In all walks of music, from reviewers to fans, there has always been a need to pin artists down to a specific genre and establish their identity. But with more artists transcending the musical norms through genre-mixing and experimenting with creative ideas, it is becoming harder for people to define what they listen to. A look at the Saint Agnes website, for example, will inform you that they play ‘psychedelic rock and roll’, while their Twitter profile offers the brilliant description, ‘garage western gothic hard rock heart throbs.’ So, do Saint Agnes agree with any of these labels?
“I think it is all of those things,” says Kitty (vocals/guitar). “Essentially we’re a garage rock band. Very bluesy as well. There are elements of metal in there. And there are big elements of 70’s psychedelia as well as the pop thing. So I think we’re quite hard to put into a category. But I think if we were going to be in a category, we’re a rock band.”
Heavy blues has since been omitted from this search for an identity, and Jon (guitars/bvs) succinctly decides on a genre that they agree would be fitting: “We’re a garage blues rock band with ideas above our station.”
With the matter of genre identity cleared up, Jon is keen to discuss whether or not they fit in ‘typical’ jeans / t-shirt / Converse / Vans East London music scene, which could appear like a stereotype in 2016. “There are some bands that have come to define it in some way or look, but the original good thing about East London was that it was just like, ‘oh, you’ve got a creative idea, cool, do it’. That’s what we’ve responded to and that’s why we feel happy. We have friends who are in bands that fit that [stereotypical] description more, but they come to our shows and we go to theirs.”
“We don’t fit the typical stereotype. I think it’s just a shame that there has become a stereotype, but there is a bubbling underground of East London bands that don’t fit that stereotype who will push through. The louder, more metal-y stuff is becoming more prominent, which is great. Maybe in a couple of years’ time that will be East London.”
Kitty listens quietly and adds: “People are ready for riffs I feel like now. Finally, in East London they’re ready for riffs.”
Whether labelled as part of the stereotypical East London scene or otherwise, there is a real sense of community amongst bands in the area, and Andy (drummer) speaks about how the Roadkill acts work as a unit to promote each other’s gigs and releases: “I think because of things like Roadkill it’s a good little community, and going to each other’s shows is just one part of it. Say the Sly Persuaders release something, we’ll be like ‘oh, check out the Sly Persuaders and stuff’. A lot of the time it can be too much like ‘my band is better than your band’ which is a bit lame. Everyone’s in it together – just to have a good time basically.”
Saint Agnes heavily promote and support other bands, and are fully positive to ensure everyone involved takes part in this community-minded marketing. Of course, bands are in charge of their own promotion, and Kitty explains how this works in our modern times: “Back in the day you could just be an alcoholic and that was fine. Now you’ve got to be a fucking marketing genius! I like it. I’m 23, so I kind of come from a generation where it’s quite normal to be using social media just as part of your life. It’s fairly standard. I like that you can connect directly with people – there’s no middle man. You can represent yourself exactly how you want to be represented, without having to satisfy an A&R man’s whims.
“You have to work really hard to get a good balance between connecting with fans but also not overloading people with selfies for example. If you put a photo up and it gets a load of likes – that’s good enough. But yeah, I enjoy it. I don’t really see it as a negative.”
Music marketing requires a carefully considered balance to ensure a band’s identity doesn’t get swallowed by selfies or drowned with ego. Kitty and St. Agnes appear to be on top of things and are keen to ensure they have a unique identity. Our final discussion with Saint Agnes – Part 3 of 3 – keenly demonstrates Saint Agnes’ ethos: “We are citizens of the world”. So how will Brexit affect this?
To be continued….Part 3 of 3 will continue the band’s discussion on the process of modern-day marketing.
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Cover photo by Keira Cullinane