First Timers is starting again for its 4th incarnation with more workshops, more socials, more bands and more gigs!
If you haven’t heard of First Timers yet then head over to their tumblr and website and have your heart melted by this delightfully wholesome DIY-punk dream-making project where musical hopefuls who never felt welcomed by existing music scenes turn into fully-fledged band members who write, rehearse and play a 2 day festival together at South East London’s best music venue DIY Space for London.
In their own words, “First Timers is a season of workshops followed by a weekend of gigs where every band plays its first show… [and] is about getting new faces and voices in bands, and doing something about the lack of diversity in the make-up of the DIY music community.”
From January to May this year First Timers hosted 16 workshops on how to play guitar, bass, drums and keyboard, as well as vocals, beatboxing, sound engineering and songwriting, taking over 100 people into their first steps as musicians. The final festival in May saw 23 completely new bands made up of majority new musicians play their first ever gig in front of an excited and supportive audience. And next year the organising team are hoping to make it it even bigger and better by having more workshops, setting up a ‘band buddy’ scheme where experienced musicians in popular local bands help out the new First Timers bands, and collaborating with other similar projects like Girls Rock London and Decolonise Fest.
First Timers alumni bands that have carried on and now are well-established fixtures in the UK DIY music scene includes Big Joanie (who debuted at the first First Timers Fest in 2013), Scrap Brain and Slags (class of 2016) and Panic Pocket, Best Praxis and Strong Arm, who all formed earlier this year for First Timers 2017 and are already gigging around London and looking to start recording their songs.
And the season starts again THIS SUNDAY! With the first event Jam On Your Hands offering a space from 2-6pm at DIY Space for inquisitive musical newbies try out different instruments and learn some simple but popular songs to play together. So if you’ve ever wondered what it’d be like to be in a band but never had the confidence or encouragement, then this is the place for you!
Guest tutors on the day will include members of newly formed First Timers 2017 band Jellie Rolls, rising stars and First Timers 2016 graduates Charmpit and DIY indie-punk old timers Colour Me Wednesday, who will all also be playing a gig that evening at DIY Space so you can see them all in action if you stick around after the jam session!
Freer Ideas caught up with all 3 bands to find out what First Timers means to them and what wisdom they can share from their experiences of playing in DIY bands…
Jellie Rolls formed as a band for FT 2017, and despite not being ready to play the festival in May, have since gone on to play several gigs in just the few months since then. What was it about First Timers that encouraged you to start playing music, at all, or at least together as a band?
JR: We didn’t actually end up playing First Timers 2017, but it completely kickstarted us.
How has your journey been so far? What have been the ups and downs? Anything you didn’t expect before forming the band?
How do you feel about just starting to learn how to play music and so quickly writing songs and gigging as a band?
JR: Figuring out how to work together as our own band. When we started we wanted to be a grunge band, but ended up being super pop-punky (which is also great). As we started playing more and also playing our instruments longer it was great to see our sound change and now we feel like we can actually direct it much more.
You don’t have any music available online yet, do you have plans to record? What other plans do you have for the future?
JR: So after the next couple of gigs (next one after [the show on Sunday] (!!!!) is SDS fundraiser on Nov 30th) we wanna get to the studio and record one or two tracks. Uno we ready now.
Charmpit debuted at FT 2016 and have since released EPs, 2016’s ‘Snorkel’ and this year’s ‘Jelly’ (released on Keroleen Records), their own music video and even have an upcoming interview in Maximum Rock n Roll magazine. What was it that helped you from musician newbies just 18 months ago to become the local DIY punk heroines you are today?
CP: Def the consistent support from the queer DIY community from the second we took the stage has been massive for us, after our First Timers debut at DIY Space for London, Suggested Friends asked us to go on tour with them later that summer ~ soo we got a crash course in DIY tour organizing! We benefitted so much from folks sharing their resources and experience with us, like a spreadsheet list of promoters so that we could have contacts in different cities. So we try to pay it forward, newbies out there:: let us know if u have questions!
How do you feel it has helped or changed you as people since starting a band and pushing your thoughts and feelings out into the world in a musical format?
CP: Carving out this new part of our lives, the Charmpit part, has given us so much joy! We started Charmpit as a winter band, a project to ward of winter depression, so it was always supposed to be something joyful and fun when life (ie work, political organzing, being in the world in our various identities, the weather) can feel somewhat crushing. We luv writing bangers (dream fulfillment for sure) and having the chance to stand at a mic and be the anarcha-femmes + anarcha-alex we are.
What advice would you give to new DIY bands starting out now, to help them achieve some of the things you’ve achieved in the last year and a half?
