[Interview] If Music Is A Meritocracy, Area 11 Is Aiming High
Area 11 are small fish in a big pond, but they’re also a group of artists making sizable ripples. With second LP Modern Synthesis hitting #2 in the U.K rock chart last July, the band is slowly making a name for themselves, a set at indie festival 2000trees another notch on the ladder.
The Bristol-based four-piece are playing and attending the festival for the first time - something which, for the individuals in Area 11, has “been a long time coming” according to bassist Jonathan Kogan. Kogan’s joined by bandmates Leo Taylor (drums), Alex Parvis (guitar) and Tom Sparkles* Clarke, Area 11 arriving at the festival after an eventful journey into the heart of Gloucestershire.
“I put petrol in my diesel car,” Taylor recounts.
Kogan added, "It was alright though, we had a little picnic on the grass, saw some ants,” proving that every cloud does indeed have a silver lining.
Given their impromptu picnic, it’s a good job then that the band have a late set, a headline set, on the festivals Neu Stage, which this year is dedicated to promoting the best in underground alternative music. Joined by the likes of Doe, Wallflower, and Acres, Area 11 are in good company playing it, and 2000trees marks the second festival of the summer at which they’ve played such a stage. At the start of the season, the band found themselves spearheading the Rock Sound Breakout Stage at Slam Dunk Festival, and enjoyed the experience.
“It was the first proper festival that we’ve played - rushing around, consecutive days,” Taylor comments, “We’ve done a couple of one-day things in the past, but we’re still pretty new to the festival scene, so Slam Dunk was really exciting.”
Playing such stages only seems to hint that Area 11 is on the verge of bigger things, and headlining those stages means that they also share a time slot with some sizable bands. At 2000trees they find themselves in the perhaps unfortunate position of playing at the same time as Philadelphia punks The Menzingers, but the band doesn't seem particularly fazed.
“I really wanted to see those guys,” Taylor laments.
Parvis mentioned that he could stick his head in between songs if he can grab a few spare seconds. In terms of the line-up, it’s certainly a clash which puts Area 11 at a disadvantage, but the band are quick to highlight the importance of playing a festival like 2000trees - regardless of their place on the poster - as Kogan goes on to explain that "it’s an opportunity which gives a lot of bands a chance. These festivals give the very underground bands a platform to perform for all sorts of audiences. Some people wouldn't come across those bands otherwise.”
Kogan reaffirms that belief, viewing small festivals as “really great exposure and experience. We've done so much stuff online, and we've built up a fairly respectable fan base, especially for a band of our size through that, but until you start playing these kinds of things you don't really see the true amount of people for yourself. We've toured plenty, but we haven't played these kinds of environments before. It's important to go out there and connect with people in a live arena.”
Connecting is what Area 11 have been doing, and it’s been working for them. Since the release of Modern Synthesis, the band have played their biggest headline tour, and continued to build their fanbase in the meantime. With an emphasis on their online presence, Parvis views the internet as a “meritocracy" and, as such, Area 11 has been putting in the effort with the hope of reaping the rewards. The success and placement of Modern Synthesis in the U.K charts saw them doing so. Coming in behind legendary punks Blink 182 (who topped the chart that week with LP California) can certainly be considered a sizable achievement. One year on, the band celebrated with a writing session in Berlin, while back home Taylor indulged in a “full sugar monster.
"Still standing, I'm hardcore" he jokes.
Area 11 is a band looking towards the future, and they’re currently working on LP3, “In the early-middle stages of that process,” as Parvis updates, "Hopefully we'll be getting individual demos together for songs soon.”
Considering 2000trees and Slam Dunk are the first “proper” festivals that the band have played (to use Taylor's word-choice), do they feel like the underground scene they stem from isn’t as well represented at some of the larger U.K festivals?
“I don’t think so,” the drummer muses, “Maybe at some festivals that is the case.”
Parvis, in extension, sees festival line-ups as a matter of symbiosis, stressing the importance of mixing the underground with the mainstream.
“If festivals don’t go for those big bands then the smaller bands that come along miss out on the opportunity to be cross-promoted with those larger bands” he reflects, before Kogan backs it up with one of his own experiences at Glastonbury - as large as the UK festival seasons gets.
“I think it's a matter of balance. When you're a band of our size, small verging on medium, you can get lost in a big sea of things, but that’s also just part of playing a festival. Standing out becomes something to aspire to. Slaves, for example, are headlining [2000trees] this year. I chanced upon the band at Glastonbury a few years ago when they were way down the billing, and if it wasn't for that then I never would have got into them.” Festivals, he adds, “are a buffet of a wonderful music,” and he certainly has a point.
Proud of its underground roots, 2000trees Festival sticks to them and continues to provide a space for the smaller artists. Similarly to Area 11, Irish band The Winter Passing find themselves playing their first festival outside of their home country, and across the line-up there are many other examples of bands in similar boats, finding a temporary home at the festival. Area 11 both look and feel at home navigating the waves, and if 2000trees is their second “proper” festival, then there are surely several more on the horizon.