Written and Photographed by: Kristina-Marie Ross
My first ever gig was in Glasgow- I was thirteen years old, and dying to see Fall Out Boy. Back then they played in a popular venue, we called it The Carling Academy- but since then it’s name has been changed, it’s reputation has been changed and my hairstyle has most definitely been changed. Some people have been going to gigs for a lot longer than nine years- but me, that’s how long I’ve been going. The glitz, the glamorisation and the excitement of seeing your favourite band onstage live in the flesh are all part of the process. But as regular as negligence comes, we sometimes need reminding of the details which go hand in hand with live performances. The preparation that takes place and the people who are a part of it. What do you remember about your first gig? Probably a lot. What do you remember about the people who worked at your last gig, that weren’t onstage playing music? Probably not much.
We hope to show you by means of a series of interviews, a little about the work that goes on behind music and who is responsible for bringing your favourite musicians to the limelight of the stage.
At 28 years of age, Bobby has tour managed Swim Deep, Wolf Alice, Tribes and Mumford and Sons to name a few (And by few, I mean a few). He is currently on tour with Gengahr on their support with Circa Waves’ sold out UK string of shows.
I met Bobby early in March, at Edinburgh’s backstreet Voodoo Rooms. We were introduced thanks to the existence of middle man musician, Max Jury. With me being the journalist and Bobby being Max’s tour manager. It was by means of two musically inclined business paths that we met via professionally awkward emails and kept in touch less awkwardly after.
On Thursday afternoon, we met in Glasgow’s Lucky 7 Canteen. Perhaps the most beautiful day of the year so far, with jackets left at home and flat whites ordered promptly, we began our conversation on what it takes to be a tour manager.
How long have you been tour managing?
Um, on and off for seven years.
Yeah, when I moved to London was the first time I did it.
So you’re not from London?
Nah, I’m from Essex!
I thought you were from Camden?
No, well I live in Camden. I basically used to go back and forth to Camden for like, all of my life. But then my cousin moved to London when he was like eighteen, and then I moved like six or seven years later. And then on my twenty-first birthday, it was like “It’s official. I live here now”. I was lucky enough to move into a house full of people who were promoters or bands- and all that sort of stuff. Then my friend Jay, who was a friend of mine from back home, he was known as Jay Jay Pistolet. Who’s now known as Justin Hayward Young, singer of The Vaccines.
Yeah! So essentially, me and him in my mum’s Ford Fiesta driving around and he would do solo stuff. We were doing support tours for like, Katie Melua. The only reason I started doing it was because out of all of my friends, I was the only one that could drive!
Is he a nice guy?
Yeah! Justin’s the best, man. He’s a great guy. He used to live in the house that I lived in. So yeah, he was the first guy that I did. And then I sort of got asked to do other people. I had no idea what I was doing the first time.
What were you doing before that?
Before I moved to London, I was doing band photography. Taking photos of bands because I wanted to be involved with music, or like live music- and I didn’t know how else to do it. I thought if I’m not in a band then I’ll take their photos. But then that didn’t really work out just ’cause I’m too lazy.
Yeah but photography is hard to get into.
The thing is there’s so many other people doing it, unless you’ve got like a crazy good eye.
Yeah, there’s too many photographers out there. I tried that.
There’s always that one guy who’s like, amazing at it and does really really well. And then there’s everybody else.
Do you remember having a first day?
I remember my first day, it was in Newcastle. It was with Justin and we were supporting Katie Melua. He was playing at this huge arena place, and I just couldn’t believe it. I didn’t really do anything, we were just kind of like told what to do. But that was like- I remember just sort of doing it thinking like “Wow, this is really fun that I get to drive around and just not sit at home” So yeah- I get paid to do it, which is nice.
So what’s a day in the life of your job? What does it entail?
So when I’m on tour, a day of the life is- You’re the last one to bed and you’re always the first one to wake up. Usually if you’ve got a band, you have to wake them all up. Then it’s a case of jumping in the car, driving for several hours, getting to the venue for about 3 O’Clock, loading all the equipment in, setting everything up, sound checks, a lot of the time after sound check there’ll be press you need to do, then it’s a case of getting people in and out for interviews… Then dinner time! Then you do the show, and everyone gets really drunk and goes to bed.
