Sometimes things don’t immediately make sense. For example, U2 working with Apple in the early 2000s to release an iPod, or the existence of Katy Perry. But then, slowly, you figure out why things happened the way they did.
So here’s a little story for you. I’ve got a friend (I know, that’s hard to believe), and he’s a musician. I’d never actually seen or heard him play, so I supposed he was a musician the way someone busking on the subway is a musician. Then one day he sends me a few tracks he’d recorded as part of his new band, and, as the cliché goes, nothing was quite the same for me from that point on.
One day last year, I was on a train with Cyril and we were heading to Brussels to visit Keeward’s creative director for his 40th birthday. The rain was lashing down against the speeding windows of our burgundy Thalys, and I handed him my earphones and told him to listen. I gave him no context, no explanation of what he was going to listen to. I just handed him earphones with music coming out of them, the same way teenagers introducing their friends to new music do on the school bus.
He smiled, and nodded approvingly, and didn’t even wait for the end of the first song to remove Apple’s ludicrously crappy earphones and say “Who are these guys? This is brilliant.” I explained and he immediately said we should do something with them. We should help them.
At first I was a bit perplexed, what could we possibly do with a band? Were we suddenly music managers? We decided we could help them out with their social media, their website and some contacts. Help them tell their story. The things we already knew how to do basically.
When we got back to Beirut, we met up with Nader and Eddy, and everyone got along swimmingly. We should have known it would, really, given we’re all music nerds. I once worked in a record store in Beirut and was paid exclusively in CDs and couldn’t have been happier. Now I realize that I was probably being exploited, but still, I was happy.
Over the course of our conversations, we just kind of decided it would be logical for us to finance the recording and production of the LP. We set about organizing the first concert at Radio Beirut, which turned out to be a massive success packing 300 people into a space designed for 100. It probably wasn’t safe, but it was amazing. We made our first music video that night, we helped the band out with their visuals. Franck, our creative director, is an avid blues and tattoo fan, and you can see that here.
The Wanton Bishops successfully launched the LP at a sold-out 800-person gig at Solea V organized with Beirut Jam Sessions. And in the first half of 2013, they’ve toured Turkey, France, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and opened for Lana Del Rey and Guns N’ Roses.
In the meantime, as Keeward, we’ve taking part in a couple of music conferences in North America, at M for Montreal Festival and the New Music Seminar in New York. We told our story, we told the band’s story, and we came back with publishing and record deal offers.
How does this fit in with Keeward’s overall mission? Well, we want to be a place where creativity can be fostered and made sustainable. That may sound like a platitude, but it’s really not. We want to make sure artists and creative minds are free to make their music, books, films, start ups, whatever while we take care of finding ways to make sure they don’t have to worry about health insurance. While many people are scared about the implications of new technologies on the creative industries, we couldn’t be more excited.
It’s odd how things work out sometimes. So many people spend years wanting to break into the music industry for all the wrong reasons, and sometimes you just listen to a track on a train from Brussels to Paris and realize that they need to.