Guildford band The Toniks play what they define as “Quintessentially British” sounds that are unabashedly bold and bright. Their loyal audiences enjoy the band’s empathic pop lyrics, catchy hooks and similarities in style to The Beatles and The Jam. The band has recently released their début album titled “Rise and Shine”.
I chatted with Jez Parish – guitar & vocals with the Surrey band – about what it means to be a hard working musician in the county town of Surrey.
YOU LIKE TO PROMOTE YOURSELVES AS QUINTESSENTIALLY BRITISH – DO YOU THINK THAT IT HELPS THAT YOU COME FROM SURREY ?
I think it does help coming from Surrey – as it is such a middle class area… the trappings of middle class surround you. I came from a working class background, grew up on a council estate in Woking but, that said, we would go with my mate to watch his dad play cricket … eating cucumber sandwiches on a summers day!!! I would say I love our quirky Britishness and am very proud of this, and I still love the image of a red phone box (which there still are few around), Bowler hats, boating blazers, strawberries & cream.
DO YOU THINK THAT THE MUSIC SCENE IN GUILDFORD IS HEALTHY AND VIBRANT ?
I think if you want to learn music, and start a band, then Guildford has is it all … a great music school, which has produced lots of independent highly skilled music teachers / players. A hand-full of great live music venues and fantastic location … close to London only 30/40 min away… The flip side to all this is that it is over-saturated with musicians… so harder to get rehearsal slots. Competition for gigs, and for [getting] bums on seats is harder than ever before.
WHAT IS YOUR MOST IMPORTANT LOCAL MUSIC VENUE?
If I want to go and see a band on tour, then G Live has the bigger bands, but for a more diverse musical treat – where you will see in my opinion a more interesting array – we would go to the Boileroom. They often have up and coming touring bands, and sometimes an older band who are on tour who were big in their day. This usually couples with a local support slot, so from a punters point of view, you would get to see new music, that you may not have heard of before. From a Bands point of view, exposure to a new audience, and possibly music industry if press or the touring bands manager. But these are rare, as labels often like to choose the support bands rather than the venue supply one.
WHERE DID THE THE TONIKS FIRST MEET – WAS THE BAND FORMED IN SURREY?
The Toniks was formed by me (Jez Parish) and (Mark Taylor) just writing in Mark’s shed / studio… well more of a shed in the early days… we would write and craft pop tunes that we liked … we uploaded a demo onto myspace, where we got lucky, as we had interest within the first 6 months from a guy called Dan Moore, who unknown to us at that time was working for Supervision Management… We found this out later as he left this detail on his e-mail thread … He was asking where were we playing? What we were about? Do we have more song etc.… so we sent him a demo of other song ideas, but at that time we did not even have a band!!
So we put one together very quickly and got out there. Dan Moore loved our tunes, and later came to see us play a set in Camden –North London. He thought it would be a struggle to get a major signing as around 2008/2009 Majors were not signing many bands at this time being the recession, but he suggested we go down the publishing route. So we did and we got a publishing deal with FPM publishing. But we still needed a record label, so we set that up to become Smile Records. The next stage was to get more reliable band members in. As we found, that a lot musicians are flaky and transient. We all have our own agenda. So when it gets tough, we found band members loose heart in this tough industry. As we are in Guildford, there were plenty of musicians to choose from. We auditioned and have now the current line up Tom Yates, lead guitar, Jess English on Keyboards, and most recent Colin Marshal on drums. And all from Surrey – which helps with logistics.
HOW USEFUL HAVE EVENTS SUCH AS JAKEFEST BEEN FOR YOU ? HAVE YOU PARTICIPATED IN OTHER FESTIVALS OR MAJOR EVENTS IN SURREY ?
Events like JAKEFEST and other charity events are a god send to bands in Surrey, as bands get exposure to brand new audiences – there are normally a few bands on the bill so it allows for networking opportunities too. But above all it gives the feeling of doing something worthwhile… Musicians are normally skint, but they can offer services free, and contribute in some small way to the community.
WE KNOW THAT YOU HAVE BEEN BROADCAST ON BROOKLANDS RADIO – HOW HELPFUL HAVE SURREY-BASED RADIO STATIONS BEEN FOR YOU?
