Belfast's answer to Radiohead on why giving away music is the way forward. Click Play Audio to listen to 'Laid Open'
Belfast-based three-piece Escape Act launch their debut album, Loosely Based on Fiction, in Lavery’s on Saturday, December 13.
Local band releases album, nothing unusual in that you might think - but never before has a Northern Irish band released an album like this... literally.
The ten tracks on Loosely Based on Fiction have already been released on the internet – one a week on ten different blogs – and the entire album is available for free download on the net. Like Radiohead before them, Escape Act believe that the secret to success is the modern music industry is not massive record deals and distribution but word of mouth and on-line downloads.
‘We have been looking at a new way of branding our music. Rather than try to sell 1,000 CDs – and probably failing - why not get a 1000 people to download your songs and hopefully 100 will like it and ten will come to the gig and buy the CD and merchandise,’ explains Richard Dale, bassist and business brain behind Escape Act.
So far, Escape Act’s radical approach to distributing their music seems to be paying off. Their off-kilter alt-pop, full of echoes of '90s indie heroes like Pavement and Guided by Voices as well as early '80s psychidelica, has won rave reviews in music mags of the calibre of AU and Hot Press.
‘It’s often about how organised you are,’ observes Dale. ‘If you’re proud of what you’ve done, confident in what you’ve done, then put a copy of your music into people’s hands. However, I’m not sure how useful a good write up in the music press is, especially early in your career when it can create too much expectation and there mightn’t be anything there to back it up.’
Having been in and around the Belfast scene for the best part of 15 years, Dale has some sage advice for up-and-coming bands who think a headline gig in Auntie Annie’s is a guarantee of success.
‘It saddens me to see bands who feel they’ve achieved something when, in reality, they haven’t even reached the first rung on the ladder It’s about knowing what’s real and what’s not. You’ve got to be true to yourself. If I’m sitting on my arse, not doing anything, when I could be securing us a gig or somehow pushing the band forward, well, then I feel that I’ve short-changed (band mates) Chris (Heaney) and Alan (Beattie), sold the band and what we’re capable of short.’
Escape Act are one band who could never be accused of being slackers. All three work full time – Dale is self-employed, Heaney and Beattie both teachers – and most of their free time is spent either writing and recording or stuffing envelopes with their uniquely designed CDs, vinyl, t-shirts, stickers and badges.
Dale sees the DIY ethic as essential to getting ahead in the music business. ‘The music industry landscape is changing dramatically. Record labels aren’t what they once used to be, indies have a lot more authenticity and reach. We released Loosely Based on Fiction on our own label and will continue to work on that basis. It’s a cliché, but the internet has really opened things up for new bands. Making a success of the band is about making those relationships and connections.’
Loosely Based on Fiction is a bone fide true story of media savvy and great tunes. Escape Act don’t intend to be giving their music away forever, though, – they have plans to licence the album in Europe and the US and plans are afoot for a follow-up – so keep an eye out for what contortionist’s trick Belfast’s answer to Radiohead come up with next.
Escape Act launch Loosely Based on Fiction with a special gig at Lavery's Attic, Saturday, December 13.