On Friday October 19th, BIMM Manchester took up residence in renowned live music venue The Deaf Institute to host a masterclass with Bristolian punk rock quintet and recent Q Award winners IDLES. The band spoke with Natalie Eve Williams of BBC Introducing Manchester about their work ethos, their approach to social media, staying sane during gruelling tour schedules and much more.
IDLES’ masterclass gave BIMM students the chance to see another side to band; a softer side to what is portrayed on-stage. As the session progressed, they demonstrated just how committed they are to the cause their current LP’s namesake ‘Joy As An Act Of Resistance’. IDLES were unapologetically honest, humble and caring, speaking in great detail -and with great humour – about their own life experiences, touring, masculinity, social media and looking after your mental health.
The band began their steady rise to prominence earlier in 2018 with the release of their debut album ‘Brutalism’, which received widespread acclaim and fevered support from radio stations such as BBC 6 Music and countless online tastemakers. Not being ones to rest on their laurels, the band quickly turned around their second full-length LP amidst a busy touring schedule. ‘Joy As An Act Of Resistance’ peaked at number 2 in the official UK album chart during its week of release – a particularly impressive feat given their independent leanings, abrasive sound, socio-politically charged lyrics and (on the face of it at least) aggressively energetic performances.
“Our ethos is working hard, really hard, harder than anyone around us, and enjoy it along the way” said the band when asked about their work ethic.
“We have a respect for our audience – we strive to maintain our performances and be mindful to make ourselves give a great performance each time.”
IDLES are a band who really are on top of their A-game right now. Touring commitments have taken them around the U.S, Europe and the UK numerous times this year alone. Not forgetting of course the additional festival appearances they’ve managed to squeeze in. Plus, they’re extremely hot property within the music press. They’re in the eye of the storm right now, dealing with immense pressure which would test any band’s grit. So, how do they stay sane in the midst of such madness?
“That one journey of 50 shows; you break in down to the individual tasks and focus. It can be tough, but it’s one of the most amazing gifts a band can have – it’s being mindful of where you are and being grateful for the present.“
The band even offered up handy tips on how to stay sane during such gruelling tour schedules, saying; “Take it day by day, focus how you feel right now, and make yourself stronger for tomorrow. Remember, you can’t control others, only yourself, so communication is key. The Head Space app is a great help, we can’t recommend it enough.”
The band’s vocalist, Joe Talbot, is known for tackling big issues such as racism, sexual violence and mental health issues within his lyrics; all delivered with a trademark raspy tone that’s achieved through sheer passion. As a topic which is receiving increasingly widespread awareness than perhaps ever before, Joe mused on the subject of mental health within the music industry.
“Mental health issues in the music industry are common place.” Said Joe.
“Social media is starting to help, but it’s a topic usually avoided. Part of the language around it creates the stigma – but it’s about maintenance. A tour for example, is a difficult thing – isolation mixed with claustrophobia and lots of expectations. It’s all about managing those expectations – since we have none, or no expectations of how other people will accept it, it’s become easier. Ultimately, it’s important to be open and create a safe atmosphere where people feel comfortable sharing.”
Elaborating on the theme of social media, each member of the band had both good and bad things to say about it. “It’s meant to connect us, but it seems to be having the opposite effect. We want to focus on making, living, being in the real world. When bands love what they do, you can see it in their eyes. They live it, they don’t put it on twitter! But, it does allow us to have a conversation and connect with our fans.“
Joe later told a student who asked a question about what he is listening to at the moment that he would send a list over via the band’s official Instagram page, a medium in which the group are extremely adept, likeable and genuine, whilst still balancing the fun-loving attitude that’s imbued throughout each member.
Before the masterclass ended, IDLES received questions from their audience (Guitarist Mark Bowen even took up the task of running a microphone to each student). One student asked ‘What tips would you offer someone looking to get started as a band?’, to which they replied;
“Trial and error – write what you like, don’t be sentimental about your mistakes, follow your infatuations, – give yourself a brief and go for it. All of your experiences inform this – start with a challenge, a word, a phrase, an idea. We all think creatively as individuals, but we come together to write a brief as a band. To build confidence on stage – if you’re scared, just keep going and it will dissipate quickly – the more you do it, the more you will discover things about yourself and get better.”
The band added more helpful tips for those just starting out.
“Have a good relationship with fans. We are only here because of you guys – our fans – we are creating with you because we wouldn’t be able to be here without you, and we are always aware and grateful for that. We don’t want to let people down, which makes you want to create more. Keep it going, we are thankful for it all. You are only made up of the people that want to see you – part of something much greater than the individual – it’s one of the most life affirming things we will ever feel.”
We extend a huge thanks to IDLES for taking the time to come and talk to our students from BIMM Manchester, especially in the middle of such a gruelling tour schedule. We wish them all the very best for their future and very much look forward to hearing more from the band.
Check out more photos from the masterclass in BIMM Manchester’s Facebook album.
If you’re interested in studying at BIMM Manchester and gaining exclusive access to masterclasses such as this one, you can apply here. Alternatively, if you’d like to meet some of our lecturers and check out our facilities, why not attend one of our Open Days.