Interview: Core. Festival
It’s a festival put together by musicians, and by people who are really into the scene and part of it. It’s not a big corporate thing where they’ll let people do their thing and try to make money off them. It’s more, "This is what we want, and this is what we’d do if we were playing it".
With only a few weeks to go until the inaugural edition of Core. Festival, a Glasgow-based festival bringing together some of the finest underground acts from across the city, the country and the globe, David Bowes grabbed a coffee with organisers David Weaver and Daniel Mutch to discuss the creation of what will hopefully be the first of many great weekends to come.
E&D: When did you originally get the idea to go ahead with this?
David: We’ve been talking about doing it for years. We talked about doing a metal/hardcore festival probably pre-pandemic. Me and Daniel work in the same office at 432 and we’ve done festivals like The Great Western and The Great Eastern before; we’ve taken an interest in venues and spots in the west end and done one in Edinburgh. Looking at that, we realised how doable it was and how these venues would work really well with this kind of music. The Hug And Pint is an ideal spot as well so I think it just came together over the past couple of years as something we wanted to do. Then last summer we thought, “Let’s do it”.
Daniel: Yeah, it was summer that we really started to get the engine going and then booking it right around December, then our first headliner confirmed while we were on our staff holiday. That was a nice, uniting moment for the festival.
E&D: Who was your first confirmation?
David: It was Deafheaven. Once we had that, we felt we could build anything we liked around it. I’ve loved Deafheaven for so long as so once they were on board, it was like “Right, we’ve got a festival here”.
E&D: What’s great is that you have a real balance between international, UK and local artists. Was having that kind of across-the-board representation important to you going into this?
David: Definitely, because it’s what we wanted to see. Part of the good thing about being in Glasgow is that you get to see great international bands but you also get to be part of an amazing local scene. You go to Audio Lounge and see Endless Swarm playing in a practice room and you’re thinking, “Everyone in the world should know this band”. One of the reasons that you want to put something like this on is that you can get bands like Cloud Rat, who haven’t played Glasgow in about eight years, or Celeste who have played here, I think, once. These are the kinds of bands that you want to see in Glasgow and who could definitely play but they don’t really come here on tour. Having a festival is a great excuse to get them here. Once you have a festival running, then you can use it as a showcase for the scenes that are around Scotland as well as get bands into the city that might not normally come.
E&D: Was the current gig climate a factor, then? It feels that less bands are doing extensive tours and are now more likely just to do festival slots.
Daniel: That’s a complicated one because everything has been messed around so much over the past couple of years due to COVID. That was part of it but from the start of Core. we felt it was the right time to do it. We were excited about live music coming back and it was something that we really wanted to put forward. We just went for it.
David: Definitely. It’s difficult right now, as any promoter will tell you. The cost of living, Brexit, but the things that are working are these interesting, well-curated and well-programmed things. Last month, I was down at Outbreak in Manchester and it was nearly sold out. This was around three times the size that it had been before. These genre events seem to really be working and are what people are after.
E&D: There had been stuff in the news recently about how so many festivals had gone under in the past few years but when you look at something like Damnation, they’re continuing to get stronger.
David: Right. We do have grand plans and would like to build this and see it get bigger but we are starting quite small in terms of capacity, though perhaps not in terms of bands. There’s a lot of risk involved in putting on a festival and trying to minimise that risk is key. That’s what we’ve done. We’ve booked bands that will hopefully sell enough tickets for the size room that we’re doing and made an interesting enough lineup that it will stand out. Fingers crossed it will sell well and we can then develop it as we go. Festivals are going under because maybe they’re gambling on trying to get bigger acts or they just need to sell so many tickets. I think we would rather have a slightly smaller festival that we know we can do well with rather than book Slipknot and just try to get 100,000 people to come. Maybe for year two that’s what we can aim for!
E&D: How do you think the reaction has been to it so far?
Daniel: We’ve had a really amazing response, not just from the Scottish scene, but loads of bands and punters are getting in touch from farther afield just to show their support. They might not be coming this year but they might be coming in future years. It’s going better than we hoped.
David: So many people in Glasgow have been waiting for something like this to happen and that definitely seems to be the vibe here, that they’re excited for it to happen and hoping that it can continue. We were over at Roadburn in April and we had only just released the lineup that week, but people there were talking about it. We spoke to Chat Pile, who were playing their first European show there, and they were saying that they couldn’t wait to come over to Scotland and play our festival. At that point, we just felt that we had to keep that up.
Daniel: When I was on the bus back from Roadburn I noticed two guys in front of me with their wristbands, and I thought, “Oh, I’ll take a look at what they’re doing on their phone and be a bit nosey” and they were looking at the Core. lineup, trying to decide what festivals they were going to next. I realised then that we had hit the right audience.
E&D: You said that you’d worked on The Great Eastern and events like that before. How does this stack up in terms of logistics?
David: The main thing is that we have fewer venues compared to that, it’s just done over more days. We’ve never done a multiday festival before. Those shows can be pretty chaotic. I think a couple of years ago we had 11 venues overall.
Daniel: The Great Western? I went a bit crazy the year we came out of lockdown, so I think it was 12 venues and 55 bands. That was just as we were coming back so it was chaos season.
