I ventured to Penelopes, next to the imposing O2 Academy, just before the evening sound check for another gig promoted by the fast rising SUB team. They surfaced in August of this year and in the few intervening months have risen to prominence in the Sheffield music scene for putting on free gigs as an outlet for many unsigned bands who have trouble securing regular gigs at any of the cities music venues.
The scene is hectic, a sound engineer and lots of musicians from the 4 bands playing at this evening are buzzing around organising their equipment, some tuning guitars, other setting up the drum kit and several sat back preparing mentally for their nights set. I identify one half of SUB, Paul Mills running back and fro helping bands with gear and generally directing things.
“There wasn’t enough opportunities for local bands to play without cost, so the idea is they get to play with SUB to build up a following; then they can approach the bigger venues about gigs.”
After about 10 minutes Paul comes over, apologises and finally sits to chat. Very much a behind the scenes man, he is reticent to talk about himself and instead speaks fast and enthusiastically about SUB and how its helping many bands to play without the pressure of selling lots of tickets.
When pressed Paul gives a brief précis of his background. Both he and his partner in SUB, Andy Sellars, (absent for the interview due to urgent band business and last minute gig organisation) met whilst doing the rounds of music venues with their respective bands, Paul as manager of young pop / punksters Platinum Blind and Andy as front man with rock band Lateral Vision. Paul takes up the story “There wasn’t enough opportunities for local bands to play without paying, by selling lots of tickets, so the idea is they get to play with SUB and build up a bit of a following and then they can approach the bigger venues about gigs.”
Most of their gigs are free and they have currently over 200 bands on their roster wanting to play and have managed to put on gigs for over 90 to date. They promote at 4 venues soon to be more, West End, Pomona, Penelopes and Lescar and also looking to put gigs on further afield at the Dickens Bar in Rotherham and Vintage Rock Bar in Donny.
Its all done for love of music rather than any material payment and any money they do make is put back into SUB which has seen the guys already provide a drum kit “its not great but its a start” says Paul who adds “and we’re hoping to add a bass amp soon too.”
The West End is a venue where they do have to charge a minimal entry fee of £2, but as Paul confirms it doesn’t go in their pockets “the venue is usually closed on Sundays so we charge a little on the door just to cover costs.”
Is the plan to move onto bigger venues in time, and wouldn’t that inevitably mean charging for entry? Paul explains “we aim to move to larger venues where there would be an entry charge but this would then result in the bands getting paid for their efforts which is what we want to see for all bands in the long run. We have made a few contacts with the larger Sheffield venues, and tried to arrange something and they said they’d get in touch but we haven’t heard anything yet, but we’re still hopeful.”
The SUB website has had 16,000+ hits and Paul proudly states “we dropped a pebble in the water and the ripples have started to move out, very slowly but definitely moving out” evidence of this is the interest from local music mags and BBC Radio Sheffield Raw Talent hosted by Iain Hodgson who feature the SUB duo on Raw Talent soon. Paul again, for the countless time makes sure I appreciate its not about him and Andy and the few pals who help out, its all about the music and the bands who play.
I’m sure it doesn’t escape anyone’s attention that the bands wouldn’t be playing without Paul and Andy’s hard work and their giving up a lot of their spare time, which must be at a premium as they both work, Paul with I.T and Andy holding down 2 jobs as well as also busking around the city centre regularly spreading his love of all things musical.
Paul continues “We don’t only use Sheffield band’s, we maybe use 3 locals and an out-of-towner. There is no restriction on genres but certain nights have to be certain types of bands. We’re doing our first death metal night here (at Penelopes) soon, they don’t usually get their fair share (of gigs) and seem to be misunderstood, but according to facebook its had the most confirmed hits of any of our gigs to date. We now also open our Pomona gigs with a solo acoustic set, sometimes Andy. We are currently running nights there every Friday and Saturday up to the end of the year with 5 acts per night and its free entry.”
What’s Paul tip for bands to watch out for? “Apart from our own bands Platinum Blind and Lateral Vision I really like Steel Trees, a very good band a bit like Nirvana. Maybe I Might Explode though I think are going to be the next big Sheffield band, known as MIME for short, they bring loads of fans (Counterfeit positively reviewed a recent gig of theirs) and they played at the Boardwalk the other week and nearly everyone who came was there to see them.”
We also had two Liverpool bands a few weeks ago who played to 70 people and last week a signed Bradford band Hoover Dams brought a good crowd and both me and Andy agreed they were one of the best bands we have put on, tight and professional.”
Paul and Andy’s ambitions for SUB are again band orientated, “we’d like to see bands move on and make some money and get some fame” and adds with a smile “and hopefully not forget they started with us.”
They have hopes of being involved in Tramlines 11 and also doing more charity events as cancer hit close to home with Wayne, the drummer for Andy’s band, losing an eye through the disease. Paul praises his fight “he’s a top drummer and he’s been though that and come back and is doing great and recently becoming a daddy again.”
His closing comments are typical “before we close I’d like to plug the OXJAM event we’ve organised at the Pomona on 29th October, we’ve got 5 great bands on, Ruberlaris are headlining, Steel Trees, The Stoops, another great local band, the Cartels are doing an acoustic set plus Andy’s band Lateral Vision, it’ll be a great gig.”
SUB have also produced a CD with tracks of many of the bands they have featured, starting as a 6 track then 10 its ended up being something like 19!
They do seem to have a knack of getting people into their gigs, be it free or a mere £2 and they have more plans afoot, Paul spills the beans with tongue in cheek” we are thinking of doing a gig called ‘shitty unsigned bands’ (S.U.B.), to get some people to come out of interest, we’ll try anything!”
I was very impressed by SUB, their work ethic and production of an outlet for many frustrated local bands to play is commendable but to do it without wanting any pay or personal plaudits makes it a very special venture and one South Yorkshire should support by attending their gigs for an affordable uplifting night of live music.