah, there’s a video of it on The Joiners website.

Toby: That’s made my night.

IF YOU COULD HAVE ANYONE BE THE SUPPORT FOR ONE OF YOUR GIGS, WHO WOULD IT BE?

Toby: Jamie T would be sick because all of our boys love him.

Sam: If we’re talking locally, I’d say Telescenes (they used to be called Kicks) as we’re friends with them. There are people from the area we’d want to support us.

Toby: When they were Kicks they supported us a few times. They always bring a lot of action.

Sam: They’re a proper rock ‘n’ roll band, like little Liam Gallaghers on stage.

HOW HAS THE REACTION BEEN TOWARDS YOUR DEBUT EP? IS IT WHAT YOU EXPECTED?

Toby:Take Time’ being on Radio 1 is better than what we expected. It was released before the EP as a single, but I guess it still counts.

Sam: I think the next EP, as bad as it sounds, is going to be a lot better than that one. I feel like we’ve actually started discovering our natural sound a bit more. With the first EP, we were playing indie music and strictly keeping it to that, whereas now the sort of music we make is a lot more mature.

Toby: It’s a lot more developed compared to our previous music.

Sam: I’m more excited to release the new songs.

Charlie: You do think about it a lot more. With the first EP, we would just hear the riff or whatever and be like ‘oh that’s absolutely sick’ and leave it at that.

Toby: Whereas now we’ve got like 15 songs we have to whittle down into what we think are the best 5 songs. It’s harder – you think you’ve got a good song and you love it and so it is then hard to think ‘that’s not good enough to record’.

Sam: We’ve been played on local radio stations such as Solent, and 3 of the songs got onto BBC Introducing so…

Charlie: 4 songs.

Sam: …So it has been a success, but I don’t think you ever think it’s the best – you always think you can do better.

Toby: If you think your current EP is the best thing you’ll ever release there’s something wrong – you should always strive for more.

Charlie: And we’ve got a keyboard now.

Sam: Yeah, that changes everything. I’m so nervous about that tonight I couldn’t even tell you – it’s my first time playing it on stage.

Charlie: Everyone’s going to be going ‘what’s going on here then’ as soon as we use it – everyone’s used to us being a guitar band so that’s all they’ll be expecting.

IS THERE A GROUP THAT USUALLY COMES TO YOUR SHOWS THEN?

Toby: We have got a following.

Charlie: We have one group that will come to all of our gigs, but we’ve just been downstairs and we don’t recognise anyone there.

Sam: The way I see it is if everyone who comes tonight comes next time and brings one extra person that’s a success. If everyone brings a plus one each time you get new faces. The short term goal for us is getting a support slot as it will then be all new people.

Charlie: We have been offered support slots all over the place but we do want a band we know. DMAs played here recently and we knew we wouldn’t be able to support them but supporting a band like that would be amazing.

Toby: Ricky [promoter] is the one who puts on shows like DMAs at The 1865.

Sam: This show tonight is our chance to prove ourselves to him.

Toby: And then we can hopefully get onto support slots like that and that’s where you get a massive audience who may not necessarily know your music. Like at Common People this year, people came to the Common Stage because they knew it would be music similar to what they liked there, and we picked up some fans from our slot on it.

Sam: Festivals, support slots and social media is the best way.

Toby: If we do a small gig in Southampton that’s 100 capacity everyone we know here comes so they buy the tickets and we don’t really get new people coming whereas if we do support slots, there could be 10 people there, but 10 people that haven’t heard our music. If 5 people then go home and listen to us again, that’s better than having people we know coming and filling the venue out.

Charlie: Exactly. The same people will get sick of us if they keep coming.

Toby: The same people coming to our shows is great but it isn’t getting our music to the masses, it’s just keeping it in a tight knit circle. That’s what we’re now trying to do a lot of, trying to actually expand and get our music heard by other people.

WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR FUTURE RELEASES?

Sam: A string of singles.

Toby: I’m really fussy – if I release music, I want to be able to listen to it on a CD or something. We’ll release a string of singles and then release most of them on an EP so people can take it as a physical copy because I like stuff like that on vinyl. I want something physical to hold, not just a download. We are planning on recording some new tracks, some of which we’re playing tonight.

Sam: We already know what we’re likely putting on the EP.

Charlie: We could release another EP now but they’re not EP songs – they’re 4 singles if that makes sense.

Sam: They wouldn’t fit on an EP in the sense that they don’t tie in with each other. They’re like different whole songs and entities.

Toby: But we know they have got real potential.

Charlie: And we need to make a lot of big deal about all of them, we can’t just focus on one song.

Sam: Our sound is still going to be heavy.

Toby: We’ve had a lot of people say to us that no matter what song we play, we still make it sound like us every single time and I think that still carries across into the new songs. They are completely different but they still have our vibe.

Sam: The keyboard came from not wanting to keep making the same songs. If you write on a keyboard and then bring it to the guitars you manage to create something different to just strumming chords on a guitar.

Charlie: We know if we released like 4 songs like ‘Take Time’ right now everyone will be like ‘that’s good music’ but that’s it.

Toby: No, it’s just not the right thing to go forward. It’ll keep us on one path but we need to try and go higher so we need to make a very conscious decision about what songs we’re recording so when we release an album we can push it in the right ways. There’s a lot more thinking than what we thought. We just thought we’d record then release songs and people would just listen to them, but it is hard work.

Sam: There’s a lot of thinking. We overthink.

WHAT’S ON YOUR RIDER?

Sam: Fig rolls. It is what it is. There’s nothing I can say about it to be honest. It’s a good sized snack. 57p from your local shop.

Toby: We normally get beer, cider and water. As long as we’ve got them we’re fine. The fig rolls are a nice optional extra.

Sam: I got stitched up a bit but it’s fine.

Toby: If Sam had to pick one thing it would be fig rolls. Mine would be M&Ms.

Sam: Everyone has got that one thing they like. Mine is fig rolls. I don’t actually have any at the moment so it’s just getting a bit sad now.

AND LAST OF ALL, WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR 2019?

Toby: Recording new music and making sure the songs we want to record sound exactly how we want them to.

Sam: More festivals.

Toby: More festivals, more support slots with bigger bands. Basically trying to get out to people.

Sam: Less headline shows, more support slots.

Charlie: We have done a few supports before.

Sam: We supported on our first Joiners gig.

Charlie: We supported here and then headlined and sold it out, so I guess we’ve got to go backwards in a way.

Sam: It doesn’t matter the size of the support slot. If they sell well then it’s fine.

Toby: We want to find bands where we can travel to support their shows, even if it is 200 capacity ones that sell out. That’s the kind of thing we want to start doing.

Sam: I think we’re extremely lucky that Deco are supporting us tonight – they’re from Nottingham and their Facebook has 3500 likes.

Toby: We’d love to go up there and support them, like a return favour or something.

Sam: I think these tonight are the best support slots we’ve ever had for a gig before.

Toby: Tonight is a good line up.

Find Pioneers on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Spotify and Apple Music.

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