If you’ve ever found yourself watching Later… with Jools Holland and wishing that it had a lot more raw hunger and rough-edged passion about it, or that it took a few more risks on brand new acts, you’re probably not alone.
The theory behind the format of Later… is still unique in mainstream British music television. Get a bunch of musicians together in a studio, have them play some live songs, jam together and interview one or two of the artists about their careers and releases along the way.
Each episode might throw up a gem that viewers are less familiar with, but even with its one-of-a-kind proposition and late-night slots, Later… still tends to feature artists that are achieving a certain level of cross-over or who are already firmly established in the world of music.
But what if you could take the brilliant simplicity of the format, strip away some of its current limitations and plant it firmly in the DIY space? What if you did all that and gave the resulting platform over exclusively to fiercely independent and DIY artists?
Step in Producer, Rob Stones, Director, Giannis Kipreos, Presenter, Daisy Taplin, and the ferociously hard-working crew behind the scenes at Black Square Sessions, a 35 minute sponsor-free show made by music fans and featuring 7 songs performed live by 3 artists with 2 interviews.
With featured bands’ performances filmed in one continuous live take at Black Fox North in Leeds, Black Square Sessions is a truly independent televisual endeavour, and one that, free from the commercial restraints of the BBC, provides the means to beam hungry new acts straight into your music-loving eyes and ears via your nearest Vimeo-accessible device.
And with a season pass costing just £1.40 for six episodes, with 3/4 of the purchase price going directly to the artists playing on the show? You’d be a music-hating fool not to.
So what of the show itself? Episode 1, available now, attests to the genius of the concept and the passion, skill and work ethic of the people behind it.
Featuring Brighton-based alt-grunge-stoner outfit Demob Happy, punk-fueled Danish trio Baby In Vain and Chesterfield’s very own indie-pop quartet TRASH, Black Square Sessions’ first ever half-hour has a distinctly fuzzed-up feel about it. Each band brings their own electricity to proceedings, and there’s enough in this season opener to power a small city for a week. It’s precisely the sort of TV line-up that die-hard fans of independent acts have been crying out for, and the bands do themselves and their hosts proud, bleeding their music on to every recorded frame.
What’s more, Black Square Sessions looks and sounds superb. It’s production values fall in a sweet spot that is leaps and bounds ahead of someone who would rather film a pop concert on their phone than actually listen to the music, but stops short of seeming so polished that the whole thing might as well have been constructed from the contents of a can of Mr.Sheen. Sure, at the end of each performance there is no-one to hold up an “APPLAUSE!” card and whip up an audience into a lather of whooping and hollering, the studio walls aren’t dressed to within an inch of their life, and there are the odd scraps of notes visible on the floor beside the camera ops as well as metres and metres of cabling. But dammit, it works.
Finally, presenter Daisy Taplin is a real find, proving to be a relaxed and engaging presence on camera and steering clear of the typical run of cliched questions during the interview segments. There’s zero presenter ego in play meaning that, alongside the unfussy production, the focus of the show is placed squarely (pun intended) on the music.
And that’s exactly where you want it to be.