Sam Fender: Indie bands will struggle without grassroots venues

15 August 2020, 20:00 | Updated: 4 September 2020, 14:29

Sam Fender Performs At Virgin Money Unity Arena
Sam Fender Performs At Virgin Money Unity Arena. Picture: Thomas M Jackson/Redferns

As lockdown measures are eased for indoor gigs, the Hypersonic Missiles singer told Radio X why small venues are so important for guitar music.

Sam Fender thinks indie and guitar-based bands would struggle if grassroots venues cannot stay open.

The Geordie singer-songwriter opened the UK's first socially distanced venue - the Virgin Money Unity Arena -on Tuesday 11 August, and talked about everything from his creativity in lockdown to the impact COVID-19 has had on the music industry.

Asked how important small grassroots venues are for new artists being discovered, he mused: "There’s loads of different ways to do it these days with the internet… I used the internet and that obviously, but if you’re in a band and you do indie music, you still need to do that grassroots gigging.

"We kind of did it the old fashioned way and just gigged and gigged and gigged until it just started working."

He added: "I think if you take away that it’s going to be hard for that type of music to break through. I think it’s going to be particularly bad for Indie music to break through because we rely so much on live... It’s a live thing I think. Guitar music should be heard live”.

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Asked what grassroots venues mean for him in particular, the Hypersonic Missiles singer replied: "My career simply wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for small venues. I cut my teeth on those gigs. And they’re legendary, those places. There’s something really magic about being an up and coming artist and you hear about the mythology of it all, like ’The Stone Roses played here years ago'

“It’s an important part of our history, our musical history. And it’s an honour coming through the ranks when you’re a kid and I definitely wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them places. That’s where the grassroots fans - the people that started off with you - they’re the people that are essentially the foundations of your career.

“I’ve still got fans that I see now at gigs who I’ve seen that they’ve watched us when there were 12 people in the Surf cafe in North Shields or Tynemouth or when I played to 60 people in Jimmy’s Bar in Manchester."

On the power of live music and the importance of bands being on the road, he said: "The communal spirit of being in a live gig. You don’t get that anywhere else. It’s like being in a football match or something. It’s that feeling of being in a crowd and all being galvanised by that sonic moment. It’s the most amazing thing ever.

"The best days of my life have been at gigs, whether I’ve been playing in them or watching them.”

The latest government announcement will be music to Fender's ears, as Boris Johnson has announced that music venues and theatres are able to house indoor performances as long as social distancing is maintained.

The move, which was initially delayed at the start of the month by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, now means the likes of bowling alleys, casinos and other indoor entertainment spaces such as skate rinks and soft play centres can also open their doors.

READ MORE: Get the latest coronavirus news