Overblown’s collective heart melts at the mention of the Indietracks Festival. Indiepop bands galore. Beautiful Derbyshire countryside. Sunshine (we hope). Discovering new bands. Seeing bands on trains. Drinking in an old train carriage converted to a bar. Indie discos. Bright Orange Cider. Like-minded souls everywhere. Flicking through vinyl in the merchandise tent. Random performances in said tent. Seeing bands in a tiny wooden church. Swanwick Junction. New friends. Happy memories. Great fun.In a summer calendar that’s crammed with festivals it’s hard to think of one as unique and appealing as the Indietracks Festival. In 2015 (24th to 26th July) some of the bigger names at the festival include Cinerama, The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, The Go! Team, Laetitia Sadier and Colleen Green. However, of equal importance are the dozens of lesser know bands waiting to be discovered and who will instantly win a place in your heart.
The festival is lovingly organised and run entirely by a team of volunteers. Overblown took the opportunity of speaking to Andy Hudson, one of the volunteer team, to find out more about the blood, sweat and tears that goes into making the festival one of the most vital of the summer and to discover it’s a lot more than just bands that makes this festival tick. Have a read and a listen to a handful of the bands playing this year’s edition.
Overblown: 2015 will be the 9th annual festival which is pretty amazing. What’s the secret to keeping this going year after year?
Andy: We’re really lucky that people keep coming back to the festival each year and that new people keep discovering us. Our audience have been so fantastic about spreading the word about the festival, and we really appreciate it. The Midland Railway, who promote the festival, showed incredible faith in the idea in the early days and were confident enough to invest in us and give us time to let the festival grow. It must have been a risk for them, but they were brave and stuck with us through the early years and now we’re hopefully a successful fundraiser for the charity. The other important thing is that we’re always able to find exciting new music for the festival – whether it’s new bands like Tuff Love, Desperate Journalist or Feature or amazing new albums from The Go! Team, The Wave Pictures or Tigercats. We’re only able to put on a successful festival because there’s so much amazing music out there!
O: How many people make up the core Indietracks volunteer team? It must be a real labour of love. Is the reward worth all the effort for those involved?
Andy: There’s quite a few people involved! Firstly, Andrea, Alan and a host of volunteers and workers at the Midland Railway do a huge amount of work pretty much all year around to get the site ready, arrange the licenses, look after the finances and a long list of other logistical things. There’s a small team involved in booking bands, DJs and workshops and promoting the festival, which includes Nat, Ian, Marianthi, Alice and me. And then Emma recruits and organises the volunteer stewards and stage assistants, and Claire designs all our artwork and makes the programme.
I think everyone involved really enjoys it and we’re all so lucky to be involved. The weekend itself is one of our highlights of the year but we also love all the preparation, especially booking the bands! We all have separate day jobs, so this is something fun to do in our spare time.
O: How do you set about deciding what bands / artists you want to play at the festival? Does the decision making process cause much arguing amongst the volunteers?
Andy: There’s a thread on the Anorak messageboard where anyone can suggest bands they want to play at Indietracks, and we usually approach the most popular bands on that list. We also invite bands to apply to play at the festival, and we listen to all the applications and invite the exciting ones along. We receive hundreds and hundreds of applications and it’s a great way to discover new artists, although weirdly a lot of metal and indie rock bands apply too. We also have our own ideas of who we’d like to invite, and we try to have a mix of something new and exciting alongside familiar bands that we think will be really popular with our audience. Everyone in the team has their own ideas and that’s really helpful because it makes sure we have a variety of bands playing. We’ve always managed to agree on which bands to invite, and while we’re not shy about sharing opinions with each other, we’ve never had any real arguments. It would be silly to fall out over something like that and we’re all nice people!
O: Tell us about a few personal highlights over the years. Any memories, particular bands or songs, laughs, disasters etc?
Andy: There’s so many highlights! The first Indietracks was really special, as we couldn’t believe we were allowed to have an indiepop festival on a steam railway with all our favourite bands. And when we brought in the large outdoor stage in 2009 along with bands like Teenage Fanclub and Camera Obscura, it felt like we’d become a real, proper festival. La Casa Azul possibly stole the show that year and people will always remember ‘Love Is In The Air’. Most recently, Allo Darlin’ and Withered Hand were joyous sets last year, and I’ve loved some of the smaller sets in the church over the – Stars of Aviation, The Magic Theatre, Haiku Salut to name just a few. I’m sure other team members would give you a completely different list of highlights!
