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Interview With Bob Tollast of the Laurel Collective

One of the most intimately creative festivals around at the moment, In The Woods brings attendees closer to nature as the whole festival takes place ourdoors in the middle of scenic woodlands. Now in its fifth year, the festival features some of the best electronic music acts and also hosts artistic installations and craft collectives. Definitely one to investigate, PlanetNotion sat down with Bob Tollast of the Laurel Collective to find out more about In The Woods and how it came to exist…

PN: What was the inspiration behind the original In the Woods festival?

BT: Our drummer lives by some beautiful woods, and one day he said, wouldn’t it be awesome to hold a festival right here, in this beautiful place. I was like, “Yeah whatever, how are we going to put on a festival in a forest? We can barely put on a gig in a shed.” Years later, and lots of logistical nightmares to do with holding a DIY festival in the woods, and we have a truly awesome festival…

PN: Why Do it Yourself with a festival – do you feel that the marketplace is saturated?

BT: We honestly don’t really care if the market is saturated or not. In fact, the smaller festival circuit isn’t exactly savage competition, as long as you keep it unique, and that’s what we have. How has the event progressed? Its gone from a few of our friends bands, one stage and 150 people to 500 people, two stages, art installations, Anna Calvi, The Invisible, Connan Mockasin, Pete and the Pirates, Micachu and the shapes, John and Jehn and Late of the pier Djing, John Kennedy as compere, a silent disco, and a burning wicker man. So it’s been a nice little progression. We’re 5 years old now, and really excited about this year’s line up, especially getting Dels and the Tape Club artists down, should be especially ace.

PN: What’ve been the high points?

BT: Probably stumbling down the side of the natural amphitheatre rushing toward the front, drunk as hell as one my favourite bands The Invisible launched into the song “Passion” as the lights from the stage lit up the tree canopy above me. The woods look incredible at night. You can have the greatest party ever in a grimy warehouse, but mother nature’s been working on our decor for millions of years now. She’s a great host. Another high point was having Anna Calvi open the main stage one year, and a year later she was on the cusp of the huge success she has now.

PN: Any worst bits?

BT: Without a shadow of doubt, waking up the next day on the floor with a gruelling hangover and 48 hours of packing up, collecting trash and moving scaffolding … Also, Screaming Tea Party would have done a tearing set if half their gear didn’t break. We saw them about a week later and they absolutely tore up the stage.

PN: Have you got tips for someone looking to start their own festival?

BT: Having it as far from neighbours as possible!!! Seriously though, you need to consult anyone you know in the biz for advice. At various points we’ve tracked down entertainment lawyers and even Rob Da Bank for advice on how to do it. As the festival got bigger we realised the worst thing would be to put so much work in only for it to get shut it down. Working things out with the council, who work with the police can be testing, you need to be very prepared as health and safety is paramount, as you can imagine. Unless you can stomach that, have a party and get your mates band down instead…Start off modest, book new bands off the back of great podcasts like Jon Hilcocks New Noise and free music zines, keep your costs as low as possible, work out what your costs are and then CHARGE A LITTLE BIT MORE. Trust me, you can lose money!!! It is an immense commitment. Get a pro to help out like our festival producer Lisa Farrel. Be committed to your party.

PN: What makes a great festival in your opinion?

BT Surely the music, and some good ale is a big bonus. Keep the naked hippies in their own special enclosure. Give them sunflower seeds and rose water every 2- 3 hours.

PN: What’s up your sleeve for this year?

BT: Some of the U.K’s most exciting new electronic and urban music, as well as the usual leftfield oddities, no doubt some interesting arts and crafts and hopefully some nice pie.

PN:Finally, tell us a bit about the Laurel Collective – how’s the band going?

BT: We’re doing a couple of singles with Will Evans’ excellent Tape Club records, and an album should be out by the time of the next In the Woods in September. After that, we’ll probably get signed to a major and dropped before the first big single even comes out, and end up sniffing glue under a dirty looking bridge. Here’s hoping…

Find out more about In The Woods Festival by visiting the official website.

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