Reigniting the Fire
Although lockdown is taking its toll on Renfrewshire’s musicians, Sma’sh Hits’ New Music Collective is here to keep morale high and ideas ticking over.
If there’s any sector that’s been sent into a tailspin by lockdown, it’s the arts. Relieved of the ability to perform, this inability to go out and harness the audience’s energy has been an alienating experience. Launched at the end of last month, Sma’sh Hits New Music Collective is looking to not only dispel that dismay, but allow for creativity to flourish within these revised confines.
In the view of Marie Collins, Renfrewshire Leisure’s Music Project Producer and vocalist/guitarist in Paisley’s beloved art-pop outfit The Vegan Leather, this project is coming along at the perfect time.
“A big part of our role is to connect with the wider artistic community in Renfrewshire,” Marie explains, “So, myself and RL’s arts producers thought that having these artist meet-ups within the different media would be a great way to connect with the people that are making stuff. It helps to cultivate a scene and I think with everything that’s happened this year, it’s more crucial than ever to create that support network.”
“It’s always great for musicians to get together, collaborate and bounce ideas around as keeping that community alive is so important. Considering that artists are feeling like their vocations are being undermined at the minute, it’s so important to provide some validation,” she declares.
Where many feared that artists would down tools, the uptake that Sma’sh Hits has had suggests that Renfrewshire’s musicians have refused to let all their passion peter out. As a result, Marie believes that these conference calls can account for a small dose of the camaraderie that normally arises from gigging together.
“I think that’s definitely what we’re trying to foster, as It’s a great way to share things in real-time and have the connection that you’d normally achieve through open mic nights or putting on a gig. It’s a free space where people can share exciting things, or be vulnerable and vent their frustrations. We know it’s not exactly a substitute, but it’s a step that we can take in the meantime.”
Although the virtual constraints aren’t ideal, Marie revealed that they’ve had the happy side effect of aligning artists from disparate influences in a way that the echo chamber of genre normally prevents.
“The first meet-up encompassed artists from across the board, with all sorts of ages and styles,” she revealed. “There were songwriters and more technically inclined people, not to mention post-punk musicians, jazz artists and saxophone players. They were all so enthused about being in the same meeting space together and when I asked what the main thing that they wanted to get out of this was, everyone said collaboration. So, that can only be a good thing. I think if you’re into a certain genre, you tend to hang out in those circles, so this digital model has actually connected a wide range of people that might’ve never came into each other’s orbit otherwise.”
“With the emphasis on community that’s sprung up from lockdown, we’ve realised the power of collaboration”
Rather than stopping there, Marie and the group have plans to take this from the online terrain to something more substantial when the world permits them to.
“Within the first chat that we had, there was a sense that we really want to be networking at a more national level. Meaning that we’d try and get ourselves to big industry-events like Wide Days and XpoNorth to ensure that Renfrewshire really has a presence.
“Also, we’ll be meeting up in venues to share songs, collaborate in person and host open mic nights for that social element. To be honest, it really boils down to what the group wants as there’s scope to go bigger, whether that’d be producing their own label or anything in between. I’m very keen for it to be totally up to them.”
Operated as a democracy, Sma’sh Hits’ new collective has become a means of taking the insularity out of the local music scene and replacing it with unity. And when speaking to Marie, it’s clear that this is one of the by-products of the project that she’s most excited about.
“It’s definitely propelled the scene to come together. Beforehand, there was an individualistic thing where people, including me, focused on ‘this is my band and this is what I need to be doing’. With the emphasis on community that’s sprung up from lockdown, we’ve realised the power of collaboration,” she proclaims.
“Between my role as music project producer and being in a band that’s so grounded in Renfrewshire, it’s a match made in heaven. As for me, it was those early open-mic nights and attending The Paisley Songwriter’s Guild at The Bungalow that let me know I was being supported. Now, we’ve got a real collective where we can do all that, but also host workshops and masterclasses where people can develop skills in the business side, livestreaming, social media or whatever they need. We’re hoping to do it monthly and are always looking for more people to join. It’s just a really positive thing.”
For more information on how to join, contact ma***********@re**********.uk.