We have never before been so excited to feature an artist as we were when we visited the city of Bath to feature the Bookshop Band. We had been told that the tickets for the performance we wanted to attend had sold out. So we were delighted when the Bookshop Band invited us to a private pre-show performance. Not only were we treated to a private performance but this performance was held where it had all begun, the home, the heart and soul of the Bookshop Band. We were at Mr B's Emporium in Bath.
The Bookshop Band performed one song for us which had been inspired by Rachel Joyce's book, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. After we had filmed this song we had a moment to sit and chat with Ben Please, Beth Porter and Poppy Pitt, of the Bookshop Band. Although we were the only people in Mr B's Emporium at this time one can't help but whisper when in the presents of books which made for a very quiet interview. To start things off I ask the most obvious question: Why do you sing about books?
"It started when Nic Bottomley the owner of this bookshop (Mr B's Emporium) wanted some music for his author events. Our original plan had been to perform a cover song that would relate to an event in each book. But to challenge ourselves we thought it would be more worthwhile to try and write an original song for each book".
We have spoken to many bands and artists who have admitted to finding it difficult when performing an emotional song to a familiar audience. So how do the Bookshop Band deal with their unique situation of performing songs about books direct to the author.
"It's terrifying and extremely intense. Each author will put their own emotions into each book they write and here we are sitting in front of them singing about our emotional experience of their book. We once performed a series of songs about one authors autobiography. She became overwhelmed and had to step outside to settle herself. She loved it but I think it was more emotional than she was expecting".
As we bombard the Bookshop Band with questions we are aware that our time with them is limited because after our interview they will be performing to a small intimate audience of twenty-five for Mr B's Emporium's latest author event. These author event are often promoting newly published books which makes me wonder how much time do the Bookshop Band have to write these songs.
"We don't have very long, for todays author event we only finished reading the book last night. We all meet at 11 o'clock this morning to run through some ideas. We will also use the short time before the show to rehears and finalise each song. I think this quick turn around of songs is what makes it work for us. If we had two weeks to write a song we would agonising over it. This quick turnaround means we just go with the first thing we write".
The Bookshop Band currently have four albums available to buy with the promise of more to follow. But with each song being written so quick I asked how they organise recording an album.
"We record all of our live performances onto a Zoom H4N recorder this is crucial for us to remember how we play each song. Our songs have such a quick turn around that in two weeks we would have totally forgotten what they sound like. In our first year we had enough material to record four albums. Since then we have written enough to record another five albums. We've started recording the first three and had a lovely couple of days at Peter Gabriel's studio in Box. we hired the Wood room which is a lovely ambient space. Whilst there we tried to record as many songs as we could".
In a short space of time The Bookshop Band have gone from strength to strength performing in bookshops across the country. When you consider that bookshops are unconventional venues to perform live music in I had to ask how they are able to maintain such a busy schedule.
"We had written lots and lots of songs about books and played them to pretty much the same twenty-five people who would come to the author events here at Mr B's Emporium. In no time at all we found ourselves with four albums and thought we need to go and play this in other bookshops, there might be some other people who like this too. It would also be nice to play a song more than once. We decided to contact loads of bookshops, we took advice from friends to find really good bookshops to contact. We find it much easier to get a gig in a bookshop compared to normal music venues because they are not so booked up. But we don't just perform in bookshops we have played a few other places including Glastonbury festival".
After our meeting with the Bookshop Band I am inspired by the relationship they have with the venue (Mr B's Emporium). The respect that these two parties have for each other has been the secret to both the bands and the bookshops success.