CP: Making a music video felt like success! Learning new Photoshop skills to produce things like the Jelly 7″ record cover, or hearing one of our moms brag to people that her daughters record was put out by an actual record label (shout out to sweet Keroleen Records!) feels like such a dream. 🙂 On a much pettier note, having more likes on facebook than the all-bro local celeb band from our uni days felt pretttttty good. Our advice would probably be like have FUN and if you can, talk to the folks around you, ask for advice, ask for help, we have found that more often than not people really wanna help. It can feel really mystifying, stepping into a scene that might be unfamilliar. But its like when you ask for directions on the bus, and everyone jumps in to tell you the best way to get to where youre going, people love sharing what they know about the thing they love. Or if they don’t they are rude gatekeepers and they need to GTFO.
In 2017 you all became involved with the organising of First Timers. Why is it important to you to pass on everything you’ve learnt to other people who are thinking of getting into playing music?
CP: We needed people organizing to break down traditional barriers to music making – things like class/race/gender/ability – and actively working to de-mystify the process of learning an instrument or essential skills like sound mixing, of getting gigs and getting your music out there, to get us on stage. Without that work, we wouldn’t have this thing in our lives which has brought us so much joy, has given us a platform to talk about what matters to us, and allows us to be a part of creating safer spaces where ppl can have FFUUNN. We found some of the most angelic ppl in our lives when we started playing music. It means a lot to us so we wanna be sure other people who want it can have access too.
(Also please send a photo of you as a band with the name of the photographer [and a link to their website if there is one]. If you want me to plug anything else, gigs, releases, v important projects you’re involved with, social media links, etc. just let me know and I’ll include it as well)
Colour Me Wednesday have been together as a band since before the first incarnation of First Timers back in 2013 and you must have seen how the UK DIY scene has changed over the years. Do you feel like First Timers’ mission to diversify the DIY scene and encourage more people to play music is necessary?
Jennifer Doveton (vocalist): I feel very inspired by First Timers, the impact it’s had on the DIY scene in London is definitely noticeable. Not only have people been encouraged to start bands, they are starting bands within this very supportive community. When you start out in a band there’s so many ways for people to exploit you. When we started out, the lack of opportunities for women in particular, was palpable to us personally. Those promotion companies offering you unpaid gigs where you had to bring all the equipment felt like the only option because you have to ‘pay your dues’. We had a vague idea that there could be a lefty supportive music community but we thought we would have to build it ourselves in Uxbridge. It’s so nice that there is something like this in south London and quite a few of the first timers band have continued to be bands and toured and played festivals, which is very encouraging.
As well as headlining the gig in the evening, you’re going to be helping to teach the next generation of First Timers at the Jam On Your Hands event during the day. You’ve been playing as a band for over 6 years now and must have some pearls of wisdom to share. What skills, knowledge and advice do you have for people starting to learn instruments and form bands now?
JD: Some advice would be don’t do the kind of music or aesthetic that you think will please an imagined audience, don’t try to copy something you think is already popular, make the kind of music that makes you as an individual happy. There was a time when I thought my love of chart pop would never be an acceptable influence to draw on within the punk scene but I was wrong. Just do what makes you happy and statistically there’s bound to be a few other people on your wavelength.
Also, accept help from people, and give help in return. Maybe there’s something you’re not very good at, like promoting yourself, or graphic design – collaborating is so essential right now. The DIY space and first timers’ use of workshops is a beautiful thing, sharing skills and helping each other instead of being competitive.
Also if you are in a band, make sure you insist you are paid sufficiently to at least cover your expenses, even if you can take the hit of doing a gig at a loss, you’re undercutting another band who can’t!
Even though you’re not a First Timers band, you will be playing brand new, yet-to-be-recorded songs from your next album for the FIRST TIME in public. This will be your first outing of new material since the Anyone and Everyone EP in January 2016. How does it feel different playing new songs now compared to playing new songs when you first started?
JD: Playing new songs is always really exciting. I think we feel less insecure now, we care less about how people are going to label our sound or receive us live, we are who we are and someone will like it probably! So why worry? Airing new songs makes you really appreciate your own potential for reinvention too. Tomorrow we could completely change our sound if we wanted, there’s no rules!
Jam On Your Hands is happening tomorrow (Sunday 19th November) 2-6pm at DIY Space for London. Complete music newbies are strongly encouraged to come and have a go!
Colour Me Wednesday play songs from their new album in the evening, with support from Charmpit and Jellie Rolls.
Buy cheaper advance tickets from: www.dovetown.limitedrun.com/tickets/14674-colour-me-wednesday-album-preview-show