Indie Minded Interview: Narrow Plains
Narrow Plains is a 3 man acoustic rock band hailing from London, UK. They recently took the time to talk with us about who they are, what they do and why their music hasn’t been picked up for a soundtrack spot for a movie yet. Enjoy!
Indie Minded: Hi Guys. Thanks for joining us today. For our readers who are unfamiliar, why don’t we start with an intro. How did you guys come together and when, who’s who, who does what and where does the name Narrow Plains come from?
Narrow Plains: Hi, thanks for the invitation! We have Charlie the guitarist and lead vocalist, Stu on drums/backing vocals, and myself on bass/backing vocals. Stu and I are actually brothers and all three of us went to the same school in Caterham, Surrey. Whilst it was long before the beginning of Narrow Plains, our passion for writing and performing music really began there. One teacher used to organise an annual rock show where students in bands were able to perform in front of the whole school; it was always the highlight of the year and everyone wanted to form groups to be a part of it. Stu and I played in a band together for a few months, but then I kicked him out because it wasn’t cool to have your own brother in your band when you’re aged 14! Charlie arrived at the school in Year 9 and they both formed their own band and have pretty much stayed together musically since then, even playing during holidays as a duo at the odd open mic night throughout their university years. It was during those years that Charlie came up with the song ideas that eventually became our debut EP, ‘Somewhere In Between’.
Once Charlie and Stu had both graduated, they wanted to continue playing music together and decided that they wanted to record the songs but also felt that they needed more depth. They asked me if I wanted to play bass for them on the recordings so I agreed having taken a break from music whilst I was at Uni. It was actually the first time I’d played bass, having always played guitar up until then, but I was up for the challenge! We were really pleased with how the recordings sounded and decided to release them as an EP and become a band. We found it really hard to find a name for ourselves but eventually thought that ‘The Narrows’ and ‘The Plains’ were both good ideas that represented the sound of our music. We didn’t want to be another ‘The’ band however, so we ended up putting both words together and agreeing on Narrow Plains.
IM: How would you describe your sound and what is your creative process like? Who are your main influences?
NP: We have a fairly simple set-up with an acoustic guitar, an electric bass and a bespoke stripped-down drum kit centred around a cajon. It all comes together to give a clear, crisp, and almost exposed acoustic feel where listeners can pick out all the individual instruments, vocals and layers in our songs. Recently we’ve included harmonicas and better vocal harmonies to give more of an Indie feel to our sound. We’ve been compared to artists such as Mumford and Sons, Ben Howard and Newton Faulkner – all of whom have influenced us in our song writing. All three of us were influenced by modern American rock music whilst growing up so you might also be able to pick out elements of Foo Fighters, Blink-182 and Jimmy Eat World in our material.
Writing songs is a collaborative process – usually Charlie will come up with a guitar phrase and a vocal melody for a verse or chorus. If we all agree it has potential we add bass and drums and begin to build other sections around it until it becomes a full song, then polish it off with some harmonic backing vocals.
IM: Your debut EP, “Somewhere in Between” was released in 2012 and I love it, especially the title track and “So Rewind.” As soon as I heard those songs, I was hooked and honestly, I think either could be part of a soundtrack for a movie. Has this ever been mentioned before? If not, what’s going on here? We need to make this happen. 🙂
NP: Haha, thanks! Unfortunately we haven’t been approached by any movie directors just yet, but of course we’d love to hear our songs on a film! We currently have an exclusivity agreement with a company called North Star Media who proactively approach film makers like Universal with their song catalogue full of potential soundtracks, including all of our released material. Who knows, you could hear a Narrow Plains song in the new James Bond film…but probably not! I think that soundtracks are one of the most important things in a movie and it’s great when you have one that you remember afterwards. Everyone will always associate ‘The Graduate’ with Simon and Garfunkel. If we could do that for someone’s movie we’d be very happy.
IM: You guys recently hit the number 2 spot on the reverbnation chart in the UK just a couple of weeks ago. Well-deserved and a big congratulations for that achievement. What do you think caused that climb up the chart 2 years after the EP was released?
NP: When we released the EP we were a completely unknown band so it has taken a lot of time to build up a following. We’ve spent the last two and a half years gigging around London, generating a social media presence, playing at small to medium sized festivals, doing radio and web interviews like this to try and make a name for ourselves. It’s really great to see it all paying off and we’re all really proud of the Reverbnation chart achievement.
IM: The music industry has obviously changed with the internet and indie bands need to work really hard to bring their music to the front of the herd so to speak. How important is it for an indie band in today’s world to maintain that social media presence and interact with fans? Which of you generally handles your social media accounts?
NP: Over the last decade social media has become hugely important for bands to get their music heard by a wider audience and to interact with fans and followers – it’s basically the norm for all bands now. We understood right from the beginning of Narrow Plains that if we wanted the band to go anywhere, we would need to constantly invest time in social media. These days, it’s as (if not more) important than gigging in terms of getting your name out there and your music heard. We’ve easily been able to reach people all across the globe and we chat to them every day. We’ve all been contributing to the social media accounts over the last two and a half years – Basically, whenever people tweet at us, all three of our phones vibrate!
IM: Another modern tool available to indie artists is crowdfunding such as Kickstarter. Have you ever utilized that as a financing option? If so, how did that go? If not, why not?
NP: We recorded our EP ‘Somewhere in Between’ really cheaply using one microphone, a laptop and some computer software. Back then we hadn’t even properly formed the band so I doubt we could have convinced anyone to fund it! We recorded our double A-side single ‘So Rewind/Keep You Anyway’ in a similar manner and we are currently looking at a variety of financing options for our debut album.
IM: I know you’re all big proponents of performing live. If you could perform at any venue in the world, which one would it be and why? I’m curious if you’d go big and informal or small and intimate.
NP: We all watch Glastonbury every year – Stu and Charlie were lucky enough to get tickets in 2012 when they arguably had their best ever line-up with bands like Mumford and Sons, Ben Howard and Haim. There’s just something about the atmosphere that gives you goose bumps, even from just watching on TV. I guess it feels like the whole place becomes the centre of the music universe for that weekend in June when everyone tunes in from around the world. Playing there would be an absolute honour for us.
IM: If you could collaborate with any one musician, living or dead, who would it be and why that specific person?
NP: I think we’d have to go with Newton Faulkner. He has a similar stripped back acoustic style of music to us and has inspired the ‘slap’ guitar playing technique Charlie uses in some of our songs. He grew up in the same area as us, seems really fun and chilled out so we’d have a lot in common and I’m sure he’d be really easy to work with. Hmm you’ve got me wondering what the songs would sound like now…
IM: You’ve been working on new songs this year, when can we expect the sophomore EP release from Narrow Plains and what can we expect from you in 2015?
NP: Yes we’ve been working on new songs since the end of the festival season and have spent a fair amount of time in the studio already. There’ll be new material out next year and we’ll be making a big announcement towards the end of January on SW1 Radio, London. We’ll also be playing some of the brand new songs during the radio show as well as some of the older ones on our EP and latest Single. Sign up to our mailing list for a notification of when the radio show will be and keep checking our website!
IM: Before we let you go, we always like to ask, if we were to look at your phone or iPod, what would we find as your “guilty pleasure” aka someone you’d be embarrassed for others to know you listen to?
NP: Proud to say Katy Perry, no I’m not embarrassed at all!
IM: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us today and best of luck in the future!
NP: No worries, take it easy and have a great Christmas.