Indie electro-pop band Fabrik calls Birmingham home. Here the band’s guitarist Shaun shares his tips on the thriving and vibrant music scene.
How long have you lived in Birmingham?
I was born in Birmingham and have spent most of my life living in the city. I’m currently in exile in Wolverhampton, a 30-minute drive away, but still spend as much time as possible in Brum. Our studio is in the Jewellery Quarter in the city centre; it has a real energy, things feel possible there. It wasn’t until I lived in a smaller city that I realised it had that feel to it.
How did you establish yourself on the Birmingham music scene? What were the challenges?
My first Birmingham gig was at Scruffy Murphy’s in Dale End, a real rocker’s pub. I was in an indie/punk band called Iasonic and we were on with some awful, pretentious trio who were slagging us off because we didn’t have any effects pedals. We couldn’t afford train fares, let alone pedals! The first Fabrik gig was at Mama Roux’s in Digbeth for a really great event called Shanty Town. In terms of challenges, stylistically we’re different from a lot of bands, so it’s hard for us finding like-minded bands to share a bill with. We also realise that although gigs in Brum are relatively easy to get, there’s not much point in us playing some pub on Tuesday night to three people for no money – we’ve done all that. We tend to organise our own gigs when we’re releasing something.
Which venues in Birmingham are great for gigging?
The Hare & Hounds is a hub for live music and is one of the best for sound. Mama Roux’s has a nice ambience. Both venues have stages which is a plus; I’m not a fan of playing in the corner of a pub and having to move my guitar neck when someone wants to get past to go to the toilet. For anyone just starting out who wants to play anywhere and everywhere, showcase nights at The Sunflower Lounge and Actress & Bishop are good. They’re small so you only need a few people to turn up and you’ve got a decent crowd. Our keyboard player, Innsy is a big fan of the open mic/jam night at the Spotted Dog in Digbeth.
How else have you made connections on the local music scene?
Through our bassist Dave, who seems to know everyone. He lives in Kings Heath which, along with Moseley and Digbeth, is really the heart of the Birmingham music/arts scene. Our singer Hayley also knows a lot of interesting people. After gigs, people will come and talk to her and she’s always taking their numbers or email addresses if they’ve got something they can offer us.
Fabrik is a very self-contained operation; we do most of our own recording, videos, photo-shoots, artwork, promotion, press – the lot. Any band trying to get themselves going these days has to do all these things. We see this as a good thing; it becomes a more rounded artistic statement. It’s challenging but creatively very stimulating.
Tell us more about your gigging strategy?
If we want to do a gig, generally we’ll organise it ourselves: book a venue, find the support acts, do a Facebook event, a press release and get promoting. We sell tickets upfront on Skiddle, so even if people don’t turn up, they’ve still paid. We charge a little on the door and we’ve always come out ahead. We also apply for loads of festivals religiously every October.
Where else do you hang out in the city?
For an obsessive record collector like me, Swordfish is great for new and second-hand vinyl and CDs. The foodies and coffee-drinkers in the band recommend Damascena (there’s one in town and one in Moseley), Blue Nile, The Quarter Horse, Urban Coffee and Maison Mayci (Moseley and Kings Heath). For art galleries/spaces there is Centrala in Digbeth (where we’ve played a couple of gigs) and ORT, which is in Balsall Heath/Moseley (get on the 50 out of town and look left).
There are also some beautiful parks and open spaces. Sutton Park is my favourite. I grew up near there, and it has a kind of ethereal energy. As our video for our last single, Sunphonika shows, we’re also big fans of the old angular architecture that’s all over town. We also love the city skyline seen from a distance as you drive in from Moseley or come off the M6 onto the Aston Expressway. It might look like a shithole to everyone else, but to us it’s got a certain romance.