Tips on Bridging the Pacific Divide: The Julian Temple Band’s strategy for the USA
Now well into their eleventh year, with four independently released albums, numerous tours in multiple countries, and an ever-growing fan base, The Julian Temple Band are establishing themselves amongst the hardest working bands to come out of Dunedin. The music is a mixture of simple, picturesque songs of surfing to complex, dirty songs of marrying the Devil’s daughter or finding God in a bottle store.
But another thing that makes the JTB special is they are working on a carefully planned strategy to break into the US market; arguably one of the most daunting tasks set before an independent Kiwi band from humble beginnings.
Julian, originally from California, moved back there in 2014 and describes the process the band went through to get a foot in the door to the US:
In 2013 we released Upsidedownbackwards in New Zealand, and we did a big tour of it and it was quite successful. So we thought instead of just losing momentum and moving on to the next lot of recording, we should keep on touring it. I boosted over to California, did the groundwork, booked the tour and then the boys came over.
I had a few connections before I went over, but not really that many. We planned for me to go early, before the boys, about six months out. I got there and immediately started booking gigs for both myself and the band. I based myself at a location about halfway between two major cities in the US - San Francisco and Los Angeles, about 3 hours drive either side. I was living in a smaller town than Dunedin, which had heaps of other towns all around it - with this you are able to play every night. As a solo artist it was useful because it allowed me to scout out suitable venues and make connections that would best benefit the band.
I found a very useful website that got me started - indieonthemove.com - which put you in direct contact with the venues and other bands in each city. It is probably just one of many websites that can provide that information and only took a little research to find.
If you can, it’s really good to do the solo thing because you can say ‘yes’ to every gig, which is great when you’re just starting off. I also got involved with these ‘songwriter showcase’ gigs, where there will be one or two guys in a town - and they are everywhere over there - that will put on a showcase three nights a week and you can sometimes be the feature artist. These promoters take a percentage of the earnings from the night. This is absolutely fine, as it makes your life so much easier.
In the states, you mustn’t be afraid of asking for tips. What you do is you put down a huge, HUGE glass container in front of the stage, and watch it fill up. Some nights I would walk away with more money in tips than I would from the guarantee.
So six months later, when the band came over, I had the first gig booked in Tijuana, Mexico. This gives you an idea on how the tour started. Another interesting thing about the tour is, three months before, we discovered that Pipsy wasn’t going to make it; so we had to look for another bass player. Last minute, I met a guitarist called Albert at a songwriter’s night who turned out to be a great bass player. Only three weeks out, he was willing to drop everything, give notice to his job and come on tour with us. He had to learn more than 50 songs really quickly and handled it well.
I met a lot of guys like Albert in LA; people who had moved to the city to pursue a career in music. Just like with the movies, heaps of talented people move to this place. The rest of the country see it as a kind-of soulless place, but there is a lot of creativity there. The problem is there is so much that it’s over-saturated. It’s very easy to get lost and not know where to go or where to start.
We just stuck to the state of California. The state itself I think is bigger than New Zealand, so we spent the whole tour there. We soon developed a following where people actually followed us between gigs.
A basic summary of our plan was to establish a base in a smaller town, close to a major city, or two major centres if possible. Then to get to know the community. The people you meet are absolutely essential.
The tour went pretty well and to tell you the truth coming back the second time has proven to be even more successful, so I think that means it's working.
After a whirlwind month the band returned to Dunedin. Julian soon followed. He shared his thoughts on returning, and what brought him back after a successful excursion to the USA…
It’s good to keep your hand in, you can’t desert all the work you’ve done in one area to try and build in another. So we came back, and now I’m heading back to the states for the northern hemisphere summer. I’m going to hire another make-shift band that I have over there. I wish it could be the whole (New Zealand) band, but with visas, and the jobs and lives which people have, it makes it so much more difficult to organise.
I think the key thing is to keep malleable. Stay busy. You need one person to spearhead it. Because you will come to a point where the band cannot play every show - so what are you going to do? If you want to do it, you can’t just wait for them, you have to keep playing. And that just keeps it rolling. So many times we’ve gained a lot of momentum and we’ve just...stopped. And then we have to work right from the beginning to get it going again.
All that said, although I went to the USA and worked with other musicians, it was really important that I came back to the guys in New Zealand. They are my core band, and we have a lot of brilliant resources here available to us. We also love being a part of the Dunedin music community and want to remain a part of it, even though we may be in another country.
Julian Temple Band have an upcoming album that is set to be pressed and released soon and Julian shared plans for the future for JTB:
So after finishing up the mix, the plan is to take it (the album) over to the USA and shop it around a bit. I have one label pretty interested in it, and another that is just starting out which we want to be a part of. We would like to have a proper release of our album this time, rather than just doing it on our own. We’ve done everything on our own until now. This is to get us more exposure to a wider international audience, and some help with the business side of music would be ideal.
We’ll have an album release tour sometime later in the year when we return to New Zealand. Overall; new and unexplored territory lie ahead as we try to bridge the Pacific Ocean. Exciting times.
Julian will return from his most recent excursion to the US soon for the New Zealand summer. Be sure to catch the Julian Temple Band at one of their shows soon!