Looking to success we believe that you define your own success and it is what you want it to be. Success can surprise and ultimately it is about what makes you and your journey companions happy
Shininglights has been talking to artists about the interaction between music and money. The aim is to understand how different artists approach and how apply this to their own circumstances (whether as a musician or any other profession).
In this interview we talk to Circe’s Diner, a Bristolian four-piece band that weave wondrous tales of love, loss, friendship and tigers against a backdrop of Americana, Roots and Folk music. In January they released their debut EP and embarked on a UK tour. 2015 saw them appear at the after show party for the Great British Bake Off.
We caught up with Rosina Buck (RB) and Bronte Shande (BS) to talk about the thorny subject of money and music and how they have approached this.
SL: “Can you provide a potted history of your career to date, and how the name for the band came about?”
CD: We met at a BIMM performance based module. It was clear at the start that we were of similar character and had like-minded vintage fashion tastes which created an instant connection. I (Rosina) invited Bronte to a gig I was playing at and soon after we started meeting up and jamming at my house.
We quickly found that there was a natural musical fit between us. We had both worked on solo projects but had never been part of a serious band.
Initially the band was the two of us and we have allowed it to grow organically and now have two lovely boys that play with us, Pete on drums and Chris on bass. We see it as a collaborative project but at the core will always be the two of us. Rosina takes on a lot of the general management and wrote the songs for our debut album. Bronte is the harmony queen and has an amazing ear when arranging the tunes. We have both been writing lots more songs, separately and together, which is really exciting for the band and now have two further albums ready to go.
In the short term we have our degrees to focus on with the finals in June and all our effort is geared towards that. Once our degrees are finished we have a busy summer lined up with festivals, another tour and time in the studio.
As to the name of the band we originally started with Athena’s Diner but it didn’t feel right. Athena is from Greek methodology and both of us felt she was too good and perfect. It was suggested by one of our lecturers Gerard Langley that we used Circe; a minor goddess, she became attached to Odysseus and used lotions and potions to turn his companions to pigs and then feast on them!
Circe’s Diner connected more with us as it reflects that none of us are perfect, and gives us that quirky feel that has served us well. Many of the songs centre on themes of love and loss, which solidifies our affinity with Circe. And of course we love food and thought it was a really cool image having this friendly diner image but with the darker connotations of Circe.
SL: “Describe your musical style and who inspires/influences you?”
CD: We don’t really have a style as such. Perhaps there is a little junoesk/alternative folk but we think it is more about the blend of voices that create something that is a bit different.
Rosina has a more quirky/folk voice and Bronte jazz but blended together we have created the unique sound that is Circe’s Diner. Some have tried to describe our style and point towards Warpaint/First Aid Kit but were not really sure!!
As for influences these are varied. For Rosina it has to be the likes of the Bangles, Frazey Ford, and Al Green but actually the main inspiration is life and I (Rosina) would say that all types of music will guide me but so does perfect silence. I (Bronte) was lucky to have parents who had a good taste in music and introduced me to the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald.
There is an amazing mix of music which inspire us but ultimately we are country girls at heart inspired by nature, and our families are really important to us as are our “fans”. We call our “fans” diners and they are part of the project and journey we are on. We see them as friends and are lucky that we seem to gravitate towards nice people (or nice people gravitate to us) and this is all part of Circe’s Diner.
SL: “Can you describe your experience of how the market for promoting music has evolved? In particular, how important are distributors, streaming services and social media in promoting music and how has this evolved over time?”
CD: We really only know the market as it is now. Social media is really important and enables personal engagement with the “diners”. This reflects the collaborative nature of what we are doing. It also enables us to have a global presence and engage with people from around the world. Some may find social media a challenge but we enjoy this as it’s nice to chat to people!
We debated a lot about Spotify as it’s a bit of an unknown for us but ultimately it is another means of being discovered so we were happy for our debut album to be on there. Whether we put future albums up will be something for debate.
But we also like old fashioned techniques like posters which works well in cities like Bristol.
There is a business side to this but it is not the focus, the focus is on the music. It might sound strange but this is not about making lots of money. It is about seeing people’s reactions to our music and taking people along that journey. All these methods help do this.
Looking to success we believe that you define your own success and it is what you want it to be. Success can surprise and ultimately it is about what makes you and your journey companions happy.
If there is one downside it is that there are so many people out there and it makes it hard to be heard. The days of being “found” at a gig just don’t happen but being focused and believing is all part of Circe’s journey!
SL: “You have just released your debut album, how did you approach the funding and what did you learn?”
CD: The idea of DIY in music is empowering and exciting. What we have belongs to us and no-one else. We used Kickstarter because we could give something back to the “diners” who supported us. We asked friends and family and we made the target in a day. We are so appreciative and it shows how those who support us are there for the music and believe in what we do.
