The Bays live in the musical moment, free from the constraints of playing the big songs. GUM spoke with band member Simon Richmond to learn how they have been working to make performance their product.
Are the Bays a reaction to the music industry or an experiment within it?
We are a traditional and conventional band in the sense of the history of music but also a reaction to the phenomena of music becoming a commodity to be sold and marketed as a type of currency.
What does improvisation mean to you as a performer?
Shitting myself, largely. It’s about not being complacent and relying on tried and tested sounds and compositions. I’m not against the principle of writing but my experiences as a musician within the industry have shown me that the most interesting part of the process is the moment of the day. What we like to do is try and take the excitement of the moment and present it as part of the performance. Its not like jazz improvisation in the sense that we do not go off on a mad noodle of self-expression while the other band members sit back and the next person starts over. We do not do solos in the Bays. It’s more about a collective voice and the grooves, a series of phases of repetition and making people jump around in a slightly more club-environment.
Are there any discussions about what will be played before the band goes on stage and does the band have any idea what it will be playing as the gig ends?
We have been playing together for a long time, the best part of seven years. You kind of just know what will work. If you’re headlining a massive festival on a Saturday night you know that you have to go out and do some big things. On the other hand, when we were doing the Heritage Orchestra sets in arts venues we knew that there was no point trying to get a rave going in Warwick Arts Centre at 3pm on a Wednesday afternoon. Sometimes during sound checks I think that we’ve come up with something special and when we try to replicate what we had it doesn’t work, so planning something is all very well but until you get out and see what is happening
Do you think it is important to give the crowd what they want?
Well it is interesting, at a recent gig we were playing some very laid back tunes in a club full of very up for it people and after twenty minutes the set went into a more subtle kind of understated style of playing. It was apparent after a very short time that it was not going to go down well and we realised that we had to bang out the big guns. It’s not always that you have to give people what they want but we like to play in places that are sympathetic to what we do. I mean, we would not turn up at the British Legion and expect a good reaction for the punters.
As a group that refuse to record or release any produced material, can you explain what impact you think this process has upon a song?
It is not so much that we refuse to, but I don’t think that is relevant to what we do and what we are about. The Bays are about the energy of the moment and creating kind of feeling that does not lend itself to being listened to repeatedly. We put up live shows on our web site but they are missing something, the honesty of the moment. It’s really refreshing because we do not have to trawl over the recordings over and over looking for the perfect song – what will be played on the radio, what will get signed. We only have to worry about what it sounds like live so every set is different. I think that is a real strength.
How did the band come to collaborate with the Heritage Orchestra?
Every now and again Andy [Andy Gangadeen, the drumming driving force behind the band] and I cook up various harebrained schemes during all-day drinking sessions and on this occasion we were talking about how to incorporate more people into the improvisation process. After about three years of planning we were able to get the funding required from the Arts Council. We used notational software where the score was written live on stage in real-time appearing on flat screen TVs in front of the Orchestra.
What about Herbie Hancock?
That was amazing. We had been asked to play at a show he was curetting at the Barbican and we had been told that there was a small chance that he might come out had jam with us. When the crowd started to arrive it became clear that there had been some mix up with the tickets because people thought that they were going to see him play, we nearly had a middle class riot on our hands. The organizers then asked us if we could go on earlier with Herbie as the fifth Bay. It was a real honour.
Any plans for a return to Glasgow?
We’ve been approached about playing Kelburn Castle in June as part of a graffiti project and we are trying to rustle up something like the Arches and the Sub Club to coincide with that gig, if it happens. Yea, we love playing Glasgow, shame it’s such a long drive.