'Don't just talk about it... Do it!'
Steve Bootland is many things: Tour manager, band manager, restaurant consultant, holiday apartment developer, business coach, just to name a few. Once upon a time he was the assistant manager of the Paradise pub, after closing his own restaurant on the Chamberlaine Rd.
These days he divides his time between Kensal Rise and his main home in Setubal – Portugal.
Now he has single-handed managed to bring "The Doups", a band from the Portuguese rock wilderness and total obscurity to become one of five finalists in the Supajam "Fast track to FIB Heineken 2009 competition ...... no small fete if one considers that they were chosen out of over 900 unsigned European bands with over 1600 tracks. Overnight, they went from a small stage playing Lisbon occasionally, to playing at the Pigalle in Piccadilly with TV coverage, press attention, and over 100,000 votes to the Supajam website in the first round alone. An experience shared with 4 other finalists who were all from the UK.
Key to this success is the involvement of local music producer Harvey Birrell who runs his own studio (Southern Studios) and has worked with bands as far as field as Johny Foreigner and The Buzzcocks. Steve and Harvey have worked together before touring and have been looking forward to work together on a project for some years.
"The Doups had Harvey´s name all over them from the first time I saw them" describes Steve; "they have a raw energy that grabs you and leaves you wondering what´s next. Harvey I knew, was going to be the man that would see through any new band teething pains when it came to recording. I knew the band would love working with him and did they ever" The production didn't go unnoticed by the event judges, who praised his work.
But how did Steve Bootland manage to change the fate of The Doups? Quick thinking, internet buzzing and sheer enthusiasm and belief. I came across Steve at the gig and later asked him a few questions:
Source - When did you first come across The Doups?
Steve Bootland - A mate of mine own a bar called Rock a Lot in Setúbal Portugal. The band had played there and my mate talked about how great they were. I went and met Joao, the singer, one night and was very impressed with his attitude. It wasn't an "I want to be in a band" attitude or a "we rock!!" attitude. There was no bullshit, this guy was a musician.
Source - What did you see in their sound?
Steve Bootland - At first a naive maturity that only a 20 year old has but 20 year olds that haven't grown up in a binge drinking culture. I heard an energy and riffs that just needed encouragement to come out. Someone who wasn't biased to be honest and say that was great or that really doesn't make sense.
The Doups at the SuperJam
Source - How did you go about promoting them?
Steve Bootland - After some rehearsal time it was time to get them out. The shows they were doing around town and in Lisbon tended to be promoted by people who haven´t looked up promote in the dictionary. In one I actually witnessed a promoter putting a poster outside the club door 10 minutes before doors; that was his advertising. I knew I had to take some drastic measures and fight what is actually a cultural difference I believe in parts of the industry here in Portugal. I asked a band member to send a twitter about a gig once and he replied "we did one the other day, are you sure we should do that?"
It was through self promotion that we managed to raise the level of awareness of The Doups. It took awhile but the band are all into it now. They are great on Myspace, Twitter, and we use Hi5, Facebook etc etc. Listing shows in gig guides, writing press releases and forums were followed by days of Search Engine Optimisation on every mention to start getting rid of the old stories of the band and bring forward the new ones more relevant to them actually showing some talent. The Doups then won a competition for best local indie band. Every mention of this was SEO´d to the eyeballs. Every gig we do is a promotion now; we´re not just there to play in front of the 19 year old girls who know all the words. We walk in to soundcheck with a smile, a handshake, a great attitude, a professional soundcheck and a technical rider is sent which would impress any sound person. We thank the other bands, we praise the other bands and we walk away Ninja Style. It always works. Our attitude has allowed us to ask for thousands of euros from big businesses for promotional ideas with our heads high in the air. Yep, we´re unsigned, can I have 9,000 euros please. Still waiting for someone to pay for the next promotional idea but so far I'm on a first name basis with some serious marketing directors
Source - When did you came across the Supajam unsigned band competition?
Steve Bootland - I make it a point to allocate some research time for new ideas and developments in the music business. So there I was... unshaven, in my underwear, on a Sunday and saw it advertised on a music site.
Source - When did Harvey get involved and what did he do?
Steve Bootland - By the time Supajam came along, the money the band won in the local competition was used to record with Harvey. Harvey and I had agreed on a production deal after sending him some demos of the band. He was sold on the raw "something" there was which draws you toward the band. Mixes were in final stages when the Supajam Competition came up and I called Harvey. It was a decision we seriously had to think about, e.g. giving them a track we had other plans for. Supajam we knew would work to our benefit if the band placed in the top 100 and stayed on the homepage every day where people voted. Little did we know that´s what would happen. Harvey agreed to get into the studio and do a special mix of the track "Try Lie Die Whatever!" and in the closing hours of the competition, we entered it. Last week we ran into the Supajam organisers at the Benicassim Festival in Spain. They said the second someone in the office started playing the track the whole office came over to the computer. That day they all agreed the Doups would make it into the Top 5. I wished I had of known that then, it would have saved a few press releases
Source - How did you manage to bring so many votes for the band?