David: It went really well. It was fun but oh my god, the day after it I was absolutely frazzled! Everybody who worked on it was like, “That was great, but we can’t do that every week”. This is a bit more streamlined as we just have The Hug and Pint and Maryhill, which has two rooms. You’re not running all over the place. We’re announcing our afterparties this week so it will be going late, but it will be fun. We’ve done three Great Westerns and two Great Easterns so we’ve learned so much from them. They do get easier each time. The other things with this is that everyone who is taking part is so excited to be involved, so that definitely helps. Logistically, we’ll see how long we last over the three days.
Daniel: I think this has been working out a lot easier because we’ve got everything we need to do done already, as we had all that in previous festivals. Now it’s just a matter of replicating it. And as David said, everyone involved is so excited. There’s not a lot of stress being felt, there’s just a real positive buzz about what we’re doing.
David: Fingers crossed. There’s always stuff on the day that we didn’t think about, and there will be emergencies when you’re dealing with such a big event but the folk that work with us and do this stuff on the day with the gigs are so good and reliable. The folk that are involved and doing all the production, they’re all in bands themselves. They know what they’re doing and what they need. I guess that’s a big part of what it is – it’s a festival put together by musicians, and by people who are really into the scene and part of it. It’s not a big corporate thing where they’ll let people do their thing and try to make money off them. It’s more, “This is what we want, and this is what we’d do if we were playing it”.
E&D: No plans for big sponsors just yet, then?
David: No. It’d be cool to have some indie sponsors on board but I don’t think we’re going to be selling out to BP quite yet.
E&D: Is there much in the way of support available for people starting up festivals in the UK?
David: You can apply to Creative Scotland but the competition is mad, because it’s the only main public fund available. It means that everyone who’s putting on a big event is applying, and their budget has been decreased. We got a little bit of funding for The Great Western the first time we did it. I used to work for Creative Scotland so I know how they work inside-out. They don’t necessarily want to gamble of something like this. They’d rather see something in year two or three, try and let it grow. Beyond that, there’s the PRS Foundation that can support live events but there’s so much paperwork and admin involved. When you apply for funding, you usually don’t know if you’ve got it until about 4 months later. When you’re doing a festival, four months is an eternity because you need to know what your budget is straight away. Sometimes it’s easier to do it without funding because you know what you’re working with. I definitely think funding bodies could be more reactive and helpful for festivals. The main festivals that get funded now are ones that have been going for years and are a sure thing. Culturally significant festivals. That’s what they put the money on but something like this, it’s a big risk for them. It’s more a matter of finding mates who are willing to take a big risk on you as well, perhaps local shops and booze companies, something like that. You’re on your own until you can prove that you aren’t just going to lose loads of money.
E&D: How did you decide on Maryhill Community Halls for the venue?
Daniel: It’s our main venue for The Great Western. Whenever we were in there, it was just a case of “This is the spot”. It’s got the DIY feel, it’s a community hall, it’s got seats in a ring round the side and a pit in the middle…
David: …and there’s a second room as well. The reason we did it for The Great Western years ago is that we put on one gig there and thought, “This place is amazing. We should do a festival based around this venue”. For Core. it was always the venue that we had in our minds. It just feels right. It’s gritty, it’s DIY but when you put good production in it looks and sounds great. And everybody can see as well!
E&D: That’s a massive plus!
Daniel: It’s tiered, there’s a standing area at the top, we’re maybe going to put a projector and a big screen in, bars, a light show… it’s going to be a full festival within a space that you wouldn’t expect.
E&D: How about The Hug And Pint? Are there any worries about having enough room in there?
David: The bands that we have in The Hug and Pint are a mix of bands that everyone will know and our favourite new bands in Glasgow. We just know that in there, the production is amazing, and so are the PA and sound engineers, so it’s a guaranteed room that will sound great and whoever can fit in there will have a great time. We’re having that at the same time as Room 2 so there will always be something on. At a festival there’ll always be clashes but Room 1 will always have enough room, and there’s stuff to choose from. It’s a great wee venue and it’s exciting to use it.
E&D: How much of a headache was arranging the scheduling?
David: We’re still in the midst of that. Daniel spent a lot of time doing that, lots of communicating with venues and bands, and we’ve had to deal with public transport issues. We were aiming to close late but now we’re going to have to reschedule a lot of it. The main stage will close at 11 and we’ll have some stuff going on a bit later. We underestimated how many folk were travelling from Edinburgh and beyond Glasgow, but that’s a nice problem to have for your festival. We’ve listened to that and we’re going to try and make it as easy as possible. Dealing with a festival is funny as there’s always one thing that somebody wants to change. That’s part of the joy!
E&D: Apart from the big draws, who are you excited to see at this?
Daniel: Chat Pile are the main band that I’m excited about. Ona Snop, that we’ve got on the Sunday, are fucking mental so I’m looking forward to that. I’m excited to have Bleaks back, a local Glasgow band. One of them has been away in New Zealand for the past year so I’m excited to see them. And So I Watch You From Afar, University, and I think Hammok would be my main recommendation for the weekend. Amazing Norwegian hardcore band. If there’s space to do it, the singer will do a 180 backflip on stage.
David: I’m absolutely buzzing for Fit To Work. They’re always so good. Really excited to have Dawn Ray’d. We put the first line-up up and they got in touch asking if they could play this festival. “Aye, we’d absolutely love you to!”
Daniel: We had a band drop out the night before so we had a slot just for them.
David: That was a happy accident. Who else? Everybody! In fact, Endless Swarm. They’ll be great! Even if I wasn’t involved, I’d still be excited to go to this. That’s when you know you’ve got a good thing.