28 October 2010

Community Service #15 - Off The Beaten Tracks

I have had this post pencilled in for a while now, but as things quietened down over this summer it just kept getting pushed back. Their return to the Scottish music scene is a very welcome one, in case you aren't already aware of Off The Beaten Tracks, the basic premise is that they take artists to unusual places and film them playing stripped back versions of their songs. It's a simple concept, but it's really effective. I first came across the site after they posted the session with Scott from Frightened Rabbit. They were the first people to give 'Swim Until You Can't See Land' it's first airing to the general public. I ended up watching the session an unhealthy number of times, and so my love for Off The Beaten Tracks started.
I must admit that I was saddened that they disappeared, I had feared the worst. So their return is a more than welcome one for me. They've just posted up a cracking session with Broken Records, which you I urge you to check out, after you've finished reading this interview that is.....

In your own words describe what Off The Beaten Tracks does?

We stole an idea from The Takeaway Shows and applied it to local bands and touring bands passing through. We take a band out onto the street or into some odd location that wouldn't normally have a band playing, and we film it. Then we put that film on the internet.

For all the folk out there that don’t know what Off The Beaten Tracks is, why should they check it out?

I suppose it gives you a chance to see bands you might like doing something a bit different. Most of the bands we've had sound quite different when they're stripped back to just acoustic instruments. I like the fact that it shows off the songs that are often obscured by noise and/or lots of instruments.

What was it that inspired you to start Off The Beaten Tracks?

As I said, we stole the idea from The Takeaway Shows. Both Alex and I are web nerds, music nerds and perpetual dat idea people. We wanted to create something that satisfied all of that, and we wanted to continue promoting bands in some way. Plus meeting bands and taking them to odd places and filming them is just really fun.

You have been on a bit of hiatus this year, does your return herald a new chapter in the life of Off The Beaten Tracks? And where have you been?

Life forced us to take a break. Alex's wife had a baby last year, I got married this year, we had other projects and jobs to attend to, and basically we couldn't go on putting out as much footage as we did in 2009. We're not very good at saying no, so e ended up with too much to juggle and something had to give. Then at the same time we had some major technology failures, and it's taken us a while to recover all the footage. Always back things up (twice) kids!

I think the new chapter will be steadier, with less frequent episodes (in the last part of 2009 we were publishing about once a week). We've got a new website in the works that will make watching the episodes a better experience, and we're working on some ways to let people watch our videos in different ways and places. We're also cooking up some ideas for collaborations, and we're currently making a list of bands we want to film this year and next. It's going to be really good, I hope.

What would you say has been the best thing to happen since you started it?

We've had some great laughs and filmed some excellent performances and made a few friends along the way. We've done some daft things too. That's all we could really expect from it I suppose.

What band/artist have you most enjoyed filming the most?

There really isn't one session that stands out above all others. I've genuinely enjoyed all of them. Our first ever session, with Come On Gang, was fun in a baptism of fire kind of way. Hanging out with Scott from Frightened Rabbit was good as he's a lovely guy, and we got to hear "Swim Until You Can't See Land" before pretty much anyone else, and it got us on the front page of Pitchfork. The Honeytrap session was a good day out as they're hilariously odd, and I feel in a river, and then we all went to Matthew Toad's house for the band's Toad session which turned into a debaucherous party till the early hours. FOUND with Cybraphon was crazy and weird and great. The day we filmed Trespassers William and Glissando was great fun, as we had an amazing venue to film, and both bands were incredible at their gig that night, and the more debauchery… Watching Jeffrey Lewis just reeling off accapella songs. Watching Moustache of Insanity continue to sing their song as they feared for their lives at the hands of some cider wielding jakey. A rather drunken late night session with Woodenbox. Filming Meursault play "William Henry Miller Pt1" in front of the William Henry Miller mausoleum with a group of people providing handclaps. My list could go on and on. I've genuinely enjoyed every second of it.

You were out at this years SXSW Festival, how did that come about and who did you film while you were out there?

We've both been for the last 4 years in a row. If you like live music, beer and meat, there is no where better. It's intense but amazing. This year we knew we had to take out gear and try to film a few bands while we were there. We ended up filming Efterklang, Broken Records, Wave Pictures, Winter Gloves and Burnt Ones, a great band from Indianapolis. They're all up on the site now. It was a little stressful at times, in the heat and with epic hangovers, but it was really great fun and we're really excited with how the sessions came out.

For any bands/artists out there thinking that they’d like to do something with Off The Beaten Tracks, is it worthwhile them getting in touch or is it a case of you’ll find them?

By all means get in touch. We're always on the lookout for bands we've never heard that we might like, even if we don't end up filming them. Please be aware, though, that we have had hundreds of requests, and we can't possibly answer them all. We wish we could.

Lastly, what can we expect to see/hear from you in the near future?

We have a session from Three Blind Wolves that we filmed before our enforced hiatus (sorry guys) that's really good. that'll be coming out next. Then we have a list of bands we want to film, and we've been in contact with some to get he ball rolling. We're hoping to do another 3 or 4 sessions this year, and then start over fresh in January with the new site and a proper schedule. It's a nice idea which probably won't work, but we'll try.

Off The Beaten Tracks

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