Close to Fire are a Dutch indie-pop quartet whose track ‘Summer Haze’ - licensed to Instrumental and frtyfve - just crossed 500k streams on Spotify. We caught up with the band while they were on a surfing/songwriting vacation in Portugal to discuss how they use digital platforms in the absence of live shows, the benefits of staying independent, and the importance of creating a community around their music.
Close to Fire came together through a mutual love of surfing, honing their craft as live musicians and gaining an engaged fan base through surf festivals across Europe. Their music videos feature them playing on the beach, around a campfire or driving their van along the coast, even their long hair and fashion choices reflect the surf lifestyle. Forced to stay home by the pandemic, the group pivoted to focusing on growing their streaming and social audience.
We spoke to drummer Imme about how the group stayed busy during lockdown.
Hey Imme, it would be great if you could introduce the band and how you guys started out...
Close to Fire started with two of the boys, the vocalist and the guitarist, they started playing by the campfire - that’s where the same came from! Then, I joined one or two years later - I saw them playing in my hometown, so I asked if they needed a drummer to spice it up a little. They said, ‘yeah we should jame sometime’. We clicked very well because the boys also surf, then we searched for a bass player.
Who are some of your musical influences?
All four of us listen to The Kooks - that’s a big influence, we like listening to Beach Fossils. There’s a group from Holland called Jack and the Weatherman, they also play singer-songwriter acoustic music. They’re a big inspiration for us too. We know the boys; we produced the first EP with them.
What are your perceptions of record labels and why have you chosen to stay independent?
We are independent - we like that a lot. We are free to play the music we like, and maybe switch last minute to put another song on the album or EP. That’s a big plus for us.
We think a label could help us with marketing - our network is not that big yet. We have about 2,000 followers on Instagram, and those followers are really engaged with us, but we want to expand.
How plugged into insights are you on Spotify and Instagram?
We have the Spotify for Artists app, which we check the most frequently. There, we can see who’s listening, where they’re from, which playlists. We pitch the songs ourselves to Spot On Track, a platform where you can see what playlists other artists have been found in.
We check stats on Instagram too, but not as often as Spotify. We’ll often do a Q&A on Instagram in our story and check who is responding, there’s a group of about 100 people who are really engaged and every time we post something, they respond.
How much planning goes into your release schedule?
We always make lots of demo songs, and then at the last minute before we go to the studio with an audio engineer we like, we choose the top songs for the album or EP. We plan which songs we like and then go and record them.
Summer Haze recently crossed the 500k streams landmark. What is it about that song that you feel has resonated with so many people?
I think the vibe of the song is really laid back and you can listen to it on your headphones alone and vibe to it, or you can put it on when you’re in a group of friends. It really fits lots of situations I think.
It’s clear from your socials that you’re a band who love to play live, how has the past year affected how you promote your music in the absence of live shows?
That really sucked this year. The last show we played - one week before the lockdown - was at Paradiso, a really big pop venue in Amsterdam. That was really important for us to grow further; after the show we got loads of bookings to promote our songs, but none of them went through. Now we’re focusing on streaming, putting effort into Instagram and the socials. We did some streamed gigs, a video of Summer Haze is online now, and recently we recorded another live session - like the Tiny Desk session of Holland.
This summer we can go to France and Spain again to play music at some surf festivals, so that’s planned to promote our new singles that are coming this summer. It was a hard time last year.
Has the pandemic made you more savvy with digital platforms?
We already used Instagram a lot, so that’s not much of a change. In the pandemic, we discovered Spot On Track, so we can pitch our songs to the correct playlists. That’s a new way to promote our songs that we discovered during the pandemic.
How important were the digital platforms when you were starting out?
We used them from the start, and I think it’s a big part of our experience as a band. We’re putting a lot of effort into the designs, the artwork, the stories on Instagram. We’re very close to the person creating the artwork; in the past we did merch with special artwork, we put out our own beer blonde beer and created the design for the packaging.
Is surfing and surfing culture a big part of your band?
Yes, definitely. It brings us together and it’s also where our community of listeners are. For us, it’s a good way to promote our music - at the surf camps. We like surfing a lot, we’re always in the water. The songs are about surfing sometimes, and the whole experience and scene of surfing fits us. It’s all about freedom and going your own way, which is the theme of our songs.
Close to Fire’s music can be found on all streaming platforms, with their track ‘Summer Haze’ featured in the frtyfve playlists Driving Songs and Pop Songs to Work To on Spotify. Check out the tour video for ‘Summer Haze’:
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