Monday, 11 April 2016

Guest post series - Tom Hyland of Electric Swing Circus, Swingamajig and Ragtime Records

Prey silence for TopHat Tom.

Greetings, Tom here from the Electric Swing Circus and Swingamajig Festival here with a guest blog for the one and only Jack the Cad.

So it is April 2016 and where has the time gone? This spring has been a bit of a rollercoaster, but very soon we will have produced a 4000 person festival, and released a new album – note to self: next time don’t try and do both at the same time.

For those who don’t know me, my name is Tom Hyland and I’ve been involved in the world of electro swing for about 5 years now. I play guitar and do a lot of the management for the Electric Swing Circus, based in Birmingham.We tour around the UK, Europe and the wider world with our unique style of electro swing. I also run a record label called Ragtime Records with my partner in crime the C@ in the H@,  and also produce an urban festival called Swingamajig.

Every year without fail I am told both that: ‘Electro Swing is dying’; and ‘this is the year Electro Swing really takes off into the main stream’. So far neither has happened, and I don’t think they will. The scene has developed over the last 5 years and looks massively different to how it did, but I think that is the beauty of it. Things change and adapt and the music and events that are happening now have come a long way from where they were when the scene first appeared.

With two new projects on their way, a brand new album and a new edition of our festival, what are we doing to the reflect these changes?

First, let’s talk about the album: Our sound is distinctive and doesn’t always conform to the expectations of what electroswing should be and I think that comes from our writing process. We come from a really diverse musical backgrounds and all six of us sit in one room and write together so our diversity shows in the songs. We consider ourselves a vintage remix band in that we fuse things that are old with this that are new, but that can be anything. There is a healthy dose of rock in this album which you can hear a little clip on our Crowdfunder video at (00:52)

Ah yes, you spotted it: we have a Crowdfunder campaign. Of course we do! You can preorder a copy of the album as well as securing treats such as limited edition vinyl and festival tickets. Take a look at the link and check it out.

We will be releasing one of the album tracks to coincide with Swingamajig, our one day festival of vintage mayhem and delight, on May 1st in Birmingham. (You should come – it’s honestly the most fun you can have on a bank holiday!) You can find out more here, and read Jack's report from last year here.

There will also be remixes from some fantastic producers: C@ in the H@, Aries, and Father Funk. You can hear a preview of two of the tracks below.

The recording process has been really interesting, we have worked in two studios, one in Wales and the other in Devon. It’s taken us quite a while to get it right;the first three sessions we just re-recorded everything each time, getting it closer but not quite there, however now we’ve settled into a rhythm and are making some great music. It’s been really good to experiment with recording, what works what doesn’t, how to integrate electronics, where they should and shouldn’t be. With a recorded track you can hone in on each part and really get into the details and it has been a lot of fun to explore. One thing that we have worked on is to make sure that we still sound like a live band, a live band that makes you want to dance. Getting the energy and emotion into the music is really important to us and I think we have made it work...

And what’s next? The festival of course. Swingamajig – a show like no other

I’ve always wanted to run a festival; I love the idea of sculpting an event into the ultimate day. Maybe it’s part of human nature: we all think we know how to run a pub, we all think we know how to throw a party. The thing is, I really do know how to throw a party!

After the success of our monthly nights at the Hare and Hounds we were inspired to create something bigger. I wanted to immerse the crowds in the magical feeling that I enjoyed when I first discovered electroswing. I wanted people to feel transported from their normal lives into an exciting and exhilarating environment where the music was just one part of the wonder. The dancing, the outfits, the entertainers and the music all combine to provide that perfect feeling.

No doubt it is a lot of work, but the end product is so joyful and spectacular that even the headache of programming doesn’t dampen my enthusiasm.

The opportunity to work with the team from Shambala festival was too good to pass up and we were honoured to be invited to run our Speakeasy Stage at their yearly weekender. They have also contributed to our work at Swingamajig since 2014 and having their knowledge, experience and dedication to good vibe parties alongside us is invaluable.

So what’s new this year? This might surprise you: there’s not so much electro swing.
Don’t get me wrong, we have some of the best live acts and DJs in the genre playing ( I’m particularly excited about seeing Swingrowers and JFB perform live), but this year there is so much more going on.

Our vintage content is really strong with top swing and rockabilly bands; we have a load of gypsy punk and Balkan folk with bands like Balkan beat Box and the Destroyers; while, on the electronic side of things, there is everything from dubstep (Stenchman) through to Jungle (Aries), and everything in between.

And of course, as always, the music is just one element of the event. There is a cabaret with internationally renowned performers (including ex cirq de soleil), there’s street food, there’s art installations, there’s games and the list goes on. For me this is really important: the whole event is vintage inspired but really broad, whether you are 18 or 80, there’s stuff you will love all day and all night.

Without question, the attendees provide another vital element – I’ve rarely known a crowd so enthusiastic or so very well dressed as an electroswing crowd!

We start the show at 14:00 with a 16 piece big band and it all kicks off from there with workshops and cabaret during the day and DJs by night, finishing up around 06:00!
Check out the full line up here.

Tickets are available from our website for just £25 (which is an absolute bargain!)

Well I hope you like the music and we’ll hopefully see you in May. If not, the ESC are going to be hitting the festivals in style this summer so we will show you some of the new material soon.

Tom Hyland