This Unsigned Aussie Band Sold 15 000 Albums Last Year:
February 21, 2014
Ever wonder if the art of busking really brings home the bacon? Is it just background noise on your frustrating commute or are people really digging these free performances?
Enter success story: The Pierce Brothers, local frequenters of the bustling streets of Melbourne’s CBD.
From humble beginnings as “just another troupe of street performers”, twin-folkies Jack and Pat Pierce have exploded as one of Australia’s must-see up -and-coming live acts. Their DIY approach sees them functioning entirely independently,
free from major labels, the duo have now sold over a staggering 15,000 CDs, featured in NME and blown audiences away at sell-out shows from Melbourne and Sydney to London and Liverpool.
We caught up the Melbourne twosome to discuss just how an unsigned act shifted so many units off their own back, tips to breaking overseas, and the benefits of doing it yourself.
When did you first notice the large reaction you were getting? Was there a particular moment?
“There hasn’t been a particular moment that I can name, we’ve just tried to keep our heads down and work as hard as we can, play as much and we can, and enjoy the trip! One memorable turning point was when we were given the opportunity to play the Queen Victoria Night markets early last year that we started to see such an influx of people coming to see us live. We’d played about three separate nights doing a busking set; and after we kept getting larger and larger crowds we reached one of the stages for a night.
“All of a sudden we’d have a couple of hundred people at our show, and we were blown away! Word had gotten around more and more, and we started to notice new people coming along! We played a show at the Espy front bar about a week after our night market show and noticed about 200 happy faces looking back at us and we were just stoked! There’s nothing better than playing in front of a big crowd and busking gave us that opportunity all the time!”
How do you explain the success of the Blind Boys Run EP? How did it take off?
“Busking certainly helped a lot. We took it to as many new crowds as possible overseas, interstate and of course Bourke St in Melbourne. We’ve achieved such an excellent response from Blind Boy Run during live performances.
“We’ve always tried to achieve something different live. I (Jack) started playing the floors of venues with drumsticks, maybe someone’s glass of beer, wine, anything! We just always wanted to create an experience that people would remember. The EP itself was a nice short one as an introduction to us for those who’d stumble upon us at a venue or on the street. To be honest, the artwork was so pretty (our friend Liam Milner rocked that one!) and we sold them fairly cheap so if nothing else it’s not a bad little souvenir from a night out!”
You’ve hit off overseas, too, playing festivals and gigs in the UK and being featured in NME. How do you think you managed to break internationally?
“Touring with Mick Flannery was an awesome experience. We were playing sold-out venues in Liverpool, Manchester and London, with one show that was our own headline as a sideshow to Mick’s tour. As we’ve met so many Londoners in our music journey we just got the word around on social media and let everyone know how excited we were to get over there; and we were excited!
“A friend threw our first single “The Anchor” to the BBC2 Introducing station and they picked it up and played it, which was a massive win for us! Unfortunately that was just luck, and we didn’t even know about it until two weeks after the fact. Basically we were going to play overseas whether we booked anything or not! We just spoke to anyone from the UK about where to go or what to do.
“We actually did a few small country gigs in the middle of nowhere just because we we’d met some people and they found get a crowd together in their small town. This meant that we not only had a place to stay, but also a packed venue! Banff in far north Scotland had to be the most fun one of these little ventures. Along with that we contacted all the local radio hosts over there and got our music playing to the local communities. This has helped massively as we are planning on going again soon and have now built an excellent base with which to build from, and have met lovely people in the British music industry who would like to help – I think the key is to always follow a good opportunity and don’t be a prick; you’ll be fine then.”
Everything you do is independent. What are the best and worst things about taking the DIY route?
“We’ve certainly done things our own way, and that has been quite a lot of fun. However, while we have certainly had drive to this journey, we’ve lacked a map from time to time. It can be difficult to figure out how to move forward when doing it by yourself. We’ve been incredibly lucky to have an excellent support staff of musician friends in Melbourne and around Australia who are always happy to give hot tips or critique you. Melbourne is just fantastic like that! If we were signed I’m sure many more doors would be opened, but going it alone means that we’ve both been able to finish Uni and do it in our own time.”
