INTERVIEW: Megan Evans of Deer Shed Festival

It’s been a while since I attended a festival… Obviously, there were so many cancellations throughout the last couple of years due the pandemic, and I missed out on 2019 as I was busy hosting my own (well, my wedding which I aimed to be as festival-like as possible). So, this year I was desperate to find one that was as lovely as possible and suited my needs of being perhaps a little older than the average festival-goer without missing out on any of the best new music. Sadly, the last festival I went to in 2018, and my favourite ever festival experience – Indie Tracks – did not survive Covid, and so I was looking for a replacement; something equally as inclusive, chilled-out, family friendly, and of course hosting plenty of amazing female and non-binary bands and artists. And then I came across Deer Shed… And I cannot wait to attend for the first time next month!

A festival with a real family-friendly focus, whilst hosting an incredible range of exciting new artists – as well as an array of comedy, spoken word, literary and theatrical shows – it seems like the perfect fit.

We caught up with festival organiser Megan Evans to talk more about Deer Shed’s roots, its ethos and inclusive line-up, some of the most special Deer Shed moments of years gone by, and more… Have a read below, and have a listen to our special Deer Shed 2022 playlist , featuring some of our personal faves who’ll be playing at the festival, at the bottom of this feature!

Hi Megan! 2022 will be Deer Shed’s 12th year – congrats! Can you tell us a bit about what Deer Shed is all about, and how it all started out?
Thanks! Deer Shed was started by our founders Kate & Oliver after they struggled to find a festival environment that was right for their kids but that didn’t compromise on cool and interesting music and culture programming for them. So, thats very much the goal of the festival – to create a festival environment that is accessible and exciting for all ages and groups, whether that’s families with kids of any ages or groups of adults with no kids in tow. Our family friendly festival content doesn’t look down on or condescend  and our music line up (we like to think!) is about as current and exciting as it can be. We’ve found it really works though it can lead to some funny situations, especially challenging our comedians to deliver PG sets to families who are unafraid of some audience interaction…

What strikes me about Deer Shed and makes it stand out against other festivals at the moment is 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?
We’ve strived for a 50/50 gender line up for years now which, while we’re mindful about achieving that, we also feel has happened very naturally and organically. Our focus is becoming more about looking at our line ups from a point of view of how inclusive, diverse & neurodivergent our performers are, both across the music line up and the arts and comedy. Gender parity of booking is something we have to be aware of, but it naturally also happens as our wish list each year always has more female and non-binary artists than male. Like everyone, we can always do better though and we still have work to do to making sure the line up across the board is as inclusive as possible. It’s something the whole festival industry has to be aware of and do better at. It’s no good saying that there aren’t enough female headliners or that its hard to find female headliners, that’s just lazy booking in my opinion. As festivals we have the ability to put our faith in artists and make them headliners – we’re not powerless in this situation.

Over the last 11 years, you’ve hosted some amazing bands and artists including Anna Calvi, Adult Mom, Sunflower Bean, Big Joanie, Ezra Furman, The Go Team! and Honeyblood, but has there been a particular set that stands out for you as a personal highlight over the years? 
There are so many! So if I’m allowed a few…
Kae Tempest headlining Saturday night as the rain started to come down was incredible, it was so atmospheric and beautiful… like it was meant to happen. School of Seven Bells is another highlight. We always say Deer Shed is a great place to discover new bands and I was just in my infancy of working for Deer Shed back then, this band just nailed it and I remained a loyal fan ever since. Their final and last album Ghostory was stunning. Anna Clavi headlining in 2019 with that album was amazing – the lighting and sound is one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to and god the guitar playing is mesmerising. Ibibio Sound Machine, when we did a massive flash mob with the audience to ‘Give Me Reason’, was one of my highlights of the last ten years; audiences young and old had learnt this dance routine for this specific time in front of the main stage. Joan As Policewoman – I love her! When she came to Deer Shed and headlined the Lodge Stage I was completely star struck. Honourable mentions also for Lone Lady and She Drew the Gun.

And this year you’ve got some GIHE faves playing – Self Esteem, Nadine Shah, Denise Chaila, Billy Nomates, The Lovely Eggs and CMAT… 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? 
We always have a wish list each year and we try to see as much as we can live. We’ll often head down to Leeds to the Brudenell or head to over other festivals or city based new music events like Great Escape to check out some of the artists we’re keen to bring to the festival. We keep a very close eye on new music being released and like to think we’ve developed good relationships and reputations with booking agencies whose rosters we rate. Really though, it always comes to what an act is like live, that’s where you can find some of the real gems. 

