Polly Miles and Ollie Thomas – Founders – Acidbox Promotions

How did Acid Box come about as a promotions company in the first place and what made you pick Brighton?
Polly: Erm, well I started after I left college, I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t want to go to university. At college I’d studied multimedia, so TV, radio, film, journalism and all that kind of stuff. I did a final piece for my course where I did a live music show where I put on live bands and stuff. After getting a taster, I tried putting a gig on back in Eastbourne which is our home town and it worked well, so then I did it a few more times and it picked up and then I decided to actually try and do something with it. I ended up getting an internship at One Inch Badge and learnt quite a few things, from there I decided to start up my own company which turned into Acid Box. I worked at Teen Creeps for a bit on the side of that and built even more experience and made contacts – that’s one thing I’ve learnt in this industry is that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. I started up Acid Box in 2013 around November time, we had our first gig in Brighton in the December and put on Spit Shakes, Strange Cages, Swallowed By The Sea and erm, Vipers! That was at The Blind Tiger which has sadly shut down, it was a brilliant venue. The first show was so busy, so we [me and Ollie] kept it up, we headed towards different genres before going down a sort of psych/garage-rock route. It just generally got a good, positive response from everyone so we just carried on from there.

How did you find your time with One Inch Badge and Teen Creeps? How did you find the experience shaped you as a promoter?
Polly: It mainly taught me how to deal with bands – how to organise things slightly better than I was doing at the time. Structuring things and learning how things are run. It’s good to compare the two companies as they both take different approaches. Teen Creeps is a lot more sort of DIY, One Inch Badge are a much bigger company but they both do great things for the areas they specialise in. One Inch Badge was a lot more formal and documented, whereas Teen Creeps are a little more interactive with their bands. This was a big thing we took on, most of the bands we put on stay at ours and we will cook for them if we can – it’s not often you get the chance to just chill and enjoy dinner with some of your favourite bands. I was quite an early intern for One Inch Badge so it was sort of more flying and merchandise rather than working directly with the bands. Everything I’ve learnt since then has just been trial and error really!

How is it that Acid Box ties in with Late Night Lingerie? Is that a co-run thing?
Yeah, Eddie who runs it was one of the first people who introduced us to the scene. A friend mentioned we should go down to one of the gigs he has coming up and on the same day, Eddie posted that he needed someone to work on the door and someone to take photos. So, we went for it and since then, we are under his thumb [ha ha]! Late Night has been a real God-send to us, we have a lot to thank it for.

So what’s your average day-to-day routine in terms of running Acid Box?
Ollie: Well, Polly is at Sticky Mike’s everyday.

Polly: Acid Box is something we don’t make money out of directly, everything we earn gets pumped back in. Ollie is usually working on photos, liaising with bands regarding backlines, trying to book shows, finding out calendars, going through bands and making lists of supports. If we find a new band, Ollie adds them to a list.

Ollie: Yeah, sort of cataloguing bands that are going on. A lot of the gigs that we have coming up, I’ll make playlists for; I do most of the website, sorting out photos and controlling the media angle. Yesterday, I spent most of the day walking around Brighton putting posters up so it varies from day-to-day. I work at The White Rabbit on weekends so throughout the week I try to be as productive with Acid Box as possible. It’s obviously easier during the summer when the weather is good but in the winter, it varies. It’s getting to that time now when it makes our lives a little easier though, people are more willing to come to a gig. Every season is different. When students aren’t here, it’s the hardest.

How do you find the student season effects your gigs then?
Ollie: You need to be on top of it, every season has different term times so people will be in different places or doing different things depending on the weather and what’s going on. So, sometimes it’ll be trying to post around the music college or sometimes it will be predominantly in bars and restaurants. Flyering certain shows and knowing what other shows are going on is an important part of the job. You need to make sure you stand out and tailor your posters slightly towards the music you’re putting on.

Polly: Last summer we didn’t do any gigs at all, there were so many festivals and so many people away or out enjoying the sun, they don’t always want to be in a venue – they want to be out in the sun for longer.

So looking at the UK in general, why do you feel there has been such a strong buzz around psych music and how do you feel it fits into Brighton?
Polly: It’s funny, I think like with every genre of music they sort come back around in a sense.

