Split Decision

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Ahead of This Ain’t Vegas’ appearance at this weekend’s Split Festival, Chris Thompson catches up with guitarist Richard Amundsen.

SUNDERLAND has a long history of indie bands. Some come and go without leaving much of an impression, but every so often a gem will surface and really make waves on the local music scene.

This Ain’t Vegas (TAV) formed in 2001 and gradually became one of Sunderland’s loudest and most celebrated music makers until 2008 when, after extensive touring including many festival dates, they decided to hang up their guitars.

However, 2012 came and the local boys accepted that they all had a thirst which was not yet quenched, prompting a much-anticipated reunion tour climaxing in a spot at Sunderland’s own Split Festival.

Chris: One day you were a local band and the next day you were touring Europe, how does an indie band succeed in the modern climate?

Richard: “We had a really strong work ethic, that’s maybe why we had such a good following.

“We weren’t playing academies because we didn’t have the management or the media behind us, but when we did get press they were always really kind, we were just below that level, but we were successful enough to believe that we have achieved something.

“It was a flattering situation to be in, when we went to Europe we had a few hundred people there, for me that was enough to play in a band and be satisfied.

“We’re doing our own thing now and it’s good to have that balance.

“I’ve got no regrets about taking it any further, we always wondered if we should have gone down the more commercial route, got a manager and signed a contract or whatever, but we were always really picky how we chose and dealt with people in the music industry.

“We operated on a really independent basis and sort of managed ourselves really, and maybe that’s why a lot of people stayed away from us, we had a lot of control over what we did.”

I suppose you can’t win either way, take the commercial route and lose creative control, stay independent and make no money?

“Yeah definitely, part of the reason we fizzled out was we were away for four weeks at a time and we didn’t have a steady income.

“We made some money on the tour, but it wasn’t enough to live on.

“I was living with my mam at the time. It was either sign the contract and get a steady income which we weren’t too happy about doing, or tour 12 months of the year and tire ourselves out and get fed up.

“I mean it’s common knowledge these days that the real money in music is touring, and unless you’re Coldplay or Kings of Leon, you have got to be out there touring all the time, touring, touring, touring to make any money.

“And as much as we enjoyed each other’s company, after being in the van for six weeks you just want your own house and space.”

TAV had to come to an end on a personal level just to rid you of exhaustion?

“Yes, it was personal for us, it kind of ran its course

“We played our last gig at Evolution Festival. That wasn’t supposed to be our last gig, but after that we just didn’t meet up to rehearse. We had our own things going on and it just didn’t happen.

“It was like a long-term relationship with someone: they both need different things, the band dynamic is like a relationship in many respects.

You’re back now, and you’re playing Split Festival, what does it mean to make your return at a gig like this?

“I’m so happy to be back. I can’t wait to get on stage and turn my guitar up really loud again.

“We got back together really naturally and we’re all really excited to play Split.

“It’s an honour to be involved in the organisation of Split, but to play it is another thing entirely, because there was nothing like this when we first started out.

“Split Festival is fantastic for young bands to play, and it’s fantastic for the city. It’s turning into a real date on the festival calendar and Sunderland can be proud of such a great event.

l This Ain’t Vegas back catalogue is available at http://thisaintvegas.bandcamp.com

l For more on Split Festival, taking place this weekend at Ashbrooke Sports Ground, visit www.splitfestival.com.