And for any upcoming bands/artists looking to apply for festivals next year, do you have any tips? 
More generally I would say spend your time reaching out to the right people in the right way rather than blanket emailing everyone in the world – find the festivals where artists you love are playing, work on a pitch and keep going! Festivals get a huge amount of unsolicited submissions, don’t take it personally if you don’t hear back!
Specifically for Deer Shed I would say email us (after July!!!) –  we can’t always reply to emails, but we are planning to launch an emerging artist comp for our 2023 event, so keep you eyes peeled. 

There seems to be a definite focus on making the festival as family-friendly as possible – what inspired the idea to do this, and stand out from other festivals in this way? 
We have always said that the festival should have the cross-generational appeal of a Pixar film, so we would say we are more of a festival for everyone, but especially if you’re a music fan and have children. The festival is for music fans but there’s so much other programming to get involved in and watch which is specially curated for families, everyone should have a great weekend! 

Do you feel much has changed over the last few years in the music industry’s treatment of new artists, particularly female and non-binary artists? 
Yes and no. It’s good that this has been identified, and organisations such as Key Change are in place to make noise and create positive changes in the way people of marginalised genders have been treated. Though the industry itself has a long way to go, agents along with promoters and festivals have to work together to make sure there is a connection and progression of acts across these areas. We all have a responsibility for this – there’s no excuses to not address these issues and create a more equitable and representative space for our artists. 

Finally, as we’re a new music focused site, are there any particular new bands or artists you’d recommend we check out?
For artists playing at Deer Shed this year, I would say: Kobi Onyame, Brooke Combe, Mickey Callisto, Balimaya Project, CMAT, The Bug Club, Cortney Dixon, Beija Flo, Bess Atwell, CVC…  Outside of that, more generally, I’m really loving Lynks, Kills Birds, Taahliah, Bicurious, GUSTAF, English teacher & Dreya MAC at the moment! 

Massive thanks to Megan for answering our questions – we can’t wait to have the most wonderful time at Deer Shed festival next month! Deer Shed this year runs from 29th – 31st July in Baldersby Park North Yorkshire. Find out more information and get tickets at their website.

Listen to our special Deer Shed playlist here:

LISTEN: SOFT LAD – ‘2 Know U Betta’

A playful musing on what could happen if your crush just spared the time to text you back, multi-instrumentalist SOFT LAD has shared her latest single ‘2 Know U Betta’. Taken from her debut EP MAXIMUM FEELS, which is set for release on 1st April, the track is an earnest reflection on what could have been, underscored by buoyant guitars and smooth vocals.

Sophie Gaplin aka SOFT LAD has spent the past fourteen years playing alongside the likes of Tom Grennan, The Breeders, James Vincent McMorrow, Jessie Ware, SOAK and SELF ESTEEM. Now, she’s stepping into the spotlight to share her brand of honest pop, with her second offering ‘2 Know U Betta’ exploring that all-to-familiar feeling of being ghosted by a crush.

“I had a spark with someone and wanted to get to know them more, in a casual way,” Galpin explains about the track. “I was like, ‘I’m not looking for anything serious and there’s literally no pressure here, but we could be having a really nice, fun time if you ever texted me back!’ I knew there was a vibe there and I thought it would be a shame to let it go, but in the end I had to accept that she had her own thing going on, which is totally fair!” Galpin puts this missed romantic opportunity into context via her conversational lyrics and breezy melodies.

Inspired by the sounds of Years & Years, MUNA and Shura, as well as her own experiences of queer love and relationships, SOFT LAD’s debut EP looks set to be a joyful, tongue-in-cheek listen, with singles ‘Singapore’ and ‘2 Know U Betta’ providing the first dose of her pop-infused wit.

Listen to ‘2 Know U Betta’ below.

Follow SOFT LAD on Spotify, Twitter & Instagram

Photo Credit: Lou Pye

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

WATCH: SOFT LAD – ‘Singapore’

An upbeat, cathartic reflection on the tender and important time between a break-up and moving on to something new, SOFT LAD has shared her debut single ‘Singapore’. Full of relatable lyrics, shimmering melodies and soft vocals, the track is a comforting exhale providing listeners with an optimistic moment of clarity.

