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Rewind before Returning: The Jacaranda Basement Tapes

[17 Jun 2020]

One of Jacaranda Records’ most popular innovations – The Jacaranda Basement Tapes – is in full pre-production as the UK’s lockdown eases and musicians are once more allowed to take to the iconic stage.

Originally filmed as a series of pilots in 2019, The Jacaranda Basement Tapes was created due to spiralling online demand for original AV content, combined with a clear need for up-and-coming artists to find platforms from which to build an audience and gain access to high-quality video assets they could use to promote themselves across social media and the internet diaspora.

Now, with negotiations underway with a number of global platforms, broadcast channels and brands, the series is gearing up to head for the spotlight once more.

“Authentic AV productions is out of reach to breaking artists, so The Basement Tapes is a breath of fresh air,” said Liverpool based producer Jon Withnall (Coldplay, Rihanna, Elbow). “I’ve been in the game for years, working with acts at every level from the top to the bottom of the music industry, and in terms of quality, ambition and scope there has been nothing to match what the Jacaranda team are working to achieve with this format, they’ve thought about it, and it sounds easy to do, but it’s not easy to make it as flawless as they’re doing it. I’ve seen people spend a lot of time and money to get things to look like this”

Kind words, but then this was not our first rodeo. Back when the Label’s Capomaestro Ray Mia was EVP of Advanced Media at Universal Music Group, he picked up and commissioned a show when others could not see its inherent value, the 2015 Future Sounds series after Red Bull Media House pulled their sponsorship – ultimately finding a broadcast slot on the UK’s Channel 4 & E4, broke a raft of new artists including Loyle Carner, Blossoms and Alessia Cara – and set a new standard for the way breakthrough artists were presented, while also providing a genuine service to the artists and their Labels.

For us, future sounds also means future technology, which is why we continue to use our filming operations to experiment with immersive Atmos capture and delivery across streaming platforms, providing young artists not only with quality content, but also with the benefits of bleeding edge tech.

The Jacaranda Basement Tapes pilots – featuring Merseyside acts SPILT, Shards, Ali Horn & The Bohos – is built on this legacy, working to create an authentic and highly cost-effective new format with flexibility, room for scale, and a degree of professional sheen fit to match the ambitions of the artists caught performing on The Jacaranda’s iconic stage.

Liverpool based artist manager Dave Crane, of DC Management, said: “The Basement Tapes is great news for artists. The experience is great for bands learning to perform for cameras, sounds simple but most new artists need that valuable time in front of a lens just to know what it feels like to have cameras and camera crews pointing at you when you’re performing live. It also gives managers and artists incredibly useful promo assets way beyond the quality they could normally expect, or afford to have at such an early stage in their careers. If you add the audience exposure you can get, and where the Jacaranda Label team are pushing the show to go, its got to be one of the most important slots for any developing artist”

That sentiment is not unique. As the Label’s internal team laid the groundwork for the next slate of shoots, they received over 120 quality unsigned artists registering interest in securing a Jacaranda Basement Tapes slot – and that’s just across the North West. Experience shows there are thousands of nascent artists in the UK who’d bite off their arms – or worse – to grab the opportunity to appear on the new format.

Jacaranda Records Capomaestro Ray Mia said: “We’ve had the time to develop our thinking after shooting the pilots. We had at one stage thought about opening the stage up to any artist, critically acclaimed or established, we even spent money on legals with a prominent Liverpool based artist to get them on the pilot – but the usual music industry nonsense took over, so we rethought that approach entirely. We thought – what new or want-to-be-breakthrough isn’t going to want to perform on the actual stage where Lennon & Sutcliffe rehearsed, the same set up where John, Paul, Stuart, Pete & George performed as The Silver Beetles before and after Allan took them to Hamburg – and they came back as The Beatles? 

“Unlike a host of other venues associated with Merseybeat, The Jacaranda is not a facsimile. It hasn’t been closed down, relocated or rebuilt as a tourist trap. It’s the same febrile, sweaty cellar which serves as one of the last surviving epicentres of not only those Fab-Four lads and their history – but it’s one of the last crucibles of that sound…  of that energy, of that era… its the stage where some 60 years on, generations of aspiring new artists can continue to work their craft, where you can walk the talk as many greats have before

“You can say whatever you like – that kind of history can’t be bought or manufactured.  – The Jacaranda Basement Tapes’ live performances show, it’s a deliberately unforgiving setup, its cramped, the acoustics can mug your sound, the ceilings are oppressively low, there is no natural source to give you a soft backlight and I’ve chosen not to give the artists multiple setups with click tracks as we did for Future Sounds at Abbey Road Studios… this is all live, in real-time, the performances in one take, and the multicamera format split-screen taken right off the live switch which we pioneered for the Spilt pilot – is the format we are going to continue with. We’re even sticking with the no audience decision of the last pilot shoot, which makes the show lockdown friendly. It’s as raw as you can get, the cameras are not going to lie, you’ve either got it or not. This isn’t ‘Later with Jools Holland’ more like Jools Holland swearing live on ‘The Tube’ – it’s for all those people that don’t get either of those references…the Generation growing weary of how inauthentic music on the Internet is, and even more so specifically – its time developing artists got a window, we’re just putting it on one of the last greatest surviving stages of all time… Because if you can make it there – you’re gonna be able to shake it everywhere…”

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