Hope & Social at The Crypt - the biggest rehearsal room in Leeds?
Hope & Social are a band that are set up just a little differently to most other bands in the area.
They practice and record in a 19th Century church crypt and have a hard grafting attitude to their music.
Hope & Social isn't just a band per se, but a way of thinking and doing things.
Essentially an eight-piece quirky, alternative/independent rock band - they describe themselves as "like a Yorkshire version of the E-Street Band".
What makes Hope & Social so special, is not just the fantastic brass lines, beautiful melodies, intense and powerful lyrics or indeed the ability to write varied, mass appealing tunes, but it is in fact their amazing live shows and the ethos behind the band.
The band line-up has gone through various iincarnations over the 10 years they have been in Leeds. You may even recall one former variation on the line-up who were known as Four Day Hombre.
After a hectic schedule of touring all over the world, almost going broke, and generally getting almost no return for their efforts, it was time for a change.
Today, Hope & Social count themselves as "gloriously independent". They founded the UK's first fan-financed record label, and everything from recording, gig booking, radio plugging, promotion and artwork is done in-house.
They're very much a unique outfit that like to do things a bit differently. Their latest album, entitled April, was recorded at The Crypt (mentioned in some of the Bronte books) and utilised the help of some of their fans. Richard Huxley, who plays guitar and sings in the band explains:
'We got fans to help us out with some of the lyrics. On the track 'Marching On Through', we asked people to get in touch via social networking sites and tell us their town names for us to shout out during the song."
"The song is about being in a band, this band, and going from town to town, playing a gig in a bar, meeting some amazing new people, and moving on to the next town and so on. We like people to get involved with us."
Even practices in The Crypt see the band in their outfits
"We've also recently recorded a wine bottle orchestra in our studio at The Crypt, and that means our fans feature on our record, they are the last song on the album. Involving people in our music, its the best way to connect with them."
Another interesting fact about the album, is that fans can pay what they want for it. Available only from the band's website, it's free if you want it. If you love it, the band would like you to make a donation, paying what you can afford, or indeed what you think the album is worth.
"I think that music now is as free as you want it to be. Either people can go to a website and download it for free, or you can rip a CD. The important thing for us is getting in front of new people."
"Please, share our music, which is what we call it - sharing, not piracy. If people like us and our music, if they believe in us, if we do things that people agree with, then they have the option to pay for it."
"We've made more money like this, then we ever did when we were spending thousands on PR and with our records in music shops. Our difficulty is not people hearing our music for free, it's getting our music in front of an audience."
Hope and Social are acutely aware, that the music industry is not what it was 30 years ago. With music consumers being more informed, and more able to get hold of music, it's important to the band to find new and interesting ways to engage with their audience.
Hope & Social play live at The Duck & Drake in Leeds
Their live shows are spectacular, more like a theatre production than a gig. They involve their audience, and make them feel part of it, often handing out kazoos, so the audience can join in. They clearly love what they do, and that translates, and becomes infectious.
Another important part of the Hope and Social ethos, is the visual aspect of the band. They believe that music videos are a window into the band as people. Recently they recorded a really special project called 'Come Dine With Us'.
The video is a partnership between the band and a local company 3B Media, and documents a recent gig, at their studio, The Crypt, where the band cooked for 70 people, waited on them, and then played a gig at the same time.
The Hope and Social band model, is new and interesting. Not only are they creative musically, but as a business. Any young aspiring musician would do well to follow their example.
Check out the band's 'Come Dine With Us' event along with their other esoteric videos