March 31, 2014
December 1st 2006, Princess Charlotte, Leicester. The first Northern Kind gig, we had a handful of songs and a dream of putting an album together. Some of those songs featured on what became our first album, Fifty Three Degrees North. The title was derived from the longitude of Sheffield, the british home of electronic pop music. Yeah yeah Basildon could also claim that title, however Sarah was living in Sheffield so it made more sense at the time plus we had the word “Northern” in our name.
To get that gig we had to book and pay for the venue, get a couple of other bands on the line-up and hope people would come. I’d discovered a band called Schmoof via Myspace (remember that!), who had a great following. I met up with Lloyd from the band and quizzed him about how they got their following, how they released music and had a general chat about the music scene. It was great to hear they had taken a similar approach to what we were planning. They found it difficult to get gigs so created their own synth pop themed nights called Warm Electro.
Our night was called Electrotease and featured ourselves, Schmoof and a band called Codette. We had about 50 people turn up that night, gave away some CD’s and within a few weeks we had another 6 gigs lined-up including Client E’s Tesco Disco night in London. We started planning the 2nd Electrotease night to coincide with the launch of our first album. I’d seen a great band called Trademark support the Human League so we invited them plus a really unusual and comical band called Starbase 109. They were like a north of England version of Kraftwerk, they sang about Vacuum cleaners, Bailiffs and Grave diggers. They had all sorts of electrical contraptions on stage, none of them would contribute to the sound and would often break. They took hours to set-up and breakdown but they were really great to watch, I would have signed them.
So the 2nd Electrotease night passed and we had again entertained another modest audience. Fifty Three Degrees North was released on 7th September 2007. That day we had one physical CD order (Thanks Wout). I thought oh well at least we can say we’ve done an album, that’s an achievement. On the morning of Wednesday 9th of September as usual I checked my email. I had 37 unread messages that had come in over night, odd. They were from all over Europe with people saying they really liked the album, my instant thought was “Wout you bastard, you’ve ripped our album and stuck it on a torrent site”. It turns out all these people had legitimately purchased our album from iTunes, but how did they find us? Apart from searching in the iTunes store there was no mention of Northern Kind anywhere. I made a call to AWAL our digital distributor, they told me to change my iTunes home store county to any of the mainland Europe ones, I didn’t even know you could do that. There we were, in a massive carousel image on the main homepage of iTunes. Without any investment in marketing or PR those wise folk at Apple had decided to feature an unsigned, unknown band on the home screen across the whole of Europe (except the UK). For two weeks we were in prime position, it went kind of crazy for a short while, lots of emails, interviews, blog posts, reviews and requests to do gigs. That exposure gave us a top 5 album in the Swedish download charts and top 20 positions in Spain, France, Italy & Germany.
The next twelve months saw us in meetings with managers, labels and producers including the home of Xenomania, the production company started by Brian Higgins that gave Girls Aloud all their hits. It was hectic, mental, superficial and mostly a load of bollocks. Our taste of the ‘real’ industry I guess and one that neither of us wanted to be part of. So we slipped away and started making our second album. One of the songs on that album “Dirty Youth” was written for Girls Aloud, but not wanting to share writing credits with another six writers for them adding the odd piece of punctuation, a “yeah” here and there, we kept it for ourselves.
Despite all the shit we became embroiled in there were some genuine people that championed what we were doing, namely Rob Windle, Chi Ming Lai, Jer White and a handful of others who wrote about us, organised events and had bags of enthusiasm for the scene. We released our 2nd album WIRED in May 2009 and from 2006 to the end of 2009 we had played 92 gigs including ten dates across the UK supporting Kajagoogoo on their reunion tour in 2009. In 2010 we had a break but managed to squeeze in a couple of gigs, the brilliantly organised InFest in Bradford followed by our support slot with our friend Alan Wilder (Recoil) in Berlin. Gary Numan also DJ’d that night and in the audience / backstage was Karl Bartos, this made our Berlin experience very special indeed.
2011 and 2012 were very quiet, I had really good intentions to finish our third album but couldn’t really gather any momentum with any new ideas. We also made the decision to become more picky about the gigs we did and turned many offers to perform down. Sarah patiently waited for my mojo to come back and at the start of 2013 with the additional of a few new synths and gear I got stuck in. We were asked by Simon Hewitt to play at the Silicon Dreams event in the summer alongside Heaven 17, we had a great time and previewed some of the new songs from Credible Sexy Unit. By the end of the Summer we had a collection of songs we were really happy with and released our third album on October 21st. A week before the launch we offered up a stream of the album in full on SoundCloud, in a just a few hours we had over 11,000 streams with some rave reviews.
Following our first gig in 2006 I could have only dreamt about what we would achieve, who we would have played with, where we’ve visited and even the fact that people have actually bought our music from all over the world. Our album sales are modest compared to those of signed artists but in the 7 years we’ve sold approximately 10,000 albums with around 40% of those being physical albums. We’ve had approximately 70,000 streams on Spotify and considering we’ve spent about £500 on promotion I’d say that’s not bad.
We’ve made a bunch of new friends on this journey, far too many to mention here but you know who you are!
So it’s now with a heavy heart that I have to write that Sarah decided to leave Northern Kind in January ’14. Since then we’ve mostly kept that decision to ourselves, mainly because of the commitments we have to fulfil two dates already booked for this year. The iSynth Festival in April and Silicon Dreams in June ’14. I must admit I was a little disappointed initially that Sarah wouldn’t be joining me for these dates, if only as a farewell. But still, I’d like to thank her for sharing this experience with me and in her words to me, “Thank you so much for being my partner on this amazing journey” – Thank you Sarah xxx
So what’s next?
First we’ll be playing the two dates mentioned above. Charlotte “Charlie” Sanderson has kindly stepped into Sarah’s shoes for these two dates and I’m looking forward to performing with her in a few weeks time. Charlotte was in a band called Electrobelle that had a handful of really great songs including “Mirrorball” that featured on the Electronically Yours compilation back in 2008.
There’s new music in the pipeline and we’ll be putting new material out over the summer, they’ll be a new name and a few surprises but it’s gonna be great.
So here’s to the next chapter and thanks for all your amazing support so far…
© 2017 Northern Kind – Credible Sexy Unit