Meet Your Stage Programmers: Tom Baker (Eat Your Own Ears) and Tom Windish (The Windish Agency)

This year, for the very first time, the Australian Laneway festivals will feature a stage co-curated by our good friends at The Windish Agency (US) and Eat Your Own Ears (UK). To say we're excited about this development would be an understatement. These two tastemakers are among the most respected in their territories, and their involvement with Laneway reflects both their close association with the Festival and our commitment to uncovering the finest artists from every corner of the globe.

We recently sat down with the men behind The Windish Agency and Eat Your Own Ears –– Tom Windish and Tom Baker –– and asked them about their background, how they came to work with Laneway, and what they're most looking forward to at the festival.

Eat Your Own Ears // Tom Baker

Founded in 2001 by Tom Baker, UK music promotion company Eat Your Own Ears prides itself on bringing inspiring music to diverse audiences. Since their inception, EYOE have made a name for themselves with their creative, unpredictable but always complementary line-ups, and their knack for identifying and exposing new talent (EYOE put on the first London shows for the likes of Animal Collective, Bloc Party, Battles, Franz Ferdinand and Antony and the Johnsons, among many other bands that have now become household names.)

Described by Time Out London as 'London's best promoter', Baker and EYOE promoted more than 70 shows in 2010, including shows by The xx, Florence and the Machine, The Temper Trap, Sleigh Bells, Caribou, Four Tet, Local Natives, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Hot Chip and many others.

In addition to their busy show schedule, EYOE run two of London's most unique festivals: Field Day, one of our favourite city music festivals, and the Underage Festival, the first and only outdoor festival exclusively for 14–18 year olds (no grown ups allowed!).

Field Day, which began in 2007, has sold out every year, and has been headlined by the likes of Mogwai, Phoenix, Foals, Matthew Dear and Justice. The festival boasts six different stages, along with a Village Fete area where punters can try their hand at traditional pastimes like sack racing, carrot eating or tug of war, or just laze about with a wonderful homemade cake or bone china cup of earl grey!

 

Q& A: Tom Baker           

What's the best thing about programming a music festival event?

I love the challenge of drawing up a big wish list of all the artists I would like to book and then going out on a mission to secure as many of the acts as possible. It's always inevitable that not all the artists are available so I often have to re-do the wish list, but that's part of the excitement and creative process. As Field Day is very much about different genres of music, I have to make sure I cater for a variety of musical tastes from dance to folk to pop to free jazz – everything really. It's often very much a reflection of what I like and listen to as much as possible.

What other events have you been asked to program and who played?

I program Field Day, a one-day music festival held in Victoria Park, London. Past headliners include Mogwai, Phoenix, Foals, Matthew Dear and Justice. The festival now has 6 different stages, and a Village Fete area where festival goers can try their hand at sack racing, tug of war, egg and spoon and other traditional games. 

I also program the Underage Festival, the first outdoor festival exclusively for 14–18 year olds. Previous acts include M.I.A, Crystal Castles, Santogold, Mystery Jets, Florence and the Machine, Laura Marling, and many more.

I program the Somerset House Series, which is held in a beautiful setting in central London, and have booked the likes of Florence and the Machine, The Temper Trap, The xx, Gil Scot Heron, Super Animals, Bright Eyes, Bloc Party, Sigur Ros and many others.

What is the best thing about putting on a music festival?

Getting to put on lots of artists I love and want to see that I may not promote otherwise; just the whole process of building the site is really exciting and I love being on site watching it develop and become a mini town.

When putting on said festival what is your main goal?

To have a really strong and exciting line up that you feel proud of; also it's always key for me to choose a line up that allows the audience to discover new bands and have a really enjoyable day out. It's great to be able to look back at past Field Day line ups and see bands I booked like Mumford and Sons, The Temper Trap, The xx, Justice, Laura Marling and Florence now have the success and become household names.

Who are you super excited to see on the Laneway line up?

I am super excited to see Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti. I have fallen in love with the most recent album 'Before Today'... cant stop listening to it. So a hot summer's day in Australia will be the perfect setting for their captivating, hazy, southern Californian melodies and tightly assembled harmonies. 

Also I can't wait to see Cloud Control: choruses full of hooks, blissful guy/girl harmonies and quirky catchiness, very excited by them. Of course, Blonde Redhead, I am obsessed with their new album – so, so lush. Ah man, the whole line up... Luckily I will hopefully be able to see as many of the acts as possible if I go to all the Laneways...