We also saved money from gigs and busking. We wanted the album to be something special and to contain an experience. It became clear at the start that we didn’t want to compromise and therefore we did go over budget. We worked with an amazing Bristol Artist Ursula Freeman who developed the logo and artwork for the album cover with Rosina being the Tiger and Bronte the wolf!
If anything we have learned that when we do it again the support is there.
SL: “What are the biggest challenges financially from making a career in music, and what do you find are the best sources of revenue?”
CD: If you want to make it happen you have to believe you are good enough and believe there is no other option. We are very driven and although we get money from gigs we don’t really know where money will come from but opportunities always come up.
Both of us work for a charity called Integrate Bristol where we help with song writing, studio work and music videos. There are so many things you can do to fulfill your dreams whether playing at functions or teaching singing. We have been asked to play at Weddings and we have recently played at an event at Goodwood.
Learning the business side at BIMM has been really important and given us a real insight into how the industry works, it has made us feel more ready and prepared for the real world! We learn as we go along and we look to push ourselves out there. We are used to getting no replies but you have to persevere and “keep moving forward”! (Rosina has that tattooed on her arm)
SL: “As individuals and as a band what would be the trigger to make a full time career in music?”
CD: We loved touring and it felt like another world. Coming back to reality was really hard. The simple answer is having enough money to cover food and rent, and we would both love to do it full time. We will be doing it full time!!
SL: “With an evolving market where downloads appear the growing sector, and where individuals focus on songs rather than albums does this make the production of albums harder, and therefore is there a greater temptation to focus on one or two standout tracks?”
CD: For us it is all about the story. The new tracks follow the same theme. We have considered releasing a single and we may do that. Both of us like the experience of listening to a whole album.
Perhaps younger teenagers consume music differently and would not necessarily fall into our fan base. Ultimately we want to create music that stands the test of time.
SL: “Is it important for you to be signed.”
CD: It would be nice to be signed but it would have to be with the right label. It can help us to be more successful in what we want to do because we should be able to achieve more.
Equally we want to be in control of what we produce and how it is distributed and we don’t want to lose that control. It is easy to get carried away because our music is in a fashionable part of the market but coming through BIMM keeps our feet firmly on the ground.
It is important that we don’t settle for second best and are able to retain the organic feel of what is Circe’s Diner. At the moment the biggest sacrifice for us is time. Rather than focusing on getting signed, if we can get a booking agent that would be a great start as that would hopefully open up bigger gigs and supporting slots. A manager would then be the next logical step.
Ultimately we want to keep our moral integrity and we want to be happy with what we are doing. The industry is not easy but we will not be easily fooled!!!
SL: “What would you like to achieve over the next 12 months, and over the next five years?”
CD: We always have lots of plans in the pipeline!! Rosina is always emailing people and getting ideas and leads to new things! However, we are happy to go with the flow and for now our aim is to really focus on this in the summer. Our thoughts are around supporting bigger bands, touring Australia, Europe, the UK and as many festivals as we can. We would love to appear on the Jools Holland show: – he has our album; we are just waiting for the call!
Other than that it’s about keeping the energy and momentum going with not just touring but also producing new music and meeting new people who want to know about us and our music.
SL: “What are your favourite venues and where would you like to play in the future?”
CD: There are lots of places we like including the Magic Garden, Blue Sky Café and Golden Lion but we also like intimate gigs as well as the Folk House where we started our tour. In the future really anywhere abroad, Jazz World Stage at Glastonbury, Colston Hall and Albert Hall.
We saw Circe’s Diner perform a lounge room gig to raise money for the Bristol Music Show and you can see how people are drawn to them as individuals and their music. Knowing the story behind the name makes perfect sense!
In all the interviews we do we look to draw out the relationship between money and music but more and more the word success comes through. Both Rosina and Bronte believe in what they do but equally they understand that success is not what we perceive success to be (as printed in the papers) but what we want it to be. This makes a big difference.
Like any job financially there is no certainty, but there are ways to make this work and certainly coming away from the interview it is clear they have the drive to make it work. It is not that they don’t want to make money but more than anything they want to earn enough to enable them to do what they love doing.
We went to the start of the tour at the Folk House in Bristol and as a live band they are fantastic to watch and we would challenge anyone not to come away with a smile. The debut album is a beautifully crafted piece from the artwork to the songs. It is difficult to pick a single track from the album as you feel you are being taken along a musical journey (part of me is taken back to the poetry of William Blake and Songs of Innocence and Experience) and we would recommend people take the “Circe’s” journey, we don’t think you will be disappointed!
You can purchase their mini album “October’ via iTunes, or go and see them live and they will have physical copies for sale.