WorldService Project: Articulate Arsonists
"When I graduated from University, I started volunteering at the Vortex, because it's obviously a volunteer-run club, apart from two or three paid members of staff," Morecroft explains. "I started volunteering there to obviously hear great music but also to network, meet people and to develop ideas. That's what happened, really. It's been four years that I've been volunteering; I still do as a night manager, which is just running gigs on certain nights. All the people that I've met in those four years have just been incredibly useful, and they're the right people to meet, bounce ideas off of and discuss things. It's a very creative kind of place, a very creative hub. You have musicians coming with their new projects and international musicians; it's the best music club in London."
Still, with all the groundswell of support, with the help of venues like the Vortex and people like Lee Paterson, it's still a tough slog. While WorldService Project is behaving more like a rock band than a jazz band in its being the almost exclusive focus of its members, as opposed to having them spread out among many other projects to make a living, it's not easycertainly not something a group of older musicians would be prepared to do. "Basically, we all teach part time, which is fine," says Morecroft. "Conor's still studying, but in terms of WordService Project on its own? I suppose a couple of us are close-ish to being able to just perform and make a very basic living. Maybe."
"I think with Match & Fuse and the WorldService Project, it certainly feels on an upward curve in terms of becoming more viable," Clarkson interjects. "If it continues where it goes, then it will. When some of these things started, we really had to invest in some things ourselves, like not breaking even on a small tour. Now that sort of thing isn't happening anymore. It's on the right path; we just hope it will continue and that it will be viable for us to do."
But at a time where "pay to play" has become a serious and severe norm, it still makes it very difficult for a groupeven one as clearly committed as WorldService Projectto achieve reasonable, sustainable viability. "It's the sort of deal where people pay the amount on a ticket, and once you've had 20 peopleonce your band has had 20 people to say, 'I'm here to see World Service Project,' you get a pound per every ticket. It's theft; it's basically theft," says Clarkson.
With a room that holds 150 people, that means the bandfive people get to split a whopping £150. "That kind of gig is more practice than gig," Clarkson concludes.
But the good news is things are moving in the right direction. Beyond the recently wrapped-up Match & Fuse and the next one coming in London, the group will be heading to the United States for its first North American tour. The group is calling it "Music and Miles 2013," a double bill with Italy's Nohyabandatrio for the most part, followed by some dates with the Italian/UK collaboration Bulldog Drummond that will hit (so far) 33 venues in a grueling 41 days and involve traveling from Chicago to Washington, Lexington to Rochester, Indianapolis to Louisville and Brooklyn to Charlotteacross a total of 15 states.
It's ambitious, risky and puts absolutely everything out on the table. But for the members of WorldService Project, that's just business as usual, and with Fire in a Pet Shop already garnering positive press, things are clearly looking up for this young, forward-thinking and, in so many ways, intrepid British quintet. If the group continues to hone its own sound and approach and, with its Match & Fuse festivals and tours, collaborate with other like-minded musicians from across Europe (and, on the cusp of its first US tour, perhaps some American artists as well?), there's every chance that the name WorldService Project will begin to garner the same recognition in North America as it has in Europe. And if ever there was a group that deserves that recognition through time and effort, blood, sweat and tears, and sheer determinism, it's WorldService Project.
World Service Project, Fire in a Pet Shop (Megasound, 2013)