Earlier this month I reviewed Sandtimer’s new EP Mackeral, and now I’ve had the chance to sit down with Rob and ask him a couple questions – check out our interview below!
How did you and Simon choose the name Sandtimer for your band?
“I started using ‘Sandtimer’ ages ago as the folder name on my computer containing all the recordings I was working on. The choice of name was inspired by an early Dave Grohl album of demos, Pocketwatch, and served as a reminder to focus on the soul and energy in the recordings, rather than some idea of perfection.
When we chose it as the band name, we were looking at it as a reflection of that particularly British urgency to ‘get your life in order’ way before you actually need to- something we both talk about a lot in our songs.”
What is your writing process like?
“Each song normally stems from one specific idea- whether that’s a specific chord progression, melody or lyrical thing- to which I then bring other elements to make something vaguely coherent sounding. Sometimes I end up combining multiple ideas- for example, the sanshin part in ‘Mackerel’ was originally a separate instrumental piece which I found fit really nicely with the song and lyrics.”
Are either you or Simon the primary song or music writer, or is it a very collaborative process?
“We’re both writing an equal amount at the moment, but we’ve mainly released stuff by me so far, mainly as there were quite a few songs ready to go when we first started performing. We collaborate a lot on the arrangements of the songs though, and definitely reshape the song a little in the process.”
How long is your usual creation time, from idea to recording?
“Writing can take me anything from twenty minutes to six months! And if I don’t feel like I’ve reached the full potential of a song idea, I tend to put it on the back-burner and come back to it a long time later.”
Where do you draw inspiration from, for both the music and lyrics?
“More recently, a lot of songs have been reactions to things and movements that are happening in the world, but otherwise the songs are just ways of obscurely channeling my thoughts and feelings about various things! I recently wrote a ‘love song’ from the perspective of troubled Instagram star Dan Bilzerian, which I’ll be amused to hear people’s reactions to…”
A love song from Bilzerian’s perspective sounds really inventive! What do you think about the progression of the folk scene in recent years, with some artists and bands making it really big in mainstream pop music?
“I think there are some really cool aspects of folk music that can be channelled into mainstream pop – the rhythm and instrumentation, particularly. Having bands like The Weather Station and Bon Iver in the spotlight who have taken those principles and created something really unique is definitely something I’m pleased to see.”
How have you seen things change or develop?
“From our perspective as performers, the scene doesn’t seem to have changed much since we started playing a couple of years ago. Maybe a few more loop pedals are being used! With the live scene being so fragmented in the UK at the moment, it’s hard to see any real trajectory in any direction.”
How do you see the live music scene in the UK right now? You said it seems hard to see any path or trajectory?
“I think the issue is mainly economic. People aren’t broadly inclined to take a chance on a band they don’t already know if it’s paid entry- that disposable income just isn’t there for most. So your only hope of expanding your audience can often be winning over the friends and family of other bands on the bill, which is particularly difficult if the other band is a metalcore trio (true story). Some promoters run event series on a certain theme, which can be good- but the financial incentive for the bands can start to wear a bit thin after they’ve barely covered their travel expenses for a few years. Despite the huge hard work of most promoters and musicians, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the audiences just need to be a bit bigger.
The way restaurants, cafés and bars in Canada treat musicians, from our experience, is something I think UK music venues can learn a lot from. Things like cover charges and suggested donations can make a world of difference. House concerts are also becoming more popular in the UK. They were a game-changer for us on our Canadian tour and I hope they catch on here.”
Since this site has such a movie-focus, is the music or score something you pick up on in movies?
“Yes, the music is something that can really make or break a film for me. As well as playing in Sandtimer, I also write music for short films and things, so I’m always quite tuned in to the soundtrack.”
What’s next for Sandtimer?
“This year, we organised a tour of west Canada ourselves and were amazed at how well it went. It was one of the best trips of my life so far. So we’re now looking at the potential of touring other countries, as well as at whether 2017 would be too soon to revisit Canada!”
You mentioned working on more songs that you’ve yet to release – any plans for another EP or a full album sometime in 2017?
“We’ve got a few singles to throw into the fray early next year, but a full album is definitely our next big project, and we’re just finishing work on the recordings. There are definitely a few tracks on there that I think have the potential to do well. The difficulty is always going to be picking the right time for a record, though, and we’re prepared to hold off until 2018 if it increases our chance of making a success of the release. A lot of people I know have released albums this year and I have been quite unsettled by how difficult it’s been for them to get anywhere near the audience they’d like for such a huge investment of passion.”