Gilles Peterson and his Brownswood imprint continues to support budding musicians across the UK with The Future Bubblers scheme as we see it enter it’s second year of running. With applications closing on Friday 19th August, this is your chance to give your productions, music, and ideas the exposure they deserve.
We spoke to Amy Frenchum, Project Manager at Future Bubblers about the work they do, their events across the UK, and what you can do to get involved.
Tell us about ‘Future Bubblers’ and how it started, you’re in the application stage of the second year now, what’s the background with Brownswood and the goals you have for the project overall?
The Arts Council approached us and suggested that we went for a special funding status which is called NPO (National Portfolio Foundation) and it basically enables organisations like art foundations to deliver more ambitious programmes. Brownswood music as a company before Future Bubblers launched is a very independently minded company, in terms of the kind of artists that we sign to the label, the kind of events that we promote and the kind of artists that we’re involved with.
We’ve never had a situation previously, which Future Bubblers enabled us to do, where we can work with no commercial pressure at all. It has basically given us total freedom to work with artists on a very creative level for their own benefit, with no return to us at all other than the satisfaction of seeing young people that are making very innovative, out there, great music being supported and uplifted. It comes from an ethos from the label (Brownswood) in terms of the kind of artists that we want to work with, cause thats just what Gilles (Peterson) represents. He represents a certain kind of sound and a certain kind of music.
“With the age of the internet, there’s so much music happening everywhere, its online and its rammed down your throat all the time”
We put together a programme that was aiming on many levels to be totally outside the box in terms of the cities we were working with because there was a real effort in our project to avoid the traditional London bias. You get these stories of kids with mixtapes walking up and down high street Kensington like “sign me, sign me’ so we were trying to encourage talent to stay in the city that first inspired and supported them, and give them a network in those cities to give them a reason to stay and develop.
There’s a real bias in terms of promotors and music in general to book the safe stuff, like indie-guitar bands. In a music industry that’s not as buoyant, you can’t afford to take risks, which is totally fair enough, it’s more about us putting these opportunities and networks in place, that means it’s now more likely that these kind of acts will get a platform and get booked.
How did you help support last year’s ‘Bubblers’ after they were selected?
In terms of the educational side, each year ten ‘Future Bubblers’ come through, they all get a real life industry mentor, that is specific to their individual needs and vision for their project. Its not about trying to be like an uptight classroom vibe, its more about jargon free, real life, just because it’s not been done before, doesn’t mean you can’t do it this way. Its trying to make everything very human and remove all the set ways of doing things, so they have a freedom of knowledge, to compliment their freedom of creativity.
With the kind of music that Future Bubblers and Brownswood operates with, its quite underground and niche, although it’s broad sound-wise, it’s very specific in terms of the kind of music it represents. It’s about giving as many people as possible the chance to experience and appreciate this kind of music. Especially in the world of bedroom producers theres a tendency for people to get kind of hauled up behind their laptops, tapping away in the dark, lose all pigment in their skin, and the music doesn’t ever see the light of day. You lose the support and encouragement that you can have with a network of people to connect on a human level.
That’s where we’re at, we’re in the second year, the focus cities for this yea rare Sheffield and Hull, but for the application process anyone from England can apply. It just happens to be that we do these complimentary activities in two cities each year.
What made you choose those cities, you were in Salford and Nottingham last year, what was the thinking behind Sheffield and Hull?
It’s a difficult one, we’re working with the Arts Council so there are areas for them that are focus points. We’re also very conscious of not flying into these places and being like “yo, we’re from London, this is how you do it”. It’s not like that at all, because you know there’s loads of amazing networks already operating around the country. A lot of them fall under the radar, they don’t get much national promotion.
We’re travelling to these cities and spending time hanging out with people and finding out what they need specifically. So it’s a mixture of knowing that the Arts Council have an awareness, that there’s a lack of support for this kind of music in those cities, but we know that theres a burgeoning scene bubbling and we want to galvanise that and get behind it.
“We want them to feel part of a kind of lineage of I guess what Gilles and Brownswood has traditionally represented”
I guess it’s interesting for you guys as well, because there’s such a scene in London, that’s the main focus for where a lot of left field music comes out of. So its more about you guys going out and learning, and saying “what is the scene in Hull?’, because I’ve got no idea what the music scene in Hull would be like, so I guess its more of a learning curve for you as well initially?
