All About the A List

Brum Radio’s Official A List is the weekly showcase for the best new music from Birmingham and the West Midlands. Whilst it’s fair to say that 2020 has been a challenging year for the industry our local bands and artists have released plenty of exciting new music that shows Birmingham’s creativity at its best. And our alternating A List presenters Pete Steel and Danny de Reybekill have been there throughout the year to bring it to you. They discuss the show and the past 12 months in local music – and its possible future – below.

Q: The A List is Brum Radio’s flagship show. Tell us about it.

Pete – The A-List is the show where we bring the brightest and best new music from in and around Birmingham and the West Midlands and put into a weekly one hour show to be broadcast across the world.

Danny – Imagine a hand-picked selection of quality tracks, not just fed through radio-pluggers or filling in the gaps with whatever makes it into an uploader. Instead, broadcasting and celebrating the best alternative sound of Birmingham. Pete and I currently produce this beauty of a show which has broadened my mind musically so much since stepping up.

Q: How do local artists get themselves on the A-List?

Pete – To get on the A-List you need to send us your music. We need it ahead of release and put on an MP3 or Wav file as we not only play you on a Saturday at 2pm, but also throughout the week on regular rotation.

Danny – Get in touch with us on our socials, introduce yourselves and make yourselves known. As Pete says, send your music to us. Over the last five years we’ve become good at weeding out what’s not relevant and what’s not local. Make it clear to us you like what we do and what we represent. We’ll follow up by supporting you too. Simple.

Q: What do you look for when choosing new entries?

Pete – Quite simply, something that ‘pricks the ears’.

Danny – Quality and something with potential – if we can see and hear something which has that glimmer of something unique, then it may be the start of a beautiful relationship with us. Could be a new sound, could be a reinvention of something classic…

Q: How do you both view the health of the Birmingham and West Midlands music scene at the moment?

Pete – Global pandemic aside, the health of the scene is pretty good. But one thing we have suffered with is the amount of venues in the city. We have a multitude of artists but not a lot of places for them to go. We are also a diverse city in terms of genre. Over the years we’ve excelled in Heavy Metal, Reggae, Indie, Folk and now Hip-hop and Grime but that offers its own challenges with a city so big and so few venues. We’re finding more and more people opting to move to London because they simply have more venues and opportunities.

Danny – I echo Pete in that the city is bustling. Often with more artists than outlets there is difficulty getting into the spotlight; that’s partly why we began as a station, to allow another spotlight for those who aren’t floating down the main-stream. Brum has plenty to offer if we can continue to offer new and interesting ways to solve problems instead of a London-centric mindset as Pete says.

Q: Is the region strong anywhere in particular in terms of quality and creativity?

Pete – See above – people forget we invented Heavy Metal. But we’ve also had many, many acts ‘break America’ when you consider Black Sabbath, Joan Armatrading, Judas Priest, Duran Duran and UB40 just to name a few.

Danny – In terms of quality, I would love to celebrate contemporary jazz as much as possible. Kofi Stone and Jorja Smith are shining examples leading the next generation and it’s glorious to see and hear. The Blue Note Reimagined release just floored us at the station.

Q: Local acts obviously need to play live but can’t right now. Are you encouraged that they are still managing to make recorded material?

Pete – I’ll be honest I did worry that we wouldn’t be able to put a show together every week throughout the pandemic but boy was I wrong! The production of new material did not drop off at all, if anything it went up!

Danny – What always warms my heart is how musicians and creatives find innovative ways to flourish even in times of hardship. Collaborations via Zoom, livestreams and coordinated rehearsals from across the country have allowed artists to release some of their best work in many cases.

Q: What needs to be done to revive local live venues, apart from support them when we are able to do so?

Pete – We just need to start turning up in our numbers and selling places out. That’s the only way it’s going to happen. It’s time to put Birmingham on the list of world renowned music cities like Liverpool, Hamburg, New York, New Orleans and Nashville. I made a new year’s resolution for 2020 to go to more gigs, that didn’t last long, obviously! But I intend to carry that into 2021!

Danny – Again Pete’s on the money supporting venues. But further than that, online social interaction is becoming more important which (sigh) means commenting, liking and interacting with those accounts you see when you open your chosen app. Whether it’s (my heart truly breaks) the Hare & Hounds in Kings Heath or The Sunflower through to Stourbridge’s The Claptrap, these places fostered careers. If they ask for us to help them, it’s high time we spend a minute giving back.

Q: Name some local acts you see as making a national or maybe even international breakthrough.

Pete – Lady Sanity is at the top of that tree right now for me. I think it’s a matter of time for her. I’m also a fan of Hunger Moon (Natalie Jenkins and James Attwood). I love them as a writing partnership and Natalie’s voice is one of the few that has ever drawn tears from me. Some other honourable mentions go to Chartreuse (people rave about Bon Iver and Sigur Ros, check these guys out) and watch out for Headshrinkers!

Danny – Pete and I both are such suckers for Hunger Moon, we should set up a fan page really and be done with it. I’ve relished seeing Jaydonclover, Nikki Tesla, Sanity, plus all the indie boys we know and love, thriving.

Q: And finally, remind any potential A Listers what they need to do to get their tracks to us.

Pete – Send over MP3s or WAVS to along with your social media links and any PR. But remember, we only accept music from Birmingham and the West Midlands.

DannyIf you’re a band with music to debut, get in contact – send the audio files, images, bio and social links! We’ll hand-select the music we enjoy hearing – it’ll get regular rotation as radio stations should do!

Thanks guys – remember, the Official Brum Radio A List is every Saturday at 2pm and is repeated the following Monday at 7pm. And don’t miss the Best of 2020 Boxing Day show – plus awards – by listening again on the show page here.