The Bays membership and sound has been evolving for about the last seven years, says Simon Richmond, who plays a variety of instruments in The Bays. The current line-up: Andy Gangadeen, Chris Taylor, Jamie Odell, and Richmond, has been going for nearly five years.
The band came together after a series of spontaneous jams bringing musical instruments together with sound sources and devices less often associated with live performance. The idea was to fuse the music and the ‘science’ and show how both could work together live.
The band gig tirelessly, with no commercial agenda, no album to push, no marketing hype. Each gig is about the moment, the experience, a shared excitement between these primal beat-wizards and their growing throng of fans.
As the Bays, did you ever approach being a band in the conventional sense?
In many ways we are a band in the most conventional sense, in that we are all about performing music live. The history of music has always been about live performance. Recorded music and its marketing is only a recent blip on the map of music. On the other hand, we don’t release music to be bought, marketed, tied-in with products or promoted.
You couldn’t get less conventional than that, and it has taken us all our strength and effort to work with promoters, agents, venues and press who tend to only see musical performance as relevant when linked to a commercial release.
What made you decide to play improvised gigs and not release your music?
We wanted to do what we enjoy the most – perform the music we create at the point of having an idea. We don’t have to haul around a tired set of fixed songs because we don’t have any songs. We don’t have to play the hits, because we make everything up from scratch each gig.
Do you rehearse? If not, why not?
There’s no point rehearsing if you don’t know what you’re going to play when you get on stage. We only really play together when we have a gig. It keeps us on our toes and I think the audience really responds to the energy of that.
How do you manage to create such excitement with your music at your live shows? How do you work together? What holds it all together?
Audiences seem to genuinely know when something new is happening in front of them, even if they are not ‘musos’. Any performance that involves risk, that has no safety net, generates a creative tension between the audience and the band. I suppose what holds it all together is the fact that this is what we love, it is what we do for a living and we kept getting asked back.
Presumably, you’ve experienced both utterly fantastic and utterly excruciating moments when you perform.
Very few excruciating moments – we always steer out of them with great speed. The exhilaration is intense, and some great venues have stuck in our minds – playing in Sri Lanka to 30,000 people on a beach, playing with Herbie Hancock at the Barbican, seeing the hillside at The Big Chill go berserk. But then again, there have been any number of amazing gigs in sweaty, smelly clubs, and at the moment we’re doing them, they’re just as great.
Who are your fans?
I wish I knew. Where do they get those freaks from?
Would you ever consider making a ‘record’ (physical or otherwise) as The Bays?
We never say never, but there wouldn’t be much point in trying to recreate in the studio the atmosphere of a live gig. Our downloads are only intended as a combination of souvenirs and a poor shadow of the gig for people who couldn’t get there.
Who are your musical heroes? Is there an artist that most inspires you, or a creative school of thought you feel drawn to?
We take our inspiration from many diverse sources – it’s as much about DJs as players. The intensity of a great club set or the groove of a live band locked in – we take inspiration from all of that. Along with red wine, fish curry, and fine cheeses.
In a way, your approach is the perfect antithesis to a popular culture that’s being decimated by file sharing: you don’t release ‘records’, and each live gig is unique. Was this deliberate?
No. It just made sense to us at the time. Now the major labels are having problems making revenue from sales, it suddenly looks like we were prescient in some way. Our approach is as in tune with musical culture as you can get – musicians getting together to perform their new ideas for people to listen to.
Is the internet killing music, or is it transforming it?
Nothing can kill music. Apart from mobile phone adverts.
What would you suggest to anyone wanting to get into music at any level today?
Go for it. There’s never been an easy or a hard time to get into music. We’ve lived by the principle of doing what we want and seeing if anyone else is interested enough to sustain us. Turns out they are.
Does anyone really need a label any more?
It’s a tricky one. There have been some great labels that have brought together musicians and helped them spread their sound, not to mention providing them with a living. There are also labels that think it’s a good idea to tell their acts what music to write according to what the marketing department thinks will sell.
Now there’s less need of physical stock, you might argue labels are less necessary, but a good label can be a great source of strength and support to an artist.
What are your thoughts on the changing music industry, how do you see it developing in future?
Part of what is liberating for us is we don’t have to have thoughts on the music industry. We intend to go on performing live until people don’t want to see us any more. The industry can switch to releasing molecular music in helium balloons if it wants, but we’ll still be about the live thing.
Can you remember the first piece of music you ever bought, what was it?
I think it was a Baron Knights 7” comedy tune about decimalisation, which I got from the newsagents.
And the last?
Some anonymous bit of house music, downloaded from Traxsource.
What are you listening to at the moment?
The keys of my laptop – might sample them later…
Why does music matter?
In the scheme of things, I don’t know if it does, but it matters to us enough to dedicate our lives to it.
We enjoy it and it makes us feel good. If we can share that with people who enjoy hearing us, then so much the better.