In light of the success achieved by The Other Guys, David Hershaw tells us that St Andrews’ musicians have even more to give.
The momentum that The Other Guys’ campaign for Christmas No.1 is currently generating is undoubtedly impressive. However, the recent attention given to the a cappella group has provoked a mixed reaction from some, who have highlighted the discrepancy between the student community’s overwhelming backing of this campaign and the generally apathetic support they offer to the majority of local musicians.
It is incredibly important to stress that no one has anything bad to say about The Other Guys or their campaign; people are merely frustrated that despite the vast array of talented and hard-working performers in the town, currently only one act seems to receive any recognition. The Other Guys should be applauded for their outstanding creativity, ability, humour and PR, but it must be asked why they are the only musicians in the town to have broken through into people’s consciousnesses.
It should also be remembered that it has taken the ensemble a number of years to gain their popularity, and they have done so with an ever-evolving line-up. This is a luxury that most bands and soloists don’t have. Most acts spend their full four years here attempting to promote their music and then leave with only a handful of supporters. Local songwriter and multi-musician Nathan Elias (aka Ghost Pony) had this to say:
“I love the success the Other Guys are having, they are a tremendous group. What I disdain are official University bodies as well as students who appear out of the blue saying ‘support the other guys, they are music talent from St Andrews’ without supporting any other group.”
For Elias, improving the resources and support given to local musicians has been a long-fought battle. He highlights that for non-acoustic bands there is still very little provided by the University and progress has been painfully slow regarding “sound proofing a room in the union, setting up a new practice kit, and kitting out a recording studio for groups to use.”
At this point I think I should lay my own cards on the table. I am a member of The Dirty Hemingways, a local band, and have also been attempting to promote local music this year in my capacity as music sub-editor at The Saint. In my experience, it has been a struggle to create any kind of live music presence within in the town, with so few venues and resources available. A fellow member of The Dirty Hemingways, lead-vocalist Daniel Halasz, had this to say:
“I just find it disappointing to see how many St Andrews students (and student run organisations) seem willing to support, buy, share music from The Other Guys when they don’t support other musicians in St Andrews. They shouldn’t support The Other Guys less – they should support everyone else more. And the fact that half of the responses you’re getting are ‘there aren’t any bands in St Andrews!’ goes to show how little people spread the word here. You can argue that The Other Guys are more talented, better looking, more mainstream, whatever you like, but if there’s only room for St Andrews to support one musical act, only the best one with the best chance of making it, isn’t that a bit sad?”
It is important to stress that no one is asking for handouts or a golden ticket from the Union that you can trade in for a record contract. A number of local performers are working very hard to produce and promote their music despite the lack of support they receive. Nathan Elias highlighted how the ‘underground’ music scene is attempting to be heard:
“Where lack of support for local music has fallen gravely short from select sub-committees, the local musicians have come to fill in the gaps. We work very closely together on events like On The Rock’s ‘Wild Rumpus’ and ‘The Mo-Show’. If you’ve seen the Dirty Hemingways, Retrophobes, Ghostpony, Mad Jack, The Glitch, or Harshad and Jay’s rapping, few leave these concerts unimpressed by the talent that these groups have.”
For the musicians that Elias talks about, who have spent the whole year trying to make an impact with very little backing, it is frustrating to see how much encouragement the student community is directing towards The Other Guys and not them as well. It is not only bands and songwriters that suffer either. Zorbey Turkalp identifies that there is very little exposure given to classical music performers:
“I know a few people who have performed extremely difficult concertos or other solo works here, and usually it has taken them at least two years of solid work focusing solely on this one piece… It’s disappointing that the amount of time the concerto musicians puts in is for one performance that barely gets recognised outside the applause at Younger Hall.”
You can therefore forgive certain local musicians for having mixed feelings about The Other Guys’ campaign and the response it has garnered. These musicians have all made it clear that they are not criticising The Other Guys. In fact, Turkalp is a long-term fan and supporter of the group.
They are, however, stating that if people want to support more local musicians then more of them should start turning out at live events and listening to local music online. More than this, if student groups, societies and media outlets want to get involved then there are plenty of performers deserving of some exposure. Remember, supporting local music is not just for Christmas.
Some local acts to check out:
The Accidentals; The Alleycats; Andrew Pearson (and the Rifle Birds); The Big Band; Black Sheep Music Society; The BluesWater; Bridge Street Collective (Zi and the Yads); Calum Bryant; The Dirty Hemingways; Echofield; Fay Butler; St Andrews Gilbert & Sullivan Society; Ghostpony; The Glitch; Harshad and Jay; Hamish Hawk; Heliovore; The Hummingbirds; Jazzworks; Lucy Toms; The Kilrymont Ceilidh Band; Mad Jack; The Marcus Ker Improv Group; Mood Room Collective; The Moon, the Son and the Daughters; Old Soane; Oscar Swedrup; The Other Guys [just in case you haven’t already… (Ed.)]; Retrophobes; St Salvator’s Chapel Choir; SuperCeilidhFragilistic; The University Symphony Orchestra; Youngerhall; Ziyad Elgaid.