And then the same thing happens the next day?
Only you have more of a hangover!
Do the bands that you manage indicate the kind of music you listen to?
Not really. Well, sometimes. There’s one band who I actually- I’ve never really gone for a job, I’ve only been approached to do things. The only band that I ever went and approached is a band called Wolf Alice. They put their first song out, ‘Leaving You’, on like SoundCloud and I heard it on a blog- I was like “Wow, that’s amazing” and then, so I emailed them and just said I wanted to be involved. I did like, the first six months I worked for them, I just worked for free. Just ’cause I loved it. And now, that was like two years ago? They’re doing good. They all live in Camden as well which is why I wanted to get in touch with them. It’s kind of weird because we’ll all go on like a big two month tour and I’ll see them every single day and sleep in the same beds with them- Then, when we get home, we all hang out together all the time. So that’s pretty nice.
So it’s just like working with your friends.
Yeah, exactly. They’re all amazing guys …and girl.
What’s the best part about your job?
Yeah, it’s amazing. It’s hard to be away from home, but when you’re in Barcelona and it’s a gorgeous sunny day and you’ve got a day off- It’s hard to be annoyed. It’s not the worst thing. Or when you’re going to Benicassim, or driving through the French Alps and thinking “Wow, this is amazing” and you get to go like, skiing and stuff. That’s the best part- or asides from travelling, all of the bands that I’ve worked for, I stand at the side of the stage watching the show. And I get nervous before like, every single show.
Why do you get nervous?
Because I want it to go well for them. So once it goes well, once they’re happy I feel this enormous sense of pride and I’m so pleased for them that it’s gone well and they’re all happy and yeah- It’s amazing. Tour life, you’re like in this little bubble and it’s not the real world. To live in this bubble with just you and these other people, so it is like a proper team thing. It’s nice when everything goes well.
The remainder of our conversation trailed off and into the importance of breakfast, and why people who skip breakfast are stupid (Stupid.) Fast forward a few hours into the evening and Bobby and I were found standing by the side of the stage. I couldn’t help but look over to watch and notice Bobby’s anticipation moments before Gengahr began. In between the manic of roadies trying to fix technical issues and the wave of fans who lined the front of the barrier like they had waited outside the venue door since 2pm that afternoon, Bobby seemed to express an intense concentration on nothing but the band. It’s strange to think this is a person who watches the same set every night for whichever amount of consecutive weeks- and still doesn’t seem to allude any sense of boredom or monotony. And as soon as the set is successfully accomplished, Bobby’s once statuary position is now never the same place twice. Towels, equipment, boxes, wires, cymbals, doors, the van; These are all the things I associated with him in the fifteen minutes of blur straight after the set. The organizational skills were exact and prompt, managing a team of people in a place he only worked in every few months and still finding time in the manic process to come back, put his hand on my head and assure me with the words “You haven’t been forgotten about” Before running back to the van of organized chaos once again.
It wasn’t long before there was nothing left backstage but a few boxes that didn’t belong to Gengahr. It was almost like Bobby could play a very good game of giant Tetris.
We often attend gigs and we don’t really appreciate the people who run around backstage. We probably on some level understand their importance and strong place in the events we enjoy. But we don’t truly understand just how detrimental a musician would be without them. What would have happened to Justin Hayward-Young if Bobby couldn’t drive? What would have happened to Justin Hayward-Young if Bobby didn’t want to help him and drive? Musicians find a way through anything, this is something we’re aware of. But is it crazy to think that bands such as The Vaccines, Wolf Alice and Gengahr may not be where they are now if it weren’t for the people who helped them in the beginning? The person who worked for free on many occasions just to be involved in the music he loves, in a position where he wasn’t with income? Of course not. A band isn’t just a concoction of the musicians, it’s a concoction of passion. Just because someone didn’t write the songs, doesn’t mean they aren’t one of the reasons it’s available to you now.
Thanks Bobby; For finding, sharing and driving some of Britain’s best music around Europe for us all to enjoy- And also for that cranberry juice you bought me.