Groove Armada - Tom Findlay

United Kingdom United Kingdom | by Ross Purdie | 03 August 2005

It was always going to be a big risk moving Lovebox from its home of conception, in Clapham Common, north of the river to Victoria Park in Hackney, but for Tom Findlay it represented a new beginning for the festival - not least expanding it from a one-day to a two-day event. It paid off, as more than 23,000 flooded through the gates on the Saturday (23 July), with an impressive showing the following day too. Now that Lovebox is over for its third consecutive year, Tom's focusing his attentions on a new download website, 

Virtual Festivals: A result on Lovebox then?
Tom Findlay: Yes, I was really pleased, it went down a treat. I've been to a lot of very average festivals recently so it was good to see that ours was up there. Much of it was down to some of the other partners and people we got involved. We did a deal with a company called Caucus, who help out with The Glade Festival. They put a lot of effort into the makeup of the site, and it succeeded in making the event feel like a proper festival rather than simply an outdoor Groove Armada gig - and that's the plan. It's not a big ego trip for me and Andy (Cato - other half of Groove Armada). We want Lovebox to have a distinct brand, so it doesn't have to be about Groove Armada, in fact next year maybe it won't be at all. There are loads of other artists involved and that's how we want it to grow.

VF: How was the change of home?
TF: It felt much bigger. I don't think in real terms it was that much larger, but it felt it. Something to do with the typography perhaps. It's a lot more shaped and forested than Clapham Common, and it was nice to be doing it in a park that we use to play football on the weekend. Even better it meant most of us could walk home at the end of the night. I really like Clapham Common, that's where Lovebox was born, but I think we've done the right thing in moving.

VF: How important is it for Lovebox to remain an independent festival?
TF: Very. I mean I've got nothing against Mean Fiddler or Clear Channel but it's nice to be taking them on a bit. There's nothing corporate about Lovebox. We're kind of the antithesis of V Festival and that's how I want us to remain. There's no advertising and we just let the festival do the talking for itself. It's great to be running our own festival, yeah, but I don't sit back stage with my arm around Andy going 'isn't this great' because there's such a huge team of us and we want to be as involved and visible as everyone else at the festival.

VF: Some would argue the lineup was a bit limited. Groove Armada playing both days etc. Couldn't you have done something a bit different?
TF: Well we really wanted to do a 'Lovebox Rocks' type of thing on the Sunday, but almost every band we tried to get on board had exclusive deals with the major festivals which meant they couldn't play ours. That kind of thing pisses me off, y'know, a load of agents out playing golf with festival execs divvying up all the bands. We wanted someone like Kaiser Chiefs to curate the Sunday, so we had a Lovebox vibe Saturday, then on Sunday mix it up a bit. Anyway, we couldn't do it this year, but it's definitely something we're planning for next year. I think we'd always keep an element of dance music, as I don't subscribe to the idea that dance is dead. I mean we got 23,000 people through the gates on Saturday, and if you compare that to the amount at Homelands, where they were trying to appeal to an audience outside the dance scene, then it speaks for itself. I think you've just got to do it right. I think asking someone like the Kasiers, Bloc Party, or Tom Vek to curate the Sunday would work.

VF: You've openly admitted that Glastonbury is the inspiration for Lovebox. With no Glasto next year, will they all pour into Victoria Park?
TF: There's definitely a market open and there remains an entire generation of people that are so au fait with Glastonbury and really believe in it. That dedication to one particular festival has had a big influence on what we're trying to do. We're literally trying to have a London Glastonbury, as far as you can anyway, because that's the kind of expectations and demands festival goers have nowadays. So we put on a lot of cabaret and invited Lost Vagueness to host an area, and also got The Cuban Brothers in. We had loads of really amazing food stalls, especially this thing put on by the Wright Brothers, loads of crab and fruits-des-mers. Also, there were some great craft shops, really nice hand made trinkets stuff. And it just all came together to make a good festival. I think this year has proved that people demand more than just a load of bands in a field. Look at the Wireless Festival, look at Homelands. People want more than that. You can't just throw money at a lineup.

VF: And now the focus is on a new website you're involved in; Tell us about it?
TF: It came out of a conversation with a guy called John Strickland and it's basically an attempt to get a better deal for artists and make the online music buying process less dull, as well as making the whole digital thing more dynamic. We're already planning to put on our own festival next year and this year we'll be making live sets available from Bestival to download. The idea is to make them available almost instantly, so people can relive what they've seen over the weekend as soon as they get home. So it'll be a big challenge.

VF: Why's it important to you?
TF: People are always saying they want to download our sets. We're probably more of a live act in terms of reputation. We recently sold out five Brixton Academies in a year, the only band that's done that since Paul Weller in the '90s. Personally, the benefits of instantly downloadable live sets came to me when I saw Richie Havins play at the Jazz Café recently. It was a really moving performance and I left the venue really wanting it for keeps to relive it whenever I wanted.

VF: What makes Tunetribe stand out from any other download site?
TF: One element of it is that we want to build a real community within the site. So there's loads of quality editorial, band interviews, and top picks from DJs and bands. The idea is to read about the music and then buy it. But mainly we want to push music that doesn't get on the homepage of iTunes and all the other sites that are peddling the same old shit. There's nothing wrong with pop music, there's a lot of great stuff, but we need someone to fly the flag for the diverse range of music that people are listening to. You've got to do the deals with the majors like Sony and EMI because we don't want to be snooty and tell people what to buy. Also, it's not practical to survive just from pushing news music, but you do need something for everyone.

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