One of my favourite things about Indietracks is that people are so understanding when the best laid plans need to change. In 2013 there was a lightening storm which meant moving Camera Obscura to the indoor stage, and the band, the crew and all the audience happily just make it work smoothly. There were people standing in a thunderstorm outside waiting for Camera Obscura, who were probably quite happy to head indoors. Lightning in late July is pretty unusual, so fingers crossed it won’t happen again!
O: Are there many bands over the years you’ve desperately wanted to book but couldn’t get? Any you chased year after year who eventually decided to play?
Andy: We invited The Go! Team for several years, even when they were technically on hiatus, and we’re so pleased they’re coming this year. The Pastels and Helen Love were other bands that we approached a few times before they played in 2013. There’s a few other bands that we’ve been inviting for a while that haven’t played yet, but it’s not really fair on them to name them here. We’re still hoping they’ll come along and play Indietracks when the timing is right!
O: Who would play in your dream Indietracks line-up?
Andy: I think lots of people would be really excited if Kenickie came to Indietracks, although I don’t think they have any plans to get back together sadly. There are rumours that The Sundays might start recording again, and we’d definitely be interested if they wanted to play any festivals! To be honest though, I’m just as excited about finding the next amazing new indiepop band. My dream Indietracks line up for 2016 would include lots of exciting bands I haven’t even heard of yet.
O: There’s so much more than bands playing at the festival. Tell our readers what other fun they can expect from the weekend.
Andy: We’re based on a 1950s heritage railway, so visitors can take steam train rides through the Derbyshire countryside. There are transport museums with old trains, buses and model railways, and there’s a beautiful country park with a miniature railway running on the Sunday. There will also be a range of art and craft workshops for all the family, discos after the bands finish, a merchandise tent and a selection of real ales and fine foods. There’s even an owl sanctuary! So there’s plenty of things to do, as well as bands playing across four stages.
O: There’s an incredible sense of fun, collaboration and friendliness at the festival throughout the site itself and the campsite. The atmosphere can only be described as lovely and very unique to Indietracks. Why do you think this is?
Andy: I think it’s such an exciting location – being able to see the steam trains and signal boxes, and hear the whistles and chugging of the trains somehow feels really special. The staff and volunteers are so welcoming and the audience and bands tend to mix together and they’re all really excited to be there. It’s a small intimate festival and it’s easy to walk between stages. I think there’s a similar atmosphere at events like Wales Goes Pop, the Odd Box Weekender, the Nottingham indiepop alldayer and other popfests across the world, so to me Indietracks feels like part of a community of events. People coming to Indietracks for the first time often comment on how friendly and special the atmosphere feels.
O: What are you most looking forward to about the 2015 edition? Do the volunteers get a chance to enjoy themselves over the weekend?
Andy: Everthing! We only book bands that we really love, and there’s so many bands playing Indietracks that have never played before, as well as a few familiar faces. I think Cinerama, The School and Fever Dream are perfect bands to kick the festival off on the Friday. On the Saturday we’re so excited that The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart are returning, Colleen Green playing is a real coup for us and The Wave Pictures are on fire at the moment! On the Sunday, Martha seem to be increasingly popular every time I see them, I’m a huge Euros Childs fan and The Darling Buds should be a real Indietracks moment. We’ve bands from across the globe – like The Luxembourg Signal, Bunnygrunt and Eureka California (USA), Los Bonsáis and The Free Fall Band (Spain) and Frida and Ale (Sweden and Italy), and exciting new UK bands like Tuff Love and Desperate Journalist. I’m probably most excited about The Go! Team headlining on the Sunday. The new album is spectacular and crammed with catchy, intelligent pop songs, and their live shows have always been energetic and uplifting. Yes, the volunteers will all get a chance to see some bands, and personally I’ll be switching my phone off when The Go! Team play!
O: When can we expect the 2015 compilation album that raises funds for the Midland Railway charity?
Andy: Hopefully in mid/late June. The compilation will be a Bandcamp download featuring dozens of the bands playing at Indietracks this year, so it’s a chance to get familiar with lots of the bands before the festival. It’s great value for money and raises funds for the railway charity. In the meantime, our 2012, 2013 and 2014 compilations are all available on Bandcamp for a minimum donation of £3 (the 2014 compilation has 56 songs, so that’s pretty good value!) from https://indietracks.bandcamp.com/
Indietracks Festival takes place from 24th to 26th July at the Midland Railyway Trust near Ripley, Derbyshire. For more information and to purchase tickets visit the Indietracks website here
As Andy mentioned, Indietracks release a compilation album featuring dozens of bands from the festival. Keep an eye out for the 2015 compilation coming soon and treat yourself to a massive chunk of amazing music from previous years festivals here