MM: What made you decide to start the festival?
JF: I started the festival because I manage a band called The Light Machines and I I was booking them into a lot of local smaller venues, and I really noticed a need for bands to play collectively to a larger audience without being a part of a talent contest, like the Peak FM contest that they run. I also wanted bands to play to a larger group of people without having to win a contest to do so and so that they could move their careers forward, as opposed to just playing smaller places all the time, and that's what led to the idea.
MM: How did you decide on the lineup for the shows? Had you worked with them all before?
JF: You know what's interesting about that actually, I had a good idea about a few of the bands because I just liked them and I thought they were great, like The Matinee and Los Furios. And I thought, hey, they are fantastic! And as I started to talk to people about what other bands people might suggest, when I'd book a band like Cole McKinnion and Clockmakers -- and he's been great -- and I said it'd be great to get your band involved, he said I know a ton of other bands that would be a great fit. So one band starts suggesting another band and you get this community, and everybody wants to be a part of it because they find out it's not a festival about making money but more of a community thing. I was actually going to call this festival Vogville's First Unprofitable Day and Night Festival and then I thought it wouldn't represent the bands very much. I've told every single band if there's a profit to be made and this makes money, I'm giving it back to you guys because Vogville is my core business and this is just an extension.
MM: What has been the most difficult aspect?
JF: The most difficult thing so far has been people understanding what the show is about because you're not supposed to be putting together a nonprofit festival. You're supposed to be a shiesty promoter, so when you contact the band initially, they are kind of really reserved. However, once they hear the name Vogville they come around a bit because of the name and reputation we have in the community, and then I explain to them it's all on the up and up and not something funky. It's not another bar show, and then people get behind it.
MM: Now why should a music fan who might otherwise be unfamiliar with some or all of the acts plop down the money to attend the show?
JF: Because what you're getting is a really good host of bands. My mandate was that I wanted every band that's a part of the festival to draw on average between 50 and 100 people to a show. Now if you're drawing 100 people to a show on average, you are pretty ambitious, you're working your social networks, have a fan list, decent recordings, you really have to have your stuff together. So when people come to this festival they are seeing "together" bands and not just a bunch of kids playing and having fun. They are seeing bands that all wanted to get ahead and do this for a living, and that's something that's really important for me and Vogville -- for bands to come to the studio and go out to the world with recordings. So, what I started doing as a producer, instead of just being hired for projects, now I find a band that I really like, like The Light Machines that I managed -- I do their album, and then help them in the industry instead of handing it to a record company or an A&R department and go, "Well I hope it gets out there for you," and then finding out it got shelved. Or giving it to an independent band and saying, "May the force be with you," and then nothing happens, and they are like, "We have this really nice shiny wicked sounding recording, but now what?"
MM: Vancouver's been known as a great spot to live and record. What do you think it is about the Lower Mainland?
JF: You know, we have the ocean (laughs). We have a really good art scene, you have the artistic side, a lot of concerts going on here, we're not that far from L.A. technically, it's a short plane trip away. We just have a really beautiful city.
MM: Now the music industry has taken a bit of a hit in the touring area. Do you think the industry is going to rebound from this?
JF: I think what's happened is that, you remember when Daft Punk and The Chemical Brothers all started coming about? I remember going to Save on Foods and reading an article in Rolling Stone that guitar music is dead and Fender was having bad times, and for the first time in their history they were thinking that if this keeps happening we're going under. Live venues started shutting down because everything became CD-oriented and in Vancouver, places like the Starfish Room closed down. All of thse places were starting to suffer and then DJ music sort of went out and band music came back, and as downloading came into the equation more and more people were realizing that records were falling apart and that they'd have to tour. So now you have so many more artists touring than ever before it seems, and all the smaller artists as well, and they are all fighting for the same venues. So for instance, let's say the Salmon Festival -- which they have every year -- for 7 years it would be some local bands. Right now, if you saw the Tragically Hip there, everyone would be, "That's pretty cool!" but no one would be completely shocked. People are fighting for the same venues now. 10 years ago I never thought you'd see a band like Hedley touring high schools. Now, everyone is fighting for the same gigs.
MM: Yeah, I've even noticed the PNE getting bigger and bigger names -- artists that would normally play like the River Rock or something of that size.
JF: Good thought, I noticed as well. Last year I looked and thought that was crazy. The PNE normally has some bigger names but it wasn't that big. Times are changing.
MM: Now who are some of your favorite artists you've worked with?
JF: Some of my favorites are the artists no one knows about, they are the most obscure artists and they are just good people to work with. You really enjoyed working with them and you just gelled with them and the process of making the record. Someone asked me something along the same lines and you know what I said? It's funny, but Tyler, the lead singer for The Light Machines, has impressed me more than any other artist I've worked with. They started out with six and a half minute long jams and no choruses and I'm serious, they had nothing going on there. The drummer was loosey goosey and they were having fun. I saw this spark there and I love a challenge of finding a band that doesn't have it together. That guy has come so far with his vocal style, his talent and everything that it was really amazing to watch. You know, you work with alot of people and you help them out in the studio and they go off live and within three months they've forgotten everything, but not The Light Machines. They get better and better and that's something I haven't come across that often.
MM: So is the plan for this to be a regular annual event? Or what does the future hold for Vogville in terms of concert promoting?
JF: This festival is something I want to do yearly, as well as I'm going to start doing "Vogville Presents" once a month, and it's going to be three local bands that I really like and I think are pretty cool. Another tie-in to that is that I want to start doing a video series where we record one song in one day and chronicle the whole series of what it takes, and what you're getting. During that you'll have the band and all the behind-the-scenes people talking about the band and the process. Too many have the idea because of American Idol and these things that you're just so talented that magically things happen. Even if you're signed there, stuff doesn't magically just happen.
The Vogville Day & Night Festival takes place Saturday, February 19th at the Vancouver Alpen Club in Vancouver, BC. For more information, including ticket prices and the complete line-up, visit vogville.com/day-night.
An earlier version of this story had a couple errors with respect to band names. Our apologies for those errors, they have since been corrected.
Mark McLeod has always loved film. In addition to his roles with ShowbizMonkeys.com, Mark also works on many film promotion projects in Vancouver, BC, through his company, Mark McLeod PR.