Tell our readers all about your band! Where are you from and when did you get started? What is your music like?
I’m Étienne, and I play in Alpha Boötis, a science-fiction themed heavy metal and synthwave band from Montréal, Canada. Our music fuses the grandiosity of prog, the drive of heavy metal, and the atmospheric feel of retrowave/synthwave, with a touch of disco grooves here and there. Each of our songs is part of an ongoing sci-fi saga set in a neon-tinged future of interstellar travel and hijinks.
The band started in 2016, through a cascade of what Bob Ross would call “happy accidents.” I was suffering from chronic tendinitis, to the point where I had to stop playing guitar for almost a year. I had to turn down offers from two separate bands and disband my own project, since I had no idea if I was ever going to be able to play again to a decent level. Still hungry for music and with loads of free time on my hands, I started learning electronic music production, specifically within the realms of synthwave and synthpop. That’s when Francis Beaudet of Distoriam, one of the bands I was supposed to play in, released two lo-fi synth tunes on his SoundCloud. I offered to properly produce the tracks, and before we knew it we had a 5-song EP -- which came to be known as Episode 1.
We released it on Bandcamp in June 2017 with very minimal promotion. We were ready to move on to other similar studio projects, when out of the blue a San Francisco-based electronic duo called Shark Jackson asked us to open for them on the Montreal date of their east-coast tour. The show was 10 weeks away, and despite not having any idea of how to perform our songs live, we said yes. We promptly recruited Emmanuel, our keyboardist and lead singer, and Matt, our drummer. Our songs were thus rearranged for a live band format, with me picking up guitar once more (yay, stretching!) and Francis playing bass. The show was amazing, and things have snowballed since then. We released our 4th opus, a 3-song EP called Stowaway Ants, on December 11th, and have about 2 albums’ worth of material in the works for 2021 and 2022! What are your goals for your band?
Artistically, our goal is to tell our stories through our music and other mediums -- prose, poetry, visual art, videos, even games or interactive exhibits. We also want to build a strong live following that will allow us to play bigger shows with higher production value. The underlying goal, of course, is that we need to grow a bigger fanbase and a network of talented people around us to enable us to reach these lofty artistic goals; with that, hopefully we can make this a full-time career in the next few years.
What do you do for a living?
In the Before Times, before the lockdown -- which has been much stricter up here in Canada than down south -- I worked multiple gigs for a board game café, teaching board games workshops in public libraries, running events during conventions, and as a day camp counselor. The other half of my income came from my father’s freelance business as a marketing consultant, where I work as an administrative assistant. Business has been very slow and my public gigs are not coming back anytime soon, so I’m trying to figure out my next move now that the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit that supported me through summer is over. How do you balance your work and personal life with the band?
Most of my job life has consisted of short gigs and jobs with flexible hours, so ever since leaving college the band has been my career focus. Being unemployed since March gave me a lot of time to dedicate to the band, and doing music full-time for 8 months has convinced me that there is nothing else I’d rather see myself doing for the rest of my life. On the personal side, my friend group is mostly musicians and current college students, so work and play get along well. My girlfriend is also a musician and sound designer, so this helps very much in understanding each other’s careers. I try to work when she’s working or studying so that our schedules line up. The hardest part so far is finding time for board games and D&D nights (online of course). What do you consider to be the best investment you've made, music-wise?
The best investment I made was buying Ableton Live and a Scarlett interface in 2015 and learning how to use them. Being able to demo ideas, self-produce, and record my projects saved me tons of money on each release, and has even given me a few gigs as a producer/recording engineer here and there. I’m also confident that learning how to produce made me a better writer and sharpened by instincts, which I consider to be an invaluable return on investment.
What's the worst or least helpful thing you've ever spent money on as a musician/band?
My worst investment has been the Rock Band “real” guitar thing, that I thought would enable me to practice more as a teenager. It ended up playing like absolute shit, and that made the whole process immensely frustrating and demotivating. Plus, unlike a regular guitar, it had no resale value.
What kind of merch sells the best for your band? And what do you purchase most often as a music listener?
Our best-selling merch item has been our Space Vikings & Other Stories CD, closely followed by our T-shirts. We’ve made most of our sales through direct interactions with fans, be it at shows, private events, or online. As a listener I usually purchase underground stuff on Bandcamp digitally, or buy T-shirts at gigs. I’m not that big on physical music products, since I never listen to them and they take up too much space in my flat.
Which online music or social media platforms are most helpful to your band?
Bandcamp is the clear winner here. 95% of our online revenue is from Bandcamp, and I really like the social aspects of their platform and the fact we can reach all of our fans with every post. Facebook is where most of our fans are, but we’re trying to build our mailing list and our website so as to not be dependent on the whims of the social behemoth.
What does "making it" mean to you, and what do you think a band needs to make it in 2020?
To me, making it is not having to work outside of music. That might mean more production gigs, more shows, more merch and album sales, streaming revenue -- whatever mix works best so that I can make music my only job and live a decent life. The most important thing I think a band needs to reach that level is to build and foster a strong community of fans and peers that will support you and care about what you’re doing. I think artists like Ne Obliviscaris, Lindsay Schoolcraft, or Vampire Step-Dad are great examples of artists who understand that community-driven mindset, and I look up to them for that reason.
Thank you very much for having me!
Check out Alpha Boötis’ free music collection over at www.alphabootisband.bandcamp.com and get a taste of Space Disco Synth Metal!
You can find us on most online platforms through our Linktree, at https://linktr.ee/alphabootis.
Interview courtesy of Dewar PR. Photo by Heather Zsofscin, courtesy of the band.
To learn more about band finances, order Money Hacks for Metalheads and Old Millennials in paperback and ebook formats: https://amzn.to/3lCsFdq
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