To Tour or Not To Tour – That is the Question
To tour or not to tour, that is indeed the question of the moment.
If the experience of Bristol punk rock band IDLES is anything to go by, the answer would probably be NOT to tour. As reported in Rolling Stone magazine, it took the band 12 months to get a visa to gig in the USA. Covid-19 wrecked the application process and the 27 date tour was in doubt right up to the first night in St Paul, Minnesota.
Here in the UK, Covid-19 has had a huge impact on live shows. The Music Venue Trust, which represents 900 grass roots venues, reported in December that the sector was losing £2m a week due to gig cancellations and lower attendance.
In normal times it takes a certain level of determination to put a tour together. In times like these, you’ve got to have a real passion for the stage.
MI-L: What challenges did you face when organising this tour for The Elephant Trees?
NA: The biggest challenge has been keeping the momentum in light of so many cancellations and reschedules due to Covid and changing Government guidance. We have to have everything aligned with the new music releases, so it’s been a lot of making plans, ripping those up and starting again, we’ve had to think a lot more DIY, less crew and a lot more creatively, since funds are low after two years of stopping and starting.
I also think people are more cautious about buying tickets in advance in case it gets rescheduled, so the biggest challenge is keeping everyone focused and pushing for zero cancellations. We are super lucky to have Marshall Live Agency as our booking agent, they have rooted for us and given us so much support in organising the tour, that it’s allowed me to take a step back and problem solve the challenges as they fly in.
MI-L: How much support have you had from Promoters, venues etc?
NA: We are trying to make sure all the spaces are ‘Safe Spaces’. We have put a call out to our fans to find out what that means to them and are in the process of implementing these things. The promoters and venues have been nothing but supportive in what we are trying to achieve, from making sure the support acts are diverse and in line with the bands values, to making sure the venues are set up for our artist and fans requirements. We are all so happy to be back at it, there is a real sense of collaboration and fight, to keep this tour on track.
MI-L: Are the band preparing for this tour any differently from previous ones?
NA: We all want to do the right thing to keep us and our fans safe, so we are implementing more stages and protocols in the prep than we usually would. More PPE, Antibac etc, so more costs are involved. We are also taking SOFT LAD on tour with us as a support for most shows, rather than 2 local supports, to minimise too many people mixing in the crew / backstage areas, so it’s really affecting every single aspect of the tour.
This show is also brand new, with a full EP worth of music, new creatives and we want the atmosphere at the gigs to reflect the energy of the band in this new era, so there’s a lot more prep going into the stage design and that means more logistics and more elements as well as rehearsing. Basically, we are just flat out trying to make this show as big as the bands ambition, with what we have.
MI-L: How do the band feel about touring during the pandemic?
NA: Touring for the band is everything, it’s the reason they make music. Being on stage is cathartic, and without sounding too dramatic it keeps Martha alive. So, being back on tour is thrilling! The pandemic has ripped through this band, the industry and everyone’s lives, but we have to get back on stage, to get this music into a live environment. We are not the biggest band on social media or Spotify or Tik Tok and that’s okay right now, because our focus is on building a live audience and touring the world and connecting with people face to face. There is no bigger reward for the hours spent building a tour and music release than to see people physically reacting in the moment. It’s the live moments we live for right? I think any apprehensions have gone to be honest, because the industry has responded so responsibly and fans have too – everyone is still doing lateral flows before shows, it’s become the norm, and we are making sure we take the new health and safety measures seriously.
We are doing everything we can to stay safe, and that’s all we can do with such an unpredictable situation we now have to live with.
In 2018 Goldsmith’s University conducted a study which showed gig attendance improves wellbeing. The Elephant Trees are one of the bands leading the way back into the concert hall; with great songs and a dynamic live show it would be hard not to follow them.