How did the Laneway, EYOE and Windish Agency party come about?

I met Laneway head-honcho Danny Rogers after he stalked me for a few years in London for tea and posh cake at London's Sketch in November 2008. Danny told me all about the Laneway Festival; it sounded great. I had actually booked flights with my girlfriend to the Caribbean for January 2009, but after hearing how good Laneway sounded I cancelled these and booked flights to Australia instead. I don't think Danny could believe it when I mailed him a few days later telling him I was coming... I went to Brisbane and Sydney Laneway, and since then Danny and I have become friends so I was very honoured when he asked me to host a stage alongside Tom Windish, a friend who owns and runs one of the biggest independent agencies in the US. 

Who is playing the EYOE/Windish stage?

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, Beach house, Bear in heaven, Blonde redhead, Cloud control, Deerhunter, Gotye, Local Natives, and Warpaint.

The Windish Agency // Tom Windish

Windish Agency founder Tom Windish started booking his first bands back in college, bringing the likes of Sonic Youth, Yo La Tengo and Dinosaur Jr to his campus' stage. From there the New York native did a stint with iconic NYC venue the Knitting Factory, before heading to Chicago, where, in 2004, inspired to form an agency that focused squarely on the artist, he started The Windish Agency from his apartment.

With his new outfit, Windish sought to bring exciting new music to diverse and unique venues, challenging ideas of where live music should be seen and experienced.

It's an approach that's served his agency well: The Windish Agency has long since moved out of Windish's apartment, and now boasts a roster of over 200 artists that reads like a who's who of the best and brightest in modern indie music: Animal Collective, Four Tet, Aphex Twin, Dirty Projectors, M83, Girl Talk, Fever Ray, The Presets, Hot Chip, Justice, Boards of Canada, and Miike Snow, among many others.

Windish now works in a team of thirty, and has offices in Chicago, New York City, Toronto, L.A. and Santiago, Chile. His agency has grown to now book bands, DJs and comedians for North and South America, Asia and Australia and New Zealand.

Q& A: Tom Windish           

How did you get your start?

I had a lawn mowing business in high school and listened to a ton of music while I was working. I started djing parties when I was in high school. In college, I joined the student radio station on campus. I stumbled into producing concerts when a friend of mine dropped out of college. He was in charge of concerts for the radio station. He offered me the job, taught me the job and I was off and running. I ended up booking about 100 concerts at my college (SUNY Binghamton in New York State), got an internship at an agency in New York, went on to work for Knitting Factory in NYC and started my own agency.  

 

As one of the leading agents in America, what are you looking for when you sign an artist?

That I like the music. Next up, do I like the team of people working on it, even if that team is one person that I deal with in the band.

What are the differences in touring between Australia and North America?

Tours are much longer in North America. They are most often done in one vehicle for the entire tour. In Australia, the bands usually fly between gigs and play fewer shows. Also, bands tour North America more frequently, as often as 2 or 3 times a year. In Australia, I usually limit tours for one artist to at most once per year.

What drives you? What inspired you to start the Windish Agency?

I want to do the best possible job for the clients of my agency. I am always thinking about that. That could mean unique places to book a band, an exciting line up, new technology to help a band with their touring, great communication skills, etc. It's the type of thing that I can always seek to improve. I never want to step back and relax and know that I will do an "average" job for the bands. I always want it to be the best that is possible. I started my own agency because I realized it would be easier to provide better services for my clients if I had people working for me.

What is the future for your talent agency? Where do you hope it will be in 10 years time?

My agency is 7 years old and it has grown more than I could have dreamed in that time. For that reason, it's hard to say where we will be in 10 years, it just feels like a long time away. I am opening an office in Los Angeles right now. I hope it will grow, as my office in New York City has grown since opening it one year ago. I hope to have more great agents, more great bands and possibly people in more foreign countries (right now we are in Chile and Canada outside the USA). We are starting a music licensing division this month as well and I hope this grows significantly. 

Which acts on Laneway are you super excited about seeing this year?

The ones I book! The Antlers, Cut Copy, Deerhunter, The Holidays, Holy Fuck, Warpaint and Yeasayer. I'm also excited to see Gotye and honestly, there are a lot of other bands on the bill that I'll be in the audience for too.

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