…March, April & May: Popfest Preview: Indietracks


The one festival that really needs no introduction: Indietracks. For many people it is the pinnacle of indiepop festivals. For those of us who have never been, we’ve all heard stories. For everyone who has gone and experienced it, they always say the same thing: “You’re going to love it!” The festival has inspired songs (i.e. Northern Spies’ “Swanwick Junction” and Lisa Bouvier’s “Every Year Until We Die”), has a good handful of attendees who return year after year, and hotels are fully booked by Christmas.

So, what’s the story behind the festival? We asked Team Indietracks a few questions to find out!

1. Can you give us a history of Indietracks (dates, previous organizers involved, etc.)? How and why did you come to be involved?
The festival started in 2007 and was the idea of Stuart Mackay, who worked on the Midland Railway in Derbyshire restoring trains. He thought it would be great to have an indiepop festival there, and amazingly the railway agreed! So they ran a small event in April 2007 with just a few bands and DJs, followed by a first weekend festival in July 2007. Stuart, Emma Hall and Daniel Chapman organised these two events, with a lot of work and support from the Midland Railway team, especially Andrea and John Hett.

From 2008 onwards, the festival grew and invited bigger names like The Wedding Present and Los Campesinos! in 2008, and then Teenage Fanclub and Camera Obscura in 2009 (when we asked Elefant Records to help curate the bill). As the festival grew, more of us joined the team to help with all the work. Stuart, Emma (H) and Daniel have left the team now, and John Hett from the railway sadly passed away in 2009. The current team is Marianthi, Ian, Nat, Alice, Emma (C) and Andy, with lots of work from Andrea, Alan and the railway staff. We’ve all been involved for several years, so hopefully the festival is still in safe hands!

2. What is the process of choosing bands like? Do you contact them or do they have to apply to play? Are there any rules as to who can or cannot play?
There’s a few ways we select the bands. We invite bands to send us applications every autumn, and then have a listen to see which ones we like the most. We usually get several hundred applications and have a great time listening to everything! There’s also a wishlist on the Anorak message board, and we always look at that and try and book the bands near the top of the list, as well as picking up on any great ideas further down the list. And then there’s always lots of bands we have in mind ourselves. We try not to have any bands playing two years in a row, but otherwise there’s no rules!

Hopefully this gives us a varied and interesting festival. This year we’ve some amazing artists that have never played before (Gruff Rhys, The Chills, Dean Wareham, The Popguns, Sweet Baboo), some Indietracks favourites returning (Allo Darlin’, Withered Hand, The Hidden Cameras, The Just Joans), some great overseas bands (Los Cripis, Lost Tapes, The Very Most, Thee AHs) and lots more besides!

3. What has experience taught you when it comes to organizing Indietracks?
Never underestimate the imagination of the Midland Railway staff! Every year they come up with something creative and slightly crazy. Last year there was a beach on the festival site, which ended the weekend in perfect condition despite a huge and merry late night singalong taking place there on the Sunday night. They’ve also arranged for an owl sanctuary to be on site during the festival and they also brought glow sticks along one year. Last year’s festival also ended up with one of the bar staff playing “The Last Post” on a bugle at the end of our final disco. We really have no idea what they’re going to do this year!

4. When does organization start? Is there a timeline you follow? How soon after the festival ends do you begin to plan the next one?
We’re planning for the next one now! There’s a few bands that couldn’t make it this year that we’ve already asked whether they could play if we hold the festival again next year. And then we usually invite bands to apply in the autumn so that we can start booking from January onwards. We’re writing this in mid-June and we’re still booking bands now — it’s good to be organised, but helpful not to pin down absolutely everything too far in advance just in case someone amazing becomes available at the last minute. We were really pleased to book The Chills in early June this year and fortunately we still had space on the bill when they became available!

5. Do you have any inside tips for festival goers?
We’d suggest watching a few bands in the tin tabernacle church, even if it’s a band you’re not familiar with, as the atmosphere in the church is amazing. We’d also recommend visiting some of the railway attractions — the light railway and the miniature railway in the country park are wonderful, and it’s great looking round all the old trains and buses in the transport museum. And remember to go and visit the owls next to the railway canteen (Johnson’s buffet). Oh, and if it’s hot, there’s ice cream in the Swanwick Junction station shop!

6. What are some of the best and worst Indietracks moments you can remember?
The 2007 festivals were incredible, as we couldn’t believe we were able to hold indiepop shows on such a beautiful location. Over the years, there’s been some really special shows (La Casa Azul, Teenage Fanclub, Edwyn Collins spring to mind first). It’s also been great to see bands that played at Indietracks fairly early on (Allo Darlin’, Standard Fare, Just Joans) come back and play to huge crowds in later years. I can’t think of any worst moments — things have gone wrong of course (eg. the thunderstorms last year that meant moving Camera Obscura to the indoor stage at short notice) but in those situations the fact that all our bands, our stage crew and our audience are all really nice and all help each other to fix things means that those moments  actually  become the best moments too!

Many thanks to Team Indietracks!


For the full line-up (including interviews with each band), schedule, ticket information, and more, please visit the Indietracks website.

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