Jøra the Førtuneteller – aka Tesco worker Sam Howlett, seasonal lifeguards Gui Oliveira and Dawid Tondryk and pint puller Josh Shave – feel this next year is going to be a big one for them thanks to The Garage’s Unsigned course. We found out why.
Why did you get involved with Unsigned?
Sam (lead singer and guitarist): We knew we wanted to get out there and push ourselves, but we had no insights into the music industry. Having Millie (Manders) and Ben (Street) as mentors is really beneficial. They’ve been there, done that and are still doing it. Getting that insight is amazing.
Gui (lead guitarist): We’d have just been going round in circles.
Josh (drummer): We didn’t know half the stuff you needed to do to get to where we needed to go. It’s how to turn this from hobby into a career, that’s how Unsigned is helping us so much. It’s literally taking it from practicing three days a week to, hopefully, in a couple of years with their help and direction doing it full-time.
What do you enjoy about the mentoring process?
Sam: The opportunity to bounce songwriting ideas with tutors who have real experience. We also enjoy the fact we get to hear and ask questions about Ben and Millie‘s careers in music. There’s been countless really good do’s and don’ts that will help us in the future. It’ll be exciting seeing after the programme what we’ll be able to do with that knowledge and where we’ll be able to go.
Dawid (bassist): Stuff like the business side of things have been really good too, like how to go about getting gigs professionally.
Josh: We’ve gigged at Gringos Tequila Bar, The Brickies, Ipswich Music Day… Unsigned has helped with getting gigs. The way we’d been going about it wasn’t right. It’s been a wake-up call.
How do you feel your music/skills have improved so far on the Unsigned course, since starting last September?
Sam: We’ve grown a lot as songwriters and this can largely be attributed to the constant feedback we’ve had from Ben and Millie; they both have years of songwriting experience between them which is invaluable to us.
Gui: We’re trying very hard to be original. I think one of the reasons that rock is dying is because it’s regurgitated stuff, trends coming back. We want to do something new, but it’s hard. These songs feel like the music we want to make.
Josh: It takes time to find your own sound. No four men are going to meet and instantly have it, it’s going to take some to develop. After 14-18 months we’re starting to see the direction of the sound and the genre we’re going to be playing, hopefully, for the rest of our career.
Sam: We’ve had a lot of songs behind us, but ones we’re actually happy with showing people were at a minimum. Now we just want to get good at gigging.
Do you feel you’ve grown in confidence as performers and musicians?
Dawid: We’ve grown in confidence. Having some genuine positive feedback from our songs has made us feel sure about the music we’re playing. This translates over to a live environment. If the crowd sense you’re enjoying it, they’ll enjoy it too.
You were able to continue the mentoring online but there have been many changes due to Covid19. Have you felt able to adapt to these and how have you been impacted as musicians?
Josh: Although we miss gigs, the time off really helped us develop our online presence. Under the guidance of Ben and Millie we self-released our first single and uploaded lots of covers to our social media which in turn gave us lots of followers. I’d say we adapted quite well to be honest.
Have you been able to connect with other artists on the course over the last year? Have there been any opportunities for collaboration and do you hope to be able to work that way over the next year?
Gui: We’ve definitely become good friends with the other artists on the course, it’s been inspiring to watch us all grow and develop under the same guidance. We collaborated with our friend Amelia (Stephanides) who is also on the course for an online cover of Fleetwood Mac‘s The Chain that got more than 10,000 views on Facebook. If we could do more collaborations that would be great.
What are you looking forward to about continuing on the Unsigned programme this year?
Dawid: As always to learn more about the industry and have feedback from the songs we write. We’re also excited for the studio time The Garage has arranged for us too as this could potentially lead to our next single release. This next year will be a big one for us with many pivotal career decisions coming our way. We’re really glad to have Ben and Millie there to help us.
You mentioned you feel the music world is crying out for a real rock band?
Sam: We’re doing all we can to be that band. We love the rawness behind the music. One of all our earliest influences is definitely Guns N’ Roses, all our parents used to listen to them and it was the first real rock band I was interested in. Gui is classic rock, Josh likes Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators. It’s what we enjoy playing.
Gui: It’s hard, we’re scattered across Norfolk and Suffolk but we do whatever we can to make it work. We’ve got a really good thing where we only work Friday to Monday so we can practice every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
You’ve all been in other bands before?
Gui: It’s rare to find people who are as committed as you are. I’ve been in other bands and they just do it as a hobby, but these boys want it 100 per cent.
Sam: The way I see it is I can get a normal nine-five job at any point in my life. Why not aim for your dream while you can?
Josh: The first time we officially met we went on a night out. Afterwards I just felt there was definitely something special here. It was almost a surreal moment, “pinch me this is meant to be”.
Where does the band name come from?
Gui: My mum went to see a fortune teller and he said “your son’s going to achieve everything he wants to achieve”. His name was Joao and I told the band and Sam misheard me and thought it was Jora.
Sam: Because he told us on a night out…
You’re all buzzing for gig at The Waterfront in Norwich?
Josh: We’re very excited. I’ve played there before, but never been last on.
Dawid: It’s definitely going to be a party.
Millie and fellow professional artist Ben have been working on song development, social media necessity and construct, branding and image, set list development, vocal and performance techniques plus press packs and biographies with all the artists.
Millie said: “All the acts have been amazing to work with and they are all very different to each other. It’s been great to work with musicians who take direction well and are willing to try things differently even if they are a bit ‘out of the box’. Their attitudes towards the work they need to put in has been exemplary and we have been really enjoying the process.”
Ben added mentoring during the pandemic was challenging.
He said: “The process changed quite substantially. When face-to-face mentoring became impossible, we began to utilise Zoom to allow us to continue with the Unsigned sessions in a virtual manner. This presented its challenges with regards to aspects of the course – such as physical performance analysis and feedback. But it allowed us to focus more on song production techniques and a wider understanding of the industry and its terminology such as publishing bodies, royalty acquisition and distribution deals etc. I feel this period has been hugely beneficial for all of the artists involved with this project.”
The project was launched to give young musicians the chance to take their music, performance and professional skills to the next level with the help of experienced professional music artists. Due to Covid19, the current cohorts got the chance to continue their mentoring into the coming year. The Waterfront gig, recording session and photoshoot will be rearranged when restrictions allow.
Love rock music? Check out our new Rock School for beginners and improvers which meets every Monday during term time.