Playing the heavy


June 6, 2012

More and more bands are struggling to make a name for themselves in Perth’s rapidly growing heavy alternative music scene.

Music diploma student Nathan Gerrard, 18, said the small number of venues that would showcase heavy alternative music could not compete with the scene’s expansion.

“There are just so many heavy bands out there competing for success but it’s difficult because there are just a handful of venues that will take us,” Gerrard said.

“The ones that do showcase this genre of music often recruit bands that are already successful, which means that small bands that are just starting out are at a disadvantage – with no money, no fan base, and nowhere to play.”

Perth’s heavy alternative music scene can be broken down into four main genres: hardcore, post-hardcore or metalcore, metal, and pop punk or punk.

Gerrard is the lead guitarist and singer of the post-hardcore bands Safety in Numbers and Mirror Mirror.

Mirror Mirror was formed earlier this year, and is experiencing the same difficulties that Safety in Numbers, formed in early 2011, did when it first started.

Safety in Numbers is now a steadily rising band, booking one to two shows a week.

Last month the band released its own merchandise.

Despite the rapidly expanding scene, only about 10 venues in Perth cater to the heavy alternative music scene.

Oh Snap! is a popular alternative music-focused event held at Villa Nightclub every Thursday night.

Lachlan MacBean, 18, a host at Oh Snap!, said an average Thursday night could bring in anywhere from 100 to 200 people.

“There is definitely a steady climb in bands playing this genre of music, but I wouldn’t say there is a great deal of them because it’s so much harder to really make it in Perth,” Mr MacBean said.

“The interest in that genre of music is there and it’s big, but it’s the difficulty of the band getting big enough to fight past all those issues to be able to keep going that is the real challenge.”

YMCA HQ is a multipurpose youth space that caters to the heavy alternative scene, and is the only all-ages venue to do so in Perth.

Dave Lee, 19, the Up and Coming Bands Coordinator at HQ, said Perth’s small but highly competitive alternative music scene made it very difficult for new bands to make a name for themselves.

“It’s definitely very difficult for new bands to break out,” Mr Lee said.

“There are so many established bands, and the music scene is generally very competitive.”

Mr Lee said the alternative music scene would be a lot stronger if local bands supported one another, rather than treating the music scene like a competition.

“At the end of the day, 99 per cent of bands play the same venues to mostly the same crowds,” he said.

“If bands actually went to each others’ shows and supported the bands they like rather than sledge the ones they don’t, Perth would have a much stronger and more positive music scene.”

On the other hand, Gerrard said competitiveness between bands was often inevitable.

“To really be successful, you have to be competitive to a degree,” he said.

“Some people aren’t just in it for the fun of it.

“They’re in it to make a living doing what they love.”

HQ’s former Up and Coming Bands Coordinator Gabi Fletcher said there was great demand for more alternative music-focused venues in Perth.

“I’d definitely like to see more venues catering to this genre of music,” Ms Fletcher said.

“But these often arise when the right people start networking.

“More established bands sometimes take smaller bands under their wings, and I think it can create opportunities for more venues.”

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