Ollie: Because the fat cats told them they are going to be big this year [ha ha]! But yeah, the likes of Tame Impala, Temples, then King Gizzard, they sort of kicked it all off. Just some really, really good bands appeared at the same time and people thought yeah, this is cool – let’s do that!

Polly: You know, it’s a different type of music, it’s sort of garage bands or whatever. We’ve seen some really cool bands recently whether that’s at Cosmosis or Lewes Psych Fest and there’s such a mixed array of different bands under that psychedelic bracket. The sounds they get out of their instruments is just mindblowing.

Ollie: There’s such a big crossover over now that it’s not even psychedelic as such – most reverberated music just gets branded as that. Every band is playing with reverb and distortion a lot more now. On our event page for the Yuck gig where we had taken other people’s descriptions of the bands be it fuzz, or psych or whatever, just random words that described the sound, this guy commented saying: “What you on about, it’s all just indie.” And we thought yeah, but that doesn’t describe the sound at all, we were trying to inform slightly but he just wanted it branded as indie and it’s easy to do the same with psychedelia now, it doesn’t really describe the sound too much.

Polly: The psych scene is definitely kicking off in Brighton though. We were lucky because we emerged as one of the younger promoters putting on those more eclectic sounds and fortunately we had this connection with Fuzz Club Records – we were able to put on very new bands.

Ollie: These were bands that were constantly touring and wanting to come over to England from all around the world. Since then, they have started to come back more, now in Resident you can go in and find these records much more easily, they are in the windows and given more display whereas before it used to be very indie, very middle of the road.

Do you find having your roots in Eastbourne have shaped you as promoters within the Brighton scene?
Polly: I think Eastbourne prepared us, it prepared us how to deal with disappointment [ha ha]!

Ollie: We have always put on shows that represent the music we were listening to at that time. We have never put someone on because somebody has said: “Oh these will be cool next year.” It’s always been who we want and that’s what Polly did in Eastbourne and then when we spread to Brighton, we realised there were other people that wanted to see it as well – it wasn’t just us. There was a wider audience in Brighton! Because it’s constantly changing in Brighton, it makes us stay on our toes and do our best. Just being out there and talking to people helped, rather than hoping people might like that band – we have a duty as a promoter to introduce people to the music we are putting on.

How did you find your time up at Cosmosis?
Polly: Yeah it was fantastic, there was a bit of a shaky start when we showed up with our records but it was okay from there.

Ollie: It wasn’t unorganised as such it was just nobody had really passed on much information like, from a DJ’s point of view they had just sorted the stuff out for the bigger bands playing. I can completely see why though.

Polly: It all ran so smoothly though, nobody clashed, we could see everyone we wanted and there were some incredible acts. We definitely looked up to it a lot as a great event. It was definitely the best line-up to have seen in England this year.

How do the photos and promotions run in parallel to one another?
Ollie: Well, my background is photography. I met Polly at the first ever gig she put on. I was doing photos for this band back in Eastbourne. I would photograph a lot of them because nobody else seemed to bother. I get the sense that sometimes gigs don’t happen if there’s no physical evidence of it. Every time you go to a new venue, you need to relearn, re-experiment with the camera and you’re back to being a beginner in the art. A lot of photographers will just know the safe settings whereas I try and play around a bit more, I know my way around the camera a bit and I try to bring what I’m seeing at the gig into the photo a bit more. I try and make the images fitting for the music I suppose.

Polly: Yeah, you have a really good way of fitting your photos to the genre.

Ollie: That’s how we push the promotions side a bit more, we try and make it slightly more as a photos and gig package.

Polly: The same goes for the posters, we like to put a lot of thought into the posters as they are so important. We like to have a different person design each one, let different people try their hand or whatever.

Ollie: Yeah, I spend a lot of time faffing around with lights and visuals and posters and that. It’s often the little things that make the gigs go well and allow them to be slightly more memorable. I went to so many shows back in Eastbourne and there were little bits missing from the whole thing. There’s a lot of sensory stuff going on.