Steve Bootland - By doing what I really feel passionate about instead of work I should be doing to pay the bills and feed my dog. That just explains the hours I put in twittering, emailing, facebooking or rather offmyfacebooking. I noticed I have lost a few friends from boredom probably. Every day would be "Hi friends, have I mentioned The Doups today." No matter what I did and what Harvey did though, we had been given great ammunition with a good strong track that people liked and voted for.
Source - What press reactions/coverage did you get through this? And in what territories?
Steve Bootland - The Doups won 4 free days at Benicassim Festival in Spain from the competition. Food, drink, camping all free and of course The Manager had to go along... me! The first thing I did there was get them an interview on Radio Unica and plays on FIB radio. I was armed with over 20 promo cd's and went on to get an acoustic session on Spanish Radio, a small photo shoot and as much plugging as possible. Here in Portugal we have had local papers with pictures twice, National Websites like Blitz and Palco Principal and hundreds of small ones. We finally even got a mention in the equivalent of the UK Sunday Times though it was small. We have had voters comment from Canada, Hawaii, 3 US radio stations talking about us like we´re their best friends and a huge amount of new fans and friends from the UK. We could not believe that a little competition, done correctly, could actually work for us without making us look uncool. Oh yes, and we have been added to the bill at the new Rock One Festival in Portimao supporting The Offspring on Aug 8th. Also, Supajam, the organisers along with Vince Power will be releasing our track along with the other top 40 of the competition on itunes in the next few weeks. Keep an eye on www.supajam.com for details.
Source - How has life changed for the band?
Steve Bootland - Life has moved in a different direction for the band, not necessarily because The Doups have placed top 5. That´s helped put a smile on their face but it´s also opened a door that can take years for some bands to open. It´s the chance to meet people like Franz Ferdinand and give them a CD; talk normal and try to act normal. I think some of the experiences The Doups have had in a very short space of time must be very daunting indeed. But no one said it would be easy and this is the level where you can taste the future if you want it. This is where you remember saying "I want to be in a band" and you look at yourself and realise you are. You look at all the musicians around you, the crew pushing cases, the lighting guys working their asses off, the buses rolling in and out, the laughter and the tears and you make your decision. Everyday life still goes on now we´re back in the office and the band all help contribute to decisions and forward planning. They are working hard rehearsing, writing new material, doing artwork and more and I can see that every one of them has decided to go full ahead into the Music career path. It makes me proud to know I was right months back when I knew they were musicians.
Source - What lessons do you draw from this experience?
Steve Bootland - Without trying to do a quote from "The Secret" that´s hard to answer. Managing a band is a job. Let´s be honest, if there wasn't this one, there would be another. When you look at something and you know something is right though, you know it´s going to work and you know it´s going to be big ....... Don´t let anyone tell you otherwise. You don´t need to go around spray painting your bands name on the walls. You need to wake up every day and believe your band will be big. Others will follow you. If you strongly believe your tracks are great or the band you manage is great, don't sit around in bars talking about how better you could have been then another band, do it. It´s an industry where the rules have changed so much now that there are no rules. Take examples from the past, don't be afraid to ask questions, don't be afraid to go with what you believe in, don't be afraid to make money and don't be afraid to be hungry for as long as you want it to take.
Oh yeah .... and don´t land in Faro after 10pm because there are no more buses to Lisbon!!!!! That is a whole new story though.
Source - Portugal is not known for rock bands, instead there seems to be a view that Portuguese music is all about fado and melancholy. What is your understanding of contemporary Portuguese music?
Steve Bootland - Last year there were 3 entries from Portugal at South by Southwest in the states. I will only plug one "Legendary Tigerman", ok and another David Fonseca. The other one "Cla" I refuse to mention. I like the first one but will not say a good or bad thing about either, I suggest people google them. Everyone knows two female singers who are both half Portuguese and both sing in English. Portugal has lots of heavy rock and rock. If there wasn't a language barrier between England and Portugal we'd see a lot more Portuguese bands in the UK. Many of the top bands here sing in Portuguese and why not. There are a hand full of good ones now though who do sing in English and deserve to be playing in London. One I have my eye on are called The Vicious Five who last year won MTV Portugal band of the year award. Great band! As far as Fado goes, you need to go to the oldest part of Lisbon and sit in a Fado house with a lump of cheese, bread and a vat of red wine and watch 75 year old women belt out sad songs that will make your cheese weep. To me that´s fado, it´s an experience I like to see but to be honest, I don´t need to be listening to it on the radio all the time. I wish the builders working on the house next door had the same views though.
"Try lie die Whatever!" by The Doups will be released on itunes by Supajam in August. Shortly after The Doups will be releasing an EP entitled "Six O´clock Shadow". Release dates will be announced soon on www.myspace.com/thedoups
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Interview for Audio Pro International