Definitely, and I mean its so refreshing just to be there for that purpose, there’s no material motives, its a very pure project in that sense. Its really interesting as well, to reference your point, how each of the cities is so unique, what we do and how we delivered it in Nottingham, is totally different to what makes sense for Hull and again for Sheffield. With the age of the internet, there’s so much music happening everywhere, its online and its rammed down your throat all the time like “quick I’ve got to know about this from Antigua and this thing from Cuba”, but sometimes its nice to take a bit of time and see what’s going on in your country.
The spectrum of kids that we work with, the year 1 bubblers that have come through its a really nice spectrum musically and geographically. They’re from like Nottingham, Loughborough, Hull, and I was actually really surprised when we did the original listening panel, in a really nice plot twist, only two of them were from London and that was purely based musically from our selection.
“We’ve got this network of people that are really genuine and hard working… their belief in the project means so much more than how many column inches they’ve had.”
It was quite nice to see places like Nottingham and the Midlands involved, because that’s where I grew up, and there’s not a lot in terms of being able to get your music out there, especially this genre and the more left field, it’s very concentrated on ‘indie’ bands like you say.
Yeah its the safe stuff. Obviously there’s a place for it, but it’s just a shame that it kind of tends to be the same genre dominating each city. I’m not claiming to be an expert, but the four cities that we’ve been to, that’s the resounding comment – that you have to be in an indie guitar band for them to book you.
In terms of the mentors… was it just a natural process with the people that got involved with it?
Its difficult because when you’re pairing people with a mentor you’re kind of operating on two levels, you’re matching their skill set and their music taste, but its also a personality thing. So we wanted to make sure with all of the mentors that there’s a long term connection with them via Gilles and Brownswood. So it’s really important to have that kind of trust that we knew that they would deliver something valuable to the young people. If you watch all of the imagery that we do and the videos, a big underlying message is that we want it to feel like a family. We want them to feel part of a kind of lineage of I guess what Gilles and Brownswood has traditionally represented.
It’s kind of a weird one, because when we first started speaking to the ‘Bubblers’ they were like “yeah, yeah I want Skepta to be my mentor”. We probably could have made it happen if we wanted to, but it almost seems an unnecessary glamourisation of what we’re trying to do. We know that we’ve got this network of people that are really genuine and hard working, maybe not in the limelight mainstream, but their skill set and their passion and their belief in the project means so much more than how many column inches they’ve had or how many twitter followers they’ve got.
Going forward, have you planned anything next year beyond the recruitment for Hull and Sheffield?
We’re hoping to announce the next wave of ‘Bubblers’, end of September – October, so we’ve got time to do the listening panel and stuff. So that’s where we’re at at the moment, and then obviously there’s the third year, but we haven’t chosen the cities yet for that or anything…
So you’re going to get this year out of the way first and then see where it takes you?
Yeah, I’m a massive believer in the universe giving us signs, so we obviously have feelers out for where we want to go to next but, for example the guy from ‘Hull 2017’ emailed us and kind of put that idea out there and it just made total sense that we did something with them, with it being the city of culture
Because it’s not the most obvious city?
No it’s not at all, and Liam Revenue, who’s one of our year one Bubblers, he’s from Hull, and his music is so exciting, and like I said that was the universe aligning and that is a really nice kind of story line in the project. It’s kind of like that family connection, it all felt really natural, nothing felt forced, and it kind of just fell into place.
I guess he’s a nice sort of advert for people wanting to apply this year from Hull, by seeing him involved with it and things?
And obviously you do notice that, like when Nottingham was a focus city for last year, we did notice that there was a stronger interest and a larger number of applicants from Nottingham.
For people wanting to actually apply this year, is it just a case of going over to your site?
Yeah if you head to the website, there’s a very very simple application form. The big thing for us on that as well, was like removing that barrier, so its not making a big over the top application process. Alternatively, in each of the focus cities, theres these really cool old-school demo drop-off boxes that people can go and drop in like a CD or a mixtape and kind of have that physical connection to the project. On the website there’s the list of where you can find all of the demo drop-off boxes. The application is one track and literally like just write 50 words about yourself.
Amazing, its nice to see it being so simple. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to us, we’ll keep a close eye on the upcoming ‘Bubblers’ later on this year.
For anyone wanting to enter this year’s project, the application process is open until the end of this week, so head over to the site posted below for all the info on how to apply and where the drop off points are located.