There comes a time in every young working band's life when you want more than the few clubs in your corner of the world can offer. You crave a bigger audience, a change of scenery, and most important, some cash flow to keep you going.
Willoughby is no different. Comprised of members Erica Swedberg on vocals and organ, Todd Grove on bass, Eric Dahl on guitar and Brandon Jacobs on drums, Willoughby has been playing local shows in and around Spokane since the summer of '04. Their brand of funk, rock, jazz, reggae and blues has been well received at local venues. Last winter, they cut a self-released three-song EP at the band's home studio and sold all 100 copies within weeks of its spring release. So the band decided to put together a press kit and book some shows outside Spokane in its first ever mini-tour. The past has taught us that it can be tough for a Spokane act to make it on the West Side, so I caught up with bassist Todd Grove and drummer Brandon Jacobs while out on the road via cell phone to talk about the back-to-back gigs they had just finished in Bellingham and Seattle.
Friday, Oct. 21, Bay Street Coffeehouse, Bellingham "Well, for starters, the transmission on my '83 Plymouth Reliant went out in Kirkland," says Grove, laughing. "But we scraped together some cash for a cargo van, so now we're living the high life. It's so roomy. However, I just hope they don't tow away my poor car abandoned on the 405! What's irritating is I just got it through Emissions and registered two days before the tour. But we still made it to the venue 45 minutes before show time, so everything went off smooth.
"The show itself was cool, though it was somewhat rough in the fact that the two opening acts were from Bellingham and of course all their friends were there. When they were done, about half the crowd left, so that was a bummer. In retrospect, I wish that we weren't the headliners. We only were the headliners because the band that was supposed to headline had dropped out a few days prior. The people who did stay, however, were totally cool, and I could tell they dug it. We played about 10 songs for a total of 50 minutes or so, and just had a lot of fun with it.
"Later that night, we crashed at some old high school buddies' house, and they cooked us all omelettes in the morning, so we were stoked!"
Saturday, Oct. 22, Blue Moon Tavern, Seattle "We had an excellent, excellent time at the Blue Moon," exclaims Jacobs. "We played really well and got a very enthusiastic reception. People were making a lot of noise. Some guy actually came up on stage four songs into the set to shake all our hands and was yelling about how good he thought we were, which just added to the excitement. Also I distinctly remember someone who kept yelling 'Funk it up!' which I just thought was hilarious.
"One of the major differences that I noticed at this show in comparison to other shows that we've played at home is that you could tell people were actually listening. It was sort of strange. We are basically used to playing shows in town where it's more as if we are the evening's appetizer -- you know, before the crowd goes on to the next club and really lets loose. But at this show, I felt like we were the main course for once. It was the exact opposite of what I expected. I really anticipated that the Bellingham show would be the better of the two. But usually when I keep saying something, the opposite happens.
"The owner actually liked us so much he invited us back and was trying to convince us to do our CD release party there. We didn't make much money -- in fact, we easily spent more than we made, but we had a great time nonetheless."
Playing in a local band is not easy. Everyone has a day job. Some are full-time students, and a couple even have burgeoning careers outside of music. Going on tour is an increasingly difficult task for four individuals juggling work, school and romantic entanglements -- not to mention the money put forward to cover expenses.
Whether Willoughby will be able to break out and make a name for themselves outside of Spokane is hard to say. Jacobs emphasizes that "We are what we are, and we just want to play good music for people."
As for the future, says Jacobs, "We just played seven shows in town and now did this tour, so we plan on settling down into winter to record our full-length. Ideally I'd like to have it done by late January, early February, but it really depends on people's work schedules. But look for us at the Blvd, because we have a show tentatively lined up in the near future."