‘Wirral rock band for hire’. Sounds mercenary, but The Stines have had to fight for everything they’ve got so far – especially when they’re winning.
Unsigned, they entered Radio City’s ‘Make Your Mark’ contest in 2008, beating huge local competition to eventually be crowned champs.Promises of a bright future beckoned. The might of Bauer Media’s ‘Big City’ radio network, poised, ready to propel them chartwards. But unknown to them, their fight was just beginning.
“Considering Make Your Mark had a good reputation we were disappointed with what they did for us. I got the impression they wanted to get as much exposure for their own project from Radio City, then, once it was finished, we were out in the cold,” says The Stines bass guitarist Vince Sylvester.
“We had to chase and badger the people responsible for each of the different services we were supposed to have won from the competition,” he reveals.
The Make Your Mark page is still live, un-search engine optimised and gathering dust on the Radio City website. A promise of PR support is listed as one of the prizes, designed to encourage a full-time career in music.
They’re sill waiting.
Sadly Make Your Mark fell wide of the mark with The Stines, despite its Myspace page throwing this gem out into the open: ‘We want to influence key players such as government and education bodies so that they listen up and encourage young people to be driven and achieve their dreams! Encouraging enterprise within the country benefits our economy so it’s in everybody’s best interest!’
Noble sentiments obviously, and like every MySpace in the country it was last updated when John met Yoko.
But when it’s a struggle to fulfil promises to the winners of your very own competition what does that say about the station’s real motive? Surely it’s not just a cheap gimmick to grab listeners?
There’s no air of resignation from the band though, just defiance. “We’re still the best rock and roll band in Liverpool,” says Vince, matter-of-factly, although, when asked to express a preference, he also rates The Sons of MOD. They’re still very much a gigging band – SevenStreets remembers an ear-splitting Barfly performace during the last Matthew Street Festival. But lately, we’ve noticed their touring programme extends more to local venues closer to their Wirral base of operations.
Have they snubbed Liverpool because of the experience? What does the Wirral offer unsigned bands that Liverpool doesn’t? “A major problem is the fact that bands have to sell their own tickets on behalf of the venue in Liverpool. We always want to push our own material but it’s incredibly difficult to get thirty fans paying £5 each on a Tuesday night unless you’re a student.”
“Our local studio, Fallen Industries, are addressing this problem by not putting any pressure on the bands to sell tickets for monthly events. The venues need to be a bit more open and give bands a hand, as it’s driving some real talent underground.”
And so it’s back to the 9-to-5. What a shame that promised PR didn’t materialise, eh?
“The frustrating thing is since the La’s, Cast and co, a certain kind of genre is expected from a Liverpool band. Immediately you’re fighting a stereotype which, in our case, couldn’t be further from the truth. We’re a rock and roll band! We don’t have curly hair and don’t play jingly-jangly guitars!”
We’re intrigued to hear that the Stines’ recamp-to-Wirral strategy isn’t because it’s closer to their home base, or because they’ve had their fingers burned by the city’s largest radio station. For The Stines, the Wirral is the new underground. A response to student overcrowding and bully-boy tactics from only the grubbiest city venues.
“It was rammed [during the Barfly gig] and you could sense the anticipation before we went on. But the beauty of the Wirral is that you know everybody else who’s in a band. It’s a really good community, and when events such as the Sunset Festival or Oxjam come along it’s pretty easy to get involved. It just needs a couple more decent venues, especially since [legendary Birkenhead venue] The Iron Door closed down.”
The fondness for gigging in the city obviously hasn’t left them, and Vince feels he knows the solution: “Liverpool definitely needs more positive ventures from recognised people in and around the city. If we could get a decent band night going – I’m reluctant to say battle of the bands – where the best bands in the North West could play every Saturday, for free, then it would go some way to creating a cavern-style atmosphere and every band would fight to be the best. The popularity would soon follow.”
We’re keen to point out that when Vince says ‘recognised’, he means ‘rich’.