Interview: Cro Cro Land Founders, Angela and Julia

We’re currently getting extremely excited about Croydon’s brand new multi-stage festival, Cro Cro Land!

Organised by Croydon residents Angela Martin and Julia Woollams, the festival aims to promote gender equality in both its line-up and staff, is championing a number of local bands and artists, and is working in conjunction with a number of grassroots organisations and charities, including Lives Not Knives.

Paying host to some of our current favourites, including Nova Twins, Chorusgirl, Fightmilk, ARXX, Berries, Jetstream Pony, Bugeye and many more, we’re proud to be involved in helping out at the festival, and will even be spinning a few tunes on the day!

So, prior to everything kicking off on 6th April, we caught up with organisers Angela and Julia to find out more…

Hi Angela and Julia, welcome to Get In Her Ears! Can you tell us a bit about yourselves?
Angela: I’m a member of the band Bugeye, music activist and co-founder of the Croydonist and Cro Cro Land Festival.
Julia: I’m a graphic designer mainly working in the charity and arts sector. I’m also the other founder of the Croydonist, which is a Croydon cultural blog, as well as co-founder of Cro Cro Land.
Angela: We’re also married, so partners in crime in every sense!

You’re currently organising Cro Cro Land –  Croydon’s brand new multi stage indie music festival – which is super exciting! What inspired the idea to do this?
A: Lots of things really. We’ve always been inspired by the fact that Croydon has such a rich musical history. It’s the birthplace of punk for one thing, and so many other great musical happenings such as Dubstep and Grime.
J: It used to be a place on every band’s tour schedule, but with venue closures, Croydon has sort of fallen off the map. We want to change that.
A: In recent years, we’ve seen so many people come together and form collectives for the greater good of music. DIY zines, podcasts, new promoters, dedicating their own time at no financial gain to try to impact change. There has been a real fight to improve the gender balance at festivals and ensure that women are fairly represented. This is an area that we feel very strongly about, and so we decided we wanted to get involved and create an event that took all of these things into consideration, paid artists fairly, as well as bringing together a number of grassroots collectives together under one roof.

How did you go about picking the fantastic line-up for the festival?
J: The line-up was a mixture of recommendations from grassroots collectives such as yourselves, The Zine UK, Benumu and Kick out the Jams – to name but a few – plus our own wishlist and artists applying via the festival submission page.

And what would you say has been the hardest part about organising a festival?
A: Where to start! I guess it was difficult not knowing whether we would be successful in our funding applications or not. Festivals aren’t cheap to put on after-all. However, the Arts Council National Lottery Grant was approved, and Croydon Council have also confirmed financial support, so we feel pretty blessed right now.

The line-up is filled with some of our favourites such as Nova Twins, The Lovely Eggs, ARXX, Bugeye and Chorusgirl! And what strikes me about the festival and makes it stand out at the moment is the great gender balance of the line up – was there an intentional and specific decision to do this, or did it just naturally pan out that way?
J: It came quite naturally to be honest. We did go back and look at our list of potential bookings to make sure we met this pledge, and found that we were pretty spot on from the word go.

And how do you feel about the general lack of female headliners at a lot of big festivals at the moment?
A: I think it’s quite disappointing. I totally get that if someone wants to put on a festival and pay for it, they should be able to book whoever they want, but there is still a level of responsibility that falls to promoters to address gender issues. On a positive note, the PRS Keychange initiative is making a dent in there, with a number of festivals pledging a gender balanced bill. I know there’s still a way to go on this, but the more festivals that treat this as the norm, then ultimately it pressures others to also follow suit.

It’s great that you’re hosting a festival in Croydon, somewhere that doesn’t yet have many music events, in comparison to areas in North and East London – will there be a focus on local bands at the festival?
J: There certainly is. We are supporting local talent as well as running a mentoring programme with our charity partner Lives Not Knives. The mentoring programme will be offered to those who have experienced social exclusion and/or victims of crime with a special focus on women in the community.

And for any upcoming bands/artists looking to apply for the festival next year, do you have any tips?
A: Get in early. We plan on launching the new application process a couple of months after this year’s event, so keep an eye on our socials. I guess what we look for are bands that are supportive of the scene in general, and not just focused on their own agenda. If you like other bands’ content, retweet, comment and share, then we want to hear from you. To make a difference in this industry, it’s about working together. We don’t believe in popularity contests of who has the most followers on Twitter. Because that’s kind of bullshit at the end of the day. What counts is how active you are, if we like your music, and think you have potential.

What are you most looking forward to about Cro Cro Land?
J: When it’s finished. Just kidding. I guess once the festival is in full swing we might be able to relax – hopefully!
A: I’m looking forward to the moment before the doors open and everything is in place. It’ll be a real emotional feeling, as I think everything we’ve been through to get here will really hit home.

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?
A: The UK is a hard market. There’s many pros and cons. The biggest con is trying to get the big labels to listen. They want bands to have already made it to a certain level before getting involved. The pros are that a huge number of people are saying ‘fuck that’ and creating their own industry. There’s a great network of bands that all support each other, promoters who work their arses off to make shows a success and create noise about the bands. It’s working too and we’re starting to see bands breaking through at long last.

Finally, as we’re a new music focused site, are there any particular new bands or artists from Croydon that you’d recommend we check out?
A: Hmmm, let me see! There’s Jetstream Pony, The Weird Things, Bears in Trees, who are all good fun. As for other bands that we are playing non-stop, check out Tiger Mimic, Kath & The Kicks and Feral Five. We’re a bit in love with all the bands on our bill though.

Thanks so much to Angela and Julie for answering our questions, we can’t wait to see you on 6th April!

Cro Cro Land takes place at Urban Xchange, Croydon (a minute’s walk from East Croydon station) on 6th April. For tickets and line-up details, check out their website.

Listen to our Cro Cro Land favourites playlist here:

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: