Simon Bailey, the Oxford-based music promoter behind Future Perfect, is causing something of a sensation: “I think we did 79 gigs in Oxford last year, this year we’re on course to double that”, he tells me nonchalantly. Future Perfect was founded only two years ago, yet this term alone, Simon has repeatedly sold out Oxford’s largest venues with world-class acts like Loyle Carner, The Hunna, and C Duncan, with massive shows from 90s noise-rock giants The Jesus & Mary Chain and upcoming alt-pop singer-songwriter The Japanese House still in the pipeline. Last week, I got the lucky chance to pick his brains about live music in Oxford.
How do you feel the music scene has changed in the past few years, since you started out in 2015?
When I first moved to Oxford I used to work for the O2 Academy, I did a year at the venue here, and sort of realised there was a gap in the market in bringing in touring bands locally, which is why I set it up. The thing with Future Perfect is that for it to succeed, it has to be part of the local community, local bands need to feel engaged, gig-goers need to feel engaged, and feel part of the company, so what we’ve tried to do is connect all the dots. There have always been good bands in Oxford, so obviously Radiohead, Ride, Supergrass, and more recently bands like Foals and Glass Animals, and then you’ve got people like Willie J Healey, Rhys Lewis, Cameron A G who are now doing really well. But these have always been little scenes, little pockets of people that follow those artists, and nobody’s ever really joined the dots and brought all those scenes together. So, it’s changed in that we’re now seeing more local bands coming out and supporting each other, and generally, gig attendances are up.
What would you say is really exciting about the music scene here in Oxford right now?
We’ve got a really strong community of gig-goers here, so we often outsell Birmingham, which is five times the size of Oxford for shows, so certain bands we bring in will do better here than Birmingham or other cities which are much bigger in population. What we’re finding is though, that most of them are much older, and we don’t really see a student audience coming out.
I was wondering why you think that is, because the lack of students is something I’ve noticed at gigs in Oxford as well.
Well, part of the problem is that, speaking to students, you find out that they’ve never read Nightshift (magazine) or been into Truck Store. (I blush, and proceed sheepishly to apologise for my own ignorance). I guess they’re not feeling engaged (I’m trying, Simon, I am!), so what we’re trying to do is we’ve done interviews on student radio stations, to try to get people to feel more engaged – It’s an open community, anybody’s welcome at a gig, so we’re trying to make it more inviting to students and younger people.
In terms of Oxford-based bands, who are your top picks?
Willie J Healey, he’s a bit like Mac DeMarco, and he’s a pretty cool guy – He recently signed to a major label and his record’s out in June, played the main stage at Truck Festival this year, sold out the Cellar in July last year, and then sold out The Bullingdon in September too. So, Willie’s my top pick for this year. He’ll be supporting Palace in April, and then he’ll also be doing a free-entry show at Modern Art Oxford.
So, there are three weeks left of term now. What would you say is the top show for the rest of the term that you think students should go to?
The Amazons are playing in a couple of weeks (15th March at The Bullingdon), and they’ve been getting breaking coverage on Radio 1. That’s got about 30 tickets left, it’s going to sell out, so that’s worth looking out for. It all depends on people’s interests, really. Bands like Blaenavon are coming through (28th March at The Bullingdon), Idles are playing on the 20th, and then there’s Josefin Ohrn too (6th March).
Can you give us a hint of what to expect later in the year?
I shouldn’t say; some massive stuff though. We did a festival called What Became Of Us last year, we had Yuck, Toy, Cabbage. The previous year we had Spring King and Blossoms, so we’ve got a bit of a rep with that now. But that was 2 days at The Bullingdon last year, this year we’re actually moving to 1 day, Saturday 21st October, and it’s going to be all the way down Cowley Road – The O2 Academy, The Bullingdon, Truck Store, The Bear and The Bean, it’s going to be about 2000 capacity, and we’re going to have some pretty big headliners, so keep your eye out for that in October.