Words by Sinead Nunes
This week, Liverpool’s Get Into This Award announced the 12 shortlisted artists for this year’s prize. The line-up includes: All We Are, Circa Waves, D R O H N E, Gulf, Hooton Tennis Club, Roxanne Jones, Låpsley, Esa Shields, Sundowners, Xam Volo, Jane Weaver and We Are Catchers. We spoke to two of this year’s judges, Xfm Deputy Programme Director / Head Of Music Mike Walsh and Arts Club manager Victoria Smith, to find out more about the nominated acts, and the importance of such a prize in Liverpool.
Mike, you’re originally from Liverpool – how does it feel being part of “the Scouse Mercury Prize”?
MW: It’s great, an honour actually, I don’t live in Liverpool anymore (though I’m only 30 mins away) but judging this award helps me feel connected to the brilliant music that Liverpool continues to produce. The 15 year old music obsessed me growing up in Aigburth in the late 80’s is also very happy!
And Victoria – you’re new to the judging panel this year – are you excited?
VS: I was so shocked to be asked! Being relatively new to Liverpool, it was a real honour for me when Peter asked. It’s been a really great experience so far, a fantastic way to get to know the local scene more, so I’ll certainly be knocking on a lot of doors to come and play our venue!
How difficult has it been to whittle down more that 300 entries to the 12 you announced?
VS: Way harder than I thought it would be! There’s so many great acts in Liverpool, across a vast array of genres, and getting so many applicants down to so few has taken a lot of meetings, and a lot of arguments! All the judges have different opinions, and whilst I thought being new I’d be polite and sit on the fence a little more, that lasted all of about 5 minutes!
Liverpool has always had a bit of a love affair with music – are the 12 acts you’ve selected going to carry on that story?
MW: Undoubtedly. I listen to A LOT of new music from all over the world for my job and Liverpool always punches through as an area of consistent quality and diversity – and that is honestly without my natural bias taken into account! Acts like Circa Waves and Låpsley have potential for huge commercial (yet very credible) impact this year, and artists like All We Are and Sundowners continue to show how rich and diverse the area can be.
From surf-pop to electro there’s an electric mix in this year’s line-up – but what is Liverpool crying out for at the minute?
VS: When deciding the list, very early on it was clear we wouldn’t be putting through artists in a certain genre just to broaden it up; if the top 12 bands were ska-punk-jazz outfits, they’d be the ones on the list! I think the range of artists represented is really telling of how the city isn’t pigeon holed into specific genres. Obviously there’s a plethora of certain types of bands, but as a whole, compared to a lot of cities, there’s a wide scope in the city.
Mike, this is your second year on the panel, how difficult has it been to whittle down more that 300 entries to the 12 you announced this week?
MW: Making time for that much music is a challenge and a joy at the same time. And yes, the standard was pretty high throughout.
How important do you think the Liverpool music scene in the context of the rest of the UK?MW: Liverpool has always punched well above its weight in terms of succesful artists per capita – there is definitely something in the water – and something infectious that also gets into visitors to the city too. The heritage is obvious but things like GIT, Liverpool Sound City, LIMF and Liverpool Music Week all continue to keep the story going and evolving.
East Village Arts Club is relatively new on the scene when it comes to local gig venues – what have you got coming up this year for us to look forward to?
VS: We try to keep our diary varied, so whilst we have household names like Johnny Marr and Adam Ant on our listings, we always make space for up and coming acts, as well as local artists. We also work closely with LIPA, so you’ll often find their EP launches happening here, as well as their monthly night Moonshine, which brings brilliant local and national acts to their line ups. Personally, I’ve got the nights booked off for We Were Promised Jetpacks and Lucy Rose, I’m swapping my venue keys for a beer on those nights.
The GIT award is fast becoming a Liverpool institution – is there anything like this in other cities around the country?
MW: I am sure there are but I would be surprised if they achieved the standards of GIT.
Finally, can you tell us anything about who is to receive the 2015 Inspiration Award?VS: Like the previous recipients, The Kazimier, Hillsborough Justice Collective and Africa Oye, this year’s Inspiration Award represents those who’ve played an integral part in shaping Merseyside music – deeply affecting generations – and not just in Liverpool – but all over the world.