"If we carry on at this speed, it's going to be a very exciting couple of years!"
- Billy Stewart, Audio Production student and band member of Short Stories
Billy Stewart and Ashley Walker are both Audio Production students at SAE London and both part of up-and-coming indie band Short Stories. Over the past few months, their success as a band has grown monumentally. Recently, they won the HOT VOX ‘New Blood’ competition and as a result performed at the Isle of Wight Festival earlier this month. With the future looking bright, we caught up with them to find out more.
How did it feel to win the HOT VOX competition? Were you surprised?
Ash: “Winning the competition was one of the bands greatest achievements, we just put our heart and soul into all of the rounds leading up to the final. Every time we got through on the industry judges’ vote it gave us more drive to put more into our performance. When we won it felt so surreal. When you think that we won out of 2,000 bands, it really fills us with amazement that we are doing things right to get us to where we want to be.”
Billy: “SO SURPRISED. Short Stories make a big effort to network with the other bands that are performing alongside us, and one of the most important things in our opinion, is watching the other artists’ sets. It’s the best way to gain mutual respect from one act to another! In doing this, we watched lots of the acts that we were up against so to think we were chosen above all of them is just insane. One moment for me in particular was in the semi-final when the judges chose us over a band called The Gold. They played brilliantly so I really didn't think we'd manage to get through that. But here we are! Happy days.”
What was it like to perform at IOW?
Ashley: “The feeling of being on stage at Isle of Wight was unlike any we have felt at previous gigs. The crowd was huge and the stage set up and sound was by far the very best we have had. Everything was so cool leading up to stage time. We were carted around in buggies and the production crew at the Hard Rock Cafe stage really worked hard to get things running smoothly. We felt like royalty for the day. The most exciting part was that our stage was right next to the Main stage so we had thousands of people passing by as well as in the crowd. It was the best way for us to reach new people.”
Billy: “Over the years, festivals have been one of the main things missing from Short Stories' CV, so to go and play one that is easily in the UK's top 10 festivals was absolutely amazing. The reception we received from the crowd was incredible (especially when you consider that James Bay was on at the same time right next to us!) and we're already seeing a rise in the growth of our social media pages. It no doubt helped that we took a lot of time leading up to the festival to print off flyers and ads that we were handing out for free over the weekend. We really had to make the most of it and I think we did all we could to achieve just that.
On a more personal level, I have spent years of my youth going to gigs and festivals all over the world and I've come to know and love many acts. To feature on the same bill as LOTS of those acts was just so impossibly brilliant. Kasabian, Killers, Liam Gallagher, Blossoms, Kodaline, Travis, The Wombats, Circa Waves, Feeder & Manic Street Preachers - I never thought I'd play a festival so big to have such names on it. It's a real personal milestone and I'm so proud to have played at such an iconic place. 50th anniversary of the festival as well. It's something that will stick with me forever."
Did you get to meet any other artists while there?
Ashley: “Backstage we met some fantastic acts such as Tim Arnold and Ben Montague and chatted with them to get more of a feel for playing in the festival circuit. Not only were we rubbing shoulders with great artists backstage but some of the best people we met were part of the production crew who were locals on the Isle and took the week of work to help organise things backstage. We were in the artist campsite so we were constantly chatting and bumping into some amazing acts all the time, it was a very special atmosphere.”
Billy: “As we were playing, we were given backstage passes so we made sure to make ourselves seen around there and spoke to plenty of acts and crew. Funnily enough we pitched up our tents by complete coincidence next to our good friends from Cavalcade - another indie/rock based based in the same area as us - the lead singer literally lives less than a minute's walk from my house!! We also got to speak to some of the boys from Judas who are really climbing the ladder well. Hopefully we got our name out there to a few more people too!”
What has the response been like since you performed?
Ashley: “Since we played we have had some great messages from our friends, family and amazing fans. As soon as we finished our set we ran out into the audience and handed out hundreds of copies of our EP “Valhalla” with our new single “Tired" on it. That was an instant response from the new fanbase as they were really positive and asked where they can catch us live next. It was all very overwhelming hearing such great feedback. The judges of the competition and our promoter who helped get us there through the competition were over the moon for us after we played our set.”
Billy: “I've been in this band for a long time and the past 3 months have been so incredibly active for us. More so than ever, I'd say. Everyone we know, friends, fans and family always seems to know what's going on with the band and everyone is so much more engaged because things are picking up this much. Since we got back from IOW, I have had tons of messages asking me for photos and videos of the performance. It's really great to feel like so much is happening and so many more people are now interested in our journey and want to help us break through barrier after barrier! We can't thank these people enough.”
What's next for Short Stories?
Ashley: “We have a lot in store for the next 4 months. We are finalising details of our UK Tour (after me and Bill graduate) and are writing new material as we speak. We are looking forward to recording these new tracks with our producer Dan Lambert at Valhalla studios. Dan is a good friend of the bands and a graduate of SAE London. We will be officially releasing our new single “Tired” and we are shooting the video for it in the coming weeks. This year has been the band’s busiest and we look to keep the momentum going throughout the year. Our future is very exciting and we are eager to put in as much hard work as possible so we can return to Isle of Wight next year.”
Billy: “Yep, it's still all systems go! We don't want to take our foot off the gas for one second because the momentum is so great at the moment. We have a really promising London show with the guys at promotions company This Feeling. They've got so much going for them right now and every band I know wants to be in with them, so we're stoked to be on the bill! The venue is Nambucca (Holloway Rd) and the date is 14 July . It's going to be yet another cracking gig.
In the long term, we're definitely going to be looking to keep expanding our fan base. Hopefully another UK tour next year and then we can really jump on the festival scene for 2019.”
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