We’re back at Knee Deep on the first of August this year to cover the two day Cornish blowout which has fast become a pinnacle of the summer slog. Blissfully splashing along in its own little world of cheap tickets, cheap beer and even cheaper laughs the sponsorship-free DIY party is the best tonic to super-commercial big-festival frolics. They’ve recently announced that, joining Eagulls and Flamingods on the lineup will be the fast rising electronic duo Glass Animals, Patrick Wolf and Kate Tempest alongside new site favourites Oscar, Happyness, Gengahr and Theo Verney. You can check out the full line-up and pick up full weekend tickets for £40 (+booking) over at their website.
We caught up with co founder Fred Stuart to talk shop and find out a bit more about what goes on behind the scenes:
Who are Knee Deep, and what do you do when you’re not organising festivals?
Knee Deep has a core team of three (Fred Stuart, James Day-Cocking, Dominic Pipe) – but it’s really nothing/wouldn’t function without the wider team that supports us. Helen, Martyn, Laurie, Richard, Scott + more…all these people know who they are. Wouldn’t be a Knee Deep without them (well, there would, it’d just be crap).
We all live and work full time in London (but grew up in the South West). Fred (Me) works for a musicians charity (Help Musicians UK), Dom works at a post-production house in Soho, and James works at Urban Outfitters. The balance is tough, but totally worth it.
What’s different about Knee Deep?
This is hard to pinpoint, but we’re sure there’s nothing like it. We build everything ourselves, we book the bands we like/love, we work with people we know and trust, we have no pretentions or huge plans – it’s a sum of it’s individual parts really, and given that they’re so eclectic, the end result is pretty unique I suppose. In a sense though, the feel of the festival is really reliant on those who attend. We get a bloody incredible crowd, who’ve mostly heard about the event via word of month organically. They make it what it is. They party hard but nicely – and that’s essential. And it’s all ages too, completely family friendly which makes such a difference to the atmosphere.
How have you managed to keep it independent?
It’s always just been us. We shun sponsorship, raise all the funds ourselves, pick the line-up ourselves, make everything ourselves – the team is so small it couldn’t really be more independent. but at the same time we are so reliant on goodwill and support, the ethos may be independent, and the end result very much our own, but the process is a collaboration, taking on board advice and listening very closely to people we trust.
How have you kept ticket prices so low?
We never wanted to make money, and if we did it would only go to charity or back into the event. We work on really tight margins and every year is terrifying. We need people to want to come and respect that any amount of money is hard earned. We’re skint. We can’t afford to pay huge amounts of money and the model is kind of based on that. Something we could afford to attend that still offered that festival feel and incredible bands, but didn’t kill you financially. Glastonbury is incredible, for example, but the financial comedown is such a killer!
With a rest year planned for 2015 are you doing anything special for this years event?
We pushed the line-up hard this year. Patrick Wolf is an idol of ours and we just went for it. Hopefully people will recognise that. The line-up in general we feel so happy about – we don’t spend nearly as much as other festivals but genuinely feel the bands are of equal if not higher quality. It’s so exciting!
What’s your favourite performance from Knee Deeps past?
I suppose we’d all agree Willy Mason brought us closest to tears. A huge crowd sing-along, one of our favourite ever musicians gracing our stage, the evening just setting in with all the festival lights shinning….it was special. To be honest though, every act we’ve booked has performed outstandingly. Tall Ships have smashed it ever time – the crowd barrier broke during their set last year. Islet are just the most captivating performers. Scriber deserves so much more recognition because he’s both hilarious and super gifted. We’re good friends with Wolf Alice and their show last year was insane. I could say something about every band, but that’d get boring.
Who are you most exited about having play this year?
That’s just too hard. Koreless in a sense, because it’s different to anything we’ve had before and he’s one of our favourite producers. Kate Tempest in the same sense, she’s bringing in genres we’ve always wanted to touch on and is such an enigmatic performer (we saw her at Glasto and were sharking with excitement by the end).
You have a lot of very new acts on the bill, how do you find/pick them?
Lots of searching. Blogs like yours are excellent – right at the forefront. We go to a TON of gigs, listen to friends, surf facebook/soundcloud. There are lots of ways, and it’s a lot of fun.
Last year it seemed a lot of acts were added quite close to the actual event, meaning you got a lot newer crop of ‘new’ bands than other festivals, how close to the deadline do you add them?
We keep adding right up the end really. We know we shouldn’t for publicity’s sake etc…but it’s just nice to hold slots open and find someone really fresh – there’s nothing worse than not having the space to add someone fantastic.
Another reason is genuinely time though – we are so picky choosing acts that making final decisions takes ages. Thinking about it, I’d quite like to go to an event where the line-up is constantly evolving (as long as it’s got a nice strong bunch early on). It keeps you guessing/hoping!
Any big surprises still in store?
We’re playing a DJ set last thing Saturday night….not really a surprise, but it could involve some I guess (clue: cake)
We haven’t got any big line-up surprises planned, but never say never! Honestly, don’t.
Music aside, what are you looking forward to this year?
PASTY MAKING. It’s always so much fun. You come in, build your own pasty, crimp it yourself, add your name in pastry, then cook it, then eat it. Proper good fun. Yoga will also be a lot of fun, as will our new outdoor cinema (showing Seinfeld, short films, other sitcoms, some feature lengths, and special visuals). We’re working with some new installation artists this year as well, and we’re keen to see the crazy things they’re producing.
We’re also all looking forward to letting our hair down come Saturday night (if crisis has been averted up until then). It’s the best feeling in the world!