Last year marked the 10th anniversary of Indietracks festival. For a number of the team behind the nation’s premiere Indie-Pop festival in a train museum, it also marked the end of their involvement in Indietracks. After a number of years spent helping to organise the festival, Ian Cowen, Marianthi Makra and Alice Hubley all left the team. Rumours were circulating it might be the end of Indietracks all together, but after an outpouring of support, the remaining members of the team, Nat & Andy Hudson and Emma Cooper, decided the show must go on and set about recruiting new members to the Indietracks inner-sanctum.
Enlisting the help of Cambridge Indie-Pop Alldayer organisers, Beck Conway and Emma Cooper (from Mammoth Penguins/Standard Fare and not the same person as the other Emma Cooper), as well as Indietracks regular Jasmine Allen, Team Indietracks re-emerged, and have put together one of their strongest line-ups to date. There’s surely a headliner for everyone’s taste; the return of the legendary The Wedding Present, the enigmatic and brilliant Cate Le Bon, and a first ever festival headlining slot for Durham’s DIY-upstarts, Martha. Elsewhere there’s the usual eclectic mix of acts; The Wave Pictures will bring their blend of English wit and American blues-rock, the reformed Monkey Swallows The Universe will showcase Nat Johnson’s inimitable songwriting talents, and glistening dream-pop quartet Chorusgirl will hopefully be showcasing new material from their upcoming second album.
As ever there’s also plenty of smaller bands from the indie-pop and DIY-punk scenes; larger than life Anglo-American trio Charmpit will provide copious amounts of sass, Model Village will provide some much needed relaxation with their take on mellow sophisti-pop, and Peaness will set about justifying their seemingly unstoppable rise, with their perfect harmonies and tongue in cheek humour. That’s before we’ve even started checking out the multitude of bands we’ve never heard of.
Ahead of the festival we sat down and grilled the new Indietracks team members on subjects including their suitability for the job, dream headliners and what fresh excitement they’ve got in store for this year’s festival.
FTR: As the new members of Team Indietracks, first things first, who are you?
Beck: I’m Beck, I’ve been a regular at Indietracks for a while now and also co-organise the Cambridge Indiepop Alldayer with Emma and another friend.
Emma: I have been in various bands including Standard Fare, Mammoth Penguins and the Hayman Kupa Band, over the past 7 years I have had a lot of fun at Indietracks as a regular attendee and as a performer and loved it every time. After helping to organise the Cambridge Indiepop Alldayer I wanted to get more involved in organising and booking bands and was keen to contribute to Indietracks 2017 when the opportunity arose.
Jasmine: I’m a big fan of Indietracks and a regular gig-goer. If you’ve been to Indietracks before you’ve probably seen me having a dance. I thought it was about time I contributed something back to an event which gives me much joy each year!
FTR: Are you feeling the pressure of stepping into the shoes of your predecessors?
Beck: We have felt some pressure because the old team did such a wonderful job and we didn’t want to break the festival that we (and so many other people) love so much! Thankfully the response has been great and we’re really proud of the line-up we’ve booked so I’m no longer worried!
FTR: We’re assuming you’ve all been before, so what’s your favourite Indietracks memory?
Jasmine: Dancing to The Go Team! in 2015 with a load of balloons in the air. Also all of the sunsets.
Beck: Helen Love in 2013 was incredible – they whipped everybody into a singing and dancing frenzy and then brought out the confetti cannons! Finally getting to see The Aislers Set last year was also a personal highlight for me, I never thought it’d happen!
Emma: Being a part of the group that sang ‘Never Ever’ to John Jervis from the label WIAIWYA in the merch tent was a lot of fun. The unofficial gigs that happen there are always fantastic.
FTR: What attracted you to working on Indietracks?
Jasmine: We love the festival and were sad to hear that some of the team were stepping down. We wanted it to continue so we volunteered to help!
FTR: What attracted Indietracks to working with you?
Beck: I’m not sure but I’m glad they did! We’re all incredibly enthusiastic about the festival and are active in the indiepop world through promoting and playing gigs and club nights, as well as attending lots of all-dayers and festivals, so I’m sure that helped!
FTR: Out of the first wave of acts playing this year, who are you most looking forward to seeing?
Beck: Joanna Gruesome have been amazing the last couple of times I’ve seen them so I can’t wait to see their Indietracks comeback!
Emma: There are so many bands I can’t wait to see! The Hearing is an act I saw in Stockholm a few years ago and I was blown away. I can’t wait to see them play Indietracks.
Jasmine: Such a difficult question because there are so many I want to make sure I see. As well as the headliners, I want to see TeenCanteen as I’ve not seen them before.
FTR: Are there any bands you wanted to book this year but couldn’t?
Beck: Yes, there were a couple of bands who were having a year off or were unavailable for some reason or another. Although it’s a shame to miss out, it means we already have a few irons in the fire for next year.
