Interview & Playlist: Indietracks Festival

With festival season fast approaching, we’re getting extremely excited about heading to Derbyshire festival Indietracks for the first time this July. And, with our ongoing disappointment at the lack of diversity on the majority of mainstream festival line-ups this year, it’s particularly refreshing to come across one that consistently champions DIY bands and artists of all genders and genres. 

With the line up looking particularly wonderful this year, we caught up with Nat and Beck from Indietracks to find out more! 

Hi Indietracks! 2018 will be the festival’s 12th year – congrats! Can you tell us a bit about how it all started out?
Nat: The festival was originally the idea of Stuart Mackay, who used to work at the Midland Railway restoring the steam trains there. He had the idea of holding an indiepop one-night gig in April 2007, taking place on the platform at Butterley. The event sold out really quickly and was so successful that the railway then supported him to turn it into a weekend festival, with the first one being held in the summer of that year! When we first started, we didn’t even have an outdoor stage, but since then the festival has grown and evolved into something bigger than we could have ever dreamed of, with four stages, kids activities, workshops, discos and a fantastic food and merch area too. Sadly Stuart had to step down in 2010, and the team has changed a bit since 2007, but we’re still all so excited about running the festival!

What strikes me about Indietracks and makes it stand out against other festivals at the moment is the number of DIY bands and the good gender balance of the line up – was there an intentional and specific decision to do this, or does it just naturally pan out that way?
Beck: We’re aware of the need to get a good gender balance, but I think it’s more of a natural process for us. Female/femme fronted bands are just very visible in our DIY world and there are so many awesome bands that we want to book.

And how do you feel about the general lack of female headliners at a lot of big festivals at the moment?
Beck: I don’t really get it! It was great to see Beyonce, Cardi B and St Vincent given headline/prominent billing at Coachella this year, and I hope other festivals will follow suit. I think this whole issue just shows the difference between DIY and more mainstream music festivals.
Nat: I don’t get it either! In the run-up to Indietracks we’re just focused on creating our own line-up, and I’m really happy that we’re managing to showcase such a good balance of bands. Other festivals like Decolonise, First Timers Fest and Wales Goes Pop also showcase a brilliant range of bands too. Hopefully more mainstream festivals will continue to follow suit!

Over the last 11 years, you’ve hosted some amazing bands and artists including The Go! Team, Slow Club, Camera Obscura, Cate Le Bon and Skinny Girl Diet, but has there been a particular set that stands out for you as a personal highlight over the years?
Beck: Personally, it was seeing Helen Love in 2013. She means an awful lot to me – Love, Glitter, Hot Days and Music was the soundtrack to so many of mine and my sister’s nights out when we were sixteen or so, and ‘Debbie Loves Joey’ has been played at pretty much every clubnight I’ve ever DJ-ed! I never thought I’d get to see her because she didn’t really play live, so that Indietracks show was unbelievably exciting – everybody was singing and dancing along and there were confetti cannons!
Nat: I’ve been to Indietracks since the first one-nighter event in 2007, so I’ve got a lot of memories to look back on! My personal favourites are probably La Casa Azul in 2009, when Elefant sponsored our outdoor stage, and The Go! Team in 2015, which was just amazing. We’d wanted to book them for so long, and they were just brilliant!

And this year you’ve got some GIHE faves playing – Dream Wife, Sacred Paws, Ghum, Dream Nails, Sink Ya Teeth… Curating such awesome line ups must be a lot of work – how do you normally go about it? Is it all based on bands/artists that have got in touch with you over the year?
Beck: We start off with a list of bands we are personally keen to book and we also look at Facebook and the Anorak Forum where people post up their wish-lists. We also get contacted by bands, agents, record labels who know the festival and, finally, we have an applications process where bands submit their music for us to consider. I think we’ve listened to somewhere in the region of 450-500 bands to get to the final line-up this year.

And for any upcoming bands/artists looking to apply for festivals next year, do you have any tips?
Beck: I can only really speak from the perspective of our applications process and aside from the obvious (make sure your contact email address and the link to your music work!), I find it really useful to know about the live shows bands have been playing (who they’ve been playing with, who is putting them on etc) and whether they’ve got any press that we can look at.

How do you feel the music industry is for new bands and artists at the moment – would you say it’s difficult to get noticed?
Beck: I think it’s hard for us to say because we’re focused on a very specific DIY community. We’ve got a few bands on the bill this year who don’t have a big profile in our world, but we just really liked, and we always keep an eye on who is playing events like First Timers Fest, Loud Women, Decolonise and Wales Goes Pop to find interesting new artists. I think festivals like these give new, up-and-coming bands an opportunity to get noticed and play shows in front of good crowds and that’s really positive.

Finally, as we’re a new music focused site, are there any particular new bands or artists you’d recommend we check out?
Beck: Beyond the bands we’ve booked for the festival, I’m really loving Karen Meat’s debut album (You’re An Ugly Person) which has just come out on Emotional Response Records. The lyrics are hilarious, and it’s sort of lo-fi with a liberal sprinkling of jazzy keyboard demos and bass riffs. Honestly, they’re amazing – check them out! Halo Maud is a really interesting new Heavenly Recordings signing.
Nat: I’ve been listening to the Indietracks compilation at the moment – Sink Ya Teeth, Happy Accidents and Melenas are definitely all worth checking out!

Huge thanks to Nat and Beck for answering our questions, we can’t wait for Indietracks festival on 27th – 29th July! Find all ticket and line-up info at their website.

And, in the meantime, have a listen to our playlist of some of our Indietracks faves here:

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