SOFT LAD aka Sophie Galpin has spent the past fourteen years as a multi-instrumentalist playing alongside the likes of Tom Greennan, The Breeders, James Vincent McMorrow, Jessie Ware and most recently SOAK and SELF ESTEEM. Now, she’s stepping into the spotlight to share her brand of honest pop, with her debut single focusing in on the multi-faceted nature of queer relationships. “Now I don’t have to wait for your updates, honey / well I can heave a sigh for the last time, and leave you behind” she muses, her vocals floating over buoyant riffs and driving beats.

“This song describes a break-up and that bit initially after where you look back for one last time, then take that first step forward as a person on your own in the world,” Gaplin explains about ‘Singapore’. “You feel like shit, and your friends tell you that you’re going to be fine and although intellectually you can rationalise it, you can’t truly feel it for a while until you get the perspective. And intertwined with that feeling of loss, you also have this feeling of relief of at least knowing where you stand and breathing it all out. You suddenly have time and re-realise you can do whatever you want at any given time.”

Accompanied by a video directed by Olivier Richomme and Sarah Jenny Johnson, ‘Singapore’ is SOFT LAD’s optimistic statement about life after love, and it’s gentle euphoria is infectious.

Watch the video for ‘Singapore’ below.

Follow SOFT LAD on Twitter & Instagram

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

5 Things We Learned At Wide Awake Festival

Brockwell Park was buzzing with excited energy on Friday 3rd September, packed with hundreds of music fans keen to hear the sounds of the eclectic mix of underground talent who were booked to play Wide Awake‘s debut festival. Postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic last year, the appetite for hearing live music was unsurprisingly tenacious from the moment the festival gates opened and watching the crowds dance and sing along to the likes of IDLES, Goat Girl, black midi, Lena Willikens, Black Country, New Road and headliners shame gave us an overwhelming sense of joy (heavily aided by multiple cans of Red Stripe.)

We’ve condensed 10 hours of live music down to 5 key points that we’ve filtered through our GIHE lens and shared them with you below…

1. Self Esteem is a beacon of hope

Rebecca Lucy Taylor and her bandmates delivered a truly empowering set during their headline slot on the Moth Club stage, complete with a stunning light show and dancers too. When Taylor walked on stage with the words “But There Is Nothing That Terrifies A Man More Than A Woman That Appears Completely Deranged” lit up behind her silhouette, we knew we were in for a treat. Her powerful voice and relatable lyrics filled the tent with a sincere and playful joy.

2. Porridge Radio are great

We’re well aware most people already know this, but Brighton four piece Porridge Radio really impressed us with their stellar mid-afternoon performance on the Bad Vibrations stage. Fronted by captivating vocalist & lead guitarist Dana Margolin, the band ripped through their setlist full of indie bangers with impressive flair. We’ll definitely be catching them live again in the future.

3. Stumbling across a new favourite band feels just as good as re-visiting old favourites

We’ve missed the electric feeling that flows through your cells when you unexpectedly hear a great song in the distance by a new band you’ve never seen live before. Porridge Radio are a prime example here, but we also found ourselves drawn to the sounds of Snapped Ankles and The Murder Capital on the Moth Club stage, as well as Mandy, Indiana‘s set on the So Young stage. We were sad to miss Dream Wife, who had to cancel last minute due to contracting Covid-19, but GIHE favourites Goat Girl distracted us from this gap in the line-up with their charming yet brooding set on the main stage.

4. Brockwell Park is an ideal location for a music festival

We may be saying this solely because 2/3s of GIHE are based in South London, but Brockwell Park felt like the perfect location for a day of indie, leftfield and electronic music. Packed with independent food & drink stands as well as the main bars, it felt like we’d been transported out of London for the day when the sun was shining and the music was blaring from all directions.

5. We’ve really missed music festivals

From running into old friends, making new ones in the queues for the portaloos and generally just watching everyone else have a total blast, Wide Awake really made things feel “normal” again for a split second. We’re hoping that next year, everyone will feel confident enough to come back to Brockwell Park to sample some of the incredible bands and artists who made the festival feel as exciting and unique as it did this year.

Photo Credit: Luke Dyson (www.lukedyson.com)

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut