Having started their pop career by posting to YouTube, it's no surprise that up and coming Irish duo have lent their support to this year's Hurtwood Prize For Young Filmmakers.
Brothers Alfie and Harry Hudson-Taylor have offered two songs from their Osea EP as tracks to give filmmakers aged between 16 and 25 the chance to shoot a video for them in the competition run by Mofilm in conjunction with Polydor Records and the Huffington Post UK.
In an exclusive interview, Alfie and Harry spoke to us about their music and their involvement in the Prize.
What was it about the project that made you want to get involved?
When we heard about it just sounded like a great cause – inspiring young people, well that felt like a worthy thing to do, considering how hard it is to get on a the moment generally – it just felt like it couldn’t be a bad thing really!
Well ultimately the hope is to provide the break that could be the start of a career…
How did you guys get your break as a band then?
Well in a way we’ve been in a similar position, where an opportunities come up that’s been hard to refuse. We started out putting things up on YouTube – little videos, a mix of covers and original stuff. It kind of started out as a hobby for us, but we put up some original material and this got noticed in London…
Around 2010, in the space of about a week, we got an email from two labels and a management agency about the songs. We were pretty naïve to be honest, didn’t really know what an A&R man was or what ‘management’ was meant to do. We were kind of just doing it for ourselves, but when approached we made ourselves aware of what was going on pretty quickly. It seemed like there was a a window of opportunity there, I left university and Alfie ended up leaving school – we really just went for it.
That’s pretty amazing then – getting picked up and recognised off of the back of a YouTube ‘hobby’
We’d made a bit of a name for ourselves in Dublin, done some busking, but yeah it was!
For us, the Hurtwood Prize is about opening up a way into the creative industries for people – in part this is a reflection of the way people can get their work out there these days…
It’s funny - everyone will label themselves as a singer-songwriter these days, on their Twitter account or whatever it is. They have a place where they can put stuff out, so there are a lot people thinking why not, I may as well see if anyone likes it. With the internet, pretty much anyone can now share what they’re doing with the world…
Do you think this levels the playing field a little bit?
In terms of your musical influences, what would you say stands out in terms of your sound?
Well there’s that kind of folky-pop thing in there. For us it’s very much about raw live acoustic driven guitar music. Growing up our parents used to play Simon & Garfunkel, The Beatles, that kind of classic 60’s era. Looking back to our busking days, we used to play covers that would grab people’s attention, to try and earn more money really! And the ones that went down best were those hits from the 60’s & 70’s…
So it’s a kind of classic songwriting thing?
Yeah I guess so. We didn’t notice it when we were starting of, but I think that’s why we’re finding it easier to write ‘classic’ sounding songs. Playing those older songs in our formative years… well sometimes you discover your influences retrospectively I think.
The EP Osea, which you’ve kindly given us the tracks from, is it your first release on major?
We have three EP’s out now. Battles, the first EP, was done completely on our own. With the second we were actually being approached by Polydor, but they kind of let us just get on with it. In that sense this is probably our first ‘official’ release with the backing of a label. There’s a kind of interesting cultural sway with young bands at the moment – it doesn’t cost you loads of money to put out an EP so you kind of feel like you may as well. They’re kind of a stepping stone towards having to commit to something bigger, which is the album really.
We’ve found from a filmmaker’s that with advances in technology, people can afford to produce good quality relatively cheap – is this comparable with music?
Definitely. We’ve produced little things in Alfie’s living room that we’ve ended up using as actual masters All you really need these days is a laptop, a couple of microphones, a little preamp and you’re kind of sorted. If you’ve got the ear for it, you can use software like Logic or ProTools and achieve a pretty authentic sound.
We were amazed by the quality of entries for last year’s contest…
Well yeah I’m sure it’s a similar thing there. We have a friend back in Dublin who we’ve sort of grown with. He filmed some of our early YouTube videos – just one camera shots really – who’s gone on to do his own thing and is at film school in Dublin now. Whenever we go back to Ireland and just want some tour footage or whatever we go to him. When we started he’d do it for free, but being signed to label now we’re lucky enough to actually be able to pay the guy. He’s gotten so much better since the beginning, really grown into his own. It feels really great to back home and give something back to someone who’s been there to help since the start…
When writing the songs, do you have your own vision of what a video might look like?
It changes from song to song. Sometimes you do have a very definite idea about something, but for the most part I find it really interesting to get another person’s take on it – that’s why these videos will be so interesting to see. We haven’t shot that many videos that don’t actually feature us, so I’m looking forward to that too. There’s some amazing stuff online, people doing amazing work without big, massive budgets or anything. Most of the stuff on YouTube that goes viral seems to have music in it in someway, usually just using a clever or unusual way to grab your attention. I really like a guy in Ireland who’s done a few videos for the band Kodaline – they all have a really nice narrative, great acting and characters that can really take on a song. A really good video can add a whole different emotional level to a song.
Do you find the idea of someone taking your creativity as the inspiration for their own exciting?
Yeah! One of the things I’ve found really interesting recently is videos that have a ‘to be continued’ element to them. A set of videos that through shared imagery, colour and palette become a little body of work in themselves…
I also like videos that have a sort of suburban feel to them too. That’s where we’re from really, suburban Dublin. That sense of a little village or small town just within the reach of a big city, but maybe a little more rundown… It’s different to a video shot in the middle of a big city – a kind of more gritty feel, there’s not so many people around, maybe a little rough a round the edges. Alfie and I grew up in that kind of environment – an area you wouldn’t describe as extremely affluent. It’s kind of like parts of London I suppose – neighbourhood’s that have loads of big fancy roads, and then just round the corner you find council housing. That juxtaposition of societal contrasts is interesting.
The songs that are in the contest… Well ‘Called On’ for example, that track’s about Alfie and I leaving Dublin and in a simple sense about how we felt our own calling. It’s that idea of nobody really believing what we were doing was a good idea, particularly parents and things like that but yeah, I’m not sure to be honest! I haven’t really had any direct thoughts about the videos for these two tracks… so I’m kind of intrigued.
More generally then in terms of films you like, any ones that stand out as top oive material?
I was thinking about this last week… to be honest for me it’s just classic films. If you look at the top 10 on IMDB they’ll probably be all the films I really love. Forrest Gump, The Shawshank Redemption – films with a big story and a moral to them. Actually the last thing I really loved on TV was Breaking Bad – I think I lost more than a week of my life with that one, it’s fantastic, one of the best things I’ve ever seen!
Thinking about style, I think anything crazy looking or really imaginative might stand out. We’ve had problems in the past with things looking a little too clean and having to ‘dirty’ them up afterwards, so a slightly raw feel might be cool. It kind of goes with what we’re about, we come from a busking background, playing things by ear, letting it come together at the last minute – too polished doesn’t quite feel right. Having said that – who knows – maybe I’m completely wrong! It’s hard to say without having something in front of you to see…
In terms of ideas, we tend to tell people that as long as they believe in what they’re working on, there’s no point trying to please an ‘imaginary’ audience. If you make the film you want, that’s where the passion will come from, the sense of authenticity…
Definitely, I’d agree with that. To be honest I’m really just looking forward to seeing what people come back with. Alfie and I write the songs, so we both have our own ideas about them anyway. You write from your own space, but we’re brothers, we know each other pretty well, we can kind of relate as we go, have a sense of what a song means being so close to it. But for people entering – I’d say the great thing about songwriting is that anyone can take their own meaning from a song and it’s still valid. I’d imagine it’s much the same way in film. Whatever images someone might associate with the tracks, it will be cool for us to see it either way!