The Yorker meets... York Acoustic
Late 2011 saw the launch of York Acoustic, an online video platform that showcases local talent in some of York’s most intimate locations. Many a quirky music blog has taken to filming bands in unusual places (off the top of my head Blogothèque’s Take Away Shows and The Black Cab Sessions spring to mind), however York Acoustic aims to be different. The Yorker met with founder James Arden to find out more.
TY How did you get into film-making?
JA Just out of own personal interest really – being an English student I don’t get to film as part of my degree! It was more from I guess 16 onwards being interested in making short films, and then coming to uni you meet loads of people who are interested in it, and are active in it, so I’ve been able to really get going, and get better at what I was doing.
TY Why the acoustic genre in particular?
JA I guess it suits the places more. There are so many unique little places in York and I thought it would be cool to have the stripped down versions of peoples’ songs being performed in these small little places. It we had amps it wouldn’t quite work as well!
TY You mentioned the importance of place – what are your criteria for choosing a location?
JA First of all it’s about trying to find places that are unique to York, that you can only find here – places like Bison Coffee, as opposed to, say, a Starbucks. Somewhere where there is only one of them and maybe that a lot of people might not know about. I didn’t know about places like Attic Records and Bison Coffee until I went out and found them - (“Oh Attic Records is brilliant!”) – it’s wicked, yeah! So hopefully it’ll work in that people will know where all these little places are.
TY I don’t really know much about film-making but I’d imagine going to all these little places poses a few challenges as a film-maker, given that in a studio it’s easy to engineer things like the lighting and limit any background noise – are there any difficulties in filming in these locations, and if so how do you overcome them?
JA To be honest we just played it by ear. When we did the Bison Coffee shoot we rearranged all the furniture and then had to put it back afterwards (laughs). But rather than manipulate the space that we film in I like to try to just capture it as it is, and work around whatever’s there to try to show people what it’s really like.
TY When you first started York Acoustic how do you approach a band you’d like to film?
JA Now it’s up and running there’s a lot of people getting in contact, but before it was kind of just me, pestering people...
TY I had this image of you going up to buskers on the street...
JA I was going to do that, yeah (laughs), but I found it’s probably better if I set up the Facebook page, set up the YouTube account and had it all ready and official-looking before I started approaching people saying “I’ve set this up would you like to get involved?” and people have been really nice about it. I started mostly with student bands and since then it’s grown more and I now have professional musicians like Boss Caine wanting to get involved.
TY I understand you’re in your final year at York now – what happens to York Acoustic after you graduate?
JA I’m working on it – there’s a lot of people that want to get involved, be it musicians or bands or places in York that want to have us film there. I’ve started to get a small crew working with me and there seems to be scope to carry it on after I graduate, so I won’t say too much, but I’m working on it!
TY What advice would you have for other young film-makers?
JA I guess especially now there’s so much opportunity and it’s a lot easier to get into film-making, as far as you can get a really good digital camera and just start from there. But also there’s a lot more people out there doing it, so if you’ve come up with a unique idea and you’ve thought about it a lot, the chances are it’s not a bad idea and it’s worth pursuing, so just go for it. If people like it they’ll watch it, that’s the great thing about things like YouTube – if people like it they’ll tell you. So yeah, go for it!
If you would like to get involved with York Acoustic, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or find them on Facebook.