This year’s Glastonbury Festival features mega-artists such as U2, Coldplay and Beyonce performing live in front of tens of thousands, but it also plays host to a whole range of bands and performers from every musical style and genre you could possibly imagine – providing the heartbeat of the event.
M caught up with alt-folk band Urusen to find out about their Glastonbury experience.
How does Glastonbury differ from other festivals you have played at?
Glastonbury Festival is a phenomenon. No single person knows about everything that’s there. It is a city that once a year emerges from the consciousness of hundreds of people, wonderful things happen, and then it vanishes back into the ground. In the same way for bands, the festival is what you make it as well. You can’t just turn up and play, you have to stay there – and not just because of the huge logistics involved in actually getting you, your band and your gear on site. And you definitely can’t just play where you intended to play, there are so many opportunities around the festival to just keep performing, on public stages or backstage. Glastonbury is such a large and special gathering of people that when you play you can’t help but feel, in your own way, a little part of that history.
What is your favourite song to play live and why?
We have a song called 50 & 9, which we play if we want to bring people into a tent or towards a stage. It starts simply with Pete on guitar and singing, and then when the bass and drums kick in, everyone in the band starts tapping along, and the more we enjoy it, the more the audience starts tapping along too. Then the big harmonies that break up the verse fill the stage with a different type of sound, with Nick on cello playing as lusciously as he can, and by the end we’re all going for it as much as we ever do. If we do it well, it’s the song of ours most likely to get a crowd up and dancing. And when they do, it is a really awesome feeling for any band – that people are up and enjoying your music makes everything worthwhile. It’s a song we always look forward to playing.
You get to curate a night on one of the stages this year, which three British acts do you choose and why?
There are hundreds of different permutations of this depending on who you speak to in the band, but one potential would be…
First on would be Sam Brookes, a really fantastic singer who’s just getting ready to release his debut album and needs the break he deserves. I’d put him on while the sun is just setting and people are still sitting on the grass, drink in hand. To get people up to the stage, we’d put on Wild Beasts. And then if budget’s not a consideration I’d get Radiohead down, whack the most out of our lighting rig, turn the volume up and get them to play all the classics.
Have you performed at/been to Glastonbury before?
Yes, this will be our third Glastonbury Festival performing as a band. Myself (Ben) and Peter both grew up nearby in Bath and have been coming for years as festival goers, so when that first opportunity to play came along in 2009 it was a real dream come true. Kieran and Jay had both been before too, but it was the first Glastonbury for Nick and Kieran, Urusen’s cellist and drummer. They were totally bowled over by the whole experience, especially to be playing as well.
If so, what were your highlights?
In terms of performing, playing on The Bandstand in the early evening, looking out as the sun sets over towards the pyramid stage in the distance, and the crowd around you smiles and sways in time to your music is a sublime experience. That being said we’ve definitely been lucky with the weather so far as it’s been the same both previous years – though this time we’re playing after the sun will have set. As an audience, I think our collective band highlight was seeing Stevie Wonder last year on the Pyramid Stage.
What tips would you offer to new bands looking to building up a following for their music?
Find ways of bringing your music to a new audience. Festivals are great for this. It won’t suit every band, but hand out flyers and tell about your gig – it really can generate a crowd of potential new fans – festival audiences are perfect as they are already having an awesome time and therefore totally up for it! Have something for them to take away; a flyer or CD, so when they wake the next afternoon they remember your name and look you up. The other great thing about festivals is they put you in front of people from all over the country so when tour, suddenly you can find you may even have a crowd of fans in a town that you’ve never played, which is areally nice thing to happen.
What else are you up to this year – new releases, other festivals/tours?
Urusen have just finished recording a new album with producer Steve Osborne (KT Tunstall, PJ Harvey, Elbow) and are now looking at ways of releasing it later in the year. We’re just booking a series of gigs around the country for July, and hope to independently release a single or two from the new recordings around that time. Festival wise we’ll be playing Secret Garden Party and Purbeck Folk Festival later in year, and we’re the first band confirmed for 2000 Trees Festival next year. But keep an eye on our listings at www.urusen.co.uk as we’re booking gigs all the time and a few more festivals may go up during the summer.
Urusen are playing at Avalon Café (Thursday 4pm) and The Bandstand (Sunday 8.15pm)