The Achievers: Plans for the future
Making any kind of firm plans for the future seems like a ridiculous idea right now – almost like an affront to common sense. Planning ahead has always been what has made being ‘band leader’ of The Achievers so much easier, and I’d argue it’s been a massive factor in the progress we’ve made. Now that my major weapon against the stress of running a band has been mostly taken away, I’m beginning to wonder if my next challenge is learning to do things a little differently.
Back in January I could probably have been accused of seeming a little smug, looking ahead to a 2020 diary full of exciting gigs around the world. Achieving our goals so far has taken a huge amount of hard work, investment and sacrifice so if I seem a little pleased with myself it’s only because I, just like the ‘band leader’ from The A-Team, love it when a plan comes together. A person can get trapped in a web of self-consciousness if they ruminate too much about celebrating success – it’s a minefield. If you act all chuffed with yourself for doing well people will think you’re smug, but if you don’t people will accuse you of false modesty, or worse – they’ll think it was easy! Whatever. 2020 was supposed to be ace - and then it wasn’t ace, at all.
A shining light
The Music Venue Trust has been a genuine beacon of knowledge, hope and optimism for us musicians during the Coronavirus pandemic. Like a lot people working in the industry I have looked to their team of campaigners for reliable, up-to-date information on when and what we might be returning to when all this is over. Our plans for performing live again are entirely dependent on us having somewhere to play and without our incredible, independent venues we’re screwed. There is no finer way to put it! The MVT's main aims are to secure, protect and improve these Grass Roots live music venues, and they do it with optimism, tenacity, and fair-mindedness – they're very smart, inclusive folks. As a band we can’t quite get our heads around when things might return to normal. I guess no one can at the moment. We certainly cannot plan for it in any meaningful way. What we can do though is be positive, lend our support to those who need it and adapt. Maybe 'normal' isn't where we should be aiming for anyway – before the pandemic, live music venues were having an extremely tough time. By getting behind the goals of the MVT and taking what lessons we can from this enforced hiatus, we should aim for the 'new normal' being more secure, better resourced live music spaces.
Normally, performing live is our primary focus and we’ve chosen to make quick and relatively cheap albums that really demonstrate what it’s like to see us live. It’s worked well. Our goal so far has been to produce loose, candid records that have atmosphere and that remind people of (or hint at) our live show.
Finding a new home
With gigs seeming a little abstract and uncertain we’ve decided that we can make a different kind of album – one that people can listen to without immediately having our live set brought to mind.
We recently moved into our new ‘Clubhouse’ – a former commercial building in our hometown owned by a couple of kind-hearted, community minded artists. For a modest rent, and in a supportive gesture towards the arts, they’ve allowed us to set up a new home in which to write and record our next album. We’ve invested in the space as a way of really focussing our efforts and enabling us to take our time – and by that I mean we've installed a bar and a massive Mexican Hammock that can hold all five of us at once! We are loving being back together on a regular basis, hunkering down and moving forward in such a positive way. We are missing the gigs of course, it hurts to know there's a whole chain of people – from fans to fiddle players – who are missing an essential part of their life, livelihood and identity.
What feels good though is that everyone seems to want the same thing: a return to low-risk, financially viable, real-life music experiences in our treasured Grass Roots music venues. We're optimistic that regular live gigs aren't too far away – and some are happening already – but in the meantime we'll be at The Achievers Clubhouse trying our best to get out of the hammock and get on with writing an album.