Polly: We’ve become quite good friends with Chris from Innerstrings who does Lewes Psych Festival, Liverpool Psych Fest, he did Cosmosis too – I think we are quite inspired from knowing him. He’s fantastic. In this industry you really need to work with people rather than against them.

In terms of working with others, how do you find doing co-promoting events with other promoters?
Ollie: I’m pretty sure we’ve done a co-promote with every other promoter in the city. It’s really nice, sometimes it’s not easier, but rather than people squabbling over what they have and haven’t done, you get to learn things.

Polly: Yeah, you want to bring more people so the band have a good time, the workload is normally easier and you reach twice the audience in general.

Ollie: I’d rather make less but know the band have more people there. It takes the pressure off a bit and the band are more likely to come back so really it’s better for everyone. They don’t mind, because if they get paid and people are there, they are happy and the rest is left to us. It’s quite often bands will say that their Brighton show was the best on their tour. People really appreciate it. There are a lot of touring bands who generally just want to chill out after a gig rather than go out or whatever – we have our own wall of fame at our place with all our old posters and when bands come and stay, they will stand and stare at it in awe.

Polly: There’s a company called Happy Brighton who aren’t promoters as such but they are a really great team to work with. They are like a hostel but nicer, based up near Patterns; we needed a hostel that we could afford for Night Beats that was going to be nice and not too far away. We went to meet this guy called Alex, he was super helpful, cooking for the bands and providing all that we needed – he saved us really with the Night Beats show. We showed up with Night Beats and the other guests at Happy Brighton started chatting with the band and then they all came to the gig so it was just quite a nice gig. Two independent, DIY companies coming together.

How do you find your time DJ’ing at Dead Wax as well?
Ollie: When touring bands come we often get given a few records from them or whatever which is good because it means about 80% of the stuff we play at Dead Wax are small bands that have played with us at some point. They are current touring bands that people maybe don’t know about and people will come and ask who they are! People appreciate it more just because it’s on vinyl too.

Polly: I love Dead Wax, it’s very chilled a lot of the time. It’s an awesome venue. You have to play vinyl, there’s no other option, it’s more interesting than just DJ’ing CDs.

Ollie: It’s more expensive though, which is why it’s nice when we get given them cheap from bands!

Do you have a favourite band you’ve worked with?
Polly: The New Candys!

Ollie: But local bands, Projector maybe, they are always great.

Polly: Gang – they are good guys too. There’s so many bands to choose from. Everyone has a great ethos and are doing great things.

Ollie: The Porridge Radio guys, they are ace. Some of them live just round the corner from us in Kemp Town, they are building their own practice room. It’s pretty sweet. Just certain people who are always happy to help out.

Polly: Wax Machine have always been good with us, they are just really keen and easy to work with.

Ollie: It’s funny because we always message bands in a serious, professional way and then we play with them and you’re just mates afterwards. It’s all very casual and you forget it’s business. Then it gets hard when you try getting serious again though [ha ha].

Polly: We’ve never actually had a band that we don’t get on with. A lot of booking agents will just send a standard thing and there won’t be any direct communication with the band until later on.

How about favourite venues?
Polly: I think Sticky Mike’s, Sticky’s has always been great – this isn’t biased because I work there! They always print posters for us and then they are exceptionally on top of social media and promotions. They are just really helpful.

Ollie: The Blind Tiger was great when they were open, they were consistently putting on good shows – it was always a hub for Stay Sick and Teen Creeps. They knew what they were doing and it always worked well.

How do you see the rest of 2016 shaping out?
Ollie: It’s going well so far, we haven’t had any shows where we have had our head in our hands. The end of 2015 was good and this one is looking good too. We are doing London shows, Eastbourne shows, Hastings shows, branching out a bit more. Looking at doing something in Southampton too.

Polly: May is going to be the big month. It’s very make or break. There’s something to keep your eye out for on the Saturday of The Great Escape at the Brighton Youth Centre which we’ll reveal more about in the near future, it’ll be cool though. Fumaça Preta too, that will be a great show. We put them on before and they are just really fun guys with a real mishmash genre that works.

Website: acidboxpromotions.wix.com/acid-box-promotions