Enter the Haggis
How would you describe your sound?
Our sound is a mash-up of a lot of different things: we're a rock band core (guitar, bass, drums and keys) but we also have bagpipes, fiddle, tin-whistle and the occasional harmonica solo. The five members of our band come from VERY different musical backgrounds, and we always try to make everyone's voice heard when we're writing songs so we wind up with a pretty eccentric mix - everything from hard-rock and dance-rock to latin, bluegrass/country and funk - all with a strong Celtic element running underneath. So... if I'm asked what genre of music my band plays, I never really know how to answer.
What is your hometown scene (Toronto, ONT?) like?
We're very loosely based in Toronto, ON, since that's where we started - but as of a couple months from now, the last member of the band who actually LIVES in Toronto will be moving. To Mexico. So, with our bass player in Maine and the rest of us scattered around Southern Ontario, I guess our "hometown" is North America. Great music scene. Seriously though, the music scene in Toronto is incredible, most of the time - it's an extremely diverse and multi-cultural city, so basically any kind of music you desire you can find, pretty much any night of the week. That makes it both easier and harder for bands starting out - easier, because there are a ton of stages to play on and they're usually going seven days a week; and harder, because it's hard to know where to start, and it's kinda like playing NYC - you can get lost in the noise when it's a Tuesday and there are fifty shows going on within ten blocks of you.
I noticed you're playing a multi-state tour in May. What tips can you share for planning a successful tour?
Tip #1: Get a good booking agent. Haha.
Honestly though, having an agent who knows the venues is a huge bonus for us - our agency has a great relationship with venues all across the US and Canada, and they're expanding to Europe and Australia now, too. In the new music industry, there are a lot of things bands don't really need as much any more. Radio trackers aren't as necessary when you can get millions of targeted plays online; you don't need a label with dozens of interns licking envelopes for your fanclub newsletter when you can click a few buttons and send an email blast or a MySpace bulletin and accomplish the same thing, faster. The one thing you really can't do as easily for yourself is booking a tour. These days there are more and more bands hitting the road and touring, and having an agent who has good relationships with venues can really make the difference between playing a good venue downtown on a Friday and playing a sports-bar on the outskirts on Monday.
Also, for us it's all about getting in front of as many people as we can, so we try to hit as many festivals and city-sponsored events as possible. There's little benefit in driving all the way to Saint Paul and playing for 6 people, even if the venue's great and they throw you a few hundred bucks - driving all that way and playing for free, but in front of 3000 people means you can come back and play that venue next time and actually draw a crowd.
Final Tip: Give up your illusions of what "touring" means. It's not a party on a bus from city to city - it's cramming six or seven people and all their gear into a van, clipping coupons to save $4 a room at a motel 6, discovering all the possible combinations of toppings on a 6-inch sub. Even if you score a deal with a major these days, they aren't willing to pour the money into your band the way they used to - sure, you can get a tour bus and a guitar-pick tech, but you'll be paying for it - and nothing shortens the career of a band like racking up a hundred grand in debts. You get to be a "rock star" on stage, and that's more than most people EVER get... but off-stage, it's a job and you have to approach it like an intelligent, professional person.
You landed some major media attention in 2007, including playing live on Regis and Kelly. How did that come about?
Being an unusual band, it's sometimes easier for us to get attention than it is for other bands. It's a double-edged sword though - we're certainly outside the mainstream, so some of the more mainstream media outlets available to bands are less open to us. Regis and Kelly came about because it was St. Patrick's Day and we're a "Celtic" band. It was pretty amazing, but incredibly grueling - we played in New Hampshire the night before, drove overnight to NYC, slept for a couple hours in the van outside ABC studios, then went in and had to act like we weren't delirious from sleep deprivation. Then, right after we played, we had to pack up and boot it through a crazy blizzard up to Albany to play a show that night, after which we packed up our gear, got two hours of sleep at a motel - then left at 3 AM to drive to Boston, catch a flight to Orlando and play 2 shows outdoors for a huge downtown St. Patrick's Day party. THEN we got to sleep. I think.
But... it beats working at Starbucks. Although I hear they have great benefits...
I'm kidding of course - none of us would give up what we do for the world. It's incredibly rewarding and you get used to the lifestyle after a few years, if you're lucky enough to have a few years in which to get used to it!
Why did you choose to build a site with Bandzoogle? What is your favorite feature?
We had decided it was time to build a new website, and our webmaster (a good friend of ours) had gotten too busy with his REAL job to do it for us, so I was shopping around online for a webdesign company and I stumbled on Bandzoogle. I'd been learning some basic webdesign for the previous few months, and the idea of building a site myself appealed to me, so I decided to build a "test" website for a compilation cd project we were spearheading (www.rootstomp.com). After building that site, I was really impressed how comprehensive BZ was, and how they really had set their system up to cater specifically to artists.
More than anything though, I was impressed with the staff and customer service at BZ - anytime I had a question I could choose to email them directly, post on the support forum or even log in to the support chat and talk to them directly! I chose to use my limited webdesign knowledge to build a site that went a bit outside of what BZ's templates allowed, so there were quite a few times when my inexperience ran me into a wall, and they were always available and willing to point me in the right direction.
I think it's really cool that BZ's developers are so accessible - I'm not shuffled off to a nameless and faceless customer service rep who doesn't fully understand my problem (or my language, haha). Most impressive to me is the way BZ is really tuned into the needs of their users - I've been using the system for almost 2 years, and in that time I've seen countless examples of a user making a suggestion and BZ implementing their suggestion, or completely overhauling a feature to better suit the needs of their customers. I've never seen that kind of service from ANY company, online or otherwise. I thought, when I signed up, that BZ was a great deal for the sheer number of things they offered a band - the number of major improvements they've made since have made an evangelist out of me.
My favorite feature, by far, is the e-commerce system, whether it's digital or physical sales. BZ allows you to build and maintain a store, pick your own price, track your orders and deal directly with your customers. You can sell high-quality MP3's, either as single songs or as complete albums, for whatever price you choose. Adding or removing items or files is a breeze, and keeping our merchandise store dynamic and flexible is a huge bonus for us. Most incredibly, BZ doesn't charge ANYTHING for this service, outside of your subscription to the service - you can sell a million cds and they never take a cut. I challenge you to find me ANY other site that will do that for you.
Enter the Haggis will be playing at Jammin Java in Vienna, Virginia on May 9th and at Fredrick Celtic Festival - Urbana Fairgrounds in Urbana, Maryland on May 10th. If you are in the neighborhood make sure to check them out !
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