Local Radio is a lifeline for bands, as this still is one of the best ways of getting your music out there. Brooklands Radio have been amazing to us, as they have given The Toniks a lot of air play recently, We have also had a lot of help from 96.4 Eagle Radio, they have a live Sunday sessions which we have been on a couple of times, which includes a quick 10 min interview and they record a live acoustic track to air. Recently we have been extra lucky in that Eagle have set up a new subsidiary DAB and online radio station called ‘eagle3’ which will play new chart releases, and they intermingle local bands on the play list, which is great for local exposure.
We all aspire to getting our records played on regular rotation… If you get this on say XFM, Absolute, Radio 2 etc.… unless you are terrible, you are only then truly on your way. So it’s great that ‘eagle 3’ has been set up. I spoke to a contact at Eagle, as we sent our début album out for review to get on the main play list, and what we found out is that they only normally play it if a major label sends material or if the artist is already established!! Which basically means a closed door for any new band trying break through. Same with the National radio stations, you would have to employ a Radio plugger for £4-10,000 just to get the ear of the programme scheduler, which not a lot of new bands or independent labels have the capital to facilitate. We also had another lucky break as BBC Surrey /BBC Sussex as they played a track on our album “rise and shine’ during a drive time show with Mark Carter. If we can get continued support from our local radio stations, this can only up our profile.
That one I am not sure on as it all seems like a bit of a blur… but probably the Remix Bar in Woking – (sadly not there anymore.)
WHAT IS THE FURTHEST YOU HAVE TRAVELLED FOR A GIG?
The furthest we have travelled today was to the International Wine Festival in Canada! We got a lucky break – as our drummer Colin Marshal, knows one of the organisers, He had tried this with previous bands he was in but had no joy. Lucky for us they liked our sound, and we got paid enough to go out there and support ‘The Sheep Dogs’.
While we were there we played the Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, where another radio presenter (also at the gig) loved the band so much that he put us on regular rotation on his station “rtds.ca”. We could only carry 70 CD albums in our suitcase and we sold out in 3 days… so for us it was very worth it.
HOW FAR OUT OF THE COUNTY WOULD YOU BE PREPARED TO TRAVEL?
We would go anywhere, as we love an adventure.
WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING THAT SURREY HAS TO OFFER – FOR A MUSICIAN OR BAND?
The networking opportunities with other Surrey musicians
HAVE YOU MADE A VIDEO ON LOCATION IN SURREY?
We have not made a video as yet – we have plans to make one… Surrey does offer some beautiful scenery as well as some cool urban spaces… so location will not be too hard to find.
‘THE JAM’ STARTED OUT ON THEIR CAREER BY PLAYING AT LOCAL WORKING MEN’S CLUBS – IT MEANS THAT THEY MAY HAVE HAD TO COMPROMISE THEIR SOUNDS TO ‘FIT’ THEIR AUDIENCE… WOULD YOU BE INTERESTED IN PLAYING VENUES THAT MIGHT BE ‘OUTSIDE’ YOUR COMFORT ZONE?
We have already played some strange and unusual gigs. so playing out of the comfort zone is part of the journey for bands, or should be to appreciate the better gigs. We recently played the YMCA in Woking …never even known it was there? We played a birthday party where there were only two microphones and we have 3 vocals, So I shared a mic with Jess, which not too pleasant as I had just eaten raw onion earlier! We also did a great gig which was uncomfortable as it was in the bandstand in Woking Town Centre… normally the reserve of Brass Bands. When in Canada we played a charity gig where they did not have any microphone stands. So I used a broom handle and lots of gaffa tape … you learn to improvise when in these situations.
DO YOU EVER GET A SENSE OF DETACHMENT OR ISOLATION BEING BASED IN SURREY? OR DO YOU FIND THAT SURREY IS A PERFECT PLACE TO THRIVE AND PROSPER?
You do feel a bit out of it as London is where we hear all the action is…but in reality the action is where you make it happen, you don’t go to the action, you make the action go to you. Surrey is great as the location is well placed to travel to London, or Brighton. The biggest issue we find is parking … as bands need drop gear of at a venue, then find a spot to park.
Thank you The Toniks
– © Neil_Mach November 2013 –