Would you ever sign to a major label?
“Why have you heard something?! We’re not sure if we would to be totally honest. While it can be difficult and often scary (when you’re alone at night in bed) taking the indie road, I think we’re just a little too attracted to the romantic idea of it.
“Having said that, we may view it through rose coloured glasses purely for lack of knowledge about the major label benefits. We’ve always wanted to have complete control over what we want to do as artists, however the backing of a label obviously can help us achieve some of our goals more quickly, and a little peace of mind I guess. Maybe …maybe not. We don’t know yet!”
The Internet gets mixed opinions from artists – do you think it’s been a positive or negative force for you?
“The internet has always been a mixed bag. When MySpace was around when we were at school we were inundated with requests from promoters, bands and DJs all aiming to get an extra friend/follower/like etc. Once we started our page in Facebook we tried our hardest not to jam gigs down everyone’s throat. We failed.
We’ve certainly been guiltily of this in the early days but we quickly figured out that it was counter-active to the goals, and really pissed people off. These days we try to approach things as calm as possible (we get over-excited a lot) and just let people know about shows rather than group invites for a show every week.”
What are your main tips or pieces of advice for up-and-coming bands?
“I’m not sure how to answer this one, we’re still making the climb ourselves; practice practice practice. This is advice Pat and I have never quite taken on board. Busking is excellent practice for us playing as a two-piece, when we hit the studio however this can be a downer if we’re not locked in. So write, write, write and then practice, practice, practice! It makes it so much more fun when you’re playing. You can truly be in the moment, rather than worry if anyone’s noticing that you missed that note.
“I guess Rule #2 is ‘be cool’. Maybe not so much ‘be cool, but ‘be happy’. Or maybe just: ‘Don’t be a dick’? I love seeing a band walk on stage with awesome confidence, rocking the show and then just being stoked afterwards. Have a drink and meet other bands. Rule #3: Meet other bands! We have made some amazing friends through the music scene in Australia and that will always continue to grow. There’s just so much to enjoy – oh wait! Rule #4 ENJOY IT! It’s a gift that we have this awesome scene and opportunity in Australia.”
What’s next in store for The Pierce Brothers? Where do you go from here?
“We absolutely can’t wait to drop these new songs. We’ve had so much fun recording them with Cam [Trewin]. He’s an incredible producer and really enjoyable to work with in the studio. There are some very cool tones that are coming, and we are pretty effing fired up. We have some incredible shows lined up for this year that will be just so much fun. 2014 is a year for fun. Hope you can enjoy it with us!”
Mi Casa Su Casa Australian Tour 2014
featuring Stillwater Giants, Tales In Space, Pierce Brothers, Yeo, Blonde On Blonde, Gena Rose Bruce.
Tales In Space | Blonde On Blonde | Pierce Brothers
6/03/14 Thursday QLD Surfers Beer Garden, QLD
7/03/14 Friday QLD Alumbra Lounge, Brisbane QLD
8/03/14 Saturday QLD Sol Bar, Sunny Coast QLD
9/03/14 Sunday NSW The Brewery, Byron Bay NSW
Pierce Brothers | Tales In Space | Gena Rose Bruce
14/03/14 Friday VIC Ding Dong Lounge, Melbourne VIC
15/03/14 Saturday VIC Torquay Hotel, Torquay VIC
Stillwater Giants | Pierce Brothers
20/03/14 Thursday WA Prince of Wales, Bunbury WA
22/03/14 Saturday WA Amplifier, Perth WA
23/03/14 Sunday WA Newport Hotel, Fremantle WA
Tales In Space | Pierce Brothers
27/03/14 Thursday NSW Brass Monkey, Cronulla NSW
Yeo | Tales In Space | Pierce Brothers
29/03/14 Saturday NSW Beresford, Sydney NSW
30/03/14 Sunday NSW Small Ballroom, Newcastle NSW
Tickets and info at www.123agency.com.au and usual outlets
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