It is a small world and an even smaller music industry. Back in April 2012 THE BOMBER JACKET covered a Scottish band, Holy Esque. Admittedly a bit embarrassingly irritated by how the band seemed to bleed “hipness,” the writer (it was me, haha) presented a conflicted view of the band and its music (yes, they were “cool,” but were they also “good”?). The article’s conclusion was yes, the band was/is good, and no, it doesn’t matter if they represent(ed) one or two “cool” stereotypes that float around in today’s indie-rock world.
Then 2013 rolled around, and TBJ, while having seen blips of news from Holy Esque on and off, wasn’t too aware of what was going on with the young Scottish blokes. So it came as a surprise to see the band listed on a South by Southwest announcement page. It was clear that a real-life meeting would have to ensue at SXSW, and it did.
I was in touch with the band’s manager, Matt Sadowski, and met up with him and the HE boys at a Scottish music showcase. It was my first show of the festival and seeing the band perform live gave me a clear understanding of their talent, which is enormous, and also their ambition. The band hasn’t released its first full-length album yet but the guys are already getting looks from major labels and audiences abroad. They’re also hovering around 21 years of age, which is surprising considering their level of artistry.
As 2013 is about to become 2014, the HE guys are coming back to the U.S. for the week of CMJ, and they’ll likely be playing new songs off their forthcoming release. To celebrate their return to the U.S., I asked Mr. Sadowski if he’d answer some questions about what it’s like to manage HE and how things have taken off for him as a manager in the bizz.
THE BOMBER JACKET: Do you mind telling me how old you are now (you just had a birthday, right?) and how old you were when you first started working with Holy Esque?
Matt Sadowski: Yeah I’ve just turned 21 on August 7. I would have been 18 when I started working with the band. We’re all the same ages so I think it works well.
How did the whole relationship of band/manager develop? At what point did the guys say, “Okay, you’re our manager now,” and did you feel prepared for that moment?
I guess it all came about because I’d kept in touch with a school mate Keir, and he always had a keen interest in music and knew I did as well. He formed Holy Esque with Pat and they recruited Ralph and Hugo. I was studying a Higher National Diploma in music business and in first year at the time so it seemed like a good idea. Keir asked me if I wanted to manage them and I agreed on the spot before I had even heard them. I sat in on maybe their fourth or fifth rehearsal and it blew me away. I was prepared for this and it meant we could hit the ground running.
What kinds of experiences–musical or non-musical–have you applied to your work with Holy Esque?
I gained a lot of insight and knowledge through studying music business at Stow College. The lecturers there have a great deal of first-hand experience and passed a lot on, whether it be some advice or even a contact. I’ve also promoted shows since I was 16 (I won’t tell you how much I lost on my first show!) and through this I knew which venues would best suit the band. We also put together a live plan which would mean the band wouldn’t play Glasgow twice within 12 weeks as this leads to dwindled numbers over various shows as opposed to focusing on one anticipated show.
Are there any particular people in the music industry whose work inspired you to start managing?
At the very beginning I would speak to Glasvegas’ management team–Denise Allan and Dean Cunning. I was maybe 15 when I first went to see the band and I think James [Allan] introduced me to his sister Denise. Just from speaking to her I knew that was what I wanted to do. They’ve both helped me over the couple of years too with some good advice. Reading about the likes of Brian Epstein during my first year studies definitely inspired me to take on the management role as well.
So you were a fan of Holy Esque from the start? What intrigued you about the band the most?
Definitely. It just seemed that there was something special there. The sound coupled with the vocals–unique.
Did you start Beyond the Frequency for Holy Esque exclusively? Do you plan to use the company for other work as well?
Beyond the Frequency exclusively work with Holy Esque. I think it would be a good few years before I even considered taking on anyone else to the roster, but that option is always there.
How do you feel about the band’s path so far in Scotland? Has the Glasgow music community been supportive?
I’d say Holy Esque is Scotland’s leading unsigned band. They were the only Scottish band selected to play the BBC Introducing Stage at this year’s Glastonbury festival and that says a lot. Glasgow can be quite cliquey in terms of their “music community”–something the band isn’t really a part of.
What are some major milestones you’ve accomplished for the band since you all started working together?
We managed to get the tour support for The Raveonettes at the tail end of 2012 which led the band to play 15 shows across the U.K. and Europe. Following on from that, the band performed at South by Southwest in March 2013. Since then it’s been a successful 6 months which has included performances at The Great Escape Festival, Glastonbury and main stage at a Scottish festival, Wickerman.
What are some key things you’ve learned along the way while working with Holy Esque?
I’m still learning and think I always will. The music industry is moving fast and you have to keep up. The main thing I’ve learned is “you don’t get if you don’t ask!”
Has anything about managing taken you by surprise?
I think a lot of bigger managers delegate too many roles. I like to be more hands on and more involved.
The band is about to release its first full-length album, right? How do you feel about it?
I’m not sure when the full-length album will be out, but when it is, it will be a great moment. The band is working on some new material, it’s possible that it will be an EP.
When will you be in the U.S. next?
The band will be in New York for CMJ Music Marathon from October 15 through 19.