INTERVIEW: Boundaries Festival | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Rhodri Davies

Last November, using a combination of determination, magical thinking and a little bit of funding, Graeme Hopper willed a brand new Sunderland-based experimental music festival into being. And now he’s doing it again. In fact, he was already dreaming up this next incarnation before the first even happened. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves: how did the first one go?

It was a huge success, everyone who attended had smiles on their faces and all the artists who performed really enjoyed their time and hospitality.” Effuses Hopper. “Storm Arwen almost put a spanner in the works, with staff not being able to get there and bands arriving super late due to cancelled trains and roads closed coming in and out of the city. There were a few lessons learned, like not asking EVERYONE to play as it got a bit crowded and over booked! I’ve noted a few hurdles going forward this time though!”

When we interviewed Hopper last year he said he wanted to “to focus on rhythm for next year, so textural electronics alongside great abstract acoustic ideas and more jazz and metal” and I wondered to what extent that has stayed true. “Yeah. Although not as much as I’d like, basically due to no funding at all this time and the limited space and locations available. I had to tell a few metal bands I’d get them on next time due to no room or budget! There’s still a great mix of the above though – abstract electronics, acoustic tones, noise rock, dissonant jazz, found sound crews and much more.” Hopper is synaesthetic (he sees colour when hearing music) and pronounced a mustardy vibe for last year’s festival. “This year definitely has a more lavender vibe! Sounds silly, but it definitely feels like that!”

There’s a great mix of abstract electronics, acoustic tones, noise rock, dissonant jazz, found sound crews and much more

This year’s festival – while not quite as ambitious as Hopper had hoped (because of the aforementioned funding issues) – still boasts a killer line-up and has expanded. “This year we’re using two locations, which is super exciting. Firstly The Peacock, which was used last year and is really at the heart of the festival, and also the brand new Fire Station auditorium which will host Harrga and Rian Treanor on the Friday night. A wonderful hall with magnificent sound and lights. Can’t wait!”

It’s traditional to ask festival curators to pick some potential highlights, and equally traditional for them to insist it will ALL be a highlight. This is as it should be. “I genuinely think everyone playing will impress and inspire. On Friday, I reckon Ashley Paul’s intimate jazz, Harrga’s intense political spoken word and then Rian Treanor’s colourful abstract dance sets will blow people away! On Saturday headliners Yerba Mansa will melt the hardened head with free form noise jazzy rock, Helena Celle with her midi electronics, Rhodri Davies’ improv harp! Human Heads are apparently curating a smell alongside their manipulated field recordings!” All this plus local heroes The Unit Ama and Bad Amputee, Prangers, Rachel Aggs, Amy Cutler and Nicola Singh and a piece from sound artist Tim Shaw.

Of course, Hopper is already onto the next thing. “I’m currently thinking about a little all-dayer in November, maybe more noisy and louder. And I’m hoping to get Boundaries 2023 announced by the end of the year. Just have fun, right?”

Boundaries Festival takes place at The Peacock and Fire Station in Sunderland on Friday 17th and Saturday 18th June.

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