Communion in Melbourne should be a big deal. It’s not yet, but it will be.
Don’t know what I’m talking about?
Communion was founded by Ben Lovett (of Mumford & Sons), producer Ian Grimble and former Cherbourg bassist Kevin Jones. Starting in London at the Notting Hill Arts Club in 2006, as a monthly club night it fast became a platform for hosting some of Britain’s brightest musicians. Noah and the Whale, Laura Marling, Mumford & Sons and JJ Pistolet (now of The Vaccines) are just a few names that kicked off their careers with performances at these nights.
For Melbourne, The Toff has been opening its doors on a Sunday of every month to welcome a host of Australia’s own musical talent.
On 21 October, Communion will showcase Mike Noga (The Drones), The Falls, The Preatures, Howl at the Moon and Jordan Leser along with an exciting special guest DJ (!).
You can get your tickets here for this Sunday at 6pm. So come and join us for a drink!
Past Melbourne nights have already seen artists like The Tiger and Me, Matt Corby, Battleships, Hayden Calnin, and Ainslie Wills and this month is sure to be just as brilliant.
Co-founder Ben Lovett took some time away from the Mumford & Sons Australian tour to answer some of my questions about how it all started.
Stef: Ben Lovett, my name is Stef. Thank you for joining THE RIPE for a chat!
How have you enjoyed Australia so far? Have you had a little time to settle in?
Ben: It’s been awesome, now the jetlag is fading and I’m getting to enjoy the days a bit more. In Brisbane right now and it’s absolutely gorgeous out and about. Looking forward to the show tonight.
Let’s chat about Communion. It’s a wonderful platform to help musicians spread their work. How does it feel to have started something that now supports budding musicians on a worldwide scale?
In many ways it’s my heart and soul. That might sound weird, but being in Mumford & Sons is just a lot of fun really. Whenever I write a song or some music for the band, it just happens, kinda wakes me up at night, or in a moment quickly captured on my phone, and then we work on each others songs which is fun and collaborative.
Communion feels like my sweat blood and often tears. It was my first child in a sense, starting in 2006, so I guess I have a soft spot for it in that way.
The work we do is immensely satisfying. We don’t make any money from it, yet. But the artists we work with do and that’s what is important. We really do nurture and support their careers and put them first every time.
What motivated you, Kevin Jones and Ian Grimble to begin these nights? Tell us a little about the initial aims of the project.
It’s a long story! And without boring you with the sermon, the basic principle was that we wanted to offer an alternative way to operate a clubnight than the way most were in 2006. If you play the show, you get paid a flat fee, not something that is crowd dependent. If you come to the show, you really get your money’s worth and the lineup will be wide and deep and you will almost definitely walk out having discovered something that maybe you’d never heard of before.
We want people to come to Communion clubnight because they trust that the music will be good and they’ll have a great fun night. As opposed to necessarily booking bands and only those bands fans turn up to the show.
It seems from the outside that Communion became a little bit like a family. Is it still like that now despite its growth?
More than ever! Absolutely, all that’s changed with all the growth (now we’re in 16 cities and operate a publishing company as well as a record label), is there are many more conversations and emails had every day about this that and the other. The volume has increased without anything being diluted.
Communion Records was birthed in 2009. Are you still heavily involved on that side of things?
Every day, yes. In some ways more so. A record is a much bigger individual project than any singular monthly club night. There’s the scouting, and then the nurturing, and then the investment and then the release, and then maintaining the momentum.
Are there any artists about to be released on the label that you’re particularly excited for us to hear?
We’re very excited about latest signings Joe Banfi and Deap Vally. Two future stars I’m sure of it.
You’ve dropped into a few Communion nights around the world. Do you have a favourite night with a collection of artists that you enjoyed in particular?
I’m always nostalgic about the early days of Communion, 2006/2007. That said, my two favourite shows of this year were both American ones. One in Brooklyn, NY that was just so alive and buzzing and quality I felt like crying. And the other was at SXSW music festival in Austin: Michael Kiwanuka, Ben Howard, Daughter, Matt Corby, The Staves, Willy Mason. A pretty ridiculous lineup in a 350 capacity church just off the main drag. Felt very proud that evening.
And how has the tour been going so far? We heard about the jerks who stole some of your stage gear in Perth, did it turn up?
A stolen banjo was found in a bush but the rest of it will probably end up on eBay and we’ll just have to buy it back! Tours been fun, we love touring down under!!
Mumford & Sons have had a huge couple of years. You guys were already successful in 2010 when you last visited us. Now, your shows a bigger and you’re all in even higher demand which must feel fantastic. If we focus on just this year, has there been a highlight?
Releasing Babel. We needed to have more music out in the world!
Thanks for answering our questions! Good luck with the rest of the Australian tour and congratulations on Communion’s success. We’re looking forward to Sunday!
REVIEW AND INTERVIEW BY STEF ITALIA