When did charity become rock ’n’ roll? When did it become relevant for musicians to fly the flag for various causes? I caught up with Nottingham-based alternative rock band Of The Night to find out how it started for them.
Assembled around a pub table in The Beekeeper in Beeston, Adam Baskill (drummer), Emma Bladon Jones (vocals and guitar) and Ben Watson (guitar) are hyperactive. Frontman Adam Richmond is with us on Emma’s phone (or ‘in spirit’, as Baskill describes). They are singing along to the background radio, which is playing Lily Allen, before descending into a fit of laughter. Of The Night have a refreshing spark, showing enthusiasm akin to that of pop-punk band, Paramore in their earlier days.
While they may know when to blow off steam, they also know when to knuckle-down. Of The Night pride themselves on their work for American charity, the Red Thread Movement. It is a student-founded organisation which works to raise awareness of human trafficking and sexual slavery and to rescue the victims affected. The money raised funds safe houses and vocational skills classes for the victims, to help them find employment.
The Red Thread Movement raises funds by selling red hand-woven bracelets which are produced by victims – this is where Of The Night comes in. “We discovered the Red Thread Movement online through another band from Derby,” says Emma. “I followed a few links from a Facebook post and ended up on the Red Thread page.”
At this point Baskill looks up from his constant drumming on his knees (a classic trait of most of the drummers I have met to date) to jump in: “I think we’ve done more charity gigs than we’ve done normal gigs,” says Baskill. “We got the Red Threads last October and we started selling them at the gigs just after that.”
Of course, Of The Night’s charity isn’t a completely selfless act – the benefits for the band are priceless. “Not only do we support a good cause, we make a bond with our fans,” admits Richmond. “They’ve got the Red Threads, we’ve got the Red Threads, we’re all part of something together and it just brings us that little bit closer to our fans.”
With the Red Thread Movement quickly gaining momentum in the UK, Of The Night are excited to be one of the first handful of bands to promote the movement here. “There’s something like 2000 members around the UK on the Facebook page, it’s huge,” says Ben. “There’s also a thing on the page where bands upload videos of their gigs where they’ve sold Red Threads.”
Emma says: “It’s really good to be one of the few bands in the UK that are supporting the Red Thread Movement at the moment.” A grin is spreads across the guitarist’s lips. “Obviously we want it to grow but it’s good to be there from the start of it, I mean it’s not new in America but it is over here and you can see its spreading. When you go to gigs now it’s like ‘Who wants to buy a Red Thread? – Oh you’ve already got one!’”
Of The Night’s charity work goes beyond selling bracelets at their own gigs, Emma also reveals that the band has penned a song to donate to Red Thread for their compilation album. “We’re just waiting to hear whether or not our track has made it onto the album.”
Ben, who has been uncharacteristically quiet up to this point, begins to open up about his aspirations to support Cancer Research through the band: “My mum suffered from cancer and got through it, so I would like to do something for them.” The rest of the band have now grown quiet as they all personally know Ben’s mum, who has been a rock of support for the band over the years.
“There have been a few breakthroughs with Cancer Research recently and it would be nice to do something to help with that. Mum lived through it and she’s stronger than ever, you all know my mum, she’s really scary, you wouldn’t argue with her and neither would cancer.” The band erupt into laughter at Ben’s ability to cope with the subject of his mother’s illness so well, with a shared understanding of what a strong, inspirational woman she is to all of them.
With the talk of Cancer Research in mind, Richmond jumps in: “We have a Cancer Research gig next week.” Emma suddenly remembers and cuts him off, “Oh yeah, The Wilsthorpe Rock Show is for Cancer Research!” “Ha! For once I know more than you guys do,” Laughs Richmond over the speakerphone, in turn receiving many not-so-friendly hand gestures.
The band member’s logic behind their charity work is simple and heartfelt, “We’re all pretty broke,” Emma says. “We can’t really afford to donate much money to charity, so we love to raise it while we have the opportunity to through our music and our gigs.”
After the interview I managed to catch up with Of The Night’s bassist, Dave Hanson, who is currently living away at university in Manchester. Dave opened up about his take on rock music’s relationship with charity work: “Music is such a human and society-based thing, I think that campaigns for awareness and attainment of human rights complement the gig and festival scenes so well.”
Whether it’s rock ‘n’ roll or not, Of The Night certainly see charity work as a huge part of their lives and for them, the benefits are becoming apparent. Of The Night’s work for the Red Thread Movement is raising the profile of the band and establishing them as part of a community of bands in the UK associated with the charity. They intend to support the Red Thread Movement: “For as long as it takes,” says Baskill, “As long as we have the bracelets and while we’ve got the charity there we’ll completely support it.”
Find out more about the band at http://www.ofthenight.co.uk/