We meet at a local pub in the afternoon, soundcheck for the gig is still a couple of hours away and Sammacicci is in a very relaxed and, thankfully, candid mood. He is excited about the gig that night, promising to not let an old gym injury prevent him from rocking out, “I might just have to go for it and worry about the pain afterwards”. His enthusiasm is unsurprising, Cutback have experienced a number of gig cancellations in recent months, through no fault of their own, and a show at the Norfolk Spectacular that didn’t quite live up to expectations. “It was good fun, there was no-one there [...] they sold so much of it on the R&B stage, that’s the crowd they got, and they got like 25, 30,000 people there each day [...] but nobody really knew about the other stage”. The disappointment of playing to a smaller than anticipated crowd was partially offset by the facilities on offer, “it was nice to play on a nice stage, a good crew there with full catering and we were sitting backstage thinking ‘I could get used to this’”, but the frustration of what feels like an opportunity missed is obvious.
In fact, after a year that promised so much at the start, (the band’s debut album, Patriotism Is Not A Dirty Word was released in January) Sammacicci appears frustrated that things haven’t progressed further. Even building up a local fan base hasn’t gone as well as expected, though he feels the current economic situation in the UK may be playing a role in that, and not just for Cutback.
“It’s just so tough, for all bands I think at the moment. It just seems so tough to build up a local fanbase, at the moment anyway. Well it has done for a while, whether it’s because people aren’t going out so much now or not, I don’t know.
“I’ve spoken to a lot of people who’ve said the same thing. Unless a local band are supporting a much bigger band that have been around a while and will pack a venue or whatever, are people going to bother to go and see any of the local bands? It’s not like it was a few years ago when people would just think, it’s Wednesday, Thursday, Friday night, let’s go to the pub and if there’s a band on, great.”
But what of the album? Surely the release of their debut on respected US label, dPulse opened some doors for the band? “It didn’t open as many doors as I hoped it would” admits Sammacicci. The deal had been for distribution rather than a full recording contract, which, while the band has retained the rights to its music, meant they didn’t have the full force of the label or any additional funding behind them. Aside from a few press releases at the time, Sammacicci doesn’t feel they actually got much from the agreement and they have since ended their association with dPulse.
He doesn’t see this as a negative thing though, and the band are now excited to take things on themselves and use the myriad new ways in which artists can make their music available to fans. There are recording sessions booked for some new material the band has, ideally they would like to record a new six-track EP, and Sammacicci is looking at the best way to make the music available. Platforms such as Soundcloud and Bandcamp are discussed and you can tell he is excited to have the chance to try something new after following a fairly traditional approach previously.
After all the difficulty the band has experienced over the last year or so, we’re keen to know if this new music and potential new methods of distributing it could represent something of a tipping point for the band. Could this be make or break time for Cutback? “I can’t see it all ending”, is the response. “The plan is to keep going and keep recording. Just to keep at it”. But there is a wall there and the band knows it needs to break it down. “We’ve started to get a lot more radio play from little indie radio stations,” he explains.”A lot of them are based online, which is really good and we get some really positive feedback from them so I hope that this is the start of that”, so there is reason to be optimistic.
He also notes that after numerous attempts before, they are now getting gigs at the Waterfront, something that could be down to them taking more of a hands-on role in their own management. When they had an agent trying to book gigs for them, they found some venues were put off as they expected to be charged more; something Sammacicci is keen to point out was never on the cards.
And what of the new material, should we expect an evolution of their sound, or will it be similar to the album? “Pretty much the songs are done”, he explains, “enough for us to go [in the studio]. We’re actually doing a lot of it ourselves, [...] with help from the guys who actually helped put the album together as well”.
He is confident in the new tracks, two of which are “very strong”. “One of the songs is very different for us but still doesn’t sound out of place for us at the same time. One of them is very typical of us.
“We’ve tried to look at ways of purposefully making these songs different while sticking to our thing really”. Challenging themselves musically then, while staying true to their sound? “Yeah. That’s just it, we kind of do what we want to do; we look at it like write the kinds of songs that we want to hear”.
So with new material on the horizon (Sammacicci is confident the tracks will be ready in the New Year) and a band willing to graft and explore new avenues in distributing their music, there is reason to be optimistic for the future. It’s odd to think of a year which has seen the release of their debut album as being frustrating, but that just illustrates the ambition and desire of the band. Sammacicci is confident for the future and with good reason; 2012 could well turn out to be a very positive year for Cutback indeed.
Hear more from Cutback on their SoundCloud page.