FFS’s favourite alt-folkers Sophie Jamieson are on a European Tour taking in much of Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Hotly tipped left right and centre as ‘ones to watch’ in 2014, Sophie, Liam and Alex have recently been joined by ex-Fanfarlo drummer Amos Memon.
On this two-week jaunt across the channel, the band’s guitarist Liam Hoflay has been keeping a tour diary, which he’s kindly allowed us to serialise. Here’s your sneak peak into the inner world of a band on the rise.
Have I Packed Everything?
So it begins tomorrow. It still hasn’t sunk in that in 24 hours we will be somewhere under the channel on our way to France. Although preparations began weeks ago, still having to do a full day of work before leaving is only making the whole tour seem further off than it actually is.
I’ve said my goodbyes to my housemates in case I don’t bump into them in the morning shower queue, and spent the last two days packing and moving stuff across London, so it’s all ready to get in the van and set off. It feels more like moving house than travelling.
I hope I’ve not forgotten anything. The passport is definitely packed! 16 days on the continent; it will be the longest I have ever spent away.
JANUARY 24, 2014
A Start (of sorts)/Damn Trains!
I suppose regardless of how much you prepare and make sure you’re on time, something will ultimately screw up your plans. As I am writing this, its just gone 2am. and we have only just got on the Eurotunnel, a whole 4 hours after we were meant to depart. How frustrating.
We have a very long day of travelling ahead of us tomorrow, then our first show supporting Lanterns on the Lake in Darmstadt. Hopefully we will get enough sleep before then; at least we are in the same city for the first two days!
After eventually getting to France and and 3 hours sleep, we hit the road for the longest journey of the tour. We covered 4 countries in 6 hours; France, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany. Nothing gets you used to driving on the continent better than taking over the driving just as you’re about the join the autobahn. If you’re reading this Dad, it went well thanks.
This lovely church in Darmstadt (pictured above) was the venue for our gig with Lanterns on the Lake. Little did we know, until we turned up to the church, that this 350 capacity venue was completely sold out. Needless to say, the nerves kicked in. This was our first gig of the tour, the first with Amos on drums and the most people we have ever played to.
The gig itself went very well and the atmosphere was great. Most of the time, when you’re a support act, you don’t expect everyone to turn up until the main act play; but to give credit to the wonderful people who did attend, they were all there from the very beginning and attentive from start to finish. And the hospitality! O the hospitality. I have never been treated so well by promoters (except for the Brewery Tap in Ipswich with Patch). They were so friendly and genuinely happy to have us all there. At dinner time we were greeted by a spread of home made tarts, pasta and soup. It was delicious! We did chance our arm and ask the cooks to join us for the rest of the tour, but they politely declined.
As we were spending the first couple of days in Darmstadt and we had the opportunity to sleep in, we accepted an invite to go to a ‘party’. Now to most British people, we interpreted this as a house party, but it was actually just a bar. We got some funny looks from our host when we asked if there was a shop we could buy alcohol from beforehand; “Is there something specific you want?”, they asked. When we replied “No just to grab some beers”, we must have seemed so cheap.
(Photos by Guido Engler (top) and Maike Hohlbaum)
We played our second show in Darmstadt today. Unlike everywhere else we are going to play, we have had the pleasure of spending two days with a fantastic and gorgeous (you’re welcome Tobias) collection of people. The guys at Bedroomdisco (mostly in the photo above) certainly know how you make you feel welcome. Not only do they put on amazing, intimate shows, they are genuinely happy to have you there and treat you like family. It took us ages to leave the venue today, there were many hugs and goodbyes.
It’s starting to occur to me that we’re not going to see many of the places we’re actually going. We’ve effectively spent the last two days either in venues or in the van. It’s sad that after the tour, when people ask what each city is like, I may respond with “dunno, we had to go straight to the venue when we arrived”. Tomorrow we set off for Duisburg.
We got up especially early today to spend a little time being shown around Darmstadt before we left. Luckily for us, our host, Fred, had been a guide for Erasmus students so we had a very knowledgeable walk indeed. All cultured up, we headed for Duisburg; a meagre 3 hour drive away. It was a good chance for Alex to finally get some driving in and a chance for me to sleep in the back.
The location for tonight’s gig was a little harder to find as the satnav insisted on taking us to the other side of the square. When we eventually arrived, we were greeted at the venue by two locals who made a beeline for Sophie and asked for her autograph. Mildly satisfied with what they received, they went on their way. Only one attended the actual gig.
The gig itself was very well attended. Apparently this particular evening only attracts 3 people or so, so it was nice to see some people not being able to sit on the chairs provided. We may have made the tiny mistake of not factoring in an encore as we had played our entire repertoire. This meant that when we finished, without knowing what to do and having nowhere to go, we left the room rather awkwardly through the applauding crowd and immediately came back in; as if exiting would signify we were not going to do any more songs.
We were very surprised that a lot of the audience wanted not only our CD but our autographs also. I can only apologise to those fans for my appalling handwriting.
Tonight we are staying with 3 students in Mülheim, who are friends of the promoters. While they are studying, I will leave you with a photo of our lovely roommate for this evening.
The more shows we play on this tour, the more I’m beginning to notice the student crowd at our shows. I’m not saying we don’t get students at our shows in London, but the main bulk of our audiences in Germany have been students. Not just students who frequent the venues to hang out, and would be there anyway, but ones going out of their way to attend the shows and also being passionate about the music. They are the ones actively helping to organise the shows, putting up a band for the night, and buying our EPs. We owe them a lot.
I just want to mention the three students we stayed with last night; Elisa, Ana and Kara. They get paid to put up bands on a regular basis, but they still made us feel right at home. The whole affair was so informal, it honestly felt like we were crashing at a friends house in the best possible way. Even though we had only spent mere hours at their house, it was hard to say goodbye.
Tonights gig in Münster was another great show. We kind of knew what to expect of the Pension Schmidt as our friend Farao had played there a few weeks before and had had a good time. We were not, however, expecting a full house at all. We were pleasantly surprised the see the venue filling up as we waited to go on stage. The venue’s promoter kept putting back the stage time to allow the people queuing outside to get in. They also moved some walls, that divided up the venue, to accommodate everyone so they could all see. The promoter estimated 110 people had come to see us, even he was surprised by this figure.
Scratching our heads as to the reason for such a high attendance, we were shocked to find out one member of the audience had expected the figure to be higher. “Yes everybody has been talking about this gig for weeks”, they said, “It’s been mentioned on our county’s top radio station. But its exams tomorrow so a lot of students are at home, studying.” Bloody degrees!
Its hard to go to Europe and not live off bread, ham and cheese. It’s easy. You don’t need to know a language to know what you’re buying. Ham is ham, bread is bread and cheese is cheese. It’s a perfect picnic meal for life on the road and on a budget. I does however get old quite quickly, and you start pining for the evening meals provided for you by the promoters. We’ve been very fortunate in the meals we have received so far; they have been exceptional. Sometimes we even get breakfast. Today was one of those days. We had access to a bagel shop in Münster where we got a free bagel and tea. Without realising, I chose the ham and cheese bagel. I immediately regretted my decision.
The temperature is definitely dropping the further south we are getting. We saw some snow on the ground on our way to Stuttgart, but luckily it disappeared. Our promoter says its usually snowing in Stuttgart this time of year, so I guess we’ve brought the mild weather with us.
We cross the boarder into Switzerland tomorrow. Hopefully it will be as friendly as Germany has been so far.
Part two coming soon…