FTR: Who are your three dream headliners?
Beck: I’d love to have Kathleen Hanna headlining for us in any guise she wants to appear in! Belle and Sebastian would also be a dream. I’d also love to get Dressy Bessy to come and play for us.
Emma: There are a lot of my favourite bands on the current line up but I’d love to book Peaches, The Be Good Tanyas and Warpaint.
Jasmine: Electrelane, Alvvays and Cornershop
FTR: Who has the final say on who gets booked? Were there many arguments?
Beck: We all agree the line up together and generally have the same sort of idea about which bands we should book. We also have an objective approach to sifting through band applications with a few different people listening to each one. Arguments are few and far between!
FTR: If you were selling Indietracks to someone who has never been before, what makes it different (better) than other festivals?
Beck: Indietracks is big enough to attract awesome headliners but it’s still very small (in festival terms) with lots of quirky features you’re unlikely to find elsewhere, like free steam train rides, heritage vehicles and a museum, owls and lots of real ale! We’re really proud of our line-up which Indietracks fans help to curate by making suggestions on the Anorak forum and our Facebook page. We have some incredible new DIY and indiepop bands from the UK and beyond coming to play for us, alongside some Indietracks favourites and some more established bands. If you’re looking to make some new musical discoveries, come to Indietracks!
FTR: Are you going to any other festivals this summer? Would you be able to enjoy it or would you be too busy trying to steal/borrow ideas?
Beck: DIY Pop Fest and Wales Goes Pop are next on the calendar for me this year and both have fantastic line-ups – I’m definitely planning to enjoy myself!
Jasmine: Out of the bigger festivals, End of the Road, Green Man and Latitude are my favourites, but I don’t think I’ve got time to go this year!
FTR: Indietracks has remained very un-commercial, is that a deliberate decision?
Jasmine: It’s important for us to have control of who we book for the festival, as well as marketing, and a commercial tie-in would change that. Since the festival is run as a fundraising event for the Midland Railway it is not commercial in a traditional sense. It is run entirely by volunteers who enjoy the festival and know it is for a good cause. However, if anyone would like to make a donation to the railway, I’m sure they’d really appreciate it. Steam railways are expensive to keep running!
FTR: There’s a real lack of women headlining festivals this summer. Is it something you take into account when you’re booking bands? Is it important that festival line-ups reflect their audience?
Beck: I find it odd that women are under-represented at so many festivals. That’s just not our world – women are central to the indiepop and DIY pop communities and we hope our line up reflects that. We’re also aware that other groups like LGBT+ performers and people of colour are not particularly well represented at festivals. We’re keen to ensure that we have as diverse a line-up as possible at Indietracks and we’re always keen to listen to peoples’ suggestions of how we can improve in future.
FTR: What do you think of the current Indie-Pop scene? Is there still an audience for the bands you book?
Beck: If we take popfests such as Wales Goes Pop and DIY Popfest, and all-dayers in places like Leicester, Cambridge and Nottingham, as a reflection of the current indiepop scene, I think it looks really healthy. There’s even a new popfest starting in Paris. There’s been an evolution over the last few years for these events to include noisier bands that have a DIY mentality and aesthetic and I think that’s really opened things up to a wider audience.
FTR: What has surprised you about working on Indietracks?
Beck: I hadn’t quite realised just how much the railway do in terms of preparing the steam railway site for Indietracks. They really do work incredibly hard to pull everything together so we can all enjoy it!
FTR: What do you think is the biggest challenge about running a festival?
Beck: We’re lucky that the railway do most of the hard work preparing the festival site, but we all have day jobs and so obviously booking 50 bands can be very time-consuming, although it’s the most fun and creative part of putting Indietracks together! We also get around 400 band applications every year, as well as suggestions via Anorak and Facebook, so it can be difficult to select just 50 for the festival. We always wish we could book more!
FTR: What do you plan on doing differently to previous years?
Beck: We love the festival so there’s not much that we consciously wanted to do differently. However we are running more activities for younger children in a new family area, and we might try experimenting with karaoke this year!
FTR: Where do you think Indietracks will be in ten years time?
Beck: Hopefully it’ll still be going strong!
FTR: The questions everyone wants to know the answer to, what are our food options going to be this year? Or is that top-secret?
Beck: All the usual vendors are back including Gopal’s and those tasty vegan burritos and cakes from last year! Please don’t eat all the burritos – save some for me!
FTR: What can you tell us about the rest of the line-up? We’ll accept any vague answer that isn’t “it’s a secret”!
Jasmine: There are still some great acts to announce (including a big Indietracks favourite and some wonderful first-timers)… so book your tickets now!
Tickets are available now from the Indietracks Website. Be sure to book before 9pm on May 15th to receive the early-bird prices of just £72.
All photos by Elizabeth Corker where not credited – twitter.com/violetbeehive